James Bovell, Property Persepctive

In the last year I have noticed an upsurge in the number of high-end vacation rentals that have become available for visitors who may be part of a multi-generational family group looking to share a single family home for their vacation. It is interesting to note that well-appointed waterfront homes are now becoming increasingly popular for this purpose, and the fascinating thing is that it does not seem to matter where these properties are located, i.e., they can be away from the ever-popular Seven Mile Beach location and be located further afield in places such as South Church Street, South Sound and even further out east in places as distant as Cayman Kai.

While not new to Cayman’s market, it has evolved into being much more service based as visitors want larger places and more services in many aspects. For example, they may want a larger home, with separate quarters for pilots, chefs, nannies, etc. They want to come on holiday and be pampered, with very little to do other than relax and enjoy their family.

The interesting thing about Cayman vacation homes is that one size does not fit all, and a variety of properties are becoming attractive to visitors looking to come and enjoy all that the islands have to offer. Ultimately, these vacationers seem to be groups of people looking for three-, four-, five- or even six-bedroomed properties or estates so they can bring themselves and their families on vacation.

They are also seeking extra facilities, such as guest quarters, maid and concierge services, etc. In this way, I see lovely oceanfront properties all the way to large estates renting for thousands of dollars in daily rentals. These types of properties seem to be very popular over the more traditional condo-on-Seven-Mile-Beach-style of accommodation, for this segment of visitor at least. Because of this huge upswing there are plenty of local ancillary services that are benefiting from the extra demand, such as the additional staff required to service these properties by way of cooks, drivers, concierge personnel and so on. People are really looking for a full service, hands-off experience, so we are catering to a sophisticated market. Cayman is having to adapt to service these requirements.

While this is a very different market to the usual beach condo market, it is nevertheless increasing in popularity, enough for me to notice a definite movement in this direction, making individual family homes for investment purposes an interesting aspect in our ever-evolving market.

There are two caveats to this phenomenon – one is that the properties need to have waterfrontage or beach access, whether that is directly on to a sandy beach or via a rocky outlet. Great vistas, such as sea views, are paramount for vacationers, in my experience. The second is that the property needs to be well maintained and serviced to a high level to accommodate the luxury vacation market, with excellent housekeeping and maintenance support.

Diversifying the customer base

Another aspect of this fairly new phenomenon is the fact that single properties do not necessarily have to be high-end to attract guests.

One of the interesting aspects to me is the advent of the vacation rental by owner and what websites such as Airbnb.com have done to facilitate homeowners renting out granny quarters or spare rooms over the garage to people who might not be able to afford hotel or condo rates.

A number of people want to come here but aren’t in the position to pay $300 to $1,000 a night. They come because they want to enjoy the beautiful outdoors in a warm and clean environment and enjoy all the wonderful beach and ocean amenities we have to offer.

This also provides our government with a solid revenue stream, as the taxes that they pay go directly to government.

I think these new accommodation offerings are wonderful because they open up the Cayman Islands to a more diverse customer base.

Our culture is receptive to all walks of life, affluent and not affluent, ensuring that everyone has a great time when they visit, so they return for years to come and feel at home here while away from their own.

James Bovell is broker/owner at RE/MAX Cayman Islands.

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