‘PR’ points may hurt real estate market

Cayman-Real-Estate-Signs-Lead

There are concerns the Cayman Islands newly approved system that allows foreign workers who have lived here for eight consecutive years to apply for permanent residence may, at least in the short term, deflate the local real estate market.

Farrah Ramsay is among the potential home buyers who had been considering purchasing property in Cayman. She had been considering putting in an offer on a house, seeking to boost her chances of obtaining residency, but who is now likely to give up that effort and live elsewhere for a year.  

“With this new [PR points system] that you have to already invest $50,000 and still have no guarantee that you’re actually going to be given any assurance of anything,” she said. “Fifty thousand is a lot of money to put up front, knowing you have to leave in a year’s time. 

“And why would a bank give me a loan now? As of right now, my passport is only going to be stamped through Dec. 9,” she said.  

The point system, which judges whether a person can obtain permanent residence, offers up to 215 possible points and requires an applicant to earn 110 points to be granted residence. 

Up to 30 of those points can be earned by way of a rather complex calculation used to determine an applicant’s investment in local property or in a locally licensed company. It is as follows: total investment divided by 0.4 x average monthly income or salary x 60. The resulting number is then multiplied by 30.  

According to the proposal, total investment is calculated over the last five years with a minimum investment of $50,000. Maximum investment of $500,000 will be awarded the maximum 30 points for the category. Only the applicant’s income is taken into account and only the investments in his or her name will be counted.  

Total investment is either the purchase price and stamp duty paid for the property, less total liabilities remaining on that property or total payments toward the residential mortgage for the last five years, whichever is the higher number. Personal funds invested to make improvements in the property (not including borrowed or gifted money) which was transferred as a gift can also count in the points total.  

Investments in privately owned local small businesses that are solvent and the market value of stock investments in locally licensed and operated companies will also count toward the points total.  

To earn the full 30 points for this aspect of the permanent residence system, an applicant who makes $60,000 a year would need to personally make a total investment of $120,000. If a married couple purchased a property together, that investment doubles to $240,000.  

In other words, if a non-Caymanian is just now buying a property with the hope of getting permanent residence, the level of investment required would be massive.  

“The real estate market could be negatively affected as the need for a substantial initial investment and a more stringent points system act as deterrents,” said Daniel Altneu, a local immigration attorney. “Applicants could face the reality of narrowly missing out on a grant of permanent residence, needing to make plans to leave the Cayman Islands but being stuck with a property in a market in which it takes an average of one year to sell.”  

However, there is reason to believe in the longer term that it could help bolster real estate sales if enough work permit holders apply to live in the islands for the rest of their lives, according to representatives of the real estate industry.  

The ratio now being used to calculate investment in the permanent residence points system is “a positive step,” according to local realtor James Bovell.  

“Now, someone with a lesser income may be able to acquire the same amount of points as someone with a greater income if they invest sufficiently in property,” Mr. Bovell said. “This means that people on lower incomes are not necessarily penalized when making their permanent residency application. This, in turn, should help drive the real estate market.” 

That investment, Mr. Bovell said, is also being looked at in the longer term by government.  

“I believe that the requirement to show equity invested in a property rather than simply rely on the purchase price is also a positive step for the real estate industry and seems a fairer way for the [Immigration] Department to ascertain just how much a person has invested in a property,” he said.  

One concern Mr. Bovell has is that investment in Cayman is only measured five years prior to the permanent residence application being filed.  

“This means that new residents on island who hope to stay here long term and eventually apply for permanent residency will be deterred from making an investment in property straight away. 

Cayman-Real-Estate-Signs

Some are expressing concern that newly implemented rules regarding the issuance of permanent residency will have adverse effects on the Cayman Islands real estate market. – Photo: Chris Court
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8 COMMENTS

  1. If I could go back, i would have never bought property in Cayman. I have 2 apartments not specifically purchased for PR.. one was bought in my 3rd year in the island and my second my 6th year and both are way lower than what we paid and we cant sell them unless it is for below our cost. The market is saturated with 2bed/2bath condos going for 200k CI or less.. and if you own one of those, well good luck on selling it.
    The market is a buyers market and with changes in immigration, treaties signed with the US FATCA and soon the EU FATCA, the Cayman Islands are no longer a desirable place to do business. You factor in the high costs and you are better off somewhere else.
    An alternative to real estate is to investing in a local business. With solar and wind power coming to Cayman, i think if it was an option back then I would have done that than real estate. I see prices continuing to fall. The government needs to put a moratorium on new apartment construction as it saturates and devalues existing real estate.
    Ohh and if any Caymanian wants my job, they can go to University, graduate in finance or economics, do the CFA and work in finance/investment banking for 15 years. Pays 150/200k and its all yours…

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  2. At the end of the day Cayman only wants new citizens that not going to be burden on the state and are going to be positive members of the community. So the standards are high is that a bad thing of course not. I was amazed that when people who had just been naturalized were then asked if they has done any community work over their time in Cayman and the answers in the most was been to church or donated things to charity shops. I personally think that every person who wants to become a part of any society should contribute and then should be minimum requirement each year and combined requirement achieved before PR can be applied for such as 200 years or similar.

    So going back to real estate seriously if want to become a permanent member of a country and you do not want to invest here after living here for 8 years that does not really show commitment does it. Before 2003 it was one of the few requirements to get PR was to have a house here i think valued then over 150 k so this new system has not changed much in the real estate requirement.

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  3. So if someone buys a property for cash, say 7 years before he applies for PR, then that person doesn’t get any points from it just because it has to be within 5 years?

    That doesn’t make ANY sense at all.

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  4. Sam Small,

    So the country only wants new citizens that won’t be a burden on the state and positive members of the community? I guess they are alright with old citizens be burdens on society though?

    I guess holding a job and remaining on island for 10 years without trouble doesn’t qualify you as a positive member. Let’s imagine someone who makes around 50k per year as an admin asst and has worked here for 10 years, spending money locally, staying out of trouble, doing the occasional community service and generally being a productive member of society but hasn’t managed to save up 100k or more to buy a property while contributing to her pension and saving for life’s other needs, and also have some cash left in the bank for the PR points regarding bank balances. Why should this person be denied to continue living and working here, especially if she has children?

    Why should purchasing a home and having a large amount of money in the bank be a prerequisite? I assume this person has paid rent to a property owner here and has contributed to her pension. She hasn’t been a burden to the state yet and doesn’t appear to be a risk for that. By all rights she appears to be a model citizen and is committed to Cayman so what’s the purpose of having her jump through hoops to stay. So what if her plans don’t involve purchasing property? Maybe that’s not part of her financial goals just now. Or maybe she’s just saving up more so she can put a larger down payment on a place she really likes, but for now she’s trying to save for her retirement and kid’s college as well. Fact is property ownership doesn’t really prove anything, and basically reverts back to the old white man way of disenfranchising and marginalizing non land owners. Ironic I guess if you think about it given Cayman’s beginnings.

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  5. I doubt this really has anything to do with the PR points system. The property market has been dead for many years. Just look at the number of vacant or part developed lots there are in some areas of Grand Cayman.

    Going back before Ivan places like South Sound Road were lined with properties for sale that nobody wanted to buy and nothing has really changed expect that there are now even more properties on the market.

    Much of the problem is uncontrolled, speculative development that has trashed Grand Cayman and flooded the market with properties for which there is no demand.

    In a way the real estate industry has been their own worst enemy here because, by mistakenly portraying the Cayman Islands as a good location to invest in the property market, they have over-valued existing properties and encouraged unnecessary development.

    Sadly, the basis of this story is just a blame game.

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  6. It certainly seems bizarre that someone should move here, rent for 3 years and only then buy a home because it must be done within 5 years of applying for permanent residence to count towards their points.

    Surely buying a home almost immediately shows a long term committment from the start.

    What I would really like to see, if I can be excused for going slightly off topic, is subsidized further education for Caymanians.

    Many Caymanians have to study overseas to get a decent job. But it costs so much that many cannot afford it.

    With a well educated Caymanian work force there wouldn’t be such a need for so many ex-pat employees in the first place.

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  7. The Government gets 7% stamp duty on every real estate transaction.

    They think that by giving points to property purchased in the last 5 years will make people buy property now if they have not in the last 5 years.

    This is very short sighted yet inline with the Governments lack of understanding of economics.

    Plain and simple… the more expats here spending money in bars, restaurants, on cars, renting CI 3,000 a month apartments, shopping, etc… the more this economy can grown. Without a raise in these numbers, the market will not move.

    The more expats there are here spending money, the more opportunities for Caymanians to start new businesses to support this increase in population, leading to more jobs for Caymanians.

    We need more expats, not less, to grow our economy.

    Expats are the ones who spend . The government does not get a taste of the expats spend at restaurants, bars, shopping centres, etc. But they do get a taste of real estate transactions.

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  8. There seems to be a lot of comments on here from expats that feel their well being hasn’t been considered. While I feel for all your pain I want to be blunt, By now you should know that no one in Government cares nor do the people that vote them into office. So please take my advice and consider this when planning your future, as an expat in Cayman your best bet is to work hard and save your money for the day you are forced back onto the plane. Investing and spending money locally hoping that you will one day be welcomed into Caymanian society is a waste or your vital resources. Unless you have plenty of money to throw around working and living in Cayman is no more than a temporary pleasure so you should treat it as such. Spend and invest the least amount you can locally and save for the day that you have to head home or to another place to start over. And then again even if you spend millions locally people will still hate you unless you just give money away asking nothing in return and the money never runs out.

    Just keeping it real.

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