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POLITICS AND PROPERTY PRICES

With the elections on Anguilla so recently completed, it's nigh on impossible not to look at the impact of politics on property prices within the Anguillian context-and I just can't fight the impossible.

From my perspective, over the past six years real estate values on Anguilla increased steadily across the island--with a stronger upward tilt for coastal land and completed homes. During this time, the number Alien Land Holding Licenses that were activated remained fairly constant at approximately twenty per year-with the actual number of approved Licenses being (inevitably) somewhat higher. Interestingly enough, undeveloped property was the purchase of choice during the first half of the six year period, with the preference shifting to finished homes during the second half.

Real estate demand remained fairly constant since the mid 90's based on the number of completed Licensed transactions--however concerns over our political turmoil began to be heard more frequently from prospective purchasers during the last few months. With the election process now completed, I'd expect a continuation of, and an increase in, previous levels of real estate activity on Anguilla-whereby License applications will probably result in an average of twenty to thirty completed foreign transactions per year. Given Anguilla's stated preference for high value, low density, up-market development, the majority of these sales will in all likelihood be individual homes and home sites-not condominium or time share purchases. Such a pace of activity (i.e. 20 to 30 activated Alien Land Holding Licenses per year) should be able to both sustain, and be sustained by, Anguilla's construction crews and trades men-without putting undue pressure on the island's infrastructure.

It's been interesting to note over the last number of years how many property owners on Anguilla seemed to feel that Licenses were not being issued at all, or very sparingly-in fact, as far as I'm aware, Land Licenses were approved for the vast majority of applicants. Obviously not all applicants were successful in their effort for approval, but based on my experience refusal was rare-one reason for this being the difficulty in turning down deals that result in substantial revenue for Anguilla (tax receipts, duty income, construction wages, accommodation tax, etc). In truth, private expatriate residential real estate purchases and development are a major, and in many ways unsung, component of the island's economy-related to, but not certainly the same as, tourism in general.

One way to greatly improve the economic productivity of expatriate residential real estate development would be to decrease the amount of time required for License approval--with consideration being given to waiving the interview requirement for any expatriate wishing to purchase an existing home. Over the past six years, the average length of time that elapsed between interview and license completion was four to five months-if this were simply cut down to a month or two, the vast majority of a purchaser's anxiety would be overcome. Of course, if the required interview was waived for the purchase of an existing home, approval should take a month or two from submitting a properly completed License Application-no need to be quicker (or more deliberate) than that for the average residential transaction.

On a final note, it is important to remember that the highest and best use of rocky foreshore on Anguilla is expatriate residential development-especially in light of the traditional Anguillian preference to locate their homes on interior locations. Homes built off the coast are more protected from depreciation caused by sea blast, salt spray and hurricane winds, hence the logical local focus on interior sites-however, expatriates are more than ready to finance the additional costs associated with coastal development. In addition, given the fact that coastal land on Anguilla is seldom viable for agriculture, expatriate home development is the best opportunity for putting the land to good use. However, as I've written previously, this foreign coastal development must be sensitive to, and allow for, Anguillians traditional relationship with the sea by providing access to the coast-and along it.

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