Cayman Islands Real Estate Blog
MARKET REPORT 2017 MID YEAR REPORT
2016-09-21 12:47:05 by JC Calhoun
An honest appraisal of the Cayman marketplace

Review
In our last report we predicted renewed confidence in the US & UK and increasing business activity in Cayman. Those two predictions have certainly been in evidence. This is mirrored by the stock market levels, continuing growth in our tourism industry in Cayman, and a generally more positive outlook.

General Outlook
The year to date CIREBA Statistical Report shows very similar volume to YTD 2016 for active listings and sales. This is good news as 2016 was our first strong year in some time. As we have mentioned previously not all segments of the market move at the same pace or even in the same direction. But today most sectors are going in the same positive direction to a greater or lesser degree. It is just the pace which varies from sector to sector. We have to keep that in mind when media headlines tout “markets on fire” or “depressed markets”. Generally, it is the improvement of tourist related sectors which jump starts our economy, like beach and waterfront properties. Canal properties follow and inland properties are last to rise. It is also generally Residential markets which lead the way, then Commercial markets and then Industrial, as the people involved need services, and then the service businesses need supplies. That is what is happening now as most market sectors are feeling some degree of increase depending on where they are in the pecking order above.

Condos
Condo supply is up YTD by 35% but the increase is largely in developments off 7 Mile Beach which is demonstrated by the total value of all condo listings being about the same as it was this time last year. The # of condo units sold is down 14% YTD and the dollar value of sales is down 27%. Again this has much to do with this market sector being most recently fuelled by non-7 Mile Beach sales. But we also mentioned last issue that as 7 Mile Beach condo prices continue to rise due to short supply, the higher prices would begin to slow the pace of sales a little. That has begun to happen.

Single Family Homes
Supply of homes is up YTD by 13% and the total value of listing prices is off slightly. Meanwhile, the # of sales YTD is off by 29% and the dollar value by 30%. Over the last few years, (especially 2015) there were a lot of house sales. Many of the most attractive homes at the most attractive prices, were sold and the remaining supply at the most attractive prices, is not as appealing in our view. However, prices of the most expensive nicer homes are beginning to come down, so we will probably see more high level homes sold in the last half of the year, which will push the average sale prices up again.

Multi-Family
With interest rates so low this has been a popular sector with Purchasers. This year existing supply is down 30% due to last years strong sales activity. YTD for 2017 the number of sold properties is down about 57% over last year, but the value of those properties which did sell is up 66% so fewer properties sold, but either better quality or larger complexes are selling.

Land
Land listings have decreased by about 9% over last year. Land sales are almost identical to last years as is the value of those sales. It is still Crystal Harbour leading the way, but there is also more building activity in Grand Harbour and the Shores than we have seen in a while. With confidence levels rising it should not be long before increased sales activity will lead to rising prices, but especially in inland land, that is not yet in evidence.

Sister Islands
The Sister Islands are still waiting for the improved market we are feeling in the Tourist Sectors of Grand Cayman to show up over there. In Little Cayman sales of detached homes have increased a bit which is encouraging.

Local Election Results
The election process in Cayman this time around was “interesting”. The move to “one man one vote” as expected resulted in more Independents running and being elected. So much so that neither party was able to achieve a majority. As a result, all sorts of combinations of Parties and Independents were agreed, announced, and then reneged upon throughout a pretty messy and unsettling week. The final results are: 7 PPM Members and 3 CDP Members joining forces, and with 3 Independents formed a Government ostensibly coming together “for the good of the country”.

The Ministries were divided with Hon. Joey Hew getting the nod to oversee most of the directly Real Estate Industry related departments. We welcome that change and hope a new point of view can help remove some of the totally unnecessary bureaucracy which has built up in a number of departments and makes doing business in Cayman much more difficult than it needs to be.

Although Hon. Tara Rivers is now Minister of Financial Services, which is obviously a very important ministry, it is unfortunate that she could not continue her good work in Education. As we see it the previous failures in our Education System have led directly to our local labour issues. If we can’t be sure our children are getting the best possible education, then the industries into which they matriculate cannot possibly maintain any level of excellence either. And that includes the “all important” Financial Services Sector. We hope Hon. Minister Julianna O’Connor-Connolly with her background in teaching will continue Hon. Minister Rivers proactive approach to education.

Perhaps the most disturbing election result was Mr. Marco Archer losing his seat in George Town. It is a sad commentary that someone who was arguably our most able MLA and also Finance Minister, and in fact voted the Caribbean’s best legislator for 2016, was so unappreciated by the George Town voters. To his credit Marco made the tragic political mistake of telling people what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear.

Landlords / Tenants Rights
Over the years here, in the rental market the rights of tenants have become stronger and stronger while the rights of landlords have become weaker. I suppose that is not surprising considering the fact that Cayman is really only a small town of 66,000 people who now have 19 political representatives who need to take the side of tenants in order to get reelected. Add to that the themes of political correctness and the rights of minorities which have been championed by the liberal media all over the world. The problem with all this is that the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of the tenant that few want to manage rental properties anymore (that’s why we stopped) and many owners of rental properties don’t want to own them anymore. It has gotten to the point that in a dispute, the landlord cannot even depend on the terms of his signed lease anymore. We are seeing the same thing with banks being forced to tippy toe around dead beat mortgagees even though the terms of the loan agreement are generally very clear. What does “human rights” mean if it does not apply equally to the Landlord and the Lender? Most were human last time we checked! To make matters worse a new draconian law has been written which makes it even worse for the Landlord and lenders, and the Police are already using this as a guideline even though it has not been passed. If Cayman Laws & behaviour continue in this direction, we will be seeing a lot fewer rental properties being built and a lot fewer mortgages being granted. Let’s hope the new Government can reintroduce some common sense and equanimity into this equation.

New Development
All of a sudden there is a lot of development activity projected for the west side of Grand Cayman. This is not surprising based on the lack of supply in this market sector. A new development has been announced on the old Pageant Beach site called The Pageant Beach Hotel Resort. This is slated to be a 10 story Hotel Resort with 450 units for sale making it the most ambitious residential project ever in the Cayman Islands. This 7.1 acre site at the base of 7 Mile Beach was the site of an early hotel also called the Pageant Beach Hotel, which burned down in the 1970’s. The property has always been interesting in that it has not only a long stretch of waterfront, but also very good depth with sunset views as well as views toward the downtown waterfront and cruise ships. Only about 25% of the waterfront is beach, however, with the bulk of it resembling the Grandview waterfront. We understand the Developers (HHG) are the same group which has refurbished the Treasure Island Hotel and converted it to Margaritaville. Sales and marketing have begun at prices ranging from US$545,000 up for 1 bedrooms to US$1.2M up for 2 beds and nearly $5M for a few 3 bed penthouses. The huge scope of the development may make this a tough sell, and even if sales are strong, there will likely be a long wait for a residence to use. If that is not an issue, however, and if the deposits are held in escrow until the start of construction, you may find this project interesting.

Right on the heels of the above was announced a yet to be named 5 story 60-unit Boutique/Hotel complex on the land which used to house the Almond Tree & Tree House Restaurants. These units will be sold but will be required to be in the rental pool for most of the year, so this is much more of an investment approach, by NCB Developments.

Roadworks
The puzzle which has been the roadworks both from Kings Sports Centre to the west and from the Thompson Roundabout to the Butterfield Roundabout through Camana Bay is becoming clearer. One can now finally begin to get a sense of the finished product. Estimates for completion now point to September and hopefully it will not only be our curiosity which will be relieved. Here’s hoping traffic flow will be as well.

Crime
Crime reared its ugly head lately with gunshots fired in a gang related incident, as well as several robberies. It was good to see a strong response by the police and we hope that is an indication of a continuing proactive direction by local law enforcement. While this may not be a lot of violence relative to other jurisdictions, crime is definitely on the increase in Cayman. And if you were to ask anyone looking for a place to vacation or to which to relocate, what the single most important factor is for them, the vast majority would say a safe environment. If we give away our well deserved reputation as possibly the safest locale in the Caribbean, we will have lost everything, and we will enter the downward spiral that is all too visible in many other Caribbean countries. So we all better take notice right now and turn this around.

Solar Power
After many years of “false starts” and “soon comes” from CUC and various potential wind and solar developers, Solar has come to Cayman. The sale of a contract for a renewable energy facility to North Carolina–based Entropy Management by the original Pittsburg–based tender winner led to the current 20,000 Solar Panel array now operating on a site in Bodden Town. This facility is expected to provide about 5MW of the 100MW Cayman demand. CUC will pay Entropy $.17/KW, adding to that its own “base rate costs” to arrive at a retail price to customers of about what we are already paying. (So much for the consumer savings part of renewable energy). During the early stages of introducing this new energy sources to the grid, service disruption for short periods can be expected.

Permanent Residency
With the elections now safely in the rearview mirror, Government seems ready to address the issue of about 1,000 Applications for Permanent (working) Residency which have been ignored for the last 4 years. Letters have gone out asking applicants to update their applications if they wish, and once that is done the earliest applications may be heard within the next 30 days. Applications are being heard in the order they were received. Considering the huge time delay and the fact that many of the benchmarks have been changed recently by Government, it is likely most of the applications will have to be updated (that is if the applicant hasn’t died of old age or just been put off by the whole process which was likely one of the intended purposes). Regardless, I am sure we will be hearing about this issue going forward. In fact, we were surprised there was no ultimatum already given to our Government about this issue by the UK, as popular as “Human Rights” is these days.

For the Applicants of Residency with Independent Means, that bar has also recently been raised. The 25-year certificate now requires a $1.0M Real Estate investment (up from $500K) and an annual income of $120K or a local “nest egg” of $400K. The “Permanent” Permanent Residency Certificate investment (as opposed to the 25-year version) has risen to $2.0M in developed Real Estate (up from $1.6M). Plus dependents now must pay an annual fee of $1K (as opposed to a one time). Residency on the Brac is the best deal in town at $500K (up from $250K).

New Governor
Current Governor Helen Kilpatrick’s term was extended to accommodate the appointment of the new Governor Mr. Anwar Choudhury. Mr. Choudhury (58) will take office in March 2018. Most recently Mr. Choudhury has served as the UK’s Ambassador to Peru. Born in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and a British Citizen it is somewhat unusual for someone not born in the United Kingdom to receive such an appointment. In a previous posting as British High Commissioner in Bangladesh, (wherein Mr. Choudhury was Britain’s first ethnic minority senior high Commissioner appointed to that position), he was targeted by Islamic Militants and was wounded in that attack. He has significant British Military as well as e-government experience. We fervently hope that Mr. Choudhury finds his Cayman posting much less exciting than some of his previous ones!

Forecast
We are right in the middle of our “slow season” however, one only has to drive down 7 Mile Beach or eat at one of our many great restaurants to see the surprising numbers of tourists in Cayman in June/July. This is great news for the Cayman economy and will further feed the improving Real Estate Market. We expect this trend to continue. Cayman has so much going for it, so many reasons for people to want to vacation and live here, and such a limited market supply. Without a significant increase in supply of existing buildings, we should still find the demand increasing and pushing prices higher. For these reasons we predict sunny skies and balmy weather for our market this Fall punctuated by an occasional shower due to lack of inventory.