Rihanna is not the only Barbadian to have been making waves in the property market of late. After years of construction delays, the small Caribbean island is abuzz with the news that the Four Seasons hotel and villa complex at Clearwater Bay may soon have new investment.
This 30-acre beachfront development, billed as the ultimate millionaire’s hideaway, had become a byword for a troubled property market. Five years after high-profile buyers such as Simon Cowell and Andrew Lloyd Webber committed up to US$20 million (£12.2 million) each for private Balinese-style villas, the area is still largely a building site after its finance and construction stalled as a result of the credit crunch.
Now, however, bids are in, say local estate agents. “It is being taken over by a new group of investors and will be restarting in 2014. The winning bidders will be disclosed soon,” says Kieran Kelly, chairman of estate agent Chesterton Barbados, which looks after the luxury properties sold at the Sandy Lane resort (where Rihanna is said to have paid $22 million recently for a 10,000 sq ft villa), near Holetown on the island’s spectacular west coast.
The island has delivered some of its most lucrative sales in recent months. Chesterton Barbados recently sold a home on the west coast for more than $50 million (unsurprisingly, privacy is paramount here so buyer details are not available). The developers behind Palazatte, a towering building of four huge apartments, are considering selling all four to one buyer for $100 million, which would make it the most expensive property sold in the Caribbean.
Though it fared better than most Caribbean islands, owing to its longstanding popularity with British and Canadian property buyers and holiday-makers, prices in Barbados still fell between 15 and 20 per cent during the 2010 downturn, according to Alistair Brown, sales and marketing director at UNNA, the developer behind the island’s two luxury marinas, Port St Charles and Port Ferdinand.
“But the fall was really more a price correction,” he adds. “Actually Barbados had become so expensive before that, that things really needed to slow down. If you look at the infrastructure of Barbados, we’re 20 to 30 years ahead of other islands. Some people might argue that’s affected the charm of the island but that is what has kept us going.”
The sturdy coral stone of the swish apartment blocks at Port Ferdinand, the new marina located between Holetown and Speightstown, are a tangible reminder of the property market’s revival. Since phase one was launched in September, offering two and three-bedroom apartments with stunning interiors and open-plan living spaces overlooking the water, from $2.25 million to $7 million, five have sold. These have gone to a range of buyers, including North Americans and Europeans (0800 097 0847, portferdinand.com).
Port St Charles, the island’s other luxury marina, has long been sold out. “This isn’t super-yacht territory for people who just want to park a boat,” says Brown. “This is for families, for people who want to take their boats out on the water by day – and then retire to somewhere beautiful, as well as safe and well-maintained by night.
“We’re still talking about very wealthy people,” he admits, “but people who want to take part in island life and enjoy the local shops and restaurants. It’s a healthier vision for the future of the island.”
UNNA is also selling properties at Saint Peter’s Bay, a collection of 57 three-and four-bedroom coastal apartments, set in four acres of beachfront and tropical gardens, with homes from 2,700 sq ft to 6,400 sq ft, starting at $1.95 million (0800 097 0847; stpetersbaybarbados.com).
Some investors are also hoping to attract buyers looking for a tax-efficient safe haven in which to park their money, especially after the announcement that non-domiciles with property in London will soon be subject to capital gains tax.
“Traditionally Barbados has been seen as a lifestyle purchase but with the new capital gains tax now applying to foreign buyers in London, we may start to see savvy buyers looking further afield,” says Brown. “Barbados is always primarily going to be a lifestyle purchase – people come here for the relaxed atmosphere, winter sun and, of course, the feeling of Little England – but why not combine that with the promise of largely tax-free capital gains?”How to buy in BarbadosMany buyers here buy properties via companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, meaning that although they have to pay 1 per cent in income tax, they do not have to pay 7.5 per cent in transfer fees and stamp duty when they sell. There are no purchase fees. The Barbadian Government has also introduced special entry permits, allowing individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more to come and go without extensive visa requirements.
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