Caymankind: When a vacation Destination starts To look like a home
Taking a closer look at how beachfront investment properties have taken centre stage after the global health crisis and are offering a permanent pathway to paradise.
The significant time spent at home since the onset of the pandemic has prompted many to consider the space in which they surround themselves in new and thoughtful ways. Home construction and improvements are at record highs. Pool installation businesses are hardly able to keep up with demand. Cottage properties are flying off the market shortly after listing. But many have also concluded that there’s nothing quite like letting the ocean’s waves bury your feet under the sand. Now, more than ever, people are looking to turn vacation locations into long-term investment properties.
A recent luxury lifestyle report released by Sotheby’s International Realty finds that real estate agents have seen new buyers from the United States fueling the demand for beachfront homes priced at US$3 million and above, with a demand in prime properties on islands across the Caribbean, including Barbados, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, St. Barts, and Turks and Caicos.
With turnkey beachfront investment properties having taken centre stage during the global health crisis, we looked at one of the stars of the Caribbean islands: Grand Cayman.
Described as the Caribbean’s “best-kept secret,” with its relaxed and vibrant atmosphere and sophisticated populace, Grand Cayman combines the utopian ideal of island paradise with luxury living by having a solid infrastructure, forward thinking government and, above all, a warm welcome.
“Everyone is very casual here. There’s no pretense, there’s no formality; it’s just a great place to live, do business and visit,” says Kim Lund, Cayman Islands luxury real estate broker and No. 1 team global producer at RE/MAX for residential sales.
As one of the 14 British Overseas Territories, made up of a collection of three islands in the Caribbean — Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac — the Cayman Islands have grown over the past 30 years to become one of the top choices in the Caribbean as a luxury lifestyle destination and a global player in the Caribbean real estate luxury market.
The islands are a cat’s jump away from Miami, Toronto and New York. And this surge in real estate has resulted from the demand of an increased number of investors who are choosing to make the Cayman Islands their long-term home, realizing that the Caymans not only act as a safe financial investment, but also offer the beauty of living in an oasis.
With a population slightly over 65,000 people, the Caymanian community is a melting pot of more than 100 different nationalities from around the world. “People here in Cayman welcome people from all over the world into their society and community. ‘Caymankind’ is an incredible way to describe the Cayman Islands, because it represents the people and the feeling here. A community of rich heritage, friendliness and natural beauty. Anyone coming in here leaves this place and wants to come back,” says Lund. “Caymankind,” is a Caymanian expression coined to describe the way of living in the Cayman Islands, that speaks to the multilayered landscape of both people and cultures that make up the community.
Colourful events and celebrations are abundant. Known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, the islands’ annual Cayman Cookout, one of the world’s most treasured food and beverage festivals, hosted at The Ritz-Carlton, is an example of the islands’ vibrant and cosmopolitan flavour and flare.
Another cultural gem is the islands’ national carnival, Batabano. During the first week of May, George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is filled with residents and visitors from all over the world, celebrating Caymanian music and dance, all while showcasing the most elaborate costumes that reflect the landscapes, heritage and culture of the islands.
With all the luxuries of a North American lifestyle within a Caribbean setting, it’s no wonder that so many foreigners flee to the Cayman Islands for their vacation getaways. What was once a one-week trip, however, has grown into a long-term connection to the islands, due in part to the islands’ hot real estate market. As an added incentive, “the government has provided a 25-year residency certificate if somebody invests US$1.2 million in real estate. If they invest double that, US$2.4 million, they are given permanent residency versus a 25-year certificate,” says Lund.
With luxury waterfront properties in the Cayman Islands regularly selling north of US$5 million, some of the islands’ most impressive and notable inventory includes luxury condominiums at The Watermark that are offered in the US$8 million to US$27 million price point and located on Seven Mile Beach — one of the islands’ most popular attractions that draws in visitors each year. Despite its name, the actual length is just a bit over six miles. Currently, in the Seven Mile Beach area, there are an abundance of new developments under construction or planned to start next year, which include Kailani Hilton Residences, Grand Hyatt Residences, Aqua, Seacrest, Lacovia, Aqua Bay and The Watermark.
The Watermark, which is set to be completed in a few years, caters to ultra-high-net-worth individuals looking to invest in a lifestyle that comes with services and amenities that one would find at the most exclusive five-star hotels, but within a private residential setting. These include butler staff, concierge, beachfront owners’ conservatory, private cinema, private dining room, library lounge and state-of-the-art fitness studio to name a few. Fraser Wellon, one of the Cayman Islands’ most notable developers, who is leading The Watermark, focuses his work on catering to his target market. “By introducing a lifestyle focusing on the expectations and comforts of high-net-worth individuals, this allows me to be creative when introducing amenities that integrate lifestyle enhancements based on the evolution of our product offering over the years,” says Wellon.
“Anyone coming In here leaves This place and Wants to Come back”
Another reason why foreign investors have been drawn to these Caribbean islands has been their relatively low COVID-19 cases and the successful handling of the Islands through the pandemic. In addition to prudent government policy, this was, in part, thanks to the support of local billionaires on the island. In times of crisis, like the pandemic, and even Hurricane Ivan, the rebuild of the island was greatly due to the personal donations injected into the island from the ultra-wealthy, which speaks to the community and the Caymankind mantra.
The islands’ great schools, health care, wonderful restaurants and a host of other amenities have contributed to the Cayman Islands’ well-deserved reputation as a safe, stable and civilized jurisdiction. “We are a sophisticated Caribbean destination with the charm of a tropical Caribbean island. We have a highly educated population, with a fiscally responsible and forward-thinking democratic government,” says Wellon.
With the islands’ concrete plan to reopen, including the reintroduction of tourism while limiting the impacts of COVID-19, laying your feet on Seven Mile Beach no longer seems like such a distant thought. And, perhaps, neither is your conception of the islands as a long-term investment, rather than simply a vacation spot.
Whether you’re buying into turquoise waters, white-sand beaches or a solid investment opportunity, all who visit Cayman Islands’ shores agree on the two words, as Lund put it, that best describe the island: “Absolutely amazing.”