In it for the long haul

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The London Magazine
Jan 24, 2019
Caribbean dream homes
Caribbean dream homes

Skirting an absurdly idyllic arc of white sand on the east coast of Antigua, Half Moon Bay (pictured below) promises to be one of the most luxurious new resorts in the Caribbean. At its core will be a five-star Rosewood hotel – the same brand that has turned nearby, private Jumby Island into a billionaires’ sanctuary – and the world’s first on-resort biodynamic farm.

Villas cost from $5m for a Rosewood branded residence up to $25m for a three-acre villa plot on a peninsula that once belonged to the Mellon family. And there will be all the in-the-know experiences that the super-rich covet these days, whether it’s extreme sports for the millennial offspring or a desert island picnic for the parents. In short, its CEO William Anderson says Half Moon Bay, set to open in 2021, will offer “the new paradigm in ultra luxury”.

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Geoff Wilford, founder of Wilfords London and Wilfords Caribbean, describes Half Moon Bay as “the most important and high profile development to be built in the Caribbean right now”. Three of the ten trophy villa plots have immediately been reserved – one by a London-based family. “I think if Jeremy Corbyn gets the keys to No. 10, the Rosewood Antigua and many other luxury resorts might sell out overnight. That’s why I’m diversifying my interests from London to the Caribbean,” says Wilford.

The British climate in February is usually enough reason for London buyers to steer their thoughts towards the Caribbean. But add Corbyn and the Brexit countdown to that rum punch and there are compelling reasons to be looking long haul.

Along with the launch of new super-prime developments such as Half Moon Bay, another mark of confidence is the number of luxury hotel chains which are launching new Caribbean resorts, including Six Senses on St Kitts, Silversands in Grenada (pictured top), Four Seasons in the Dominican Republic and Ritz-Carlton in Turks & Cahe new paradigm in ultra luxuryicos, which will include the islands’ first luxury branded homes.

There are further incentives for overseas buyers, too, including the opening up of mortgage borrowing in the region. Where once buying a Caribbean home was the preserve of the cash-rich, now various lenders are offering bank finance with decent rates to qualified non-resident buyers.

In a move to boost foreign investment, several islands have also cut the minimum investment required to qualify for their Citizenship by Investment schemes, granting investors the right to work and live in the country and enjoy visa-free travel to many countries, including the Schengen Area.

The Caribbean’s recovery since the mid-Noughties recession has been “two speed”, says Hugo Thistlethwayte, head of Savills’ international department. “The recovery of the southern Caribbean, where Brits like to buy, has lagged behind that of the northern Caribbean – the Bahamas, BVIs and Turks & Caicos – which are dominated by US and Canadian buyers,” he says.

Chestertons reports a significant pick-up in interest in the Bahamas from UK buyers, however, particularly in The Residences at Goldwynn on New Providence Island, with a new luxury condo hotel and separate residences due for completion in 2020. One-bed beachfront apartments start at $950,000. “We saw huge interest from Brits buying in early 2018, then the whole market went flat due to Brexit uncertainty. Now it’s busy again and I have several British buyers house-hunting here this month,” says Franz Hepburn of Chestertons International in the Bahamas.

Barbados is the perennial favourite among British buyers, who account for around 80 per cent of foreign homeowners on the island. Its new government is keen on promoting foreign investment and, hopes Geoff Wilford, pushing planning permissions through faster.

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All eyes are on the aborted Four Seasons Resort, where Simon Cowell and Eddie Jordan were among early investors and Wilford personally sold $200m of property off-plan – then Lehman Brothers collapsed and the project folded. “A decade on, the Barbadian government is working closely with Four Seasons and the largest building contractor on the island to resuscitate the development. If successful, it will be wonderful for the island,” says Wilford, who is currently seeing interest in resale properties. A prime example is a four-bed beachfront home at Sandy Cove, pictured above, next to prestigious restaurant The Cliff, priced at $5.5m.

There is good value to be found on this prized west coast too, with a large one-bed apartment on the more basic but well-located Lantana complex – still only a short walk from the beach – reduced to $199,950 through Knight Frank.

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The high demand for, and short supply, of affordably-priced, modern new-builds is seeing good new opportunities sell fast, says Daryl Kelly of Chestertons Barbados. Garden Grove, opposite the famous Lone Star restaurant, saw 90 per cent of its units sell in the first week. One three-bed house remains at $499,000. And opposite the Royal Westmoreland golf resort, Westmoreland Hills has just half of its 52 semi-detached villas left, priced from $495,000 for two bedrooms, through Chestertons Barbados.

St Lucia’s government is similarly encouraging outside investment. New projects include the latest trophy properties on the Sugar Beach resort, where two thirds of buyers are British. “We have US-dollar mortgages available locally and this can help to ‘hedge’ the current exchange rate for British buyers,” notes the Sugar Beach Residences’ property director, Penny Strawson. “Rental yields are very important too. Everyone these days wants an asset that will wash its face and our owners enjoy some of the highest rental rates and best occupancy figures in the Caribbean.”

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Resale villas at Sugar Beach start at $1.9m, but the resort is also home to some of St Lucia’s most expensive contemporary properties. The Piton Residences are available off-plan for $7.5m-$7.9m. They are due for completion in 2020 and owners will have access to the Viceroy’s five-star facilities. Two off-plan Beachfront Collection villas are also for sale for $8.75m and $15m (pictured above).

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Buyers are also looking further south to the Grenadines, says Hugo Thistlethwayte. On Canouan, Savills are selling a 4,000 sq ft, three-bed seafront home in Patio Villas, part of the Mandarin Oriental-branded residences, above, for $8.2m. And on Bequia, The Liming, a new luxury hotel with one-bed cottages from $595,000, is “causing a stir”, he says.

These latest launches may include private butlers and contemporary architecture, but ultimately it’s that heavenly slice of golden sand and dazzling sea that together spell escape.