St Lucia getaway Property


The Caribbean’s most understated island - St. Lucia’s latest collection of luxury resorts makes it the ultimate place to play castaway, says Laura Henderson.

The sound of the crashing waves on the rocks below the headland setting of Cap Maison takes the al fresco dining experience, an atmospheric notch higher. Cocooning its guests in plumped-up pool lounger luxury is what the hotel does best, but the resort has set a precedent in other ways too. On an island long dominated by big all-inclusive brands (couples-only player, Sandals, alone has four ‘loved-up’ villages dotted across the island), the informal glamour of Cap Maison shows just how far St Lucia has come in its bid to become the Caribbean’s new hot spot for boutique developers and blinged-out sun seekers.

Big on tropical greenery and marina life, the island doesn’t boast the same beach inventory as some of the other Caribbean havens. Steep, corkscrew roads wending their way through steamy rainforest and mountainscape can make the simple quest of day-tripping, feel like an off-road adventure. Yet it’s this unadulterated topography: the primeval Piton peaks, rising out of the sea like daggers, the rough hewn cliff tops, and the cosy, drop-anchor harbours that set it apart.

Tourism, while a dominant force in the economy (currently accounting for 45 per cent of GDP) hasn’t always been so prevalent. Until the early 1990’s, banana production was the island’s primary source of income, but with globalisation and subsidy cutbacks in the European market, revenue from the ‘green gold’ industry has dwindled away, with the St. Lucian government stepping in to fill the gap with a raft of investment sweeteners aimed at attracting new sector interest, with residential tourism leading the way. “Tax incentives and ‘start-up’ grants fast-tracked resort construction in the early stages,” explains property consultant James Lomax. “Operating and build costs are inevitably higher here than in many middle-market destinations, so the focus on high end products was inevitable, but it’s a formula that has stood the sector in good stead.”

Prudent planning and a measured pace of development have also enabled the island to weather the worst of the recessionary storm over the past few years. While places like Antigua and St Kitts are feeling the ill-effects of over supply, St Lucia’s focus on quality, has nurtured a well-heeled per capita tourist spend, with a record 350,000+ visitors in 2011. Improved airlift has been instrumental in swelling footfall too, with British Airways recently increasing their direct schedule from London Gatwick to five flights a week, and Virgin operating three.

Buyers in the market for a beachfront pad will find two distinct investment locations vying for attention – the more developed northerly coastal reaches around Rodney Bay Marina and vintage capital Castries and the quieter south around Soufriere. To date, property values in the north have had the edge over their southern counterparts with more demand for re-sales, particularly from Canadian, British and US buyers. Existing properties on resort developments in Marigot Bay south of Castries, for example, have doubled in value the last six years, with new developments tipped to rise by 8-10 per cent a year.

Rental income is also high, with villas typically fetching up to £3,500 a week in high season, and two-bedroom apartments from £180 a night. “St Lucia has a five-month peak season, but the other seven months are by no means barren," confirms real estate agent Steven Hopkins. “In fact, younger couples and retirees often prefer to visit out of the school holiday season – there’s always something going on, be it a golf tournament, music festival or yachting event.”

Says property owner, Neil Mannering: “Property choice on the island is wide ranging and still a good 40% cheaper than Barbados. I love the laid-back vibe. It disarms you. A couple of weeks here and I always go home recharged.”

Garnering its share of attention on the south side of the island meanwhile, set within the scenic Val des Pitons UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Sugar Beach, a five-star Viceroy Resort comprising some 180-acres.

Designed by world-renowned Caribbean architect Lane Pettigrew Associates ‘The Residences’ at Sugar Beach are a collection of 38 exclusive two to six bedroom properties, all just steps away from the water’s edge, with stunning views of the Pitons, rainforest and Caribbean Sea.

Each Residence has lush, landscaped gardens, spacious terraces, and a vast infinity pool from which to enjoy the breathtaking sunsets. There are shaded dining and living areas, perfect for entertaining or simply relaxing with family and friends.

Prices for the Residences range from US$2.5 million to US$12 million. A carefully selected furniture pack is also available for purchase for US$80 -$120 per square feet.

Owners of the Residences have full access to the five star service and facilities provided by Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, the Los Angeles based hotel group. The resort has two white sand beaches, a huge reverse infinity edge pool, a Rainforest Spa, three gourmet restaurants, four bars including a late night bar, scuba dive centre, kids club, games room and a beach club and lounge. To ensure an effortless stay, a dedicated team of butlers provide discrete, intuitive service around the clock.

Located on the site of an original eighteenth century plantation, the development of Sugar Beach is bringing new life and prosperity to this part of the island. The remains of some of the original structures and machinery have been incorporated into the development plan and can still be seen on the grounds today.

Due to the fragile nature of the rainforest location, every aspect of the development has taken the environment into consideration, with sustainability and conservation as fundamental criteria in development decisions.

For more information on ‘The Residences’ at Sugar Beach contact: www.sugarbeachresidences.com

Buying in St Lucia

There are no restrictions on non-residents buying property in St Lucia.

An ‘Alien Landholding Licence’ is required and costs around £1,200.

Stamp duty is 2% of the purchase price.

There is no VAT, capital gains tax or estate duties.

Under a special government concession, rental income earned from some resort properties is tax exempt for an agreed period of time. In the case of The Landings, it is 10 years.

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