HomeTravelThe best VIP WFH Caribbean villas hitting the market now
The best VIP WFH Caribbean villas hitting the market now
January 6, 2022
They’re livin’ la villa loca!
Resort developers enjoyed record years in 2020 and 2021 thanks to the pandemic privacy concerns of the superrich who bought up multi-million family estates in sunny island destinations.
Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty in the Bahamas saw a 300% increase in sales volume in 2021. Meanwhile 7th Heaven Properties, a UK-based firm that specializes in luxury homes around the region, told The Post that visits to its website from New York rose by more than 80% in November 2021 versus the same month in 2019.
But work from anywhere privacy wasn’t the only lure for villa-hungry New Yorkers — who made up a healthy hunk of buyers.
The Caribbean is a global hotspot for what’s known as citizenship by investment — essentially a legal process which bundles a passport along with the purchase of certain government-approved luxury real estate. Conventionally, second-passport seekers were from restrictive countries like Russia, but Americans now form the largest client contingent for specialty firm La Vida Golden Visas.
“It’s come out of nowhere,” said the firm’s Paul Williams, who says he suspects political divisions are the driving force, “It’s just taken off: We’re three times up this year what we were last year, let alone four or five years ago.”
Many of these nations are also offering tax benefits to global 1-percenters who are now living larger hunks of their year beachside, Williams added.
“Properties close to lifestyle interests like golf, boating and resort-style excursions are most popular,” said Philip White, president & CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty, noting that many are branded residences in partnership with hotels. “Owners can earn income when they’re not in use.”
Keen to dash out and cash in? Here’s a guide to the standout spots in the Caribbean for VIP WFH.
THE SCENE Glammy socialite couple David & Michael King-Hew operate the namesake hotel here, one of the Caribbean’s buzziest ever since David’s family bought the 96-acre scrubland island to open a hotel there 25 years ago. Pack a dry clean only bikini or two if you’re planning on a move to one of the new residences: They’re launching for sale this month.
SALES PITCH Just four new villas are on offer, each with a whimsical name, topping out at the three-bedroom, 6,100-square-foot Bridge Over Bali at $6.5 million. Every home comes with between 100 and 300 feet of private beachfront, too.
FELLOW SUNBIRDS It’s easier to say who hasn’t been here than who has: Serena Williams honeymooned here, and Justin Timberlake, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman have stayed, too. Oh, and the late New York billionaire David Rockefeller used to own a villa here.
TAXING QUESTIONS Bahamas residents enjoy no direct taxation — that’s no personal or corporate income tax, no wealth or inheritance tax and no capital gains.
THE RUM THING For a while, this country was BYOB — bring your own Bacardi. At least, after the rum giant pulled its operation here in 2009 and turned the Bahamas into one of the Caribbean’s only countries without homegrown legal rum production. That changed thanks to upstarts like John Watling’s, a distillery on the Buena Vista Estate that was featured in “Casino Royale” (and was once owned by Bacardi)
CHARTER PRICES Nassau airport can handle planes of any size — a heavy jet one-way this January will be $50,000 to $73,000 per Jettly’s CEO Justin Crabbe. It’s a short helicopter jaunt from there over to the Cay.
THE SCENE Fancy a perch on Mustique’s next-door neighbor, another of the 32 islands that make up St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Bequia (say it “BEK-way”) is a shabby-chic antidote to that tony but uptight neighbor. Firefly Villas sit beachfront in an old 18th-century colonial estate, a plantation filled with mango, banana and guava trees.
SALES PITCH The developers, including longtime owners of one of Mustique’s only hotels, of the Firefly have just started selling individual villas, with two bedrooms starting at 1,600 square feet and costing from $490,000.
FELLOW SUNBIRDS Keep an eye out at Jack’s Beach Bar, on Princess Margaret Beach, for anyone with a cap pulled low or a pair of oversized sunglasses and you’ll spot slumming-it celebs like Michael Douglas, or day-trippers from Mustique like Mick Jagger.
TAXING QUESTIONS You can buy a home here after securing an easy-to-score Alien Landholders License, and it’s a cinch to segue from that to a work permit. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has one of the strongest financial privacy laws in the world, keeping details about your P&L on the DL.
THE RUM THING You can only try Sunset Very Strong rum on the ground here — its 84.5% ABV means it’s too flammable to tote home on the plane.
CHARTER PRICES There are no directs to Bequia from NYC, but most visitors hop a puddle jumper over from Barbados. A charter’s possible, too, though Crabbe says Bequia’s 3,700-foot-long usable runway makes it a tight takeoff for heavy jets — keep your party numbers down, and a one-way from Teterboro, NJ, starts at $27,000 in January.
THE SCENE You’re definitely able to look down on everybody from here, at one of the 89 residences above the highest spots on the island, St. James Point — even better, you’re far from the glut of luxury properties that jostle for attention around Seven Mile Beach. Breaking ground this year, they’re anticipated to complete by 2024.
SALES PITCH The minimum buy-in here is $4 million, with a range of residences from two- to four-bedrooms. Each one has its own veranda and direct ocean views.
FELLOW SUNBIRDS Model Selita Ebanks is a native and Sir Richard Branson has been lured out of his own Caribbean hideaway for a visit or two.
TAXING QUESTIONS Tax-savvy types have long flocked to the Caymans, yet another place that’s tax neutral with no corporate levies, payroll taxes, property taxes and the like. Buyers of real estate like this development can acquire a permanent residency certificate after filling out a few forms once they close.
THE RUM THING Tortuga Rum is the national brand, founded by a pilot and his flight attendant wife in the 1980s. The recipe for its offshoot — a delicious, if potent rum cake — is her family secret.
CHARTER PRICES This is such a private jet hotspot that, per Jettly, you can grab a one-way light charter next month from here starting from just $15,000.
THE SCENE The ultra-luxe hotel on one of the Caribbean’s quieter islands — nicknamed the Spice Isle, for its main crops — launched a resident program in summer 2021, debuting a cluster of eight branded residences on the white sand Grand Anse Beach that earn owners the right to use the hotel’s own facilities, too.
SALES PITCH You’re guaranteed at least 4,800 square feet of indoor space, plus more than 2,000 square feet of outdoor deck space and a 1,636-square-foot private pool at every property here. Prices start at $7 million.
FELLOW SUNBIRDS Lewis Hamilton has Grenadian heritage, but it’s a fash-pack fave: both Anna Wintour and Michael Kors have been spotted here. Britain’s no-nonsense Princess Anne prefers this to her late aunt’s hangers-on-filled hangout in Mustique.
TAXING QUESTIONS It’s a big turnaround for the one-time British colony, where socialists tried to wrestle control of the government in the 1980s before America intervened. Now, Grenada offers one of the cheaper citizenship by investment programs, allowing those who invest a minimum $220,000 in a government-approved real estate project — yep, this one counts — and hold it for at least five years, to score a passport.
THE RUM THING Make Westerhall Estate rum your house tipple: The estate’s been distilling rum since the late 1700s, but the current owners have upgraded its output, finessing the recipe and focusing on starting sugarcane cultivation on-island so that the raw materials can all be locally sourced.
CHARTER PRICES Peak season one-way scoots down to this southern island are a little higher — expect to pay between $30,000 and $73,000 depending on jet size.
THE SCENE This tiny island of Barbuda, beloved by Princess Di in her single years, has become a 21st-century jet-set hideaway thanks to this 700-acre community, part of the Discovery Land Company network. It’s helped rebuild the economy and infrastructure here after Hurricane Irma leveled most of its 62 square miles in 2017, precipitating the evacuation of all 1,800 inhabitants.
SALES PITCH Take your pick between ready-to-build land and move-in ready homes in the complex, with prices between $3 to $12 million.
FELLOW SUNBIRDS DLC developer Mike Meldman is a business partner and BFF with Rande Gerber and George Clooney via the Casamigos tequila brand, so keep an eye for them — as well as their respective wives — on property.
TAXING QUESTIONS A home in the country can lead to citizenship and spending 183 days or more on-island, you can benefit from another ultra-favorable (read: minimal) Caribbean tax system.
THE RUM THING Forget the regular rum. Try some Nut Power, a creamy Baileys-like cream packed with the bark known as bois bandé that’s reputed to be all-natural Viagra.
CHARTER PRICES A light plane down to VC Bird airport in Antigua next door will start at $23,000 one-way next month. Expect transits to be much easier, though, once upgrades under way to the on-island airstrip are completed: The 6,100-foot-long runway will be able to tackle even the biggest jets, making it just a four-hour direct flight from here.