Home Looking within the Cayman Islands: A Compact Fort within the Caribbean

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House Hunting in the Cayman Islands: A Compact Castle in the Caribbean

Cayman Castle, an enclosed and walled mansion with a dash of medieval whimsy, juts out into the Caribbean Sea from the southeast coast of Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands.

The property was built in the 1980s on 1.75 acres of beachfront land and was fully renovated in 2005. It has two residential buildings: a main house with five bedrooms and an area of ​​approximately 4,000 square meters and a guest house with two bedrooms and an area of ​​approximately 1,300 square meters. Both have swimming pools and extensive patios and decks. The property sits on 450 feet of coastline including 150 feet of private white sand beach.

"Everyone on the island knows Cayman Castle – it's a landmark," said Jim Leavitt, a salesman who owns a property management company on Grand Cayman.

He added that the main concrete house withstood Hurricane Ivan in 2004: "We haven't lost a window or a door."

A driveway leads to a stone parking lot and a one car garage between the two houses. The three-story main house is designed like a circular fortress with a crenellated roof. The main floor has a laundry room and two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. One of the bedrooms has a sitting area and opens onto a wide covered terrace with a view of the sea. The second with bunk beds is in the middle of the house.

Softly curved stairs lead to the living areas on the second level. The 50-foot diameter, semicircular living and dining room has white couches and access to a covered waterfront patio with dining and seating areas. The house is being sold furnished and recently outfitted with items from Restoration Hardware, said Patty Nugent, an agent at Cayman Islands Sotheby & # 39; s International Realty who has the listing.

The open kitchen is separated from the living and dining areas by a breakfast bar, and doors on either side lead to two bedroom suites. A spiral staircase in the living room leads to the master suite which has two sliding doors that lead to a covered terrace with views of the pool, garden and sea.

"What we value about Cayman Castle is the visual privacy, beach access and boating, elevated 220-degree views, and easterly breezes that make a porch unnecessary," Leavitt said.

The property, just outside the East End village, is designated a beach resort / residential area and could function as a business, Ms. Nugent said. Dive shops, grocery stores, restaurants, windsurfing beaches, resorts and nightlife are all within a 15-minute drive. George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is 30 minutes west and has an international airport.

"While we enjoy our privacy, we are not away," said Mr Leavitt.

Around 65,000 people live on the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory that is known worldwide as a business port due to its almost complete taxation. Jeanette Totten, a broker at ERA Cayman Islands and outgoing president of the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association (CIREBA), said the years leading up to the pandemic had been a strong sellers' market, with vacation home prices increasing an average of 15 percent a year.

"We were expecting a big increase when all of this happened," she added. “We've really been gangbusters for the past two years. The prices kept going up and on and on. "

This year, she and Ms. Nugent said, prices have remained stable as high-end homeowners wait for the coronavirus. "It's just holding on," said Ms. Totten. “The people who own here are very rich, so this is a second, a third, a fourth home. You don't lose it to the bank. This is part of their portfolio and they are just sticking to it. And they are riding the pandemic storm. So the prices haven't fallen. "

Still, there are more vacation homes and condos than buyers this year – a reversal from 2019 – Ms. Totten said, thanks in large part to homeowners who relied on rental income who have now opted for liquidation. "With no rental income since the end of March and no end in sight," she said, "these owners feel the need to sell."

Overall, property prices in the Caymans have risen from an average of USD 942,000 in 2019 to USD 1.16 million in 2020, according to CIREBA. However, the number of sales has dropped from 512 sales in 2019 to 358 by November 2020, as has the total value of those sales from about $ 343 million in all of 2019 to about $ 311 million this year. (The Cayman Islands dollar is the area's official currency, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.)

According to James Bovell, agent and co-owner of RE / MAX Cayman Islands, pending transactions far outstrip 2019 despite the decline in completed sales. "All the indications are that the 2020 real estate market will actually beat its numbers in 2019," he said, adding that new developments are another sign of confidence in the market.

Jackie Doak, president of business development at Dart, a global investment company whose subsidiary Provenance Properties Cayman Islands is the exclusive subsidiary of Christie & # 39; s International Real Estate, saw a similar surge in sales, noting that buyers are buying the islands as such consider taking refuge from the virus. "July was one of the busiest months our brokerage businesses sold," she said.

(As of December 6, the Cayman Islands had reported 288 cases of Covid-19 and two deaths, according to the New York Times' coronavirus world map. Travel to the islands remains prohibited for all except residents, homeowners, and students or visas.)

However, according to Ms. Totten and Mr. Bovell, stopping tourism poses a challenge for the real estate market, as visitors can become buyers. (About half of the houses on the islands are rented, according to the Cayman Islands Economic and Statistics Office.)

When Hurricanes Maria and Irma badly damaged the neighboring islands to the north in 2017, tourists were diverted to the Caymans, Bovell said. "In the past two years, the real estate market has grown by about 30 percent as a direct result of increasing tourism," he wrote.

Seven Mile Beach, a popular vacation spot with a number of developments in the northwest corner of Grand Cayman, is the most desirable area. Ms. Totten said two bedrooms there start at $ 1.4 million and a three or four bedroom apartment can start at $ 2.5 million and reach $ 14 million. Ms. Doak said the east side of the island, which includes the East End, Rum Point and Kaibo, is quieter and less developed, with "a nice island feel".

Mr Bovell said his company's overseas and local buyers are evenly distributed, although foreigners account for about 70 percent of the sales value on a volume basis. "Our overseas buyers are mostly from the US and Canada, followed by the UK and other countries," he said.

Ms. Doak said approximately 70 percent of buyers with her agency are foreigners. Most inquiries and sales come from the US and Canada, followed by the UK and Western Europe. Recently, people from India, Hong Kong and Monaco have also bought real estate.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership in the Cayman Islands. Ms. Nugent said titles are guaranteed by the government "through a modern computerized and reliable land registry system".

Buyers pay a stamp duty of 7.5 percent, usually on the purchase price, she said, adding that non-residents can get mortgages from local banks for up to 70 percent of the value of a home.

Buyers hire a lawyer and a notary with fees between 0.5 and 1 percent of the purchase price. Members of the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association charge the seller a tiered commission that, according to their website, ranges from 7 percent for properties below about $ 500,000 to 4 percent for properties above about $ 10 million.

English; Cayman Islands dollar (1 dollar = $ 1.21)

There are no property taxes on the Cayman Islands.

Patty Nugent, Cayman Islands Sotheby & # 39; s International Realty, 345-525-3003; sircaymanislands.com/eng

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