Search

2016 - New Year

MARKET REPORT
2016 NEW YEAR
AN HONEST APPRAISAL OF THE CAYMAN MARKETPLACE

Review
In our last Report we noted the increase in Tourism figures, the steady improvement in the Real Estate Market, and the limited supply of improved property. We noted the beginning of rising prices for Tourist related properties. We projected we would enter the Winter Season as a "Solid Seller's Market." And we thought the local market would finally begin to show signs of improvement this coming Winter.

General Outlook
Well, most that we predicted is occurring. The Statistics watchers will find the 2015 statistics similar to the 2014 stats in terms of number of properties sold, and in Tourism slightly lower. But keep in mind 2014 was a big improvement over 2013, and in terms of the interest shown by potential buyers, 2015 has been a breath of fresh air. The number of showings of properties has increased dramatically and the customers are showing a much greater willingness to make offers. The historical recessionary selling prices are still holding the market back somewhat - especially in the cases of buyers who need financing. Many appraisers are just not in the mainstream of every day negotiations and have not seen first hand the increased market activity. So they rely only on the last sales to determine value. They are not privy to the failed deals - deals which were negotiated at higher levels but did not go through because the appraisers were using outdated data to arrive at a value which was signi cantly less than what the new customer was actually willing to pay. As a result, arms length deals with bonafide buyers who are willing to pay a premium do not close because of the appraisal level, and as a result do not show up as "sold" on either CIREBA or Government's sold information. So the low appraisals are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a useful financial tool.

Condos
Following up on the comments above, in the last quarter of 2015 we have sold a good number of mid-level to upper mid-level condos on the beach in the last few months which has enabled us to get a clearer picture of the rise in prices. In many Seven Mile Beach Developments we are now approaching pre-recessionary highs.

Some Sales Examples:
Aqua Bay: Sold for US$725,000; up 7.5% since 2013 but still below the all time high of US$740,000 in 2008. Casa Caribe (beachfront): Sold for US$1,650,000; up 5% since earlier in 2015. This is the highest sale to date. Christopher Columbus (side unit): Sold for US$540,000; up 15% since 2014. This is the highest sale - to date. Christopher Columbus (beach front): Sold for US$1,000,000*; This equals the highest sale which was made in 2012. Discovery Point: Sold for US$620,000; up 13% since early 2015. Another is listed and contracted higher but still below the all time high of US$725,000 in 2007. Silver Sands: Sold for US$765,000; up 18% since 2012 and two others are contracted higher but still below the all time high of US$850,000 in 2012. (* Brokerage added for comparison purposes)

These % price increases will vary from unit to unit depending on quality of interiors and how distressed the recessionary sales were in that particular complex. However, there is without question an obvious upward trend here!

Another interesting aspect of the condo sales is the number of properties on 7-Mile Beach being sold to locals as investments. In earlier days that was unheard off, but now, with so few other safe investment options, and with the opportunity to use the 7 Mile Beach unit when it is not rented, it is an ideal combination of a secure investment with perks for a local owner.

The lack of supply continues in 7 Mile Beach adding fuel to the fire. As of this writing there are only about 20 units for sale on 7 Mile between US$500,000. and US$1,500,000. Only 5 of them are 3 bedrooms, and only about half of them are on really good beach. This is a very small supply. At first glance some appear to be pushing the envelope in terms of pricing, but upon closer study you realize that higher sales had already been accomplished prior to or sometimes even during the recession. There are far more buyers than there are units to sell. The potential Buyers who are trying to negotiate using recessionary prices are doomed to continue to rent, and due to the small supply we are again seeing more multiple offers on many properties. If you are looking for the best development on 7 Mile, there are 6 units left at the amazing Watercolours, which is a "10" in every category. Call Coldwell Banker for details before they are all gone.

Development
With the increased pace of improved property sales, the Developers are becoming interested in Cayman again. Waterfront proper- ties are getting offers again and shortly some major vacant sites will probably have different owners. There are some interesting options coming on the market. In our last issue we mentioned the continuing approach of Developers to existing condo complexes to try to convince those Stratas to agree to redevelop. To put things in historical perspective from when the strata law was first passed and for many years subsequent, redevelopment decisions required 100% of the ownership. That provided the ultimate in security of tenure for a property owner knowing that not only did he have freehold (absolute) title to his condo, he could not be disenfranchised by the other owners. In a world where increasingly owners have fewer and fewer rights (especially third world countries where property ownership if even possible has all kinds of conditions) that was a strong argument for a customer to purchase property in a foreign country. But in 2012 due to pressure on the previous Government by certain Developers, the 100% voting margin was reduced to 75%, without any debate, consultation, or public awareness. As that happened just prior to the last election, when lots of other issues were being discussed, this change was kind of lost in the sauce. CIREBA spoke out against it which was telling in that you would have expected an organization of Real Estate Brokers who sold the units which would be created by an easier path to redevelopment to be for such a change. But we realized that security of tenure for the individual owner was one of the foundations of our successful condominium marketplace and fiddling with that was a very slippery slope.

Now we are hearing the current Government is prepared to increase the damage already done by the previous Government and reduce the margin to a simple majority! It has often been said that when an individual gets elected he leaves his brain at the door with his hat when he/she enters the House. This seems like proof positive that is the case. It is another sad instance of far reaching decisions being made to satisfy a short term financial need which will end up having a much more negative influence on our country and probably on our economy. Successive Governments seem only too happy to weaken the very foundations of Caymans success in hope of adding another few stories to the building (literally as well as metaphorically). Any child of 5+ years who has played with blocks knows what happens where you add more on top while taking from the bottom. Call your MLA about this!

Single Family Homes
The figures for home sales this year are about the same as last year but the noteworthy statistic is that 58 homes valued between US$1.0M - US$2.0M have sold in the last 18 months! And 25 homes from US$2.0M - US$4.0M have also been sold during that same period.

As of this writing there are 65 homes listed in the US$1.0M - US$2.0M range and 45 homes listed in the US$2.0M - US$4.0M range. If the pace remains the same that is a three years supply of homes in the lower range and a two years supply in the higher range. That will likely keep prices from rising for a year or two, and as it is usually an owner occupier who buys a single family home, we doubt we will see a more rapid absorption rate.

There are 21 homes listed above US$4.0M, and with only one selling (at just over US$4.0M) in that range over the last 18 months. That is a lot of supply. Look for prices to begin to come down in that category at the same time that the market is improving. We think there will be more activity in that case and some bargains to be had in 2016. Our listing at 418 Prospect Point comes to mind, as there is well over US$1,000,000 value in the Chattels and artwork alone which will remain, in a house listed extremely reasonably at US$4,995,000.

Land
Residential land sales have slowed a bit overall, but in places like Crystal Harbour and other well regarded land communities the pace has been brisk this year. With Cayman becoming more and more attractive as a retirement destination relative to other options in the West, we are likely to see land sales in the most attractive areas continue to be strong. If Government would finally decide that it actually wants an influx of wealthy retirees, then they might create an attractive formula to encourage that, then publish it and stick to it. Instead, they continue to waf e and send mixed messages to all those on the front lines who cannot with con dence explain and recommend the program to our customers.

Commercial
The Commercial sector continues to lag behind Residential and has shown only token indications of improvement so far. George Town continues its slow demise as Camana Bay goes from strength to strength. This is a particularly poignant example of the dif- ference between Government doing something and the private sector doing so. The big news downtown is Government's decision to support the controversial port expansion along the north shore of George Town. Many have expressed their displeasure, and the environmental cost of the current proposal is hard to swallow. IF that was the only solution to renew business prosperity in George Town MAYBE we could understand. But George Town's problem is not now, and has never been a lack of cruise visitors. It has always been a lack of parking. We certainly don't need a multipurpose arena there. How does injecting more people into an already overly crowded and trafic gridlocked area translate into a regeneration of George Town? If you live or work on the West Bay Road Peninsula or South or East of George Town, you go into George Town only when it is absolutely necessary. That is not the way to increase pro ts for businesses located there, and companies like Kirk Freeport, Island Companies, and all the local banks have been forced to go where their customers are and open branches elsewhere. That has certainly not created more net revenue, just added expense. All the dusty and expensive reports on Government shelves have likely said the same 2 things: We need to improve the traffic flow in & out of George Town, and we need much more public parking. Government shutting down public streets for the bene t of individual merchants does not help matters either (we are not talking about public celebrations). With Government owning 2 commercial sites in the middle of George Town which are virtually unused, you have to wonder what on earth have they been waiting for? What is no wonder, is that businesses are moving out of George Town, not into it.

Sister Islands
Cayman Brac - Submitted by Irene Scott-Thornton The Cayman Brac island-wide road paving project is almost completed, providing improved access on the top of the Bluff for the subdivision home lots and Bluff Edge ocean view properties. The Water Authority has expanded the pipeline service along the Northern thoroughfare, providing residences and business the choice of city water instead of only tank truck delivery. The Brac Reef Resort has completed the additional guest rooms, bar renovations and installed a larger swimming pool. This should increase the number of island visitors, and it really looks great! Many homes and condos are being offered for sale, as are land parcels in a variety of sizes from .30 acre to over 100 acres. Our market continues to be sluggish and it normally takes the Grand Cayman market to improve before we feel it in the Brac. With the current improvement in Grand Cayman we are expecting some improvement in 2016 in the Brac.

Little Cayman - Submitted by Wes Dangerfield
When you live in a place like Little Cayman, every now and again you have to stop and realize what an incredible island this is. There is fantastic SCUBA diving,fishing of all sorts, a shallow water reef protected sound that is the ideal location for kayaking, windsur ng, kite sur ng or just relaxing on Owen Island (a small uninhabited paradise just off shore). You see families riding bikes together down the safe, traf c free roads or building sand castles on the pristine beach of Point of Sand. The island is a "time-out" from the stress that seems to dominate people's lives and bring them back to understanding why we work so hard. This place is a reward for a lucky hand full of people that have paid their dues and are now in a position to finally live their dream. Contact me and let me help you take the next step.

Constructive Criticism & Good Governance
One bright light with regard to the Cayman Islands Government this year were the reports produced by Auditor General, Mr. Alastair Swarbrick. He was appointed by the UK and worked under the Governor. His job was to investigate and report on any de ciencies in certain areas of Government. His work was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise smoke filled room. His research was extensive, his conclusions were clear, and his recommendations were sensible (to view go to auditorgeneral.gov.ky and click on "Reports" and then on "Reports to those charged with Governance"). In short, there were a lot of de ciencies uncovered. But sadly, Mr. Swarbrick's recommendations will not be taken up by our current Government. Our question is: how will we ever solve a problem if we refuse to recognize it? We look forward to the day when good advice is well received and acted upon, regardless of from whence it came.

Another Notable Caymanian Passes
On September 13, 2015 Cayman lost another of its great countrymen - Rex Crighton. Mr. Rex was first and foremost "a land man". He was built to see the possibilities in a piece of raw ground and over his 83 years he made many of those a reality includ-ing Prospect/Omega, Savannah Meadows, the Cays at Rum Point and his last and best, Crystal Harbour. Rex was elected the first President of CIREBA and he served 4 years. He was also active in Rotary, and a Special Constable. He instituted the Take a Kid Fishing Program and was a financial sponsor of many various organizations including the Cayman Islands Little League. Rex was the consummate salesman (and I mean that in the most complimentary way). He enjoyed his work and his customers enjoyed him. He knew his product and worked hard, all the while raising a fine family. Rex will be missed by everyone who knew him and the country is richer for people like Rex.

Forecast
The last quarter of 2015 was one of the busiest in recent memory. It was exciting to have customers becoming buyers again, and at the same time frustrating with the recession still in the rear view mirror, but with the inventory so small it has become unnecessary for sellers to continue to sell at yesterdays prices.

Cayman seems poised for sunnier skies in 2016, at least in terms of the local factors which effect pricing and sales. The local market is not yet moving upward like the waterfront market as yet, but all indications are that it shortly will, pending continued absorption of lingering bank forced sales. All this assumes another country doesn't ruin it by doing something rash. Next year is an election year in the US. If there is a change, con dence and long term prospects in the US will improve and that will likely translate into long term prosperity for Cayman. If no change, Cayman will likely see stronger short term bene t, but our long term prospects may not be so good.