Month: March 2021

Life on Cayman Brac

Life on Cayman Brac

Tranquil and off the beaten track, yet vibrant with nature and adventure – welcome to life on Cayman Brac.

Named for its breathtaking Bluff, Cayman Brac draws thrill-seekers and climbers alike. Its diverse flora and fauna attracts nature lovers. And its often empty roads make driving a pleasure for all  (just be sure to give way to the Rock Iguanas!).

As an island less travelled, Life on Cayman Brac offers a change of pace. It radiates that laid back island vibe, an atmosphere we all crave, especially as of late. So I wanted to share the highlights from my recent Cayman Brac adventure.

The Cayman Brac Bluff

Towering at 150 feet above sea level, the Bluff is the highest elevation point in the Cayman Islands. It is reminiscent of the Celtic coastline, and Brac is the Gaelic word for ‘bluff’. So as an Irish lass from County Down, it is no wonder I instantly felt at home in Cayman Brac.

Venture to the most easterly edge of Cayman Brac, and the dramatic backdrop of the Bluff is visible in all its rugged glory. A visit to the lighthouse takes you to a hiking trail with stunning views of the Bluff’s edge, as well as the chance to observe the Brown Boobies in their element.

Top Tip – head to the lighthouse in the early hours to witness a spectacular sunrise while enjoying the cool breeze, tranquil surroundings, and those magnificent Bluff views

The Caves of Cayman Brac

Exploring the many limestone caves is a must-do in Cayman Brac.

Sitting above Spots Bay is Peter’s Cave on the Northeastern side of the island. And once you climb the crumbling stone steps, the view of the island is quite spectacular. Or if you fancy a longer hike, you can also access Peter’s Cave from the Bluff trail.

With my fear of birds and other flapping creatures, I chose to give the Bat Cave a miss.

But another highlight is the Great Cave. Located on Cayman Brac’s eastern tip, access to the Great Cave is via three wooden ladders. Caution for anyone with weak ankles or knees. But the climb is well worth the reward. Awaiting you is the most incredible formation of stalagmites and stalactites.

Rock Climbing in Cayman Brac

When it comes to adventure-seeking, the rugged limestone cliffs of Cayman Brac offer some of the best climbing in the world.

There are somewhere in the region of 128 climbing routes on Cayman Brac. So if you are feeling up to the challenge, give the Rock Iguana Climbing Company a call. They cater to all skill levels and have a fantastic team waiting to take you to new heights.

Yoga in Cayman Brac

Driving along the South Side Road, I was stopped in my tracks by what appeared to be the most beautiful outdoor yoga studio. Was this a stunning mirage?

‘Yogi wall’ is Angel Robledo’s creation. It is an outdoor yoga venue embraced by nature. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Bluff, this outdoor space has a special energy. You can’t help but feel immersed in nature and grateful for the beauty of the outdoors.

Top tip –  the evening classes are made even more magical as you find yourself practising under the stars.

Le Soleil D’Or

Sprawling across twenty acres and perched on the Bluff’s edge, a tour of the expansive Le Soleil D’Or Farm is an absolute treat – not to mention the delicious samplings of home-grown fresh produce. The joy and passion is palpable as the small farm team shares their knowledge of the land while touring you around in the cutest little golf buggy.

Restaurants in Cayman Brac

Your mouth will be watering after touring Le Soleil D’Or Farm, and their garden-inspired menu is not to be missed. Dining in their quaint, tranquil courtyard is a true ‘farm to table’ experience.

Or for pizza lovers, I recommend trying Barracudas in the west end. You’ll be met by friendly staff, a great atmosphere, and delicious piping hot pizza right out of their wood-fired oven.

Sunsets

While the island’s lighthouse was made for sunrises, Cayman Brac’s Sunset Place is the perfect spot to wind down the day. Located just beyond the West Westerly pond, grab a cooler, pack up your car, or even better, your bicycle, and enjoy watching the sun go down on this extraordinary island.

Life on Cayman Brac

Travel restrictions have increased the interest to visit and buy on the sister islands. It’s a shame that it has taken so many of us, myself included, so long to experience the beauty of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I spent four amazing days exploring Cayman Brac, and I have one final thing to say ‘I’ll be Brac’.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

So if you live in Grand Cayman and haven’t yet, I encourage you to take the short hop, the 30-minute flight. You will find yourself in a different world. A lush landscape with a unique energy, that easy-going culture that the Brac exudes.

And if you are interested in exploring the available real estate investments, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to chat.

[email protected]

IG: @jude.holland

Life on Grand Cayman

property-cayman-life-in-cayman

Life in Cayman is hard to beat. And although Grand Cayman is the most populous and developed of the three sister islands, it is brimming full of natural beauty and culture.

I have been fortunate enough to travel across Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. I have experienced beachside living in Costa Rica and I have yet to find a place quite like Cayman.

Grand Cayman is home. As a kid, I’d commute to school along the picturesque South Sound waterfront from our family home in Prospect. I learned to sail in Red Bay. I spent hours playing outdoors and surfing the Cayman waves and today, I am still just as glad to call this place home. From running a business in the Seven Mile Beach corridor to finding home in Bodden Town with my wife and our daughter, I have a deep appreciation for Cayman life.

Many people, including my wife Rachel (until very recently), limit themselves to the island’s Western districts. It is convenient to live, work, and play without venturing far off the Seven Mile Beach corridor. Don’t get me wrong, Seven Mile Beach is remarkable. There is a reason it is the most sought after real estate on Island. Having said this, our Islands have so much more to offer, and Grand Cayman is full of gems waiting to be explored.

Explore Grand Cayman

West Bay

It would be remiss not to mention Barker’s National Park as one of Grand Cayman’s top sites. A breezy secluded stretch of powdery white beaches tucked away at the top of West Bay, known for kite surfing and home to a vast array of local birds and an intricate biodiverse network of mangroves.

Learn more about West Bay


Georgetown

Steps from the town centre are world-renowned snorkel and dive site, including Cheeseburger Reef (aptly named due to its proximity to a popular fast-food restaurant). If you are keen to explore life below the water’s surface, the dive sites of Eden Rock, Wreck of the Cali, and Balboa are all within walking distance of the capital.

Learn more about George Town


Grand Harbour

This thriving community has a not so big secret, the Black Pearl Skate Park. As the second-largest skatepark in the World, it’s a kids paradise playground and the area is soon to be the same for adults, with all of the new amenities of Harbour Walk.

Learn more about Grand Harbour


Red Bay and Prospect

As my childhood stomping ground, this area of Grand Cayman will forever hold a particularly special place in my heart. Swimming with the turtles right off the Spotts dock is an unforgettable experience. You will be mesmerized seeing these majestic creatures up close and in the wild. Top tip – One of the best times to catch these ancient creatures in action is dusk when they are feeding. Double bonus – On a clear night, you will also get to witness a truly magical Cayman sunset from one of the best locations on the Island.

Learn more about Red Bay and Prospect


East End and Bodden Town

This is where my family and I now call home. Brimming with Caribbean culture, the community is both peaceful and vibrant. Our weekends are spent at the Lover’s wall boardwalk, visiting the blowholes, and enjoying long lunches of local Caymanian food at Vivienne’s Kitchen and Grapetree Cafe.

Learn more about Bodden Town


Savannah

Savannah is another area of Cayman where culture thrives. This hidden gem boasts Cayman’s most elevated sea views on the bluff and is home to the very dynamic piece of Cayman Heritage, Pedro Castle.

Learn more about Savannah


Frank Sound & North Side

Head up Frank Sound Road to visit the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park or walk the Mastic Trail and discover the plants, trees, and wildlife native to Cayman. After all that adventuring, you will want to stop in at Over the Edge for some seafood chowder. Now that’s life in Cayman.

Learn more about Frank Sound


Life in Cayman is more than meets the eye

From the restaurants and amenities to the white sand beach and crystal-clear water of Seven Mile Beach, it is easy to understand why people never leave the west side of Grand Cayman. But there is a whole island to be explored—natural beauty and vibrant culture, waiting to be enjoyed.  

I feel extremely grateful to have grown up in Cayman and am thankful to be raising our daughter on the same shores. There is something magical about living on the ocean. Quite simply, for me there is nothing better than opening up your doors, looking out to the ocean and smelling the fresh salty air first thing in the morning. 

If you are interested in exploring the different areas Cayman has to offer, let’s shoot the breeze over some peel and eat shrimp. 

[email protected]

IG: @joelclarkrealestate

Mortgages in Cayman: How much home can I afford?

mortgages in Cayman

Buying a home will be one of the largest financial decisions of your life. It can feel overwhelming and stressful. But understanding the options available for mortgages in Cayman is a huge piece of the puzzle.

My advice, always, is to speak with a lender before you start looking at homes. Understanding how much home you can afford will help narrow your property search.

It will also put you in the best position when you do find the right home for you. In this fast-paced market, being pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage in Cayman will give you an edge over competing purchasers. And having a pre-existing relationship with a lender allows for a quick closing once you place your offer to purchase.

I sat down with Amanda Bodden, Senior Manager of Lending at Butterfield Bank Cayman, to discuss mortgages in Cayman.

Mortgages in Cayman

  1. What is the average interest rate for mortgages in Cayman currently?

A standard interest rate for a primary residence mortgage in Cayman is Prime plus 0.5% to 1%. Currently, with prime sitting at 3.25%, the standard mortgage rates in Cayman are between 3.75% to 4.25%.

  • Have Cayman mortgage rates gone up or down?

In March of 2020, the US Federal Reserve dropped the US Prime Rate from 4.25% to 3.25%, and since then, interest rates have remained low.

  • What are the trends for mortgages in Cayman?

Now more then ever, it is tough to predict mortgage trends. With the global health pandemic situation evolving almost daily, it is hard to know how things will look even a couple of months down the road. But all signs seem to point to continued low-interest rates for the next 12-18 months.

  • What are the term options for Cayman mortgages?

Assuming you are purchasing a property to live in, a home to use as your primary residence, you can secure up to 85% – 90% financing, at a variable rate of prime plus 0% – 1%,  for up to 25 – 30 years.

  • Are there zero-down mortgages in Cayman?

I’m not aware of any banks offering 100% financing at this time. The minimum down payment required is typically 5 to 10% of the purchase price.

Mortgage eligibility in Cayman

  • What determines your eligibility for a mortgage in Cayman?

Several factors influence your borrowing power. Your income is the primary factor. But other factors, such as your existing debt and expenses, as well as your age and the maximum repayment term available to you, will impact the amount you qualify to borrow. A good guideline is that approximately 33% of your base salary is an ‘affordable’ mortgage payment. For a quick estimate of the mortgage, you could afford use our mortgage calculator.

  • Can you get pre-approved for a mortgage in Cayman?

Yes, and it is advisable to do so. It is a good idea to find out how much you qualify to borrow even if you don’t proceed and obtain formal pre-approval. Being pre-qualified for a mortgage allows you to focus your search based on what you can afford, and it means you can confidently place an offer when you find the right property. You don’t want to fall in love with a property only to find out after you’ve placed an offer to purchase that it is out of reach. Similarly, you don’t want to search for properties in a particular price range without knowing what you can afford. I should also note that being formally pre-approved for financing can make your offer more attractive than a comparable offer, as it often means a quicker closing.

Different mortgages in Cayman

  • How do mortgage rates differ for overseas buyers and residents of Cayman?

The risk profile of an overseas purchaser versus a local purchaser is different. Interest rates are typically about 1% higher for overseas purchasers than they are for residents.

  • What are the lending restrictions for mortgage in Cayman for non-residents?

In Cayman, non-residents may purchase property without restriction, and the stamp duty assessment is the same as it is for residents. The only difference is that banks may require higher down payments for non-resident purchasers and charge a higher interest rate.

  • How does the property type affect your mortgage eligibility in Cayman?

Your primary residence is a lower risk mortgage. You may be relying on rental income to cover your second home or investment property mortgage payments. Because of this risk, banks may extend lower financing levels and charge a higher interest rate for non-primary residences.

  • Is there a difference for First-time Caymanain Purchasers when applying for a mortgage in Cayman?

First-time Caymanian purchasers typically qualify for a stamp duty reduction or exemption which reduces the amount of cash needed upfront, which may increase your borrowing power.

Mortgage types in Cayman

  • What is a fixed mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage is when you negotiate a fixed rate of interest with your lender for a specified period, meaning your interest rate won’t fluctuate with Prime Rate movements. The benefit of a fixed-rate mortgage is that you (the borrower) are protected from rising variable rates and fluctuating monthly payments.

  • What is a variable mortgage?

A variable rate mortgage means your interest rate fluctuates over the term of the loan. Most variable-rate mortgages in Cayman are tied to the US Federal Reserve Prime Rate, so when that rate increases or decreases, your interest rate will, in turn, increase or decrease. Variable-rate mortgages are the most common type of mortgage in Cayman. Typically a variable rate mortgage offers greater flexibility on pre-payments without penalty when compared to a fixed-rate mortgage.

Credit checks for mortgages in Cayman

  • What is a credit score?

A credit report summarises all credit facilities held by an individual, which includes payment history information.

  • Does the Cayman Islands have a credit rating system?

The Cayman Islands does not have a centralized credit scoring or rating system. Local banks do have the ability to share credit information, so long as the borrower consents. A bank may also ask you to provide a credit report from other applicable countries.

Refinancing your mortgage in Cayman

  • What does it mean to refinance your mortgage?

Refinancing your mortgage typically means borrowing more money against your property, also known as ‘releasing equity’. But it can also refer to the renegotiation of your mortgage terms (repayment amounts, interest rate, payment schedule) or the transfer of your mortgage from one lending institution to another.

  • What are the benefits or reasons for refinancing your mortgage?

You could decide to refinance your mortgage for several reasons. One reason might be to secure a more competitive interest rate, which could save you a significant amount of money over your mortgage lifetime. Another reason to refinance your mortgage is to monetize equity in your home. Monetizing the equity in your home gives you cash in hand to pay for large expenses such as university fees or home renovation projects or invest at a higher return rate than you are paying on your mortgage.

Stamp duty and Cayman mortgages

  • Is there stamp duty on mortgages in Cayman?

The Cayman Islands Government assesses stamp duty on registered mortgages (the charge banks place on your property) in the amount of 1% on borrowings up to CI $300,000 and 1.5% on amounts greater than CI $300,000. Stamp duty on your mortgage is a one-time assessment that forms part of your closing costs for a mortgage.

  1. Can your mortgage be used to pay Stamp Duty in Cayman?

Typically stamp duty is paid in addition to your down payment, and it is not financed. In cases where you already own a property, if you have sufficient equity in the home or are contributing a larger down payment than your bank requires, it is possible to finance stamp duty or other fees.

Chattel and Cayman mortgages

  • What are chattels?

Chattels are the furnishings (furniture/appliances) that are included in the sale price of a property.

  • Can you borrow against chattels?

Most banks will lend on the purchase price (which may include chattel) or the market value, whatever is the lower of the two amounts. So yes, it is relatively common practice for banks to lend on the value of chattels provided that the market value of the property (which excludes the value of chattels) supports the agreed purchase price.

Key mortgage terms

  • What is a mortgage holiday?

A mortgage holiday is essentially a temporary payment pause. It is also known as a forbearance plan. It is agreed between a borrower and their lender to alleviate short term cash flow issues. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, most local banks extended some form of payment relief to borrowers.

  • What does amortization mean?

The amortization of a loan is the process of spreading the principal amount plus the interest over an agreed time period (e.g. 25 years), resulting in equal payments (sometimes called instalments) that you will make every month.

  • What is debt service ratio?

Debt service ratio (DSR) is the sum of all fixed expenses divided by your income. It is a tool lenders use to determine mortgage affordability.

  • What is loan-to-value-ratio?

Loan-to-value-ratio (LTV) is the percentage of financing a bank will lend against your property, so a 90% loan-to-value-ratio mortgage means the bank financed 90% and required the buyer to put a 10% down payment.

  • What is accrued interest?

Typically loan payments are charged monthly, but interest is calculated on the daily outstanding balance. Meaning that throughout the month, interest is ‘accruing’ (being calculated daily) for payment at a future date.

  • What is annual percentage rate?

Annual percentage rate (APR) is the total cost of borrowing money expressed as an annual rate. For example, your interest rate of 4.25% is an annual rate.

Pre-qualify for a mortgage in Cayman

The Cayman real estate market is moving very quickly. Being pre-qualified for a mortgage can be the difference between securing your dream home or not. And lending opportunities can vary from individual to individual and change year on year, so it’s best to always check in with a lending advisor if you’re actively looking to buy. 

A big thank you to Amanda Bodden. She is a wealth of knowledge, extremely organized, and a great communicator. Amanda and her team are fantastic to work with, and if you’re thinking about purchasing a property, I highly recommend you contact them. They can help you determine how much you can afford and assist with your pre-qualification.

Email: [email protected]

Call: (345) 815-7603

More mortgage questions?

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or seasoned property vet, it is important to feel in control of your property journey. Ask questions. Be informed.

We are here to make this process a seamless one for you, so let’s chat.

Email: [email protected]

Instagram: @jenpowell31