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Cayman Islands Real Estate Market: 2023 Year in Review

Despite initial concerns about a slowdown in property sales at the beginning of the year, the Cayman Islands real estate market has proven to be resilient, exhibiting strong sales and pricing performance throughout 2023.

Real estate experts observe that property values have remained stable throughout the year, despite increased carrying costs, primarily influenced by the global rise in insurance premiums and financing expenses.

In addition to escalating costs, there was a deceleration in deal volume which can also be attributed to the limited supply compared to the high demand in the Cayman Islands real estate market. The post-pandemic boom, coupled with extended timelines for finishing new development projects due to global supply chain challenges, has created an imbalance between sellers and buyers.

Despite the slowdown, the market did not experience a crash; instead, it concluded on a strong note.

According to the year-end report published by the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association (CIREBA), the property sector ended the year with 665 properties sold from January to December, with a total sales value of over US $865 million.

Although this figure is slightly lower than last year’s performance of 877 properties sold for US $992 million, there has been a noticeable increase in the average price of properties.

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Luxury residences still a top performer

As per CIREBA, residential properties maintained their status as the most coveted investments among buyers in the past year, accounting for 69% of total property sales with a total of 459 units sold.

Among residential properties, condominiums stood out as the predominant choice, with 307 units purchased, contributing to a total sales volume worth US $382,351,182.   Notably, these upscale condominiums are primarily situated along the renowned Seven Mile Beach strip — the most sought-after beachfront neighborhood in Grand Cayman where the average cost of property is pegged from US $750,000 to US $25 million.

In 2023, the total sales of single-family homes witnessed a 15% decline compared to the preceding year; however, they still made a substantial contribution of approximately US$267 million from the sale of 126 properties.

These figures underscore the enduring appeal and robust market performance of high-end real estate in the Cayman Islands.

Land sales show exceptional performance

Meanwhile, raw land showcased an impressive sales performance, reaching a substantial sum of over US $129 million for the sale of 179 properties.

Mirroring the pattern observed in the preceding year, over 60% of these transactions involved parcels nestled in low-density residential areas, emphasizing an enduring preference for expansive and serene settings. Despite a slightly lower volume of sales this year, with 109 properties compared to the previous year’s 162 parcels, aggregate land sales in these areas still surpassed the US $80 million mark. This subtle decrease from the previous year’s total of US $80.5 million indicates an upward trajectory in pricing trends.

This significant trend also extended to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, where land parcels experienced an unusually brisk movement, accumulating an impressive sum of over US $15 million in sales by the end of 2023. This figure shows a significant doubling of sales compared to the previous year, highlighting the continued increase in interest in the calm and scenic settings offered by the sister islands, thereby boosting their property prices.

Rising above a challenging year

Cayman real estate professionals, equipped with a deep understanding of market dynamics, foresaw a potential deceleration in property sales at the outset of 2023. Diligently examining economic indicators and external factors, they anticipated a shift in the real estate landscape. Primary among their concerns were global economic uncertainties, fluctuations in interest rates, and the potential for regulatory changes, prompting them to take a cautious approach.

Compounding this challenge, the real estate sector contended with the repercussions of soaring construction material prices for new projects, a fallout from supply chain disruptions during the prolonged global lockdown in preceding years.

The impacts of these trends became evident in the initial months of 2023, manifesting in a noticeable pattern of price reductions within the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These adjustments can be attributed to the need to align prices with the current economic realities.

In navigating the unpredictable market, ERA Cayman broker Jeanette Totten had emphasized to potential buyers the importance of prudence and a measured level of caution for safeguarding their property investment in the long run.

“It would be wise to give yourself a financial cushion— just in case the interest rates continue to rise, or the cost of living increases, or for any other unforeseeable change that may occur over time,” she advised. “It always pays to be sensible and far-sighted with your investment.”

Renewed confidence for 2024

While the real estate sales figures for 2023 reveal a decline in transaction volume, the value of properties continues to rise. This is particularly evident in the residential sector, driven by increasing demand from overseas property buyers relocating to the islands, as well as those acquiring homes for investment purposes.

A significant positive development for the Cayman Islands was its removal from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list” in October. This achievement has been widely celebrated in the real estate sector, with expectations of positive impacts on the local economy and a renewed sense of confidence among large investors and developers who now feel more secure in planning long-term investments in the Cayman Islands.

Overall, the past year underscored the adaptability and enduring appeal of the Cayman Islands real estate market, solidifying its coveted position as one of the world’s most resilient and attractive investment destination.

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