Home Searching on St. Lucia: Nestled within the Piton Mountains for $1.9 Million

House Hunting on St. Lucia: Nestled in the Piton Mountains for $1.9 Million

This 2,950-square-foot home, built in 1979 and remodeled in 2019, is located on the north face of Gros Piton near Soufrière, a town on the west coast of St. Lucia in the Windward Islands. Set in 7,190 acre UNESCO World Heritage Site with uninterrupted views of the twin volcanic peaks of the Pitons rising from the eastern Caribbean Sea, the house was designed by John di Pol, an architect who also built the five-star, 37-room hotel has Ladera Mountain Resort down the street.

In addition to the open-air main house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, the 1 hectare property includes a separate guest house with one bedroom.

Concrete steps flanked by plants lead to a massive solid oak door. Views of the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea beckon from the open living area behind. "It's airy enough that you don't have any bugs," said Sarah Danzie, executive broker of St. Lucia Sotheby's International Realty, which has the listing. However, there is a mosquito light and roof overhangs provide shade.

The main house, built of heartwood and volcanic rock, has an open floor plan and "has three walls and the fourth section or wall is open and faces the sea," said Ms. Danzie. "It's like a tree house – everything made of wood, everything natural."

The kitchen is closed and air-conditioned, with granite countertops, wooden cabinets, and high-end Italian appliances. There is a glass block window above the double sink. The dining area is outside.

Up an open staircase on the left the master suite has exposed rafters. Another staircase leads up through a stone tower topped by an open-air lounge for stargazing. The suite's bathroom features a volcanic rock wall, a single vanity with a carved, lacquered stone sink, and an outdoor shower. Two guest rooms have mosquito nets and ceiling fans and share a bathroom with a single vanity and shower. All bedrooms are air-conditioned. The house, equipped with internet and surround sound, is being sold furnished.

On the ground floor there is a freeform salt water pool, which is solar heated at a great height due to the cooler climate of the property. The house has double voltage (110 and 220 volts) and a backup generator that switches on automatically.

The air-conditioned guest house has a kitchen, an office, a living area and a terrace. A high fence surrounds the property.

The house is a 20-minute drive from Soufrière, once the capital of St. Lucia, with restaurants and shops. Nearby are hot springs, mineral baths, a rainforest and the Tet Paul Nature Trail. Swimmers enjoy the warm water under the Piton Falls and Anse Chastenet Beach along the coast.

Hewanorra International Airport, near the Vieux Fort Quarter on the south end of the island, is 45 minutes away. Flights within the Caribbean depart from the regional George F.L. Charles Airport in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia and tourist center, about an hour from Soufrière.

Two years ago, the St. Lucia real estate market struggled to recover from the downturn following the 2008 global financial crisis. Prices were down and overseas buyers (UK in particular) were cautious when a flood of hurricanes hit the Caribbean in 2017.

As 2020 hit, the buyer's market began to heat up, with a rush to rent and "ultimately a sales boom," sparked by government efforts to boost tourism, said Maria Buchner, founder of Blue Reef Real Estate.

When the pandemic hit and slowed this recovery, "the inquiries went dramatically, sometimes to zero," said Ms. Buchner.

As in many parts of the world, the market woke up again in autumn. "From October to now we've had an incredible boom" in both sales and rentals, she said, adding that her agency has been selling homes on Zoom and WhatsApp with guided virtual tours.

But while the sales figures "from the good times before Covid" have risen by 30 percent, prices have fallen by 10 to 20 percent depending on the property and location.

"Buyers took advantage of sellers who had to sell," said Ms. Buchner. "Prices Had To Go Down" Three-bedroom ocean-view homes, which may have sold for $ 400,000 to $ 500,000 before the pandemic, are in short supply. (St. Lucia officially uses the East Caribbean dollar, but US dollars are widely accepted.)

Still, the resurgence of motivated shoppers is fueling optimism for 2021 and beyond. "Our real estate market has doubled, inquiries have catapulted onto the island and we just can't keep up," said Ms. Danzie, Sotheby’s broker. "We'll probably have bidding wars by midsummer."

(On June 1, St. Lucia was fully opened to visitors with proof of vaccination and a recent negative PCR test, Ms. Danzie said. Visitors who are not vaccinated must be quarantined in a certified hotel or villa for 14 days .)

Some, taking refuge in St. Lucia amid the pandemic, decided to buy and stay property. “People are looking for more secluded homes, private homes, secluded homes where they are safe and away from the crowds,” Ms. Danzie said.

A new investor market for “everything that borders the Caribbean Sea” is being driven by people who would rather rent an apartment than stay in a hotel, ”said Walter Zephirin, managing director of 7th Heaven Properties, calling the market“ extremely lively for properties of $ 400,000 to $ 3 million. ”Other buyers, he said, wanted to“ move permanently or retire ”. Covid gave them the impetus. "

Compared to other Caribbean islands, St. Lucia still has relative bargains on garden and waterfront condominiums. Two-bedroom waterfront apartments start at $ 350,000 and climb to more than $ 1 million depending on developments, said Gilbert Fontenelle, an agent at Terra Caribbean. Waterfront condominiums at Landings Resort in Gros Inlet, on the more developed north coast, are selling at a premium, with offers ranging from $ 800,000 to $ 1.2 million.

Beach homes are rarely available outside of resorts. At Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, between the Pitons, a four-bedroom ocean view villa is on the market for $ 4.25 million, while a beach home is listed for $ 8.95 million.

Mr. Fontenelle said the market's growth was largely due to "improved infrastructure, stable government and St. Lucia's longstanding reputation for natural beauty and friendly people."

Americans make up 70 percent of foreign buyers, and another 20 percent come from Canada, said Zephirin.

For a fee of $ 100,000, some potential buyers from China, Taiwan and India, as well as North America and the UK, apply for passports through the government's Citizen by Investment program, Ms. Danzie said. "People are concerned that there might be another outbreak" and want anything to stay in place "instead of being locked up in one city in another country".

There are five different ways to obtain citizenship and a second pass through the CIP Citizenship by Investment program, from $ 100,000 to the National Economic Fund to a $ 3.5 million corporate investment. The minimum investment in real estate is $ 300,000. Each option offers citizenship of St. Lucia, visa-free, or visa-on-entry access to more than 146 countries.

Foreign buyers must obtain a certificate of eligibility from the government for $ 3,000, followed by an Alien Land Holding License for $ 2,500, plus $ 1,000 legal fees for each, Ms. Buchner said. Buyers are granted permanent residence permits as long as they own the property, eliminating the need for a visa extension.

In May 2020, a change in the law removed the tax advantages of buying real estate by an international or offshore company, making the practice "obsolete," said Thomas Theobalds, a lawyer in Castries. A non-resident can still use a domestic company to buy real estate, which can help with estate taxes, "although that may change in the future," he said.

The new law accelerates home buying. "Under the old system it took six months to get a license, now it takes two weeks," said Theobalds.

A lawyer performs due diligence on title research and is responsible if the title is incorrect. Foreign buyers have to set aside 35 to 40 percent to get a mortgage.

English, French Creole; East Caribbean dollar (1 EC dollar = 0.37), with the US dollar being widely accepted.

Legal fees are calculated on a sliding scale of 3 to 5 percent of the purchase price, said Mr. Theobalds. The stamp duty is 2 percent.

Annual property taxes are 0.25 percent of fair market value, with the first $ 75,075 tax-free, Ms. Danzie said. A property valued at $ 1.9 million would pay $ 4,562.

Sarah Danzie, St. Lucia Sotheby’s International Realty, (758) 452-0280, stluciasothebysrealty.com

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