As originally published on Forbes
By Anthony Hitt, President & CEO, Engel & Völkers Americas
For those looking to “own a piece of paradise,” the Caribbean has long been considered a dream destination, and interest in the region only continues to build. Be it the slower pace of island life, pristine beaches, picturesque sunsets, warm climate or all of the above, the 7,000 islands that make up the Caribbean continue to draw real estate investors from around the world.
However, it’s easy to forget that the Caribbean isn’t a single real estate market. Rather, it’s comprised of over 20 territories or countries, each of which has its own unique real estate nuances, trends and rules of investment.
Looking ahead in 2019, we’ve identified five Caribbean markets for real estate investors to watch.
While the Bahamas is still recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis, in the strongest markets, the prices for luxury homes have increased over the last three years and the market is continuing on an upswing. Foreign investors continue to view the Bahamas as a safe place for their investments, and with luxury prices slowly inching up, 2019 presents a good opportunity to invest. Also worth noting, according to the International Persons Landholding Act of 1993, non-citizens are permitted to purchase property in the Bahamas with relatively few restrictions.
While foreign buyers face slightly more stringent guidelines when purchasing real estate in Bermuda, the island remains an iconic Caribbean destination replete with pink sand beaches and turquoise water. The economy also appears to be on the rise. According to Bermuda’s Ministry of Finance 2017 National Economic Report, employment, tourism, new construction projects and retail sales all increased, indicating the economy is strengthening and real estate values are poised to rise in turn.
With several new high-end developments already underway, the Cayman Islands’ status as a luxury real estate destination in the Caribbean will further solidify in 2019. Furthermore, the Cayman Islands General Registry announced in early December 2018 that, fueled by a growing economy, there are more registered companies in the Cayman Islands than ever; GDP growth was reported to have increased 2.8% in 2017 and was projected to grow another 3% in 2018. There are also no restrictions on foreign ownership of property here.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Perhaps one of the lesser-known Caribbean destinations on this list, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (also known as the Spice Islands) has long been a favored haven for sailors and yachters. With miles of untouched beaches, rainforests and waterfalls, this destination is perfect for homebuyers looking to experience the “old Caribbean” and get off the beaten path. Home prices here are relatively lower than more commercial counterparts in Caribbean nations such as the Cayman Islands, however, this may change given the increasing amount of direct flights opening up between St. Vincent and the U.S. and Canada.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Consisting of the main islands of St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) are also poised for real estate growth in the coming year. As a U.S. territory, owning property in the USVI is considerably less restrictive than in other Caribbean nations, and with several direct flights to the islands up and down the East Coast, travel to and from is relatively easy. As the real estate market across the Caribbean begins to strengthen, the USVI represents a solid choice for real estate investors.
Overall, we see the Caribbean real estate market poised for a significant upswing over the coming year, with many opportunities. Buyers should look to capitalize by investing now, as growth accelerates and home prices begin to rise.