House Hunting in the Bahamas: A Remote Beachfront Bungalow (Published 2021) (2023)

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The region’s housing market is recovering not just from the pandemic, but from Hurricane Dorian in 2019. And that recovery is in full swing.

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A Barrier Island Paradise in the Bahamas15 PhotosView Slide Show ›

Courtesy of The Ansell Group/Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty

By Roxana Popescu

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A Two-Bedroom Villa on a Barrier Island in the Bahamas

$2.85 MILLION

This two-bedroom villa is on a barrier island off the east coast of Andros, the largest of the Bahamian Islands. The 3,175-square-foot home, built in 2020 in the resort community of Kamalame Cay, stands on stilts 14 feet above sea level and has 150 feet of white sand beachfront on a three-quarter-acre lot.

The house, named Allamanda, maximizes indoor-outdoor living through its many glass doors and windows, said Vanessa Ansell, with The Ansell Group, part of the Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, which has the listing. “When you’re standing anywhere in the house and you’re looking out, whether it be to the sound, which would be to your west, or to the great barrier reef, which would be to your east, you have completely unobstructed views,” she said.

From the driveway, stairs lead to a front porch with a pair of double doors. The house is organized nearly symmetrically, with a living room and kitchen in the center and a bedroom on either side. The living room, with 18-foot vaulted ceilings, has white beams and ceiling fans, white sofas and an entertainment center. To the right is a black-and-white kitchen with open shelving, white wood cabinets, and twin wicker pendant lights hanging above a black quartz breakfast counter.

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House Hunting in the Bahamas: A Remote Beachfront Bungalow (Published 2021) (2)

The bedrooms have en suite bathrooms and air-conditioning units. The villa is being sold furnished, and plans have been drawn for a 700-square-foot third bedroom, 260 additional square feet of decks and a pool, Ms. Ansell said.

From the bedrooms and living room, doors open to an 1,800-square-foot covered beachfront porch. Several eating and relaxation areas make the porch a prime perch for taking in the view while dining or dozing. A wood staircase leads down to the water.

The villa’s owner has the option of buying a membership at the Kamalame Cay resort and using its amenities, including tennis courts, restaurants, a swimming pool and an outdoor cinema, Ms. Ansell said.

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“It’s a stunning beach, a great shelling beach, being located off that barrier reef,” she said. “Nature is recycling itself on that beach, which is lovely.”

Andros, with around 8,000 residents, is 20 miles west of the island of New Providence, where most Bahamians live. Snorkeling and diving are popular activities in the area. Andros Town International Airport, about 15 miles south of this property, connects to Lynden Pindling International Airport, across the water in the capital city of Nassau. The residence can also be reached by a newly launched seaplane airline named COCO Bahama Seaplanes, Ms. Ansell said.

Market Overview

Travel restrictions and lockdowns in the early stages of the pandemic throttled tourism in the Bahamas, which in turn dampened home sales, agents said. But as the situation shifted last winter and restrictions were eased both locally and abroad, the housing market began moving again, particularly at the upper end.

“I mean, it’s so cliché, but I’m going to say it’s hot,” Ms. Ansell said.

Ed Newell, broker and co-owner of Abaco Estate Services, a Bahamas real estate agency focusing on luxury second homes, said the region’s real estate market is still recovering not just from the pandemic, but from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

The hurricane “was so devastating that it took six months to eight months just to clean up the debris before we could get started on the rebuild,” he said. “We’ve had a huge comeback since then. Especially since Covid, it’s been a super strong market.”

Demand has steadily grown as more pandemic-weary buyers discover that the Bahamas — the closest Caribbean island formation to Florida — is their ideal destination, said John Christie, the president and managing broker of H.G. Christie Limited, the Bahamas affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “Once things started opening up after Covid, we just had a lot of people coming down,” he said. “We’ve had rapid sales in all the luxury communities, especially on New Providence.”

It is now “the hottest real estate market that we’ve probably ever had,” he said.

Sales are closing at all price levels, leaving inventory tight at both the middle and upper tiers. Luxury prices are up 10 to 15 percent over their prepandemic levels, Mr. Christie said.

Ms. Ansell agreed that luxury inventory is low and prices are on the upswing. Some properties in her group’s portfolio have increased their asking prices as much as 30 percent, she said, and luxury properties are selling faster.

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“Homes that we would have seen be on the market for more than a year, we are now seeing them on the market for less than 30 days,” she said. “We’re talking price points of upward of $1 million, all the way up to $9 million and above.”

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According to data provided by Ms. Ansell’s agency, the average sale price across the Bahamas in 2020 was $359,079, with 3,179 homes listed for sale. In the first six months of 2021, the average price was up to $628,887, with 2,244 homes listed, a spike that reflected the surge of pent-up demand after transactions lagged for so long.

Mr. Christie said desirable developments in Nassau include Old Fort Bay, Lyford Cay, Albany and Ocean Club Estates. Harbour Island, known for its long pink beach off New Providence, is also drawing high-end buyers. Prices at the top can reach up to $50 million, he said.

Even though pickings are increasingly slim, there are still opportunities for middle-tier buyers. “Even on New Providence, you can get waterfront properties for under a million,” Mr. Christie said. On some of the archipelago’s outer islands, waterfront properties are available for $500,000. Small ocean-view lots on Eleuthera start at $25,000, and on Eleuthera and Exuma, beachfront homes start at around $800,000, he said. In Nassau, upscale condos start at $700,000.

On the remote Abaco islands, north of Andros and New Providence, several planned developments are expected to expand supply, but it remains scarce, Mr. Newell said. Vacant lots and canal home inventory “is down to 10 percent of what it was pre-Dorian,” he said. Fixer-uppers, he added, “are all gone now. We sold the last one last week.”

The Bahamas’ outer islands are desirable because of their remoteness and low density, Mr. Newell said, noting that buyers aren’t just reacting to one crisis, but preparing for the next. “Everyone’s of the opinion that this is not going to be the first pandemic,” he said. “If they can afford it, they’re looking out for their families and adding a second place to go to.”

Who Buys in the Bahamas

Ms. Ansell said buyers to the Bahamas typically come from the United States, Canada and Britain.

Mr. Christie said buyers of luxury properties are mostly foreign. Bahamians are buying as well, but in the middle market. As the pandemic has waned, the Bahamas have seen a surge of buyers from the United States. “I think their profile is probably still the same,” he said, adding that now there are “more.” Buyers also continue to come from Canada and Europe, in waves, according to when their travel restrictions wax and wane, he said.

Speaking of U.S. buyers, Mr. Newell said most come from “no further west than Texas.” The exception: California.

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Buying Basics

For the most part, first-time non-Bahamian buyers can buy a developed home or fewer than two acres of vacant land without restriction, said Robert Van Wynen, a partner with Alexiou, Knowles & Co., a Bahamas law firm based in Nassau and Abaco. Foreigners who wish to buy a second home, or under certain other conditions, must obtain a permit from the Bahamas Investment Authority, which typically takes a few weeks and costs $500, if approved.

Buyers of residences valued at $750,000 or more are eligible to apply for permanent residency in the Bahamas.

Attorneys handle real estate transactions, Mr. Van Wynen said. Fees for legal services are typically capped at 2.5 percent of the purchase price, plus a value-added tax of 12 percent. Other closing costs include a value-added tax on the title deed (which used to be called stamp duty), and which varies depending on the value. In most cases, this tax is shared by the buyer and seller, he said. Other smaller fees and charges, such as for title searches and recording the deed, generally add up to about $1,000.

Websites

Languages and Currency

English; Bahamian dollar (1 Bahamian dollar = $1)

Taxes and Fees

Ms. Ansell estimated the annual property taxes on this home at around $25,000.

Contact

Vanessa and Christopher Ansell, The Ansell Group, Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, 011-242-359-3947; sothebysrealty.com

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