Di LISA KLEIN
Many tourism-heavy countries were hit hard during the pandemic, including Barbados in the Caribbean, but some were able to bounce back and even saw an uptick in their real estate markets.
A few savvy governmental policies over the past two years have led to a growing interest in calling the island nation a permanent home – and in the need to buy those homes.
“We’ve gone past the traditional ‘we just want a holiday home’ to ‘let’s make Barbados our home,’” said Chris Parra, founder/CEO of One Caribbean Estates, a brokerage helping newcomers find luxury houses and launching everything from business advisory to rental services to make it all happen.
“It’s extremely positive,” he said.
The tiny island, with a population of 275,000 living on 170 square miles, is a mix of West African and British culture that recently cut its last ties with the British monarchy and removed the queen as the figurehead of state. It is home to sugarcane and cricket, and has its own music and dance style, rum, white sand beaches and Rihanna.
It is no wonder that high-net-worth individuals are scrambling, looking for their own piece of paradise, thanks in part to the island’s pandemic-driven, long-term stay policy.
“The travel market definitely took a hit, with hotels being closed and lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, but Barbados launched an initiative called the ‘welcome stamp,’ which allowed a lot of people to come to Barbados and stay here for a longer period of time,” Mr. Parra said.
Travelers have been visiting the island anywhere from three to 12 months at a time, working remotely and enjoying all of the tropical perks.
“We call them ‘welcome stampers,’” Mr. Parra said. “They come here, they get their work done and by two or three o’clock they’re out in the ocean.
“And what that has done is actually become a catalyst for those same people to invest in Barbados,” he said. “You can enjoy a quality of life here that is very attractive – warm friendly people, very safe and secure, fantastic beaches, great tennis, great golf, lots of outdoor leisure activities.”
The sales do not lie.
One Caribbean Estates had record years in both 2020 and 2021, and relocation services are booming, spurring a new venture for the brokerage in corporate legal, accounting and tax advisory.
Those consumers looking to move to Barbados can obtain a special entry residence permit, which requires a $2 million real estate investment, or a five-year work permit.
The country also has big tax benefits for businesses, capping corporate taxes at 5.5 percent.
“I think people coming to Barbados are kind of seeing it through new eyes, and have realized that there are so many opportunities here,” Mr. Parra said.
Mr. Parra has real estate clients getting involved in large-scale agriculture, renewable energy, including the largest solar farm in the country, and partnering with him in an all-electric car rental business on the island.
As a result of all of the positive interest, luxury housing stock is scarce in Barbados, at least for now.
Even properties that have been languishing have been moving, with One Caribbean Estates selling two of four plots of land in 2020 that had been on the market for 11 years.
“Definitely there’s been an increase in demand for detached houses with private gardens and private pools,” Mr. Parra said.
“People are looking for space, security, privacy – a sense of being on their own but wanting access to five-star amenities and facilities such as restaurants, golf courses, tennis and beach clubs,” he said.
Piece of paradise
Leisure communities, such as the golf, polo and residential club Apes Hill in Saint James Parish, are in demand, and new construction is attempting to keep up with the market.
Even older such properties such as those in the Sandy Lane area, adjacent to the famed resort of the same name, are seeing a resurgence. Affluent homebuyers are renovating them with the help of One Caribbean Estates’ design and build service that enlists both local and international architects.
All-in-one communities also attract renters and offer the perfect opportunity for homeowners to keep their properties occupied if they are not there year-round, which can both generate income and help to maintain the buildings in the tropical climate.
One Caribbean Estates has a client program in which it helps to rent out empty properties. Business has been so good that it is this year launching One Caribbean Experiences, a home rental and concierge service.
Traditionally, Saint James and Saint Peter parishes on the west coast of the island are most popular with wealthy homebuyers and renters, home to 13 of the island’s 15 billionaires and aptly named the “platinum coast.”
“Because of the welcome stamp and the fact that people have been coming to the island without preempting it too much, we’ve had interest across the board,” Mr. Parra said. “From the east cost to the south coast to the west coast.”
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