Guadeloupe is a bargain buyer’s paradise

Guadeloupe (pop. 400,000), often twinned with nearby Martinique, is a French-Caribbean archipelago with five inhabited islands. It is to mainland France what Hawaii is to the United States of America. As one of France’s two Caribbean ‘overseas departments’ (DOMs), the euro is the only currency, and most citizens, a blend of Europeans, Africans and East Indians, speak Antillean Creole and French.

It is a popular vacation destination among French tourists. More than 80% of visitor arrivals come from metropolitan France. It used to be virtually unvisited by American and other non-French tourists. But this might change with the improving accessibility of the islands.

Guadeloupe is known as the Butterfly Island because of the shape of two of its major islands - Basse-Terre to the west, and Grande-Terre to the east - which are separated by a narrow channel, the Rivière-Salée.

Grande-Terre is flat and has a dry climate and is popular for its stunning resorts and for the main city Pointes-a-Pitres.

Basse-Terre is mountainous and humid, and has an active volcano. Guadeloupe has good beaches, and tourism is increasingly important.

In August 2018, International Airlines Group’s startup low-cost carrier, LEVEL, launched new flights from Paris Orly to Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe is so buzzy that U.S. News & World Report named it one of the best places to visit in the Caribbean in 2019. Trip Advisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice also listed the islands as one of the top ten destinations in the region. Moreover, National Geographic also listed the islands as one of the world’s top three destinations for culture.

Attractions include lush rain forests, dramatic volcano, spectacular cascading waterfalls, crystal clear turquoise waters, charming villages, and French-Caribbean influenced culture and exquisite cuisine.

The territory remains far less crowded and more affordable than most Caribbean islands and real estate in Guadeloupe remains a bargain compared to other Caribbean states.

In fact, according to the Caribbean Real Estate Observatory, the average price of residential property was just EUR 163,647 in the second half of 2018, up by only 1.6% from a year earlier. The average selling time for a property was 31.02 weeks in H2 2018, a slight decline from 31.14 weeks a year ago.

During the second half of 2018:

  • the average price for apartments was EUR 123,290, down by 8.9% from a year earlier
  • the average price for houses was EUR 239,088, down by 2.8% from a year earlier.
  • the average price for land stood at EUR 127,982, up 32.5% from the previous year.

In the Bay Mahault and Petit Bourg sector, apartment prices ranged from EUR 1,929 to EUR 3,308 per sq. m., while houses range from EUR 1,955 to EUR 3,325 per sq. m. in H2 2018. Residential lots are sold for just EUR 110 to EUR 263 per sq. m.

From Goyave to the tip of Malendure on the Basse-Terre’s West Coast, homebuyers can buy apartments for EUR 1,203 to 2,019 per sq. m. while houses sell for EUR 500 to 3,333 per sq. m. over the same period. Land prices range from EUR 71 to EUR 100 per sq. m.

No data is available for apartments in the Basse Terre Nord Sector (from Mahaut to Sainte-Rose), but houses there sell for EUR 1,613 to 2,340 per sq. m. Lots are priced at EUR 44 to EUR 86 per sq. m.

Guadeloupe property sales

In the South Grande Terre, apartment prices range from EUR 1,482 to 4,430 per sq. m. while house prices range from EUR 1,681 to 3,673 per sq. m. Lots are sold for EUR 49 to EUR 302 per sq. m.

In North Grande Terre, prices of apartments (excluding high-end) range from EUR 806 to 3,414 per sq. m., while house prices range from EUR 1,265 to 2,560 per sq. m. Residential lots are priced at EUR 53 to EUR 99 per sq. m.

As in France, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of properties in Guadeloupe.

Demand continues to rise

In 2018, residential property sales rose by 4.2% to 2,942 units from a year earlier, after y-o-y rises of 2.7% in 2017 and 1.8% in 2016 and a 3% decline in 2015, according to Conseil General De L´Environment Et Du Development Durable (CGEDD). Then in February 2019, the number of property sales increased again by 6.9% from a year earlier.

Guadeloupe mortgage registration

The average selling time for a property was 31.02 weeks in H2 2018, a slight decline from 31.14 weeks a year ago, according to the Caribbean Real Estate Observatory. Over the same period:

  • apartments have an average selling time of 31.62 weeks, an improvement from 34.81 weeks a year earlier
  • houses have an average selling time of 33.26 weeks, longer than the previous year’s 32.32 weeks.
  • land has an average selling time of 26.1 weeks, up from 24.64 weeks a year earlier.

Mortgage registrations have also increased in the past three years, rising by 23.6% in 2016, by 11.1% in 2017, and by another 5.9% in 2018. However during the year to end-Q1 2019, the total amount of mortgages registered fell by 31.5% to about EUR 176.06 million, according to CGEDD.

Moderate rental yields; stable rents

Apartments in Guadeloupe earn moderate rental yields, according to a Global Property Guide research conducted in February 2019.

Smaller apartments are the most expensive and the most profitable, with rental yields of around 5.59%. Bigger apartments are slightly less profitable in terms of rental returns, earning about 4.94% in rental yields.

During 2018, rental values in Guadeloupe were steady at an average of EUR 14.26 per square meter (sq. m.), according to the Caribbean Real Estate Observatory. Over the same period:

  • For apartments, which accounts for 66% of the rental market, the average rent was EUR 14.76 per sq. m.
  • For villas and houses, which accounts for the remaining 34% of the market, the average rent stood at EUR 13.3 per sq. m.

In the second half of 2018, a residential property for rent requires an average of 10.38 weeks of marketing before finding a buyer, slightly faster as compared to 10.83 weeks in H1 2018. Though, the marketing period varies considerably, from 8.21 to 24.37 weeks, depending on the region and type of property. For apartments, the average time was 9.37 weeks while it was 12.33 weeks for houses. 

France’s overseas department with several dependencies

Guadeloupe effectively became French in 1635. It has several ‘dependencies’: La Désirade to the east, Les Saintes to the south and Marie-Galante to the southeast. Guadeloupe used to include the half-island of St. Martin and St. Berthelemy, but the two became overseas territorial collectivities in February 2007, after they seceded.

Departments are integral parts of the French Republic. French taxes apply, and French citizenship rights are given, including welfare benefits. The Departments send representatives to the National Assembly, the Senate, and elect a member of the European Parliament (Guadeloupe is now represented in the French parliament by four deputies and three senators).

Saint-Barthelemy (St Bart’s), now no longer part of Guadeloupe, lies 150 km east of Puerto Rico, near the islands of St Martin, Saba and Anguilla. It is a kind of Monaco in the French Caribbean, and many film-stars and jet-setters own homes there. Tourism explains in a large measure the very high standard of living on the island.

Tourism’s total contribution to GDP is currently about 13%. It was forecast to expand to 2.1% per annum to reach about 14.1% of GDP in 2027, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Tourism also accounts for about 13.5% of total employment in the islands.

Guadeloupe’s top tourist attractions

Attractions include:

  • Guadeloupe National Park, Basse-Terre Island - a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the park has about 300 kilometers of hiking trails, plus the La Soufrière volcano at 1,467 meters, Col de la Matéliane at 1,298 meters, Cascade aux Ecrevisses waterfall and a wide range of flora and fauna.
  • La Grande Soufrière, Basse-Terre Island - the highest peak in the lesser Antilles, this active volcano has erupted eight times since 1660. Hikers can ascend the volcano along the Chemin des Dames trail. Hot springs, mud pools, fumaroles and waterfalls also add to its enchanting beauty.
  • Terre-de-Bas Island, the western island of Les Saintes - has small fishing villages, charming beaches and hiking trails. Popular activities include swimming, snorkeling and hiking.
  • Terre-de-Haut Island, eastern island of Les Saintes - has European-inspired pastel-coloured houses and brightly-painted fishing boats, a 17th-century for (Fort Napoléon) with a museum, and an Exotic Garden.
  • Zoological and Botanical Park, Basse-Terre - a popular hilltop garden and nature reserve located on the banks of the Rivière aux Hérbes. Visitors love the animals, which include tortoises, raccoons, monkeys, jaguars, and parrots, among others.
  • Sainte-Anne, Grand-Terre - Sainte Anne boasts one of the finest beaches in Guadeloupe, with its white sand and seaside promenade which invites tourists to stroll under the palms.
  • La Désirade - once a leper colony, this peaceful island is ringed with beautiful palm-fringed beaches and protected by long coral reefs. Snorkeling, swimming, diving and hiking are all popular activities.
  • La Pointe des Châteaux, Grande-Terre - a picturesque peninsula at the easternmost point of Grande Terre, the island exudes rugged beauty with its castle-like rock formations.
  • Plage du Souffleur, Port-Louis, Grande-Terre - considered one of Guadeloupe’s most beautiful beaches because of its wide-open stretch of beautiful white sand fringed with flame trees.
  • Jacques Cousteau’s Underwater Reserve, Pigeon Island - some of the territory’s best sub-aquatic scenery where turtles, large schools of fish, parrotfish, trumpet fish, and barracuda can be seen. Popular activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, wreck diving, and kayaking.

Construction remains weak

Dwellings authorized fell by 2.9% during 2018 while dwelling starts were unchanged, according to the INSEE. The downward trend continues this year with the number of dwelling units authorized falling by 5.9% y-o-y to 3,200 units during the 12-month ending March 2019 – following an 8.1% decline during the same period last year. In March 2019:

Guadeloupe construction
  • For pure single units, permits fell by 12.5% y-o-y to 1,400 units
  • For grouped single units, permits were down 33.3% y-o-y to 600 units
  • For multi-units, permits were up by 33.3% y-o-y to 1,200 units

Likewise, dwelling starts also fell by 6.7% y-o-y to 2,800 units during the 12-month ending March 2019.

  • For pure single units, dwelling starts fell by 7.1% y-o-y to 1,300 units
  • For grouped single units, starts rose by 40% to 700 units
  • For multi-units, starts were down 18.2% y-o-y to 900 units

High unemployment; rising crime rate

High unemployment is a long-standing problem in Guadeloupe, currently standing at 23.7%, one of the highest in the world, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). This leads to political and inter-racial tension. In fact, the French government continues to send in police reinforcement – a total of 70 police officers as of late – to help tackle rising crimes in the territory. They are mainly stationed in Pointe-á-Pitre, Abymes and Baie-Mahault.

"The perception of difficulties is higher than in Martinique," says Douglas Rapier of Atout Immobilier. "Guadeloupe has had more of an independence movement. They are more cognizant of the history of slavery, so social unrest is higher."

In an effort to alleviate the situation, France recently introduced a universal healthcare system for people who live within Guadeloupe, with coverage ranging from medical prescriptions to death insurances.

The economy is dependent on tourism and agriculture. In addition, Guadeloupe relies very substantially on French subsidies. Almost all local housing built in the DOMs is subsidized under the Loi Girardin, which allows 40% of a DOM-located property purchase cost to be written off against future tax payments (the parallel incentive in metropolitan France is the Loi De Robien). Such incentives have spurred an entire industry of financial consultants advising on ‘defiscalisation’.