American buyers encouraged to invest in Cbean properties
Web Posted - Thu Feb 23 2006
The Caribbean real estate market for American buyers is strong and getting stronger, according to Ricardo Cardenas, Vice President and Regional Director of RE/MAX of the Caribbean and Central America.
Purchasing properties in the Caribbean could be a good hedge against a domestic market that is slowing down, said Cardenas. Property values are low in many areas, but they are appreciating rapidly, so a relatively small investment can yield good returns, he noted.

Cardenas called second home purchasing in the Caribbean a relatively low risk process. There are few legal limitations on Americans buying homes, said Cardenas. If you plan to use a second property for short vacations  up to 30 days  typically no visa is required. Many islands have a US or British title system and there are no restrictions on full ownership. In Honduras, for example, you can purchase up to a 3D4 acre of land in your own name without forming a corporation, he said.

Cardenas added that the Caribbean is going through its biggest high-end property building periods, although there are still many bargains to be found. Many people think of the Caribbean as the string of islands running from Florida all the way to Venezuela, but Central America also has a Caribbean coast and prices are generally lower there. You can find some surprisingly affordable homes in Panama, Costa Rica and the Bay Islands in Honduras.

Among the growing markets in the Caribbean, Cardenas cited Turks & Caicos, Belize, Grenada, St. Croix, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the Dominican Republic. These areas are less travelled and have less infrastructure, but have attractive prices, ranging from US$200 to US$500 per square foot.

According to Cardenas, mature and pricier, markets include Cayman Islands, St. John (USVI), Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Tourism is well-established in these areas and you can easily find five-star hotels and other amenities. Prices range from US$500 to US$1 000 per square foot.

High-end properties in the Caribbean range from the high six figures to as high as US$40 million.

Cardenas said multiple listing services, such as those found in the United States, are still relatively rare in the Caribbean. They are available in the US Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos.

Whatever kind of property a consumer is looking for in the Caribbean, Cardenas said, the help of a full-time real estate agent is crucial. You need to use someone who is based in the immediate market youre interested in, knows the price trends, and is well-versed in local regulations. n

[This message has been edited by Auxillou Beach Suites (edited 02-23-2006).]

Wendy Auxillou
Auxillou Beach Suites
Caye Caulker, Belize