Historically, purchasing a home in Bermuda as an international buyer has been reserved for the world’s wealthiest individuals. On this beautiful island, where space and land is limited, Bermudian homebuyers themselves were hard-pressed to find a “fixer-upper” cottage for less than $1 million. Restrictions previously placed on foreign ownership meant that the entry level for home ownership was a minimum of $4 million.
However, following the fallout from the global financial crisis in 2008, property prices on average have fallen by 30 to 40 percent in some categories, mostly condominiums.
In an attempt to stimulate the property market, the Bermuda Government did two things: First, they reduced the licence fee for non-Bermudians purchasing condominiums from 18 percent of the purchase price to 6 percent and from 22 percent to 8 percent for houses, which represents huge savings. Second, they decreased the restrictions on which properties overseas purchasers could buy, and as a result, a great majority of the condo market is available to these buyers now. According to Brittany Archer, a principal of The Property Group Ltd., this move has spurred an interest amongst many overseas purchasers in considering a market they might have previously not. “Condos offer greater maintenance options and an ease of management and overall less stress than a large home that is more challenging to leave unoccupied. Land taxes are also far less with a condo rather than a freestanding home,” says Archer.
“Two-bedroom waterfront condos can now be purchased by non-Bermudians for as little as $550,000 at The Breakers #15 (formerly The Mermaid Beach Club) near the South Shore beaches, which are unique in their proximity to the water as well as having the convenience of public transport. There are 44 units ranging in size from 500 square feet to 2,300 square feet,” she reports.
The sky is the limit for high-end condos. Some of the condominium developments that are available to overseas purchasers feel more like homes than an apartment or condo. These include The Belmont villas and Tucker’s Point and Hidden Cove condos. For example, most of the homes available at Tucker’s Point, despite being classified as condos, can be from 3,000 square feet for two-storey townhomes, which sell for around $2.8 million, to more than 4,200 square feet for the larger stand-alone homes having their own pools on over half an acre of land, with price tags of around $5.5 million. Tucker’s Point is the largest completed development on the island, with construction having started in 2001 and the last residence completed in 2012. The development is complete with golf course and club, an 88-guest-room hotel, fractional units, private beaches, beach club, two further clubhouses, swimming pools, multiple restaurants and spa. “International guests and residents alike continue to gravitate to the beauty and full-service lifestyle of Tucker’s Point, as the property remains Bermuda’s leading luxury hotel resort for golf, tennis, spa, beach and dining,” says Penny MacIntyre, partner at Rego Sotheby’s International Realty. “The anticipated new owners of Tucker’s Point have plans to further enhance the guest experience with lobby bar and additional food and beverage options throughout the property and to incorporate a marina.
”Not far from Tucker’s Point and currently under construction is The Loren, a hotel/condo development where owners can section off portions of their units or place the units in their entirety back into the hotel pool rather than let the property sit vacant. Prices here start at $4.2 million for a three-bed, three-and-a-half-bath, stand-alone home, which will enjoy the benefits of the waterfront hotel and club. “Since presale, the Villas at The Loren have appealed largely to residents and travellers who wish to own a modern property within a resort that’s easy to lock up when travelling or place into the hotel inventory to offset ownership costs,” MacIntyre continues. “Not everyone needs or wants golf or tennis or a large hotel resort development as a lifestyle choice, and The Loren offers the boutique setting.”
According to Sallyann Smith, a principal of The Property Group Ltd., the Azura boutique hotel in South Shore offers similar waterfront condos. Prices start at $849,000 for a two- to three-bedroom, whole ownership, income-producing apartment. The first units should be ready for occupation just in time for the America’s Cup in June 2017.
The ultimate in luxury will be made available soon to international buyers at Caroline Bay, an ultra-luxury, master-planned, waterfront community located on the west end of the island, in Southampton and Sandys parishes. The community will be home to a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort, introducing a level of luxury unseen in Bermuda and rare across the globe. Caroline Bay, Bermuda, is only the world’s fifth destination to feature a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort and only the third to offer residences under the Reserve name. The first phase of development, slated for completion in 2017, will include 35 residences ranging from 1,946 to 3,203 square feet, plus private outdoor spaces including plunge pools or outdoor kitchens for entertaining, says Kendra Mello, general manager at Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty. Every home is situated to take advantage of spectacular ocean views. Prices will start at $2.5 million. The development will also offer an ultra-high-end 79-room hotel, a superyacht marina, access to Port Royal Golf Course — a Troon Privé private club — and additional opportunities for future residences.
Freehold homes can be purchased with prices starting at around $3.5 million, which gets you a substantial home, with water views, four beds, four and a half bathrooms and a pool. “If you are feeling particularly flush, you could consider Lily Lodge in Tucker’s Town, where around $15 million will buy you a 6,872-square-foot home on 0.85 acre, with seven bedrooms, seven and a half bathrooms, swimming pool and its own dock on Castle Harbour,” advises Tom Sleeter of The Property Group Ltd. Also in the prestigious residential area of Tucker’s Town, for $23 million, you can buy the stunningly beautiful beachfront property Old Battery, with its main house and two cottages, nine bedrooms, nine and a half bathrooms, totaling 7,890 square feet on 4.5 acres of beachfront property with a pool and its own beach.
“We are fortunate to be representing the sale of a number of new, beautiful homes that will be available to international purchasers,” says Sue Lusher, agent and owner at Joy Lusher Real Estate Ltd. “These include a delightful home with waterfront on Harbour Road in Warwick boasting charming typically Bermudian architecture, privacy and sheltered waterfront with a dock, at the very competitive price point of $5.25 million.” She adds that “Our property market remains strong, and interest in investing in Bermuda real estate is high.”
Meanwhile, the island continues to attract more visitors with more than half a million visitors in the last 12 months, and air arrivals are up by 14 percent on last year, even before the America’s Cup begins. Bermuda is looking at other major sporting events, including submitting a bid to host the 2020 International Triathlon Union World Grand Final, with two World Series races in 2018 and 2019. It is also looking at more ways to promote its off-season times, October to April, when the weather is perfect for sports such as golf and tennis, especially for those coming from the colder climates of North America and Canada.
Bermuda has so much more to offer overseas purchasers and is definitely the place to buy your own “piece of the rock,” as the locals say. Not only are visitor numbers up, but so is the number of property sales, with 201 condos sold since 2014 and more than 135 homes changing hands during the same period.