Amid an imploding global property market, the small Caribbean island of St Lucia has offered a rare glimpse of optimism. Good governance, transactional simplicity and favourable market forces have helped guide this island nation, blessed with a staggering natural beauty, through the storm and into a new era of prosperity, popularity and worldwide acclaim.
Although house prices in St Lucia fell by 10-15 per cent in 2009, they have already begun to return to their pre-recession levels. In the meantime, there remains an open window of opportunity for cash-rich buyers (especially at the top end of the market, where most of St Lucia’s new property and developments are located), who if they buy now stand to realise significant and immediate capital gains.
Traditionally, $1.25m-plus buyers looking for luxury Caribbean homes have gone to neighbouring Barbados, whereas St Lucia has been associated with having a more rustic feel. However this trend is shifting: new developments such as The Marquis Estates, The Landings, Allamanda, Glenconner Beach Resort, The Gary Player Golf Resort and Freedom Bay are all the kind of luxury residences that one would normally associate with Barbados, yet all of them are nearing completion on St Lucia.
The majority of developments to date have been in the North of St Lucia, close to the capital city, Castries. However the new wave of development explores the more exclusive South West, which has been opened up by new roads encircling the Island. Near the former capital, Soufriere, the more verdant, volcanic and dramatic landscapes – dominated by the twin peaks of Les Pitons, a UNESCO world heritage site – of this area offer secluded tranquillity amid stunning surroundings, where numerous coves and inlets provide genuine sanctuary. Indeed, St Lucian investors have earmarked the South West as a prime location for increasingly popular ‘lifestyle investments’ tied to environmentally sensitive development principles.
A key force drawing new developments to St Lucia is the state of Barbados’ increasingly saturated property market. There is no longer any real value to be found on Barbados, where supply is becoming increasingly rarefied. In contrast, the relatively undeveloped shores of St Lucia offer all the same advantages and attractions, yet at 40-60 per cent lower prices – which moreover offer projected returns of 10 per cent, year-on-year, over the next five years.
St Lucia is also set to benefit from more scheduled flights from its primary markets. British Airways recently announced an increase in direct flights to St Lucia to 5 per week. Direct flights out of Vancouver, Frankfurt, Miami and other US cities are also increasing in 2010. Aside from demonstrating tangible market confidence in St Lucia as a destination for the future, improved accessibility will further encourage second-home buyers.
An island with unrivalled natural assets, on which an investor-friendly framework for sustainable development has been painstakingly crafted, St Lucia looks set to be the standout Caribbean destination over the coming decade – a true shelter from the financial storm.