Caribbean Property Guide
House Hunting Tips for Refining your Property Seach
House hunting, looking for a home or house, or looking for an investment property in the Caribbean ? Then read on, as this article may help you refine your search by eliminating islands that could be too expensive for your budget and save you from searching for properties that may only exist in your dreams.
Caribbean Property Market Prices
Many people believe that the Caribbean has an abundant selection of cheap properties, simply because for many years people from the Caribbean have emigrated to the richer more developed countries of the North seeking employment.
This thinking may have been correct 40 years ago, but for the last 30 years the Caribbean has been steadily growing as a destination of choice for affluent Americans and Europeans. This has resulted in house prices in most of the Caribbean countries that have a well developed tourist economy, being higher than average cost of a house in the USA, and often higher than the average house price in the UK, which in October 2006 was ₤169,413 or approximately US$320,190 at Octobers exchange rates.
Which Are the Most Costly Countries?
The developed Caribbean tourist destinations where property prices are highest are : - Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, British and US Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin and Tobago.
Which are the More Affordable Countries?
The countries offering the most affordable properties are Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and St. Vincent. The idea of buying a cheap Caribbean property really does not exist anymore, except for those willing to buy a "local property" (see below) or willing to buy land and build a house on some of the less developed islands. Even on these islands "cheap land" is unlikely to have more than a very limited and distant view of the sea (see below).
Racing at Antigua Race Week - a sport for the rich and famous.
Many people scanning the Caribbean property websites and magazines will find advertisements for cheap homes, that are being offered at affordable prices. However, it is important to read the small print or ask the real estate agent whether the property being offered has been built for the foreign market, or is something that has been built for the local market, as the two types of property are often very different.
Most houses specifically built for foreign buyers, or the more affluent local buyers, will be well constructed to US or European standards and be located in desirable areas. The average home built to these standards will usually be constructed from reinforced concrete blockwork and reinforced concrete to withstand the worst effects of earthquakes and hurricanes. Additionally, the interior fittings and fixtures will likely be at a high standard and the roof on the highest quality homes, often constructed with tiles, instead of the ubiquitous corrugated metal roofs - which although they are acceptable, can be horrendously noisy when it rains hard, and creak in the daytime whenever the sun goes behind a cloud.
Many properties built for the local market will also be well built, but may have idiosyncratic and often cramped interiors designed to meet the needs of the owner and his extended family! Those built for the budget end of the local market will often have more serious shortcomings with badly fitting doors and windows, poorly designed bathroom and plumbing systems, defective drainage systems and faulty DIY electrical systems.
For example the first "local" house that I rented had no hot water services when my wife and I first arrived. After talking with the landlord, he fitted a strange looking instantaneous hot water heater that sat just above the shower rose, 12" above our heads, with electrical cables disappearing through the wall and into a 240volt 13amp outlet in the kitchen. Needless to say, I always felt there was a strong element of risk to taking a shower with hot water and therefore got used to taking cold showers. Additionally, the wardrobes and kitchen cabinets throughout the houses were very "home made" affairs, built from scrap plywood, and we lived with the constant noise of hundreds of bats living in the roof space.
The huge difference in quality between the two types of property is clearly reflected in the asking prices, and once this is appreciated it is easy to realise why estate agents sigh loudly when a prospective buyer informs them that they have seen a "similar" home down the road, for only half the cost of the one they are being shown.
"Local Properties" may fail to live up to your expectations and lack basic amenities.
Beachfront land, and land with stunning views, has always been some of the most desirable land to own. Consequently many of the nicest plots of land were built and developed years before the Caribbean became a destination for foreign buyers, with many of the remaining pieces of prime land having now been bought by resorts, developers and wealthy individuals. Consequently, most beachfront land and land with stunning views has already been sold and what has not been sold is now the attention of numerous buyers, causing the prices of these properties to rise significantly each year. Buyers for this type of land therefore need to lower their expectations and raise their budgets, as the majority of these properties are expensive.
Typically, beachfront land, which in my definition means land that goes all the way to the sea shore and includes a sandy beach, will generally cost upwards from US$200 per square metre with prices of US$400 per square metre and upwards being not at all unusual on the more expensive islands. These costs per square metre relate to a cost of US$200,000 to US$400,000 for a 1/4 acre piece of land, which is the practical minimum of land on which to build a house on beachfront land.
Similarly land with dramatic mountain views, or stunning ocean views, is also likely to be pricey. Whilst it is more difficult to give guidance on the price for these types of property, buyers should expect to pay several times as much for these properties, than they would for land with more modest views, or no real views at all.
Conducting a Property Search
Now that we have looked at some of the myths that lead many people into a hopeless search for properties that simply don't exist - or don't exist at prices they are willing to pay, we now need to look at how we can refine our search.
The Caribbean comprises more than 30 separate countries. Each of these countries have different legal systems, different laws relating to the foreign ownership of property and even different languages. Before looking for a specific property, it is essential to locate the island that best meets your requirements.
A good starting point is to print off a map of the Caribbean showing all the countries. Maps can be obtained from an image search for "caribbean map" on websites such as Google and Yahoo. These websites are also excellent at allowing you to quickly access data on each island by using their search facilities and the official tourist board and commercial websites for each country will provide a mine of information.
Once you have decided on a country or several possible candidate countries, it is important to review the average price of properties in your selected countries and also the closing costs of buying a property and if there are any special regulations that would effect your ownership or enjoyment of your property. Some of the larger websites such as www.caribbeanlandandproperty.com which covers property in 20 Caribbean countries, provide buying information for each country. It is essential for any prospective buyer to carefully read this information to avoid costly errors, as for example the time necessary to buy a property can vary between a few days and over a year, and the ability for you to rent your home when you are not using it, is not permitted on some islands!
The Final Stages
OK - so you are now comfortable that you have chosen the right country; confident that you can afford a property in that country, and find the property ownership laws of that country acceptable. Great, now you can start your search for a specific property meeting your requirements.
The first place to start this search is by using our Property Search facility. We offer a powerful search engine on our website that allows clients to search ALL our properties by TYPE, PRICE or DATE; or alternatively search through the properties of a selected island.
We additionally offer a bespoke property search for clients seeking personal assistance in determining the island best suited to their needs, or looking for a specific property from within our listings. Providing these types of search is time consuming and expensive. Therefore whilst we offer this service free of charge, understandably we prefer that the clients requesting this service are seriously interested in finding a suitable property and have the necessary budget to buy a suitable property should one be found.
We also work on the behalf of developers and investor groups to locate suitable sites for high quality residential homes, hotels and resorts. These services are also free of charge up to the point where we may need to travel and view properties on behalf of the client, where obviously we have to charge a fee to cover our costs.
Doing your Own Caribbean Property Search
The Caribbean is a large area, populated by numerous islands with difficult geography, and travel, accommodation and car hire throughout the Caribbean is generally expensive. Therefore even a short visit and investigation of one or more islands, is likely to be expensive.
For every one bargain hunter that finds a perfect piece of land, there are another 20 hunters that go home with a hole in their wallets, having spent time and money searching for that elusive dream property. The days of finding bargain properties in the Caribbean have gone, just like the days of big gold strikes in the Yukon.
There is nothing wrong in trying to find a bargain when you are visiting a country, but if you seriously want to find a property the best course is to :-
(a) do your homework well before you book your visit;
(b) use this website as a valuable resource on properties available throughout the Caribbean;
(c) accept that the price of advertised properties is liklely to be what you will need to pay;
(d) contact us, so that one of our property professionals can show you a selection of properties.
Happy house hunting.
Click Here to contact one of our property professionals, if you would like us to help you find your dream Caribbean home.
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article "Caribbean Property Guide - House Hunting Tips" written by Caribbean Land and Property