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Expat Investor : May June 2009
EXPAT PROPERTY Never can say goodbye to St Lucia This year, St Lucia celebrates 30 years of independence from Britain, but the Brits just can’t say goodbye to this Caribbean paradise. Marco Bonini, Managing Director of Prestigious Properties (UK), explains why we still want to buy a property here. Early on this year, in February, St Lucians were celebrating 30 years of independence from Britain. The anniversary is always an opportunity for islanders to let their hair down, enjoy calypso and live music and say goodbye to the colonial days. But increasing numbers of Brits are there to celebrate with them. Today, there are over 1,500 Brits out of a population of 166,000 on this mountainous Caribbean island. Despite independence, St Lucia still makes Brits and other foreigners feel extremely welcome. The St Lucian Government provides generous tax concessions to attract foreign investors. If they want to buy a property, noncitizens require only to buy a oneoff Alien’s Landholding Licence (costing US$500) to purchase real estate. What’s more, the list of documentation required is simple and straightforward. Alternatively, property purchasers can form a local company to purchase property which provides tax efficiency (although all directors of such companies still require the Alien’s Landholding Licence). A Vendor’s Tax on the selling price of a property at a rate of 5% for locals and 10% for foreigners is payable. However, ifa company originally purchases the property and it is the only asset belonging to it, there is a share transfer tax of only 0.5% at the time of sale. Soon investors may be able to buy residency with the price of a property, as they can on some other islands. There is no doubt that the expat influence has contributed to St Lucia retaining its ‘colonial charm’. There is also an exclusivity that the island of Barbados does not possess. The government is taking a proactive approach and is vetting new development proposals to avoid the high density and saturation levels experienced on other islands, such as Barbados. Of course, St Lucia attracts celebrities, and a good number of them have invested in real estate there, including Carol Vorderman and Trevor Nelson, who own property on The Landings. Recent visitors to the island, both to holiday and look for property, include Denise Van Outen, Kelly Brook and Amy Winehouse. Lord Glenconnor, aka Colin Tennant, who bought the island of Mustique in 1959 and gave plots of land to his friends, including Princess Margaret, to create a hideaway for the elite, now lives full time in St Lucia, making his home between the volcanic Pitons of the southwest. St Lucia also attracts wealthy yacht owners who are enjoying the recent multi-million dollar upgrade of its Rodney Bay Marina with 248 fully reconstructed slips and a new mega yacht pier with 32 berths for yachts of up to 250ft in length. St Lucia now claims to be the top mega yacht destination in the region, with the finest marina in the Southern Caribbean for yachts of all sizes. Over the last two years, the Island has seen a growth in its property house and land prices of between 11% and 21%, and whilst not unaffected by the international credit crisis, the market remains stable. St Lucia has not had to discount its real estate as has happened on other islands, such as Barbados. Barbados’ explosion of tourism has put prices of properties up to 60% higher, but some secondary properties there have not proved to keep their value. Property prices in St Lucia start from around US$230 per sq ft for a two bedroom apartment, approx $464 for apartments at resorts such as Cap Maison or $597 at The Landings near Rodney Bay in the north of the island. In the more exclusive southwest corner of St Lucia, where the much loved Jalousie Plantation is being redeveloped into The Tides Sugar Beach, one of the best fivestar world class resorts in the Caribbean, prices per sq ft are $781. The Tides Sugar Beach is the dream of another Brit who has fallen in love with St Lucia. Roger Myers, founder of the Café Rouge and Punch Tavern chains has made St Lucia his home, and, with Myers’ support, Sugar Beach is investing $100 million to rebuild the world-renowned and muchloved Jalousie Plantation, which is nestled between the Pitons on arguably the best beach on the west coast. The new resort will comprise a range of luxury privately owned buy-to-let villas, world-class spa, restaurants and beach club when it is completed in 2011. It will be managed by Los Angeles-based Kor Hotel Group, operator of The Tides, an elite brand with resorts in the world’s most desirable locations and re-branded as The Tides Sugar Beach. The name refers not only to the crystal white sand along its shore, but to the fact that an historic Sugar Mill is still sited there. Sugar Beach will comprise 85 luxurious state-of-the-art one and two bedroom villas with prices from $700,000 to $2.1 million. Each freehold villa is fully furnished and comes with its own private plunge pool and sensational views of the ocean and the iconic St Lucian Piton Mountains – a protected UNESCO world heritage site, which will ensure that there is no risk of overdevelopment. Villas at Sugar Beach are a great investment, as owners may use the property for a maximum of four weeks of the year with their villa forming part of the rental pool for the remainder of the year. The developer then guarantees the owner a minimum 5% pa return immediately and for the whole of the first year of operation. This is definitely an ‘invest without the worries’ option. The initial outlay at Sugar Beach may be slightly higher than for other developments, but because of the high standard of facilities, maintenance and management and its fantastic location, rental yields are likely to be 50–60% higher. These measures should help property buyers protect their investment and ensure that St Lucia still looks as beautiful and enticing to foreigners in another 30 years time as it does today. St Lucia – key facts: Official language: English Currency: East Caribbean dollar Capital city: Castries Population: 165,000 Official tourism website: www.stlucia.org Country dialling code: +1 758 Time Zone: GMT -4 May/June 2009 ● EXPAT INVESTOR 23
March April 2009