The beautiful islands of the Caribbean have long summoned up exotic images of palm fringed beaches, exclusive tropical hideaways and long lazy days. For most people though, caught in the humdrum greyness of everyday life, the idea of owning your own piece of Caribbean paradise can seem like a million mile away pipe dream. But it doesn’t have to be like that. With more people looking to invest in increasingly exotic or alternative investments, then the idea of owning your slice of paradise can come just that little bit closer.

Would you rather your investment was a piece of paper in the drawer, or a tangible property asset that you can enjoy as the same time as watching it grow.

Of course, it can’t just be a question of flying over there and buying the first beach property you see. The first thing that you need to do is to decide on which island you like. There are over 7,000 Caribbean islands and, although they are not all inhabited, they all have their own character and personality. The same is true of the Caribbean people. Spend some time on an island, talk to the local people, they are generally very open and welcoming. Find out if the island’s lifestyle and culture suit what you are looking for. The British, for example, may be interested in Barbados with its deep cultural and historical connections with the UK.

  • Barbados has a stable government that promotes property ownership from outside.
  • The legal system is based on UK law and English is the main language.

Beach in the Caribbean

Saint Lucia (St Lucia) is another popular choice for Caribbean property investments. Saint Lucia has a long history of being fought over by Britain and France but, despite a rich French heritage and being a member of La Francophonie, St Lucia has a legal system based on British common law, making it easier to navigate some of the intricacies of property ownership. English is widely spoken in Saint Lucia and it is an ideal island retreat that can really offer you everything; from sun-kissed languid beachiness to high-octane adventure and water sports.

Rental yields can be lower on Saint Lucia than some of the other islands.

Having chosen your island you will need to find out about the legal requirements of purchasing a property as they apply to that island. There is no tick list that can be applied across the Caribbean as all islands and territories have their own laws, rules and regulations. There are a few things to bear in mind however that apply whichever island you are considering.

Caribbean beachfront property

Caribbean beachfront property will automatically carry a higher price but the benefits may be a bit vaguer. While the thought of stepping straight off the decking onto beautiful white sands has appeal, most Caribbean beaches are public property and privacy can be an issue. Anyone can park a boat or trailer right outside your house and there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead, think about the breeze. The trade winds blow from the south east and if your property is exposed to them it will not only keep you cool, it will also cut down on problems with mosquitoes and other flying insects. If you manage to find a property with a little elevation as well you can benefit from the breeze and the views.

Caribbean condos and large developments

Whilst condos and complexes are normally the most popular property investments in the Caribbean, those wishing to build their own dream home are also well catered for. Empty plots can be hard to find on some of the smaller islands, but if you look for a plot with a derelict building which you can renovate or replace you may have more luck.

Before flying headlong into any contracts do your sums carefully. Tourism in the islands can wax and wane, especially in these current times of economic uncertainty when Caribbean holidays may be amongst the first things that people cut back on. Can you afford the property without relying totally on holiday rentals?

If you are looking to buy a property on a buy-to-let basis, where are you going to get your customers from? You will need to think more internationally and less locally. The Caribbean is a popular holiday destination for citizen of the U.S. and Canada, the growing South American middle class as well as Europe. If you do plan to rent out the property, you are likely to require a property management firm to handle affairs on your behalf. It can be difficult to manage lets if your main residence is thousands of miles away on another continent.

Caribbean rental levels

You need to know what the most realistic rental value is on your property. Check holiday rental sites like HomeAway.com/search/keywords:st+lucia – as of writing there were 255 properties. You should analyze and compare these properties against the size, location and amenities your own proposed investment has. See what rents actual owners are asking for different properties, see how many dates are unavailable to give you an idea of vacancy periods. You can even email the owners and see if they would help with any advice on Caribbean property purchases.

Popular areas of Saint Lucia

Use the Google Keyword tool to spot what areas people are actually searching for, make sure you use the ‘exact’ search function and not ‘broad match’. Use global or local property rental websites to see where others have already purchased property in the Caribbean. Note that HomeAway.com shows 255 properties in these St Lucia locations.

     Cap Estate rentals    93
     Castries rentals 36
     Marigot Bay rentals 36
     Soufriere rentals 30
     Rodney Bay rentals 28
     Gros Islet rentals 9
     Cas en Bas rentals   8
     Anse La Raye rentals 2
     Vieux Fort rentals 2
     Cuti Cove rentals 1
     Labrolette Bay rentals 1
     Mon Repos rentals   1

Caribbean photo research

Use photo uploading websites to see real people photos of the area, like this search at flickr.com of the 3rd most favourite rental location, Marigot Bay, according to the list above.  Looks nice doesn’t it!

Caribbean purchase charges

Make sure you are aware of all costs involved with buying property. The Caribbean is no different from the rest of the world when it comes to those hidden extras. There are likely to be charges such as transfer taxes, stamp taxes, insurance, service charges and residency fees. Some islands, such as Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands require that non-residents apply for a “Non-Belongers” licence before they can own property. Seek expert legal advice on the island and its property regulations to avoid any nasty surprises, and of course don’t forget the price of decorating and furnishing the property; this might not be what you expect so price it up first as part of your calculations.

Despite having a terrible reputation for scams, timeshares in the Caribbean can actually work out quite well. It’s a question of finding the right one. The Caribbean has thousands of timeshare opportunities available. For many people this is the only way that they can afford their slice of the sun. If timeshare is something you are interested in you should avoid any companies that employ pressure sales tactics. In fact, ignore any organisation or person who approaches you about timeshare. You should be the one to approach them, having done your research beforehand. The best method of choosing timeshares is based on personal recommendations from people that you know and trust. If this is not possible then your first port of call should be to take a look at the TATOC website. TATOC is The Association for Timeshare Owners Committees and is the biggest timeshare owners’ association in Europe. TATOC is an organisation that is run by timeshare owners for timeshare owners and amongst their many services they run an accreditation scheme and publish a monthly list of companies who use cold calling techniques and who you should avoid.

Whatever way you decide to go about it, with careful planning and diligent research your Caribbean dream can become a reality. Not only could you enjoy regular Caribbean holidays for the rest of your life, you could turn your investment into a profit that could help finance your retirement relaxing under a golden sun.

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