All it takes is one visit to the Cayman Islands to fall in love. Of course our sandy white beaches, crystal blue waters and Cayman-kind smiles take a lot of the credit, but a few more critical factors make it a place that have people coming back time and time again. Especially now!
With the inevitable increases in taxes in the, U.K., U.S and Canada, and with “working from home”, now a realistic option more than ever as, it’s no wonder we are seeing an influx of family offices and high net worth families looking to move here. There was a trend pre-COVID from Canada and whilst this is continuing the inquiries are now coming in from the US, UK, Spain and France. C’est jolie ici.
Cayman is a tax-neutral, British Overseas Territory. We are a safe and sophisticated island, with excellent infrastructure and a high standard of living. Its ease of access to and from multiple major cities, including New York, Toronto and London make it easy for many to catch direct flights back home or to attend business meetings near and far. Sure you can meet on Zoom, butthe work-life balance movement is real.
We have top rated international schools, excellent medical care, first world amenities, low crime rate, a top-class and fantastic culinary scene, and of course the endless recreational activities including golf, fishing, and all the water sports you can imagine, all right in your backyard.
Buying real estate is a simple and straightforward process in Cayman. With no restrictions on foreign ownership, nor any property taxes, the prospect of owning a second home become feasible for many.
International buyers generally start out investing in a vacation condo/rental property, however given the direct impact of COVID on the world economy, we have noticed a (not so surprising) trend over the last few months with international buyers reflecting on their quality of life. So the shift begins; making the permanent move to enjoy life in a healthy and safe environment. Why wouldn’t you invest in that?
New and/or existing buyers are either:
a) moving into their vacation home, with the intent on staying for longer and longer stints OR, b) buying a primary residence with the direct intent on becoming a ‘Permanent Resident’ in the Cayman Islands, declaring non-residency in their home country, without impacting their current citizenship.
Owning real estate is by law a direct means to gaining Permanent Residency, so the concept of “living where you vacation” is being realized by many, now more than ever!
In conclusion: We feel this is a trend we are going to see more and more of; COVID has highlighted new opportunities where ‘lifestyle migration’ is building momentum. Don’t forget there’s a reason why we live here. Ever thought of asking us why?
In these last few weeks we’ve seen a significant uptick in new buyers, both locally and internationally, wanting to invest in their own piece of Cayman. They may be keen to get their feet wet, but many are unfamiliar with buying property in the Cayman Islands and most importantly what to expect when it comes to their bank financing options. It’s so important for new buyers to educate themselves on what their options are and what they “qualify” for before they start to look at properties. This ensures there is no guessing on what they can afford, what they may or may not be entitled to, and guarantee a smooth Closing process when they fall in love with a property and make an Offer. Senior Manager of Personal lending at Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited, Amanda Bodden, was kind enough to answer some of the most common questions we are asked at Property Cayman.
If you have any additional questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more. If we don’t know the answer, we will ensure you are connected with the right person to give you the facts ahead of making one of the biggest decisions in your lifetime – buying a property!
Q. How do the bank’s loan terms vary when buying a primary home, investment property & raw land?
The risk profile of an owner-occupied property mortgage is different than that of an investment property or raw land. A person’s primary residence represents a lower lending risk than an investment property which may become less profitable or even loss-making, or raw land which would not provide any income to offset its borrowing costs. Because of this, banks will generally require higher down payments and/or shorter repayment terms on investment properties or raw land than they would for your primary residence. You may also see higher interest rates charged for investment properties and raw land to reflect the higher risk lending.
Q. How do terms vary depending on the borrower’s age?
Typically, most banks in Cayman will lend up to age 65, which is the local retirement age. The borrower’s age will therefore be a factor that determines the maximum repayment term. Where a borrower does not have a mandated retirement age (for example, self-employed individuals) we are able to be a bit more flexible on the repayment term of a mortgage. As lenders we must understand the repayment source and verify that it is reasonably going to be available to service the debt over the agreed term. Lending to age 65 is not a strict policy, but it is important for us to understand when and how a mortgage will be repaid when we consider lending beyond retirement age.
Q. What if any are the differences in lending policy & immigration status?
At Butterfield, our lending policy is the same for Caymanians, PR Status holders, RERC and work permit holders. We do not have different policies; we have one local resident policy that covers everyone. Our non-resident policy differs in that we will require a higher down payment and likely a shorter repayment term.
Q. What if any are the benefits of paying your mortgage bi-monthly instead of monthly?
Paying bi-weekly accelerates your mortgage repayment. If you pay half of your normal monthly payment every two weeks you will essentially make 13 payments each year instead of 12. On a longer-term debt this can save quite a bit of interest and repay the debt earlier. At Butterfield we offer weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly payment options.
*The responses to these questions are specific to Butterfield Bank (Cayman) Limited and do not represent the opinions/ lending policies of other banks. Buyers are free to use any lender of their choosing when buying a property.
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 pass. We 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 residents, graduating 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 couldsee us return to a buyer’s market with new supply, decreased 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!
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 writing, CIREBA 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 lending. What 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. 25Solds (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:
It is impossible to time the market
Over time, values will increase
Real estate is a very stable asset class
Post any economic downturn, pricing may fluctuate, then it will stabilise and continue to increase
The gains from 2016 won’t be lost
Cayman remains beautifully positively positioned as a safe harbour in a stormy world
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.
The show’s premise is to find out whether love is truly blind, i.e. can you fall in love with someone and commit your life to them without ever seeing them? People on the show date each other in ‘pods’, aka behind a wall, and if they fall in love and get engaged they meet each other in person and decide whether to get married.
Crazy? Extreme? Impossible?
Well, without spoiling the show too much for those that haven’t watched it… it is crazy, it is extreme andIT IS POSSIBLE.
Now that we have adequately promoted Netflix and convinced you to spend 10 hours of your life binge watching this show, let us apply this premise to real estate.
Whilst we are all at home at the moment, with no physical showings permitted, there is no need to stop searching for the perfect home or investment.
There is a great deal you can be doing now when it comes to buying a house that will save you a lot of time later down the line.
BCE (before Covid-19 era) a bargain price, an ocean view or bedroom count may have been enough to entice buying a property. Now, during CE(Covid-19 era), the details behind a property and your property plan become even more important.
Hence: Real Estate is Blind. Well… 90% blind.
There are lots of steps to buying a property that are often overlooked. With this in mind, we have put together a list of questions that will help get you started. The best part about it, all of these can and should be thought about before ever stepping foot in a property.
Your Team(agent, inspector, surveyor, appraiser, lawyer, banker, insurer, contractor – who makes up your team of professionals?)
Your Timing (Do you know when you want to pull the trigger? It’s important you educate yourself on the entire process AND your options along the way)
Your Timeline (How long are you investing in this property? and how does it fit into your overall property plan?
Your Budget(Have you been to the bank? Do you hold the requisite deposit and closing costs of as much as 10%?)
Your Family structure (Minimum bed count and square footage? Kids and grandkids or moving out soon?)
Your Lifestyle (Boating and beach walking or business entertaining? Or both?)
Your Location (Looking for peace & quiet or hustle & bustle? Commuting matters!)
Your Type (What are you looking for? What’s the purpose of the purchase? Does it suit the family and your investment parameters? Do you work from home? Rent when not in use (short term) or move in full time?)
House or Condo? (Want to manage it yourself or do you need a property manager? Ok to deal with strata fees? Is the strata healthy or can you anticipate special assessments?)
Existing or pre-construction? (older style ready now VS newer energy efficiency ready in 18 months?)
Land & Build? (What’s the zoning, planning, design, cost, timeline and process to construct?)
Buy & Renovate? (What’s the cost, timeline and process to modernize and update a home? Can you virtual tour or stage it before starting?)
Your Exit Strategy (How do you rate the ultimate rent-ability and sell-abiltity?)
With the world in isolation, there has never been a better time to consider your own property journey. We are in this together and we are here to make sureyou exhaust your options well in advance so when you do make a decision (either way), it’s a well-considered, informed and educated decision.
In Summary – Just like love and marriage, you need to know what you are signing up for and you shouldn’t buy a property based on the new living room furniture alone. Ignoring your property plan before buying can be a particularly costly mistake in the long run.
At whatever stage you are at, we are here to help you plan and guide you along your personal Cayman property journey. Please get in touchif you have any questions or feel like a candid chat.