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An inspired second

An inspired second

From luxurious estates to turnkey condo hotels, vacation homes in The Bahamas have never been more abundant

The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2006
January 1, 2006
Julie Charles

Whether your dream is to speculate or relocate, splurge or unearth a beachfront bargain, the market for second homes in The Bahamas has never offered so many points of entry to the island lifestyle. And if the commitment of a fully staffed estate residence is more responsibility than you want, you can always find keys to a growing selection of low-maintenance condos, condo hotels, timeshares and vacation club residences. The Bahamas is giving people of all aspirations abundant choices for second-home living.

“There really is something for everybody. That’s the beauty of The Bahamas,” says George Damianos, president of Lyford Cay Properties, Sotheby’s International Group, a luxury real estate specialist. “The variety … it’s so diverse. If someone says, ‘I’ve got teenage kids who want to eat in restaurants and dance in discos,’ well, where else would you put them but Paradise Island? Or if they say, ‘We don’t want to see a McDonald’s or a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign,’ where do we direct them? Well, we’ll look at Great Exuma, or let’s try Winding Bay [in Abaco].”

Charles Pisciotta and his wife Laura, from Columbus, OH, discovered their own dream getaway home in the planned community of Shoreline on Grand Bahama. Located less than 100 miles off the coast of Florida, and three miles from the pretty shops and marina of Port Lucaya, this 26-acre development is made up of three- to five-bedroom homes of up to 4,500 sq ft, priced from US$680,000 to more than $2.5 million.

“We did some research and thought The Bahamas was the best place to look,” says Pisciotta, a senior consultant with Accenture, who is well travelled after serving clients around the world for the global consulting and outsourcing company for more than 27 years. The couple had considered vacation properties in places like Seaside on the northwest coast of Florida, as well as the city of Naples. The first was deemed too expensive, the latter too busy.

“When we came across Shoreline, we decided almost instantly,” says Pisciotta, who had visited the developer’s website before contacting a local realtor to look at other homes on the island. They loved the sense of community and neighbourhood mix of local Bahamians, ex-pats from around the world and vacation property owners who mingle for happy hour by the clubhouse pool. The Pisciotta family had vacationed in The Bahamas several times as their three college-aged children grew up. Charles Pisciotta also counted the practical aspects of setting down a second set of roots here when he bought the property for $1.4 million in March 2004. “I was more interested in things like the stability of the government,” he says. “And I think the value of the house, for the price of the real estate, is very high,” he says, savouring the ocean view. The added incentive of no property tax in Freeport, Grand Bahama, as well as freedom from most customs duties, helps: On a million-dollar home, one can save $20,000 a year to comparable properties on the US coast, claims Shoreline developer Steve Jervis of KST Investments Ltd.

The Pisciottas are part of a growing group of people from North America, Latin America and Europe who are enjoying a part-time island lifestyle in The Bahamas. In its 2004/2005 International Residential Property Review, UK-based consulting company Knight Frank LLP noted that prices in the less-developed Out Islands of The Bahamas have been enjoying a steady increase, at about 10 per cent annually, “as demand for the island lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular.” The report cites rising affluence, availability of low-cost financing, and dissatisfaction with the performance of stock markets and pension funds among factors driving more households to acquire a second property.

What kind of experience are you looking for in your real estate? Here are a few more examples of the diverse residential and lifestyle investment options on the shores of The Bahamas:

What: Out Island solitude/condo hotel
Where: Pineapple Fields, Eleuthera
Here’s a truly affordable place you could call your own, just footsteps from a secluded beach that looks like powdered sugar. And there’s an additional financial inducement to this cozy subtropical retreat: As part of a condo hotel, it earns you money when you’re not home. Pineapple Fields is a simple but charming new development on the western shore of the island retreat of Eleuthera, close to Governor’s Harbour and the airport. This newly constructed 32-unit condo and boutique resort property sits nestled next to a three-mile crescent of beach. Nowhere near palatial–each unit is just 925 sq ft–its buildings are designed in a simple, classic Bahamian style, constructed with modern materials to withstand the elements. When you’re not in residence, Out Island Resorts Management Ltd will maintain your suite and rent it out at a rate averaging around US$175 per night, with 65 per cent going into your pocket. The remainder is used to market the rental pool, back and front office staffing and general administration. Don’t feel like cooking? Tippy’s, the local open-air beach bistro, was the first phase in the development to open, making good times a priority. Future plans include single family homes and a few private lots. According to Christopher Lightbourn, president of Pineapple Fields Development Co, the most affordable unit, pre-construction in 2004, was $185,000. Units now range from around $250,000 to $280,000, he says.

What: Resort action/vacation club
Where: Harborside Resort at Atlantis

Timeshare offers a slice of paradise at a fraction of the cost. This Starwood Vacation Ownership property, in the thick of all the action on Paradise Island, has even managed to attract a number of second-home buyers from just over the Gulf Stream in Florida, who appreciate the quick getaway. Club membership ranges from less than $15,000 to enjoy one week in a one-bedroom condo every two years, or upwards of $100,000 to get one week annually in a three-bedroom. While the purchase price gets you a deeded stake in this Starwood Vacation Ownership property in perpetuity (plus maintenance fees), this isn’t something that should be considered a real estate investment, says David Matheson, vice-president of corporate communications with Starwood Vacation Ownership in Orlando, FL. But the value of Harborside Resort, in terms of the points system, makes it one of the most valuable properties in Starwood’s worldwide roster, he says. “One week in The Bahamas can be exchanged for two or three weeks of time in other properties,” says Matheson. Not only are the diverse amenities of Harborside Resort just steps from your vacation home, you can enjoy full guest privileges at the Atlantis resort right next door.

What: Out Island, full-activity resort
Where: Great Guana Cay, off Abaco

The Discovery Land Company, headquartered in San Francisco under CEO Michael Meldman, has selected The Bahamas as site of its 12th residential community, the Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club. Currently in early development, the location is a quick luxury boat ride from the island of Abaco to the north end of Great Guana Cay. Luxury, because everything about Baker’s Bay is a poster for posh living, if your style includes sand between your toes and ocean breezes to cool your golf game. Even the prospector’s huts, built for potential buyers to check out the site, are luxurious. The development is planned to encompass a tropical community that includes 155 ocean-front lots and more than two dozen estate lots around a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, priced between US$2 million and $10 million. Additionally, several styles of developer-built properties will include marina village homes, beach club cottages and bungalows. Pricing is still open, but other ownership opportunities will include villa-style hotel units, with access to 180 boat slips, spa and recreational facilities and a commercial district featuring Bahamian products. The beachfront Club Lighthouse tops it all off as the centre of the Outdoor Pursuits Program. That’s the Discovery Land Company’s signature lifestyle and recreation concierge programme, designed to assist members with their leisure and sporting options, from scuba diving to gamefishing to boating and water sports. To protect its assets in The Bahamas, Baker’s Bay has pledged to maintain vegetation, enhance wildlife habitat, ensure water quality and promote coastal stability.

What: Lap of luxury/condos
Where: Ocean Club Residences & Marina, Paradise Island

Have trouble finding a slip large enough to fit your yacht whenever you’re back from the Med? The deepwater docks under construction at the Ocean Club Residences & Marina on Paradise Island will be able to accommodate boats of up to 120 feet, so you can tie right up to the lap of luxury. This condominium complex of four six-storey buildings is inside the private enclave of Ocean Club Estates and adjacent to the Ocean Club Golf Course. Each unit is arranged to take full advantage of prevailing breezes and striking views across Nassau Harbour. Most of the 88 spacious homes have three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, or are five-bedroom penthouses, ranging from about 3,000 to over 6,500 sq ft. A private beach club overlooks Cabbage Beach on the north shore of the island, complete with pool cabana, open-air bar and café. Owners can opt for golf club membership, priority marina slip purchase and can access dining and spa facilities at the nearby One&Only Ocean Club. Priced from US$1.85 million, units in the first phase are sold out, with sales of phase two well underway. The completion date is set for early 2007.

What: Old Bahamas, re-imagined
Where: Old Fort Bay, New Providence Island

The spacious porches, louvered shutters and lush tropical gardens inspired by the architecture of old Nassau are only the finer details of homes taking shape in Old Fort Bay, a waterfront gated community under development in western New Providence. “Most people think that building communities is about building houses and what the house looks like. That has nothing to do with it. It’s all about building the street and where you put the house,” says Orjan Lindroth, a developer of the project with New Providence Development. Built in a series of intimate canalside neighbourhoods, homes in each district will draw design elements from an architectural code of Caribbean and Mediterranean pro-portions and styles without dictating a prescribed look. At the hub of the social scene is the authentic Old Fort near the main gate, renovated in 2002 as a private members’ club. It was built by the British in the 1700s, “during a lawless period in colonial history,” according to lore, and became a more gracious plantation house a century later. The atmospheric décor evokes ’20s and ’30s casual glamour, where fans keep you cool on the veranda during cocktail hour in the shade of a giant silk cotton tree. Steps away, four-bedroom club villas are under construction and scheduled for completion in spring ’06. Villas are priced from US$2.2 million, and lots between $450,000 and $970,000.

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