On July 17, Haute Residence Director Erik Haase led a discussion focused on select Caribbean luxury real estate destinations with the following participants from the Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate network:
Moderator Haase asked each participant how their markets were performing compared with 2019 and invited them to discuss how each market is distinctive within the Caribbean as well as what trends they’ve been noticing with respect to sales and rental performance. Each pointed out that their respective jurisdictions are largely tax neutral, with no income tax, capital gains tax, or inheritance tax, but other incentives and motivations are coming into play in their respective island domains.
State of the Market: Turks and Caicos
Robert Greenwood observed that while Turks and Caicos’ business did suffer for a time since airports had been closed (up until recently), the islands had experienced a limited infection rate. “The government—the ministry of health—did an exceptional job of taking control.” He noted that his company’s second-quarter numbers held level and, in some sectors (such as villa properties), even increased. Greenwood’s firm has been championing digital technology, using platforms such as Zoom and social media to engage agents, buyers, and sellers. “This technology gets buyers through the decision-making process much quicker. Remote decisions become more comfortable,” he said. “While a New York listing here our days on the market are typically of longer duration, but we’ve now been reducing that time frame. We’re also finding that now more than ever we can do the deal remotely.” Greenwood added that Turks and Caicos is a hub for rental/investment properties, which account for more than 90 percent of listings, and the returns on those investments are encouraging. With the airports having opened on July 22, he expects to see more visitors coming to inspect properties in person, and is observing new interest from Central and South America, Asia, as well as the typical feeder markets. “We’re beautiful by nature, here, but we’re also socially distanced by nature”—making for a perfect combination.
State of the Market: The Bahamas
“We have not really slowed down, work-wise,” said John Christie, who noted that the Bahamas has been able to welcome visitors during the pandemic because it requires a negative Covid-19 test for all incoming travelers. The Bahamas, like many other Caribbean destinations, is considered a haven, and Christie has seen an increase in interest from mainland U.S. buyers—those eager, for example, to relocate their elderly relatives from Covid-19 hot spots to “healthier” places offshore. “The Bahamas has always been about preserving wealth and health,” he said, so his team is busier than ever. He pointed out that for many feeder markets in the U.S. such as New York, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, the Bahamas are only a few hours away by air. The Bahamas are perhaps most distinctive because they consist of 700 islands offering both remoteness but also the option of a “busy” lifestyle that is attractive to metropolitan visitors—with Nassau offering large hotels, casinos, nightclubs, movie theaters, and other luxury amenities. Christie has also observed increased interest in private islands as the perfect refuge, and he characterized the Bahamas as a diverse destination, offering properties ranging from the high end but also including affordable beachfront properties in the $500,000 price range. “We have a lot of land, but not a lot of people,” he said, emphasizing the low-density profile that is now so sought-after.
State of the Market: Antigua
Craig Ryan and Justin White noted that in addition to its tax advantages, Antigua offers real estate opportunities of every stripe—from boutique hotels and luxury resorts to luxury villas and prime vacant land “with a citizenship aspect,” meaning that one can gain Antiguan citizenship if certain prerequisites are met. “We’ve also seen a big uptick in our luxury rental market,” Ryan said, since hotels have not yet reopened. “There’s nothing easier than for your family to come down and rent a five-bedroom villa on the beach.” They reported that embracing Matterport technology has helped them show properties during a time when traveling to Antigua can be complicated logistically, helping the buyer do legwork before traveling to the island. They also said that since Antigua’s borders and airport were reopened on June 1, they’ve seen full planes arriving from the U.S. due to the large demand. “People are ready to finally get out and enjoy life and come to a place where you can catch a fish right outside your bedroom.” Ninety percent of Antigua’s economy is the hospitality business, and Ryan and White have seen a shift in terms of what people are now looking for—specifically, luxury villas. Some traditional resorts are consequently “hybridizing” and offering standalone villas as offerings in lieu of traditional hotel rooms. Overall, they are optimistic about the growing interest in Antigua.