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Anguilla Real Estate: Progress & Process

The real estate market on Anguilla has undergone changes of substantive proportions over the past few years, with 2004 / 2005 being the watershed period—anything anyone knew about real estate on island before that time had to be radically revised in order to keep abreast of the rapidly changing conditions and realities of the marketplace. The fundamental changes that transformed Anguilla from a sleepy secluded hideaway sought out by a knowing few to an internationally recognized high end destination sought out by the elite was brought about (primarily) by three economic factors and three social ones—whereby the three economic factors included extending the runway (which enabled corporate and private jets to land), the launching of Temenos (with it’s attendant golf course) and the launching of Viceroy (with it’s impressive marketing campaigns)…the three social factors included the Today Show (which featured Anguilla as a honeymoon paradise), the Brad Pitt / Jennifer Anniston Show (whereby they spent their final days as a couple here on island) and the Denzel Washington 50th Birthday Party Bash (which had mega yachts and celebrities galore off and on our shores). From 1976 (when I arrived) until 2004 / 2005 the pace of change was gradual and organic, digestible if you will--post 2004 / 2005 change has been surprisingly rapid and at times difficult to swallow…however, all things considered the growth has been managed quite well.

Prior to the watershed years, Anguilla real estate was characterized by the individual entrepreneur—be that as a home builder or as a hotel developer…whereby financing was largely a matter of personal wealth with the primary motivational focus was on lifestyle. Up until that time there were only two “managed communities” (i.e. condominium / townhouse / villa developments which include on site management and rental services) and they were quite small—all major hotels, mega villas and residential villas were personally owned entities with identifiable individuals as their proprietors…an era when “return on investment” was a surprisingly infrequent consideration.

After the watershed years, Anguilla real estate entered the modern era characterized by large scale investment and corporate ownership—with regard to tourism product in particular but (to a lesser degree, of course) also with reference to home construction…whereby large projects were no longer locally equated with individuals but with cooperate entities and homes were no longer built solely for use but for resale. This transformation has meant increased economic opportunity locally with increased choice for the overseas purchaser, and the transformation has brought Anguilla (inevitably, ultimately, considering the wondrous quality of our beaches) into the modern era whereby construction costs are off set by preconstruction sales—however change always stirs up nostalgia…to which, at times, I do fall prey.

With the foregoing in mind, however, Anguilla has been and remains a lovely place in which to live, to work, to vacation, to dine, to tour, to enjoy—and remains one of the most pristine islands in the Caribbean…with Government working diligently to ensure the qualities that have made Anguilla so desirable are not lost. In that effort, there are now two moratoriums in place regarding real estate—one on foreign owned large scale tourism investment (which is expected to remain in place for a number of years) and one on the alienation of property that is locally owned (which has been sequentially renewed a number of times for short periods as a new land policy is considered). Both moratoriums are intended to slow down the pace of development to give the island a chance to absorb and analyze what has been occurring and to chart intelligent sustainable paths forward—which are admirable intentions.

As such, the current polices regarding the procedure to purchase property on Anguilla may soon be radically revised, but for the moment the basic policies remain unchanged—whereby any foreigner wishing to purchase real estate on Anguilla must obtain an Alien Land Holding License from Government prior to being able to register real property in their name…be that name personal or corporate. An interesting element of the licensing approval process is the Government interview, which is required for all purchasers of real property—this interview gives Government an opportunity to get a rudimentary introduction to the purchaser (unless the purchase is to be substantial, whereby the information required is correspondingly much more detailed) and creates an awareness in the purchaser of who Government is and what it expects or requires.

Currently transfer taxes vary between managed communities (which have been granted lower stamp duty payments on title transfer along with higher annual property taxes) and individual home or land purchases (which carry a higher transfer obligation with a lower annual tax requirement)—however as the sale of individual homes has been hurt by the introduction of managed communities and as Government wants to encourage the sale of homes already alienated while taking pressure off the locally owned land market, I’d expect tax revisions to be enacted to lower the stamp duties payable on individual homes to make them more competitive with managed community offerings…and I’d expect the transfer tax (as well as the concomitant construction deposit and delayed completion penalties) to be increased for undeveloped land to (once again) increase demand for existing homes.

Lawyers and realtors and title insurance companies and home inspectors and contractors and construction mangers and villa management companies are all available on Anguilla to assist in the due diligence and purchase and construction process—and all are recommended as valuable components in the process to ensure everything goes smoothly and according to plan… however I’ve always believed and have always said that the most invaluable components of success are the retention of the common sense skills and business acumen that have enabled those high net worth individuals contemplating the purchase of property on Anguilla to be able to afford such a purchase in the first place.

Scott Hauser was born in the United States and moved to Anguilla in 1976, having been involved in numerous development and business ventures since his arrival on island. In 1989, Mr. Hauser left Anguilla for two years to pursue and earn a Pre-professional Degree in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Masters Degree in Real Estate Development from MIT, both universities being in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since returning to Anguilla in 1991, Mr. Hauser’s primary area of interest has been in the marketing and sale of luxury residential real estate, whereby he has represented Sotheby’s International Realty since 1995—initially as an unaffiliated associate and currently as a fully affiliated firm being the Director and Principal Realtor of “Anguilla Properties – Sotheby’s International Realty”. Mr. Hauser can be reached by email at scott.hauser@sothebysrealty.com / or by phone at 264.498.0123 / or via his web site at www.anguillaproperties-sothebysrealty.ai

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