Price Adjustments Heat Up Bahamas Luxury Market
From beachfront mansions to canal-front villas to private islands, high-end waterfront properties in the Bahamas offer tremendous value right now.By Michael Morgenthal
What does paradise cost? About 25-to-40-percent less than before, say Realtors in the Bahamas, where prices for luxury waterfront homes have dipped that much when compared to their 2006-2008 highs.
“Realistically priced” luxury homes in this heavenly 700-island archipelago just 50 miles off the Florida coast sold well in 2010 after a quiet 2009. Realtors expect this will continue in 2011, with prices creeping back up — just not at the 10-percent per year that was the norm from 2000 to 2008.
A still-uncertain economy plus the recent failure of several high-profile resort projects have pushed today’s Bahamas luxury buyers toward established developments more so than new projects that may not be complete, states John Christie, vice president of H.G. Christie Ltd.
“Even though it may not be a new development, [buyers] don’t have to rely on a developer to finish a golf course, et cetera, only to have [the developer] run out of money and leave [buyers] holding the bag,” Christie says.
That leads buyers to upscale enclaves such as Lyford Cay and Old Fort Bay on New Providence (the Bahamas’ main commercial island, home to Nassau), Ocean Club Estates on Paradise Island, and Harbor Island and Windermere Island just off of Eleuthera. At Old Fort Bay, prices range from $2.3 million for a 60-foot-wide canal-front lot with a “Key West-style” home with private dock, to $17 million for a stunning mansion on a triple lot with both beach and canal frontage. But newer projects with finished amenities are also proving attractive. On Abaco, Baker’s Bay recently completed its golf course, marina and marina village despite a lack of sales in 2008 and 2009, Christie explains, and is now fetching up to $4 million for a beachfront lot.
While Lyford Cay and Old Fort Bay beachfront property commands $30,000 to $60,000 per beachfront foot, that decreases on the outer islands that are vacation-home havens, such as Eleuthera, Abaco and Exuma, explains George Damianos, president of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty. On Eleuthera, 5 to 10 beachfront acres can cost around $3 million. Wealthy buyers drawn by the Bahamas’ tax-neutral status look to buy on New Providence and Paradise Island, with their proximity to the international airport and commercial services in Nassau.
Proximity to a private airstrip is a primary concern for buyers of private islands, Damianos says, of which there are 30 to 50 currently available in the Bahamas. Good private islands also enjoy deep-water access for delivery of building supplies, mail and provisions; and some elevation — a home even 30 feet above sea level captures the breezes and protects against hurricanes.
Such ultra-privacy attracts many celebrities — in January, Larry Roberts, CEO of Bahamas Realty, was finishing a $15 million private-island sale to Shakira. He cautions that private island purchases can take up to two years, and even then, the buyer must understand all that owning a private island entails.
“The logistics of organizing, staffing, getting there, supplies [if you’re starting from scratch], then building — it is very expensive,” he states.