Antigua and Barbuda’s property market flourishing, thanks to a surge in investments
August 03, 2017
Antigua and Barbuda’s property market is thriving and construction is everywhere, thanks to increased interest from real estate developers and foreign homebuyers.
The government has successfully attracted foreign demand through its Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP), offering full citizenship to foreign investors who invest at least US$400,000 in real estate.
With the opening of the US$45 million Airport Terminal at the VC Bird International Airport, and the construction of a new airport runway in Barbuda expected to start in September 2017at an estimated cost of US$15.9 million, Antigua is boosting both its lucrative tourism and offshore financial services industry.
Renowned as a luxury holiday and wedding destination, it has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year. With gorgeous views, landscape and good property values, it is an ideal location for a second home, attracting celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Giorgio Armani, Richard Branson and Eric Clapton. It is now being promoted also for family-oriented vacations.
An amazing number of construction projects are underway - amazing, given that the islands’ population is only 92,000. For instance, the US$2 billion Singularidevelopment, Antigua and Barbuda’s first mega-resort, is expected to create 1,000 jobs. This 1,600-acre multi-hotel, residential and commercial project is being lauded as a major feather in the country’s tourism cap. Singulari spans 900 acres of land in the north of Antigua and 700 acres of tiny islands. It includes several luxury hotels, hundreds of private homes, a school, hospital, marinas, golf courses, an entertainment district, horse racing track and the Caribbean’s biggest casino.
Other resort and residential development projects:
- The Bau Panel is building around 5,000 homes across Antigua and Barbuda at a cost around US$200 million.
- A brand new Sandals Beaches Resort will be built on the Grand Pineapple Resort.
- Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is expected to build a new 250-room hotel in DickensonBay, next to the Sandals Grande, and will begin building Beaches Resort this year.
- A new residential complex with over 200 condominium units costing US$400 million is expected to open this year.
- Sunwing Travel Group is developing a 500-room resort under the Royalton Luxury Resorts brand at DeepBay, Antigua.
- A high-end residential development is being built on MaidenIsland.
- A hotel resort is being built on PelicanIsland.
- Replay Resorts intends to build a five-star hotel, along with oceanfront and hillside villas, cottages and estate lots at Half-MoonBay.
- A new hotel resort at LongBay is being built.
- Yida International has started building 50 three- and four-bedroom villas on the mainland as part of the GuianaIsland development project.
- A US$250 million hotel project on Barbuda is being developed by Hollywood actor Robert De Niro.
- South Point, a boutique hotel, is to be situated in the FalmouthHarbour.
- There is also continued development of resort and residential tourism projects at Pearns Point, HarbourIsland, Hodges Bay Club, MorrisBay, and TamarindHeights.
There are no official house price records in Antigua and Barbuda, and reliable information is hard to come by. But based on recent research by the Global Property Guide, not a lot has changed recently. Two-bedroom houses still average around US$350,000 while three-bedroom and up houses might cost about US$600,000.
During the boom years, house prices in JumbyBay increased 60% to 100%, according to the Global Property Guide. However, the market was hit by the global financial crisis in 2008, halting the construction of several residential developments. Tourists stayed away – and since the nation’s economy is largely driven by tourism, real GDP went down and construction and foreign direct investment declined.
The economy expanded by 3.7% in 2016, after GDP growth rates of 3.8% in 2015, 4.8% in 2014, 1.4% in 2013 and 3.5% in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Economic growth is projected at 2.2% this year, and 1.7% in 2018.
Citizenship by Investment Program continues to attract foreign investors
In 2016, there were about 290 applications under the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program, based on data released by the Citizenship by Investment Unit, Antigua & Barbuda. From its inception in 2013 to December 2016, there were a total of 934 applications received under the program. About 41% of the applicants are of Chinese origin.
The total number of Citizenship Passports issued under the program surged to 1,016 in 2016 from 655 in 2015 and 252 in 2014.
CIP-approved residential developments
The following residential developments have been approved by the government for the Citizenship by Investment Program:
- Daniel Bay, by Blueprint Development – set on 3.5 acres of prime, beachfront land in picturesque WilloughbyBay, on the southeast of the island. Only five luxury villas, with sizes between 5,000 and 9,000 square feet (sq. ft.) are being built, with prices ranging from US$2.5 million to US$4.5 million.
- Nelson’s Retreat, by Blueprint Development – this boutique style development in the EnglishHarbour comprises six ultra-modern apartments with unrivaled views of the historic Nelson’s Dockyard. The first-floor one-bedroom apartments are priced at US$695,000. The second-floor two-bedroom apartments are offered for US$975,000 while the third-floor two-bedroom apartments are priced at US$995,000.
- Nonsuch Bay Resort and Residences - just 30 minutes from V.C Bird International airport outside Freetown, this five-star resort has some high quality apartment and villa accommodation in Marina Residences (188 one-bedroom fully-serviced suites), Hilltop Villas (26 plots for private villas ranging from 0.4 to 1.1 acres), Ayers Creek Residences (15 waterfront residences), and 64 hillside apartments and 8 beachfront cottages. A one-bedroom suite within Marina Residences is priced at US$400,000.
- South Point, by ROLS Limited - a boutique condo hotel in the yachting community of FalmouthHarbour, St. Paul’s, Antigua. The development has 20 one-bedroom apartments and 3 two-bedroom penthouses. The apartments start at US$400,000, while the penthouses are offered at US$1.9 million.
- Tamarind Hills, by Island Heights Limited – freehold villas, townhouses and apartments within a five star beachfront resort on Antigua’s glorious west coast. House prices range from US$475,000 to US$2.75 million.
Other approved residential developments under the Citizenship by Investment Program:
|Callalloo Project||Al Caribi Developments Antigua Ltd||Morris Bay, Old Road, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort||Carlo Falcone||English Harbour, St. Paul’s, Antigua|
|Blue Waters Beach Hotel||Carib Holdings LTD.||Soldier Bay, Antigua|
|Ocean Grand||Corbkinnons Limited||Dickenson Bay, Antigua, W.I.|
|Pigeon Point||Galley Bay Heights||Falmouth, St. Paul’s, Antigua|
|Hermitage Bay Antigua||Hermitage Bay Hotel Limited||Jennings Extension, St. Mary’s, Antigua W.I.|
|Long Bay Hotel||Jiahao Investment (Antigua & China) Limited||St. John’s, Antigua|
|Jolly Beach Hotel & Spa||Jolly Beach Corporation||Bolans, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|Tranquility Bay Antigua||Jolly Beach Vacations||Jolly Harbour, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|BluPearl at Hodges Bay||JSN Development Group Limited||Hodges Bay, St. George’s, Antigua W.I.|
|Colibri Court (project), Jolly Harbour Marina Village||KDI Development Limited||Bolans, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|Emerald Springs Villas||Kenneth and Hilda Meade||Browns Bay, St. Philip, Antigua|
|Coconut Beach Club & Resort||Leisure World Properties Limited||Yeptons Estate, St. John’s, Antigua|
|Passion Village||Macy Limited||Valley Church, St. Mary’s, Antigua W.I.|
|Sugar Ridge Villas||Mongoose Developments Limited||Tottenham Park, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|Dieppe Bay Villas||Naple Developers Limited||English Harbour, St. Paul’s, Antigua|
|The Peninsula||Nimbrick Limited||Willikies, St. Phillip’s, Antigua W.I.|
|Antigua Yacht Club Marina||Ondeck Living Limited||Falmouth Harbour Marina, Antigua|
|Pearns Point, The Reserve & Hotel||Orange Ltd||Jolly Harbour, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|Light House Bay Resort||Palm Beach Holding Company Limited||Codrington, Barbuda|
|Papaya Hotel & Spa||Rendezvous Bay Real Estate Corporation||Rendezvous Bay, Antigua|
|Pleasure Cove Resort||Ritcil Company Limited||Runaway Bay, St. John’s, Antigua|
|The Villas at St. James’s Club||Segarva Limited||Mamora Bay, St. Paul’s, Antigua|
|Harbour Island Residences||Stanhope Shepherd Limited||Jolly Harbour, St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|Elias and Salem Hadeed, Trafalgar Beach Resort||Trafalgar Beach Resort||Hideaway Beach, Yeptons, Antigua|
|Verandah Estates||Verandah Estates Limited||Long Bay, St. Phillip’s, Antigua, W.I.|
|Buccaneer Cove Development||Waterfront Properties Limited||Dickenson Bay, St. John’s, Antigua|
|Hibiscus and Flamboyant Villas||Whitegate Development Projects||St. Mary’s, Antigua|
|World of Indulgence Villas, Nonsuch Bay Resort||World of Indulgence||Hughes Point, St. Phillip, Antigua|
|Maiden Island, Crump Peninsula||Yida International Investment Antigua Ltd.||Guiana Island, Crump Island, Antigua, W.I.|
Buying property in Antigua and Barbudas
Foreign buyers are required to apply for an Alien’s Land Holding License, which usually takes up to four months to be approved. The license cost is about 5% of the value of the property being purchased. Buyers also pay 2.5% stamp duty on property transfers.
As the country is small and mountainous, development is restricted. Most available properties are freehold. Land can be bought or leased from the government, which owns 55% of land in Antigua, or the private market. Land ownership in Barbuda is prohibited.
Mortgage market shrinking
In 2016, the size of the mortgage market contracted to about 20% of GDP, down from 20.8% in 2015, 23.2% in 2014, and 25.3% of GDP in 2013, according to the East Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
Interest rates for residential mortgages in the twin-island state currently range from 6% to 13.5%.
Antigua and Barbuda’s currency is pegged to the US dollar at XCD2.7 to US$1.
Tourism accounts for about 60% of Antigua and Barbuda’s GDP, and 40% of investment. In 2016, visitor arrivals dropped 3.4% to 875,093, according to the Antigua Statistics Office, in sharp contrast to the 14.3% growth recorded in a year earlier.
- Stay-over visitors increased 5.9% y-o-y to 265,187 in 2016. The U.S. accounted for 41% of all stay-0ver visitors, followed by the UK (29%), Caribbean (12%), and Canada (8%).
- Cruise ship passengers dropped 7.1% y-o-y to 591,579 people in 2016, after increasing by more than 21% in a year earlier.
According to Colin James, the CEO of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA), tourist arrivals in Antigua & Barbuda fell mainly due to a decline in the number of UK visitors consequent on the fall in the pound sterling's value. “UK visitors tend to stay longer, 10 to 14 days as opposed to the North American visitor, so there is more impact on spending in our economy,” notes James.
The economy of Antigua and Barbuda expanded by 3.7% in 2016, after GDP growing 3.8% in 2015, 4.8% in 2014, 1.4% in 2013 and 3.5% in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The islands achieved super-rapid growth from 2003 to 2007, when GDP grew an average of 7.2% a year and reached over 12% in 2006, due to a tourism and construction boom as the nation prepared to host the Cricket World Cup.
However, during the financial crisis the economy contracted by 10.7% in 2009, by 8.4% in 2010, and by another 1.8% in 2011. The country’s gross debt has soared to 102.7% of GDP in 2014, up from 86.4% in 2012. Gross debt declined to 99.1% of GDP in 2015 and to 92.7% in 2016.
Browne’s flagship housing project
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who took office on June 12, 2014, is determined to transform the country into an economic powerhouse. He is also determined to address the shortage of affordable housing. The National Housing Development and Urban Renewal Company Ltd ("National Housing") was established in 2014 to provide good quality and affordable housing to all.
Browne has announced that 1,000 subsidized homes will be built during Labour’s first term, with an average market value of US$300,000. They will be sold for two-thirds of their market value. The government is also expected to offer homebuyers the option of low-interest mortgages from the Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank and commercial banks.
- At Dredge Bay, 48 houses have been constructed in Bay Street, Villa.
- At Denfields, 148 houses are planned, with 45 already under construction.
- At the Paynters site, 160 houses are planned, with 60 already under construction.
- At Lightfoot, about 30 houses are expected to be built.
- Other locations in the government’s social housing project include Booby Alley in the Point, Grays Farm, Green Bay, Perry Bay and Ottos. There are also plans to build a number of homes in Barbuda.
The housing projects include two, three and four bedroom houses. Two-bedroom houses will cost about US$193,500 while three-bedroom houses will cost US$195,500, according to Bernard Gardner, the managing director of National Housing. Three-bedroom houses have an estimated value of US$244,000.
Registering property and getting credit is slow and tiresome in Antigua and Barbuda
Property registration and credit applications are tedious in Antigua & Barbuda. Based on World Bank’s Doing Business 2017, Antigua & Barbuda ranked 150th among 190 nations on the ease of registering property. According to the report, registering property in the country requires 7 procedures, takes 108 days and costs about 10.8% of the total value of the property.
Antigua & Barbuda ranked only 157th place among the 190 nations in the World Bank survey in terms of ease of getting credit, behind other Caribbean nations such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Dominica and St. Lucia.