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Upscale Developments on the Rise in the Caribbean

A growing number of folks are combining their love of land and sea by buying an upscale residence in the Caribbean with a boat slip attached. One of them is Ralph Gregory of Boulder, Colorado.

“We don’t own a boat currently, but we charter all over the world,” says Gregory, who has purchased a four-bedroom residence on Scrub Island, in the British Virgin Islands. “I love being out on the water and exploring the islands by sea. But, in the end, living on a boat is still a bit like camping. That’s why my wife and I decided to by a residence on Scrub Island where we’d have a second home ashore and still get to walk right out, jump in a boat, and island hop.”

Historically, many desirable and successful communities have been connected to water, says Mike Ryan, owner and developer of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, whose development, The Deckhouses—19 five-bedroom, five-bath gated single family homes on a private island and with full access to the services and amenities of The Ritz-Carlton—is planned for completion in 2009. “I just returned from Singapore where there are several communities that incorporate water. It’s very difficult to do unless you are doing it at the luxury level. It is, however, the ultimate in desirability. In most communities, where are the most expensive homes?  They are on the water, whether it’s Palm Beach or Amsterdam or Venice. People at the leading edge of resort design are finding ways to incorporate water and the high-end market is responding.”

Joe Brown, vice president of sales for Mainsail Development Group’s (MDG) Scrub Island development, where 90 residences, a full-service marina and amenities such as $2-million state-of-the-art spa; eight swimming pools with waterfalls; restaurants; and shopping village are near completion, agrees and adds, “The trend is that those individuals that can afford to own a yacht want a place to keep it. Hence, developments with marinas tend to be very attractive. This is true in the Caribbean and all over the world.”

In the Lesser Antilles, adds Kerstin McConnell, owner/broker of Sea Glass Properties, which represents Island Global Yachting’s (IGY) Yacht Haven Grande residences on St. Thomas, “The opportunities for boaters to have a residence at a marina have, heretofore, been very rare, although the desire to have a land base near the boat slip is a near-universal one.”

An essential appeal factor in properties such as this, says Darline Hillard, IGY’s director of sales, “are ease of accessible by boat or air, to live for short stays or long term and have the opportunity to venture out and explore the islands. This is possible at our St. Thomas and Anguilla properties.”

St. Thomas’ Yacht Haven Grande features 12 waterfront residences, each 2,000 square feet with three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and signature amenities such as a custom-made plunge pool off the master bedroom. Dedicated slips that the residence owners enjoy accommodate vessels up to 70 feet in length. At the Altamer Resort on Anguilla, there are three luxury beachfront villas and six additional villas set for completion by the end of 2009; each comes with an owner’s slip.

What do prospective buyers need to know?

First of all, says The Deckhouses’ Ryan, “Prospective buyers have to love the property because it’s a place that will be a spot to relax and enjoy time with your friends and family.”

Sea Glass Properties’ McConnell adds to this thought, “Proximity to one’s yacht implies a yacht harbor, a community, something along the model of the Mediterranean seaport with all the bustle and activity and ‘action’ that implies, and a prospective owner ought to decide first that that is what they want and not isolation and tranquility that is not part of a seaport setting.”

Beyond this, MDG’s Brown, says, “Buyers need to find out if the slip is included? Can they purchase it? Or, can they rent it? Also, what facilities are available at the marina? Full-service can mean many things. Is there a dry dock area nearby when hurricane season approaches? All of these items are a consideration when purchasing a property with a marina.”

Other than these points, says IGY’s Hillard, “It’s very much the same as purchasing a condominium or residence in the US. There are certain local requirements that buyers must meet depending on the jurisdiction, however, we will work with our buyers and their counsel to satisfy any requirements that may exist.” 

Advantages to owning this unique type of property are many. “Walking out of your home and right on to your boat is the obvious advantage,” says MDG’s Brown. “Clients want convenience. Their personal time is very limited and they want/need to have easy access to services like a marina. They get to know the marina management; they have someone they can trust looking after their asset. It also becomes an exclusive group which for many owners is very important.”

Sea Glass Properties’ McConnell adds another plus, “The condominium apartment is as trouble free as a housing product can be in that it allows one to come and go without dealing with the one-off issues of security, maintenance, and management that a stand alone home demands.”

A prospective buyer doing their homework can overcome disadvantages.
The Deckhouses Ryan says, “You need to make sure that the value doesn’t deteriorate because the project is going in the wrong direction. You need to make sure that the quality is consistent. You need to make sure that you are in a jurisdiction where you don’t have problems with titles.  I believe that you should also make sure that you are buying into an established market.  You will want to buy property in a place that will remain desirable, whether it’s Mayfair in London, Central Park South in New York, or along the coastline in certain sections of Palm Beach.  Remember that the ‘newest, latest, greatest’ thing may simply be a passing fad and values can decline rapidly.”

Lastly, adds MDG’s Brown, “Cost can be a disadvantage. Because of the limited nature of this type of real estate product, only so many homes and marina slips, when they’re gone…they’re gone.”

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