Barbados seized the marketing “power of place” to attract remote workers.

Barbados Government Introduced “Welcome Stamp”

As the COVID pandemic was raging in mid-July 2020, the Barbados government introduced the “Welcome Stamp,” a visa that enabled foreign individuals/families to work remotely on the Caribbean island for a maximum of 12 months.

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Edward de Mallet Morgan, a partner with Knight Frank, said that Barbados was one of the first Caribbean island to understand and utilize the “marketing potential and leverage the environment created by the pandemic for a lot of people who were very mobile and could work remotely.”

“Welcome Stamp” Tapped a Nerve

Digital nomads paid $2,000 for an individual visa ($3,000 for a family) for the chance to rent ex-patriate-owned apartments or houses near the beach or overlooking golf courses for several months to simultaneously work and blot out the mainland’s lockdowns.

Those early “testing the waters” renters decided to stop testing and actually buy.  According to Chris Parra, the chief executive with One Caribbean Estates, the Christie’s affiliate in Barbados, “A lot of people enjoyed it, loved it and started buying properties that had languished on the market for a long time.”

Rae Stollmeyer, head of sales for West Coast Villas Sotheby’s International Realty, agreed.  Stollmeyer said that the pandemic “…changed the mind-set about buying for most people.  Many of our buyers were renters…”

COVID – “Catalyst for Real Estate Transactions” with Younger Buyers

In the Before Times, the majority of Barbados buyers were 60-65-year-olds.  The Now Times Barbados buyers are between 40 to 55-year-olds who are establishing international businesses.

Parra said, “…COVID has been a catalyst for more real estate transactions…” despite the fact that the tourist market suffered amid lockdowns.  “Sales volume and rentals boomed, particularly at the high end.”

Sales Volume Up

At Stollmeyer’s Terra Caribbean firm, sales volume through September 2021 was up +59% y/y.

The parish of Christ Church on the south coast of Barbados saw an increase of +271% in sales during this same period.  Popular development projects such as Harmony Estates, South View and The Grove have had enormous appeal due to pricing below $300,000.

De Mall Morgan said, “For the up-and-coming market, the southern part of the island has never been in demand as much as today.”

Prices Beginning to “Creep Up”

On the west coast of Barbados, called the Platinum Coast, prices begin at $150,000 for inland apartments and $475,000 for places on the beach.  Prime golf communities run between $1M to $10M+ for beachfront villas.

New construction and redevelopment have begun at the 475-acre Apes Hill.  Courtyard villas with three bedrooms and 3,600 square feet go for $1.7M and four bedrooms at 4,000 square feet cost $2.8M.  Two-and-a-half acre lots are $10M with a new build on that lot starting at $5M, according to Parra.

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Who’s Buying

Most buyers are coming from Canada, the UK, the US, and locals.  Additional buyers are coming from Europe and South America.

There are no restrictions on foreign buyers though buyers are required, through a lawyer, to get permission from the Central Bank of Barbados to close on a property and register foreign currency.  (Buyers are required to retain a local attorney to advise them on the sales agreement and check the title.)

Most foreign buyers are cash buyers though the two island banks do offer mortgages.  Foreign buyers pay annual property tax (aka Land Tax) that is determined on a sliding scale.

Thanks to the New York Times.



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