2020 1st Quarter Review: The COVID-19 Impact — Property Cayman | Real Estate Experts in the Cayman Islands

2020 1st Quarter Review: The COVID-19 Impact

2020 1st Quarter Review: The COVID-19 Impact
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Property Cayman

Photo credit: Courtney Platt | www.courtneyplatt.com

We all seem to have a love/hate relationship with COVID-19 related news. We love the camaraderie, hate the negativity. Love the creativity, hate the dramatics. As another week in lock down passes, we feel that the dust has settled enough for us to take a look at the data and numbers and provide you all with a meaningful, factual, un-sensationalised statistical review of the Cayman real estate market. Our analysis covers how COVID-19 has been a catalyst to the changes we are seeing and those we anticipate looking forward. 

Whilst there is undoubtedly a ‘COVID-Confidence-Crisis’, the true value in real estate is its long-term stability.  

Whilst there are short-term tactics that we can employ, our advice and guidance remain the same…. this storm too shall passWe will get to more of that in a moment, but first lets deep dive into facts & figures... 

(All figures are in US$ and data is as of 28th April 2020)

1438 active CIREBA listings:
749 Condos ($39,000 - $8,500,000)  
234 Homes ($170,000 - $39,900,000)  
431 Land ($26,000 - $10,800,000)  
24 Commercial ($18,000 - $31,500,000)  

Compared to Q1 of 2019, this active listing count has only decreased by 3.8% for the same period. Now having said that, bear in mind that April and May are the final and slightly slower months of high season so the impact isn’t as it would have been if the pandemic unfolded in October instead. Overall, we maintained a strong market until the ‘COVID-Confidence-Crisis’ prematurely ended our 5-year momentum. 

Looking forward we can expect a gradual increase in supply to as much as 2,000 – 2,500 by the end of the year. Changes in employment, income and lack of tourist rentals will attribute to reasons why properties will come to market. Whilst each sector will react differently at different stages, we can expect investment apartments and condos to come to market from early summer onwards.  

Equally, life continues. There will be marriages and babies born (watch out for the Coronial generation in 9 months), new jobs, returning residentsgraduating students and new opportunities will saturate some of the anticipated surge in supply. We should acknowledge some recent and very sizeable sales in CIREBA, ($18M development land, $14m private home, US$7m vacation home and on and on) demonstrating that despite this ‘blip’ there are a number of property investors still 100% interested in Cayman. They can see past the short term disruption.  

For the time being, sellers are standing firm on their asking prices and buyers are not (yet) confident enough to enter the market. The resulting effect could see us return to a buyer’s market with new supplydecreased demand and consequently a decrease in values. By how much? Well, not as much as you’d like to think... 

The Foreclosure Forecast – It’s not what you might expect.  

The 2008/9 Great Recession was a lesson learned and this time around, banks have promptly activated a 3-month mortgage holiday. Thus, protecting their clients and ultimately safeguarding all property values. This has relieved a tremendous amount of pressure and bought time for the storm to pass us by.  

Furthermore, banks will make every effort to avoid foreclosing on their clients to the extent that after the mortgage holiday you can expect their willingness to consider case by case payment plans moving forward.  

With all this said we aren’t expecting a flood of foreclosures and if they do foreclose, we don’t expect to see this until the beginning of 2021. At that stage the courts set a precedence in that foreclosed property values must remain comparable. So, you can’t expect steals and deals. Overall, it’s good news for the individual, the banks and the market place! 

516 Pending & Pending/Conditional offers:  
400 Condos ($182,000 - $7,900,000)  
47  Homes ($180,000 - $2,600,000)  
64  Land ($28,000 - $5,400,000)  
5 Commercial ($241,000 - $20,700,000)  

This is an impressive 516 different transactions under contract at various stages in the selling cycle. 62% of these contracts are Pending/Condition (conditions still to be waived). This high figure reflects the numerous pre-construction contracts yet to complete. Despite a plethora of pressures, we anticipate the majority of these to complete unhitched.  

At the time of writingCIREBA is surveying all banks, so stay in touch with us for a comprehensive summary of all bank offerings. In a nut shell, Banks are still lendingWhat is evident is that they will review applications with a little more caution to mitigate their exposure. This helps applicants ensure they aren’t over-extending themselves. Meanwhile, the prudent investor with access to capital will see through this and use it to their advantage. 

March and April saw a significant decline in new sales contracts due to the lockdown restrictions. The knock-on effect of this in Q2 and Q3 will be a reduced number of actual closings with sustained, potentially increased inventory. The irony is that we are still closing with attorneys and Government departments more efficiently than ever before.  

Additionally, some buyers’ ROI expectations have been deflated to levels where they are now considering their options and may withdraw from a potential purchase. What buyers need to be aware of is in a graph further down in this report. Housing prices in Cayman have not fluctuated that much over the past 20 years, even during similar economic downturns. As we mentioned earlier, real estate is a stable investment and whether you chose to buy, sell or hold firm, you need to fully consider the short, medium and long term.

246 Listings on and along the Seven Mile Beach Corridor:
178 Condos (US$125K - $8M)  
43 Homes (US$900K - $17M)  
16 Land (US$290K - $2.6M)   
9 Commercial (US$180K - $6.3M)

This is a relatively low number of options along the world-famous SMB corridor. Demand has suddenly disappeared with closed borders and a nonexistent tourism market. The resulting effect is short term rental condos looking for long term tenants, flooding the market with rental inventory and decreasing long term rental rates. As anticipated in our Rental Migration blog a few weeks ago, we are seeing this projection play out. Trends and projections matter. See current rental rate availability below 

111 CIREBA’s long-term rentals:  
77 Condos ($1,000 - $17,000/month)  
21 Homes ($2,200 - $15,000/month)  
13 Commercial ($26 per sq. ft. - $13,000/month)  

Rentals by neighbourhood:   
55 Seven Mile Rentals ($1,000 - $17,000/month)   
12 West Bay Rentals ($2,000 - $4,000/month)  
19 GT/South Sound ($2,000 - $15,000/month)  
16 Grand Harbour / Prospect / Spotts ($2,000 - $9,000/month)  

With CIREBA’s new rental platform consolidating rentals into a central and convenient location, we have seen a sharp rise in rental inventory come available along the Seven Mile Beach corridor. As mentioned, many of these options are traditionally reserved for short-term vacationers, however in the absence of tourists, many landlords are converting to the long-term rentals to sustain income. See our previous blog on The Rental Migration. 

159 Sold from January - March 2020 (an average of 53 per month)
83 Condos ($20,000 - $5,400,000)
20 Homes ($170,000 - $7,000,000)
50 Land ($24,000 - $2,900,000)
6 Commercial ($325,000 - $18,000,000)

CIREBA averages approximately 50 sales a month. April demonstrated a 50% drop in closed transactions. 

5Solds (April 2020)  
13 Condos ($24,000 - $5,400,000)  
4 Homes ($180,000 - $14,700,000) 
8 Land ($24,000 - $20,000,000) 
0 Commercial   

We would ordinarily expect a small slow down at the end of high season, however, the Covid-Catalyst has fast tracked us into slow season. What has been a strong and buoyant market for the past 5 years has now lost the wind in its ‘sales’. The easy projections show this trend continuing through summer at which point we can revise projections for the balance of 2020.  

As any prudent investor will tell you, trying to time the market is a fool’s game, and nigh impossible. Of course, like any market, pricing will go up and down, however those wishfully hoping for pricing to fall to levels pre-2015 will never enter the market.  

Don’t believe us? Look at the pricing levels for condos over the past 20 years. Throughout this period there was 9/11 (2001), Hurricane Ivan (2004), and the Great Recession (2008/2009)Specifically, notice what happened to pricing/values after those key dates. A flattening of the curve for sure, but relatively marginal.

Source: CIREBA and Lands Information Services – Disclaimer: these are approximate figures designed to provide a snap-shot image of the Cayman Islands property market only and are subject to further discussion. If you have a desire to see the specifics as it relates to your personal property journey, please contact us.  

In short, real estate is all about using time to your advantage. Buy and hold through the good times and the not so good, but know this:  

  1. It is impossible to time the market  
  2. Over time, values will increase 
  3. Real estate is a very stable asset class 
  4. Post any economic downturn, pricing may fluctuate, then it will stabilise and continue to increase 
  5. The gains from 2016 won’t be lost  
  6. Cayman remains beautifully positively positioned as a safe harbour in a stormy world 
In conclusion: 

The future is bright, although it may not seem like it right now, the property market is secure and as history has taught us, there is no reason to lose confidence. For those not in the market, don’t worry, it’s never too late to get on the ladder. The right time to buy is predominantly predicated on when it is convenient for you. With a concise plan of action, your property plan will serve your family and investment needs very well over time. Secure tomorrow, today! 

For over a collective 25 years we have assisted more than 1,000 individuals and families achieve their property goals. We have been through the ups and downs and stood shoulder to shoulder with every single one of our clients. If you are looking to buy, sell or rent you will have questions so, reach out to any one of our agents, irrespective of your budget. No strings attached, just good, honest real estate advice. Establish your property plan, today.  

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