Living in: Caribbean beach areas
Bermuda's Hamilton Harbour. (BBC)
Many a holiday in the Caribbean has sparked a dream of owning your own island hideaway — a fantasy tailored to all comers, from louche afternoons by the infinity pool to hardcore para-surfing through coral reefs.
Fortunately, there are island paradises where the prices are right or the buying is easy and the reward is aquamarine water, sugary sands, abundant sun, and fruit so fresh the idea of eating something from the supermarket seems laughable.
The Ian Fleming International Airport opened in January to accommodate private jets - up to six at a time. But even if you are not flying in on the latest Bombardier Challenger, Jamaica still has amazing year-round weather and is a good value for second-home buyers. Most flock to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay on the north coast, where many of the resorts and the new cruise shop port at Falmouth are located. Other areas to consider are Portland in the south, where San San and Frenchman's Cove are known for freshwater and spectacular beaches. Jamaica's unique culture is also a selling point. "Jamaica has a really strong, interesting culture and that comes through in its music and art," said Vanessa Keith, principal of Studioteka and an architect with projects in Jamaica. "You get to know the people too, like the local fisherman, If they catch something big, they will come to your front gate and sell it to you."
A typical condo costs around $200,000 to $250,000 and villas start around $450,000. "Jamaica is the best value around for both a winter and summer resort," said Nigel Pemberton, chairman of Graham Associates in Montego Bay. "The price of real estate is amongst the lowest in the Caribbean." Security can be an issue in Jamaica, and many people buy in a gated community or upscale villas that are monitored by a security service or the police.
"Real estate was affected by the economic downturn, but with the improving conditions, developers are building again," said Howard Johnson, Jr, president of the Realtors Association. Various fees apply when purchasing a home, but the realtor's commission is usually paid by the vendor, not the buyer. Another option is buying in a resort community development like Round Hill or Palmyra where your property is looked after and maintained.
Coastal Belize has some of the most spectacular diving and snorkelling to be found in the Caribbean, and the small country's official language is English, making it a popular destination for retirees and holiday home buyers from the US. Corozal, near the Mexican border, is popular with ex-pats who fly into Cancun - which has more direct flights - and take a bus south. Ambergris Caye, north of the capital Belize City, is fringed by white sand beaches and limpid blue bays where turtles and colourful fish swim above the coral reefs. Swank resorts rub shoulders with brand-new condo developments. Land is at a premium here, so most buyers purchase condos, whereas in Corozal, many buy pre-construction lots.
In Placencia in southern Belize, where Francis Ford Coppola's Turtle Inn has held sway for a certain type of elite traveller, roads have recently been paved, opening the area up to developers, and the entire area is about to undergo a radical change. About a dozen hotel, resort and golf course projects are underway or approved, in addition to a new airport. The developments have Miami-chic style homes, manicured lawns and views of the sea and lagoon.
This incredibly diverse country has mountains, lakes and splendid beaches, and sees a mix of holidaymakers that range from the eco-tourist to the golf fanatic. The past few years have seen an influx of development in and around Punta Cana and the Samaná peninsula, with resorts like Cap Cana and Balcones des Atlantico. They are home to multiple resorts, golf courses and real estate developments with apartments, townhouses and ocean-front villas for sale. There are also many second-home options, along with adventure and water parks, on the north coast, which some consider overdeveloped now.