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Mid-Year

Review

In our last report we said we expected “a very strong Residential Real Estate market with traffic congestion and lack of supply possibly having a dampening effect” for the first half of 2018. That we have seen. The demand has been strong, but the lack of supply has kept the first half of 2018 from matching 2017, although it is only down about 4% over a super strong last year.

General Outlook

The average sale for 2018 YTD is approximately US$680,000 or 4.5% higher than last year. But while prices have still been rising over the past 6 months, they are not rising as quickly now and in some sectors the gross sales volume is actually down slightly. We will speak to specific sectors below, but we are getting the sense that our market may not be able to continue at this torrid pace and may need a breather. The price increases may be slowing the market a bit. However, some of this may just be the natural slow down due to the advent of the summer season. On the supply side there is actually a 7% decrease in supply of listed units YTD over last year, but the value of the listed property in CIREBA is up 29% to US$1.85 Billion!

 

Condos

The value of the average condo sold in the MLS by CIREBA firms rose by 27% to US$818,000 this year YTD over last which attests to the strength of this market sector. However, the number of units sold is actually down 24% which indicates sales on 7 Mile have been largely carrying the load here. But even with the price increases, the total dollar volume for condo sales is down 3% which supports our feelings in the outlook paragraph above.

 

The other factor that both influences and is an indicator of the market direction is the supply of property in a given sector. In this sector the supply stats show the average price for condos up a whopping 72% to US$1.359M which is why the total value of the condo supply is up 47% despite the # of listed units being down 15% YTD over last year. That means there is not a lot more supply available, or much of it is pre-construction product. The supply of existing condo units which are available for sale is still critically low. That generally means prices should continue to rise. But will they, considering the current higher prices and the summer seasonal slowdown? Our guess here is that the few units available will sell, albeit at a slower pace, and the prices will not rise much further this year.

 

All of a sudden there is a lot of pre-construction product for sale in similar price ranges which would be concerning if it weren’t for Trump’s America which financially is improving daily with nearly 4% growth. Cayman, in its best years, has always been dependent on American investment rather than European or Asian, and that looks to continue to be the case.

 

Homes

The average home price sold YTD in 2018 is virtually even with 2017 at US$791,000. The number of sales is up 18% and the dollar volume is up 19%Supply is down 5% by unit and 2% in dollars. So, home values have not been rising like the condo sector but have been relatively steady. The luxury home market (US$5.0M +) has been a little sluggish aside from a couple of sales. But buying a home is more of a full-time commitment to be in Cayman than a condo purchase is, which always accounts for some of the apparent market reluctance.

 

The biggest disconnect in the single-family home market is between sellers (with years of Cayman experience) who have built luxury homes on the beach at a distance from George Town and 7 Mile for privacy and island atmosphere, and buyers (with little or no Cayman experience) who think anything farther east than South Sound is too far to go. In reading the journals & reviews of the renters of some of these luxury homes I am struck by how much they enjoyed their experience in Frank Sound or East End or Rum Point. While some folks don’t get it, those who are island people at heart know what I am talking about. We look forward to seeing more of the latter.

 

Land

Lot sales are showing about a 9% decrease in average price with an 11% rise in number of lots sold yielding about the same dollar volume of sales as last year. However, the properties currently on the market show an entirely different story. Perhaps infected by the same optimism prevalent in the 7 Mile condo market, with about the same # of lot listings the average price has jumped over 100% as has the dollar volume of listings.

 

Obviously beach front lots are in great demand all over the island so prices have risen there. Both the local and tourist markets are competing for those, and they are not making any more of them! But canal lots with good views are also in demand from potential full-time residents, mostly local but also foreigners. If you can’t afford a luxury beach place, you can still use the fabulous Cayman waters with a boat and a canal home.

 

Commercial

The major trend remains the same – movement out of George Town, except for the vibrant Cricket Square complex being developed by the Flowers family. Another 2 buildings are well along and a world class gym is being added to the complex. With the rush hour(s) traffic going east as it is, a good gym with shower facilities makes a lot of sense and apparently the tenant companies are willing to pay the entire cost.

 

However, the Commercial sector in general has not been buoyant apart from Camana Bay and Cricket Square. In fact, the dollar volume of sales is off 7.5% YTD, although there were twice as many transactions. The number of listings is up 36% but the dollar volume of the listings is down 8% indicating this sector is still hurting, at least in terms of sales.

 

Little Cayman – by Wes Dangerfield

The good news is nothing has changed in Little Cayman! It is still the loveliest, quietest and most unique area in the Cayman Islands, boasting the best diving, fishing and relaxing. But as property prices continue to rise in most parts of Grand Cayman I have had a few people ask if they should consider raising their asking prices over here as well.  My response is, “We are almost there”. I have been receiving a higher than average number of info requests and people who live on Grand Cayman are making trips over in greater number to look at what is available on Little Cayman. It seems to be a fairly even split between those looking to purchase for investment and those looking for personal vacation use. This is a good time to consider Little Cayman before prices do start to rise, and since this is a small island with only so much land available, it will not take much to cross over from being affordable to you uttering the words, “I should have bought a year ago!”

 

Cayman Brac – by Mark Knowlton

Cayman Brac is finally starting to show some upward movement in some segments of the market. This trend is expected to broaden. Sales are evenly distributed between local and expat buyers. The price tag of a new home is anticipated to increase, perhaps sharply, spurred on by price increases in materials imported from the USA, and by contractor cost increases prompted by the full implementation of the Builder's Law with costly registration and renewal requirements. Cost increases for new construction make asking prices for good quality existing homes a relative bargain. And speaking of bargains, our Alexander Hotel listing has been significantly reduced to US$3.5M and there may still be room for a further discount with the right kind of offer. Well-located interior residential building lots can still be acquired under CI$35,000. Waterfront land is a bargain compared to other destinations in the Caribbean. Local buzz is that at least two well-known Grand Cayman developers have been looking. A development move on the Brac by any of the large players will have an immediate upward impact on property values. The bottom line for investors interested in Cayman Brac is: “opportunity knocks”.

 

Tourism and Traffic

As you may have expected, Tourism is up again in 2018 for the 8th year in a row! And over the first 5 months of 2018 each month has broken the all-time record with March boasting nearly 55,000 air arrival visitors! Assuming about a week’s stay for each tourist, that means at any given time in March, Cayman’s overall population increased by 25% (and you were wondering why the roads and restaurants were crowded)!

 

With none of the road works completely finished, we really have struggled on the roads this year, but the Esterley Tibbetts bypass is “nearly” finished and the Linford Pierson bypass is getting there as well. So, we will not have to suffer through another Winter like this past one traffic-wise. That includes the new underpass at the Royal Palms above which Dart’s new Hotel will likely be erected. There has never been this extent of road works done concurrently in Cayman history, but it has not been since the 80’s that Tourism expanded every year for 8 years either. Let’s hope this is the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak!

 

New 7 Mile Residential Condo & Hotel Developments

Yes, the market is strong and current existing product inventory has been in very short supply for a couple of years now with prices still on the rise. So, it should be no great surprise that Developers have now re-entered the marketplace. There are now 4 new developments projected for 7 Mile Beach and at least 3 more near George Town and South Sound in various states of planning or construction.

 

After a lengthy and unnecessary battle with neighboring objectors we have Aqua which is a new 10 unit James Lagan development now under construction on the southern part of 7-Mile Beach adjacent to Grandview. Besides Lagan’s trademark clean, modern lines, the most unique characteristic of this property is there is only one unit per floor over 10 stories. Unit sizes are just under 4,000 sq. ft. and prices are in the US$3.5M – US$5.0M range with contracts already in place for 80% of the units.

 

Seacrest, which is a Brian Butler offering, is also along the southern section of 7 Mile adjacent to Crescent Point. This is a 10-story complex with 2 units per floor for a total of 20. These units are approximately 2,000 sq. ft. with pricing in the US$1.7M range and all are under contract.

 

The Developers of the Grand Hyatt Beach Resort say they will soon begin construction adjacent to the Wharf. This is to be a huge 450-room condo hotel of 6 – 10 stories on a mix of iron shore and beach. The units range in size from 610 sq. ft. to 3,000 sq. ft.  and in price from about US$520,000 to nearly US$5.0M. The “L” shaped building design is interesting and the salt water pool/lagoon and boardwalk overlooking the harbour, should be really nice, but the sales & construction process will be extremely lengthy if it proceeds.

 

Last, but definitely not least, will be WaterMark, Fraser Wellon’s latest project. Just having been able to purchase the tract between Avalon and Harbour Heights from the Johnson & Johnson group was a major accomplishment, as they had been approached by virtually every Realtor and Developer over the last 20 years. But US$55,830,000 was obviously enough to get their attention! We are hearing the project will be 54 units, and will include a spa and restaurant component spanning the West Bay Road via an enclosed pedestrian overpass. It promises to set a whole new luxury standard for Cayman, and this by a Developer who has already done that previously here.

 

The first of two new projects off 7 Mile is Fin which is a 36 unit, 5 story offering from Dale Crighton and Mike Ryan which has recently begun construction along South Church Street adjacent to Sea View. This boasts a very modern design to be built on the iron shore with great sunset views. The floor plans include multi-level units and roof top terraces with views both west and east, plus many concierge type amenities. Units are currently over 60% sold.

 

Next is Tides, an NCB Development project of 24 units and 5 stories which is located on the best beach in South Sound. The project is well underway and may be finished before the years end. It is about 90% sold out as of this writing and has some interesting multi-story layouts, floor to ceiling windows, and rooftop terraces.

 

Cayman’s Governor (Hello & Goodbye ?)

Governor Choudhury who took office on March 26, 2018 as the latest Governor of the Cayman Islands may have had the shortest tenure of any previous Governor. Yes, there has been a “temporary recall” of H.E. the Governor Mr. Anwar Choudhury. Mr. Choudhury was our first non-natural born British Governor as well as the first Muslim Governor. Although no official reason has been given for this, speculation abounds. Everything from issues in a previous post, to behavior while in Cayman has been mentioned on the marl road. We wondered if it was the firm stance he took against the bloated civil service bureaucracy; we hope not as he was certainly on to something there! At any rate, Mr. Choudhury is gone, at least temporarily.

 

Beneficial Ownership Register

Premier Alden McLaughlin threw down the gauntlet in the Legislative Assembly recently threatening legal challenges as far as the Privy Council to a recently proposed UK Parliamentary requirement for a public Beneficial Ownership register. This is not good news for a jurisdiction which makes a significant living on corporations which protect its non-public owners from liability in our increasingly litigious society. But the unkindest cut of all was when the UK Parliament did not require the same from its own Offshore Centres of Jersey, Guernsey & the Isle of Man. British involvement and control over Cayman has historically been limited to areas of Foreign Policy and Defense, and more recently extended to our Financial Stability. However, this new involvement leaves Cayman wide open to interference in many aspects of our daily lives, many of which Cayman handles far better than the UK herself! As a result, the overall concept in play here is far more worrying than this particular application. Stay tuned…

 

New Staff

Since our last Market Report we have been fortunate to welcome two excellent new staff members. Mark Knowlton has taken over our Cayman Brac office and has hit the ground running. With over 40 years experience in Brac Real Estate plus a great work ethic and reputation, Mark was the ideal choice for this position.

 

And most recently April Cummings has come over from a very successful TV and Radio career to help us with both Marketing and Sales. In reality, April has been “selling” for her entire career and we expect big things from her once she gets settled in. If you know either April or Mark you might want to congratulate them on their new positions.

 

Special

It is extremely unfortunate when the bad guys screw up a good thing for the rest of us, but sadly, it is becoming a normal occurrence. To counter the invasion of privacy by e-intruders like Google and others, we will be required by law to ask you to confirm your agreement for us to maintain copies of your contact information and by extension your desire to continue to receive our bi-annual Market Report. First of all, we NEVER share any information on our mailing list with ANY outside party. Our communications are used only to keep our mailing list members up to date on developments within the Cayman Real Estate Industry (which are generally limited to twice/year) or to contact you if a type of property in which you have expressed interest becomes available. You can help us to cope with this new requirement if you email or snail mail us at the contact info on the bottom of the listings page the following info:

  1. Your name, mailing address, and email (so we can identify you).
  2. “Yes” or “No” as to whether we can keep your info (to send this report).
  3. If Yes above, please note whether you want it by email or snail mail.

Thanks for your assistance with this.

 

Forecast

It is hard to bet against this roaring Cayman economy right now. The demand continues to break records in terms of Tourism and the price of Tourist related property has risen significantly. In terms of Luxury Resort type Real Estate, Cayman is not any more expensive than any other desirable destination and it is becoming exposed to more and more people every day. In fact, Coldwell Banker in the Caribbean has just added exposure to 65 countries through 110 Real Estate Portals generating over 185 million views for our clients properties. And yet, it is our summer season, so it would be prudent to expect some slowing of sales activity between now and year end. However, we expect continuing steady sales, especially of any existing inventory that happens to appear. So, we expect relatively sunny skies this Summer and Fall.

 

(All stats from the CIREBA MLS database)