House Hunting in Barbados: Alfresco Living in the Eastern Caribbean

Written by Desmond

December 22, 2021

This six-bedroom property, with a three-bedroom main house and separate three-bedroom cottage, is set on a 0.74-acre lot overlooking the west coast of Barbados, the island nation that became a republic last month, ending nearly 400 years of British rule.

The 4,800-square-foot main house was built in 2005 in the Sugar Hill Resort Community, a 50-acre gated enclave in St. James parish offering custom houses, townhomes and apartments amid tropical gardens. The guest cottage, pool gazebo and a porte-cochere were added later.

Metal gates in a scalloped white wall open to a driveway running along the side of the property past gardens, the pool area and the main house, curving around to the coral archways of a porte-cochère. Arched doors open to a foyer with a grand staircase.

“You look through the living room over the pool, past the gardens and onto the sea,” said Andrew Blandford-Newson, a senior sales negotiator for Knight Frank, the London-based real estate firm whose Caribbean associate, Terra Luxury, has the listing.

Floors throughout the house and outside on the pool deck are travertine tile, and the walls are coral stone render. The house is being sold furnished.

A few steps lead down to a small study and a generous living room, where three sets of double-glass doors topped with arched transom Palladian-style windows open to covered terraces stretching the width of the house.

An archway on one side of the living room frames an alcove with a bay window. Across the room, a matching archway frames the breakfast room. Domus wood cabinets, a tumbled marble backsplash and gray granite countertops punctuate the open kitchen. A slatted door opens to the laundry room.

A double staircase with handcrafted wrought-iron balustrades and travertine tiled steps leads from the foyer up to the primary bedroom and two other bedroom suites. The primary has a vaulted ceiling and a dressing room, opening to a broad terrace overlooking the pool, garden and coast. Its bathroom has a stone-topped vanity with two sinks, a shower and a separate tub. A second bedroom with en suite bath also opens to the terrace.

In the backyard, a travertine deck surrounds a Romanesque pool. A gazebo is used for alfresco dining. Low stone walls with balustrades frame the far side of the pool deck overlooking the gardens.

The three-bedroom guest cottage is open to the pool and has rooftop solar panels for heating hot water. Bedrooms with pickled pine wood ceilings and en suite baths are on either side of a sitting room and kitchenette. The cottage’s lower level, accessed down a garden staircase, has a living room/game room and the third bedroom suite.

The Sugar Hill Resort Community has two communal pools, four lighted tennis courts, a clubhouse, a fitness complex and a restaurant. The sale may include a membership to the neighboring Royal Westmoreland golf club’s 18-hole course, Mr. Blandford-Newson said. The property is a five-minute drive from shopping, dining, galleries, beaches and water sports in Holetown, Barbados’s second largest town, and 10 minutes from Speightstown, a more laid-back hub with local charm. Grantley Adams International Airport is about a 45-minute drive.

Barbados, with about 287,000 residents, was among the first Caribbean islands to grasp its “marketing potential and leverage the environment created by the pandemic for a lot of people who were very mobile and could work remotely,” said Edward de Mallet Morgan, a partner at Knight Frank.

In July 2020, the Barbados government introduced the “Welcome Stamp,” a visa allowing foreign individuals or families to work remotely on the island for a maximum of 12 months. Initially, most of the digital nomads who paid $2,000 for an individual visa ($3,000 for a family) stayed for three to six months, renting apartments or houses near the beach or overlooking golf courses in holiday villas owned by expatriates.

“A lot of people enjoyed it, loved it and started buying properties that had languished on the market for a long time,” said Chris Parra, the chief executive of One Caribbean Estates, the Christie’s affiliate in Barbados. On average, he said, early visitors “testing the waters” spent in the $1 million range.

The pandemic “changed the mind-set about buying for most people,” agreed Rae Stollmeyer, the head of sales for West Coast Villas Sotheby’s International Realty. “Many of our buyers were renters for many years.”

Though the tourist market suffered amid lockdowns, sales volume and rentals “boomed,” particularly at the high end, Mr. Parra said.

At first, the uptick was a result of longtime owners who had been “worried about selling” encountering “people in the right place at the right time,” Mr. de Mallet Morgan said, recalling one European family who were living and working from a rental house that was also for sale. They enjoyed the tropical lifestyle so much that they decided to buy it. “The sellers had been trying to sell for six to seven years,” he said.

Pandemic buyers have tended to be younger, ages 40 to 55, rather than the prepandemic majority of 60- to 65-year-olds, Mr. Parra said. Many relocating to Barbados are “establishing international businesses here, moving their families. Covid has been a catalyst for more real estate transactions.”

Mr. Parra said he did not expect Barbados’s new status as a republic to have much impact on the housing market, saying “Barbados has been independent for 55 years, so no reason for there to be any difference without the Queen as symbolic head of state.”

On the west coast, known as the Platinum Coast, prices begin at $150,000 for apartments inland and $475,000 for places on the beach, while prime golf communities like Royal Westmoreland begin at more than $1 million, said Betty Cathrow, a sales agent there and the listing agent for this property. Beachfront villas can start at $10 million, Mr. de Mallet Morgan said.

New construction and redevelopment are underway at the 475-acre Apes Hill, which changed hands in 2020. Three-bedroom 3,600-square-foot courtyard villas go for $1.7 million, and four-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot hilltop villas cost $2.8 million. Two-and-a-half acre lots are $10 million, with a new build on that lot starting at $5 million, Mr. Parra said.

With the highest net worth visitors on the island during the holidays, “we are seeing a lot more activity in the $5 to $10 million price point than we have before,” Ms. Stollmeyer said, with prices becoming firmer and “starting to creep up.”

At the Terra Caribbean brokerage, sales transactions through September were up by 59 percent year over year, Ms. Cathrow said, citing data from the brokerage’s Q3 2021 report.

On Barbados’s south coast, the parish of Christ Church saw a 271 percent increase in sales during the same period, particularly at popular projects like Harmony Estates, South View and The Grove, where many sales were below $300,000, according to Terra Caribbean’s third-quarter report.

“For the up and coming market, the southern part of the island has never been in demand as much as today,” Mr. de Mallet Morgan said.

Most buyers in Barbados come from the United Kingdom, Canada, Barbados and the United States, agents said.

Others come from South America and Europe, Mr. de Mallet Morgan added.

There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing properties in Barbados, though they are required, through their lawyer, to obtain permission from the Central Bank of Barbados to close on a property purchase and register foreign currency.

Buyers pay no taxes on a property purchase, but pay annual property tax, known as a Land Tax, which is calculated on a sliding scale. They must retain a local lawyer to advise them on the sales agreement and check the title, said Aron David Truss, a lawyer in St. James specializing in corporate and property law. “Most properties here are still unregistered title, which means proof of title is in the form of original title documents going back decades,” he said.

Legal fees, prescribed by the Barbados Bar Association, are 1 percent to 2.5 percent of the purchase price, plus a 17.5 percent value-added tax.

Two banks offer 30 to 50 percent down on mortgages, but most foreign buyers don’t bother. “The mortgage process for foreign buyers is slow, complicated and expensive when compared to the option of using assets elsewhere to raise the funds to buy,” Mr. Truss said.

Barbados government: gov.bb

Barbados travel: barbados.org

Barbados tourism: visitbarbados.org

English, Bajan; Barbados dollar (1 Barbadian dollar = $0.50)

The annual property taxes on this house are $14,500. Annual home communal fees at Sugar Hill run $12,000.

Andrew Blandford-Newson, Knight Frank, 011-44-7970-887-290; terracaribbean.com

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