Doug’s View Of St. Barths Real Estate
This season we have seen some of the best weather that I can remember in the last 30 years, and the real estate market has followed suit. The unique appeal of the island endures and even grows – white sand beaches with minimal development on them, French culture and world-class cuisine, the historic pedestrian friendly harbor town of Gustavia with its shops and restaurants, and the absence of crime…all of which attracts an appealing mix of visitors. While the devastation visited on St Barths by Irma in September of 2017 is never far from our minds, all those special attributes endure, and one may look back years from now and say that the investments, repairs, rebuilding and renovations that followed benefited St Barths in the long run, and that’s especially true for the real estate market.
St Barths rebuilds after a hurricane, a net positive in the long run:
- All power lines are being buried and brand new fiber optic cables are being buried with them. Besides the big win aesthetically for the island, it is a bold and visionary move by the Collectivité to hurricane-proof the Island’s utilities infrastructure.
- A multitude of villas received top to bottom renovations thereby making the villa inventory, that was already world class, better than it has been since the 1980´s.
- Many of the hotels took advantage of one year of free revenue to complete top to bottom renovations, creating some of the most up-to-date hotel infrastructure in the world.
- Development will now slow. The most heart breaking loss for me in the weeks after Irma was the loss of vegetation (which has now come back strong ). But this loss helped expose the building that has occured on the island for the last 20 years. This in turn spurred the Collectivité to take new drastic measures to curtail rampant building and over development.
- There is a new movement afoot to have smaller structures, less building, less speculation and less encroachment into the green non-buildable zones. You might be surprised to hear that I would be happy if we stopped all building tomorrow. I think the health of the island is more important than real estate transactions so I support the direction of the Collectivité on this matter. Of course this movement also acts to further increase the value of existing structures, and has benefits for existing villa owners and anyone who gets involved in real estate before more protection takes hold.
For every 15 phone calls I received immediately after Irma, 14 were from excited buyers – old and new – looking for the “hurricane deal” and the 15th call was from a home owner saying maybe I´ll knock a little off the price. Those “deals” did not materialize. It´s very important for people who don’t follow St Barths real estate to know that this market never goes down, not after hurricane Louis in 1995, not after 9/11, not during the great recession of 2008, not after hurricane Irma. Instead of the market going down, it goes flat, and the longest I have seen it flat was for one and a half years. That’s almost completely unheard of anywhere on Earth. It’s why a lot of our home owners here buy additional homes. St Barths real estate is the ultimate hedge.
All and all I see the market strong in all price tiers. Regarding location, while St Jean is always hot, I have seen a renewed interest in Gustavia area properties (which includes Governeur, Lurin and Corossol) which means the outer areas might become greater opportunities. I have seen this pendulum swing back and forth a multitude of times in my 30 years here.
The starter price of a vacation villa, with a good to great view, has now jumped from 3 million Euros to 3.5 million Euros ( if you can even find it). We have a healthy inventory of mid to high priced properties (villas as well as land) that you can find on our real estate website, and in addition, I have a tremendous amount of “pocket listings”, properties that owners don’t want to list publicly, so if you don’t see what you want online, don’t despair, call me.
“Ok” you are thinking, “he says the market is strong, but is he actually selling anything”? It’s only April, we’ve closed several significant transactions already, and if only a third of the transactions we already have under agreement close, then we will have our best sales year in 30 years. Call me.
Director – International Real Estate WIMCO
PS: I’d be happy to mail you a copy of this season’s real estate brochure. You can see an online version of it here.