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Island Living – Psst… Mr Twain

Island Living – Psst… Mr Twain

The many reasons why expats love The Bahamas

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
June 22, 2010
June 22, 2010

Mark Twain famously observed that everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. As it turns out, some do: They move to The Bahamas.

The Bahamian weather is, in a word, glorious. It has always been so. Christopher Columbus remarked on it when he made his landfall in the New World on a Bahamian island in 1492. Three centuries later, George Washington was so taken by the climate that he called The Bahamas “the isles of perpetual June.”

The president-to-be may have overstated the case a bit, but the fact remains that the 700 main islands (and thousands of smaller ones) of The Bahamas enjoy an average of 315 days of sunshine every year.

The weather is without doubt the main reason why so many people make the decision to buy, build or rent a dwelling and live here. But it is by no means the only one.

Visitors talk about an indefinable sense of well-being that comes with full- or part-time island living. Perhaps it has to do with the clean, fresh air, the beauty and crystal clarity of the warm Bahamian sea or the splashes of floral colour that grace gardens, fences and walls everywhere you look.

It could be something as simple as the sun’s warmth on your shoulders as you take an al fresco breakfast by the pool–made all the more delicious when the gales of winter are howling up north. Whatever that indefinable thing is, it makes expats look around, take a deep breath and think: This is as good as it gets.

It’s only natural
Once you experience The Bahamas, it’s only natural to start thinking about owning a condo, a seaside apartment or a palatial home here–overlooking a golf course, perhaps, or opening up a breathtaking view of the ocean. You might contemplate how pleasant it would be to dock your boat a few steps from the back door.

Although it’s not for everyone, you may have arrived at that station of life when you can consider owning your own ultra-exclusive island. Many do, including a congregation of celebrities: Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Eddie Murphy, David Copperfield and country music stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, to mention only a few, all own islands in The Bahamas.

Another longtime resident celebrity is actor Sean Connery, who has a home in posh Lyford Cay. Lyford is the oldest and best known, but by no means the only, high-end gated community in The Bahamas. There are literally scores of high-end developments around the islands.

Of course, there’s more than a lovely climate and subtropical beauty to recommend The Bahamas as a place to live, retire, have a second home or just spend a few restorative weeks every year.

There’s scuba diving, for example, tennis, golf, yachting, deep-sea fishing, swimming, wind surfing, fine dining, dancing, live entertainment, horseback riding, gambling… Well, one could go on.

But the appeal of the islands goes beyond even all this, for The Bahamas is not only a wonderful place to own a dream home, it is a premier location to invest your money and grow your wealth. In fact, many high-net-worth folks invest here and then follow their money to enjoy the lifestyle.

Wishful thinking
Deciding to pick up and move to the sunny Bahamas may start out as wishful thinking, but the closer you look at the possibility, the better it gets.

The Bahamian Government levies no taxes on incomes, profits, wealth, consumption or the proceeds of trusts and inheritances. Property taxes are low, and the government does everything it can to make you feel welcome so that you can come, go and stay in the country as you wish–with a minimum of bureaucratic fuss.

Of course, there are always practical matters to consider before investing hard-earned money, or living in, another country.

For example: is the country stable? The answer is quite simply “yes.” The Bahamas is a long-established constitutional democracy based on the British parliamentary system. The two-house legislative branch is made up of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Assembly that dates back to 1729.

The Bahamas became completely self-governing in 1964 and achieved full independence from Britain in 1973.

Is the economy sound? Again, the answer is yes. It’s based on tourism, which yields about half of the gross domestic product, followed by offshore banking, accounting for another 20 per cent. Many of the world’s largest international banks and trust companies are located here, engaged principally in managing assets for wealthy individuals.

Education is a natural concern for families moving to a new location. A sizeable portion of the national budget is allocated to education, and there are a number of excellent private schools in New Providence and Freeport, some of which are internationally accredited.

There are two major hospitals in New Providence and one in Grand Bahama with US, Canadian, European and University of West Indies-trained doctors and nurses.

If you plan to build your own dream home in The Bahamas, there is a wide choice of experienced architects and construction firms who know the designs and materials appropriate to the subtropics.

Market picking up
Home hunters will find a large selection of apartments, condos, townhouses and estate homes for sale throughout The Bahamas, as well as choice parcels of oceanfront and canalfront property.

Turnkey dwellings come with many or all of the amenities of the good life: pools, jacuzzis, patios and sundowner decks, along with well-appointed kitchens and beautifully furnished dining rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. To find them, newcomers are well advised to use only real estate agents accredited by the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA).

The market, which has been “a bit soft” due to the worldwide recession, is picking up, according to BREA president William Wong of RE/MAX Ocean Realty Bahamas.

Wong says foreign buyers are “taking a wait-and-see attitude, looking for good buys.” He notes that the Bahamian market is resilient, unlike the US market, “and prices remain strong.”

Realtor John Christie of H G Christie Ltd says the housing market, like the economy, is recovering from the recent downturn. “We are seeing steady improvements and increased activity … while we are by no means where we were in, say, 2007, our real estate markets are getting healthier every day.”

Jason McCarroll of Seaview Properties notes that escalating taxes in Britain and the rest of Europe are encouraging high-net-worth individuals and families to take a closer look at moving to, and buying property in, The Bahamas–including luxury condos, apartments, homes and private islands. These fed-up Europeans see the warm and inviting Bahamas as an appealing alternative, says McCarroll.

As well, George Damianos of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty believes the market is “adjusting to the recession, and because of this there is more movement … sales are happening.”

Sellers, apparently, are becoming more realistic, and Damianos believes that, “as we move further into 2010, the market will improve and properties will change hands. The statistics are very encouraging and show that business is improving.”

Templeton Global Advisors president Cindy Sweeting extols virtues of patience, world view when investing

Ultra-high-net-worth individuals, corporations give generously to charities, worthy causes

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