It is said that moving home is one of the biggest stressors of adult life. Whether you intend to rent or buy, choosing the right home is no easy decision. Price, location, size, layout, and the amenities offered all play a role in narrowing down your options and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the details.
There are many aspects to securing a property in Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands that differ from other parts of the world, so it is important to be clued-up on the ins and outs. By having the help of a real estate professional who has their finger on the pulse of the Island’s property market, you can navigate all the major stresses and sign off on your dream home – sanity intact!
In Cayman, because of the Multi Listing System (MLS) all CIREBA agents can access and show their inventory, meaning you can relax and let them do the legwork while keeping you organised and informed on available properties. Once they have a better idea of what you want by way of budget, location and size, they can start researching properties and sending you links to review with feedback. Rentals in Cayman move very fast and places become available and are leased or sold very quickly. Having a real estate agent to help you stay on top of this is invaluable to the process.
Living in the Cayman Islands is very safe for expats and locals alike. As a small country that is big on international business, education and attracting overseas investment – the local authorities do a good job of keeping things running smoothly. In fact, with one of the lowest violent crime rates of any country in the world, it is probably the most secure country in the Caribbean. For these reasons, Cayman has been growing and continues to attract new residents from all over the world. Young working professionals will certainly find the amenities that appeal to an active lifestyle, while there are just as many options for families after a more laidback ‘Island-style’ life.
Real estate agents encourage their clients to rent for no longer than one year (if possible). Owning a home allows you to invest in yourself and pay into your own equity instead of the landlords.
If you fall in love with Cayman and would like to stay a while, think about buying a property as soon as possible. There are easy exit strategies even if you plan to leave the Island later; it has traditionally been possible to earn a good rental income while overseas. Cayman also has the advantage of having no annual property taxes. You only pay tax at the point of purchase (referred to as Stamp Duty or Transfer Tax), while first-time Caymanian buyers benefit from not having to pay any tax on their purchase of land/property. Read on to find out more on first-time buyers in Cayman.
If you’d prefer to go it alone when searching for a rental, ecaytrade.com is brimming with up-to-date property rentals. Here, you will often be in direct conversation with landlords, streamlining the whole process. You will usually need to put down a security deposit and the first month’s rent in advance. Property insurance is the responsibility of the tenant, and for utilities, estimate approximately CI$100 for water, CI$200-CI$500 for electricity and CI$50-CI$100 for internet.
Caymanian First-time Buyers
Homeownership is one of the primary methods of building wealth, meaning it is hugely beneficial to get on the property ladder as soon as you can. However, buying a house is becoming increasingly difficult for young Caymanians. Whole generations are finding themselves locked out of the housing market due to Cayman’s dwindling inventory being dominated by higher-income, overseas buyers who have massively inflated prices. One benefit for first-time Caymanian buyers is the waiving of stamp duty for homes below the qualifying price point.
Unfortunately, there are increasingly few properties on the market that meet these criteria. This, combined with a down payment of at least 10%, lawyer charges, strata fees and home insurance costs, is what leads many families to believe homeownership in Cayman will remain a distant dream for the country’s future generations. Turn to page 192 for more information on stamp duty thresholds for Cayman's first-time buyers.
What to Buy
If you are lucky enough to be able to buy a home, always bear in mind that you are much better off buying a property that offers flexibility and is affordable. ‘Right-sizing’, which means moving into a home that suits your current needs, is key. Do not overstretch yourself as high-end homes do not sell every day in Cayman, and they can sit on the market for a long time. Opting to buy a property within your means can make selling in the future much easier. If you are going to use real estate for points in your Cayman PR application one day, be sure to speak to an immigration specialist to get all the facts. There are several levels of real estate that are required for different types of residency.
Always shop around when looking for a mortgage. Research your options with various banks as there are a myriad of finance options available which constantly change. Cayman's retail banks usually do not offer mortgages to buyers over 65 years of age, so start early! To increase your chances of obtaining financing from a bank, you should have a good sense of your future income, have been working in Cayman for a minimum of six months and be in a solid financial position. A general rule of thumb is that you will need a minimum of 10% of the negotiated sum to secure a mortgage, plus money for bank fees, stamp duty, legal fees, an appraisal fee and government fees.
Things to Consider When Renting a Property
Deposit: You will usually need to put down a security deposit and the first month’s rent in advance. For utilities, estimate approximately CI$100 for water, CI$200-CI$500 for electricity and CI$100 for telephone if setting up direct-debit standing orders.
Maintenance Costs: Make sure the landlord will take care of maintenance costs associated with garden and pool care, garbage collection, pest control and servicing of general systems such as air conditioning.
Insurance: Personal property insurance is the responsibility of the tenant.
Furnishings: A lot of units come 'fully furnished' (linens, kitchenware and appliances are supplied, as well as furniture). Prior to signing your lease ask for an inventory showing everything that comes with the unit. You will have to be prepared to supplement anything missing.
Pets: Some complexes do accept pets but will ask for an additional non-refundable security deposit, which can be as much as CI$500 per pet.
Smokers: Many landlords will not rent to smokers.
No Sharers: Sometimes landlords will require apartments not be shared, i.e. only one family per unit.