House hunt in St. Lucia: Nestled in the Piton Mountains for $ 1.9 million

This 2,950 square foot home, built in 1979 and remodeled in 2019, sits on the north face of Gros Piton Mountain near Soufriere, a town on the west coast of St. Lucia in the Windward Islands. The house, inside a 7,190-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site, with stunning views of the twin volcanic spiers of the Pitons rising from the Eastern Caribbean Sea, was designed by John di Pol, an architect who also built the five-star 37-room Ladera Mountain Resort down the road.

In addition to the contemporary three-bedroom, two-bathroom open-air main house, the one-acre property includes a separate one-bedroom guesthouse.

Concrete steps flanked by plants curl up to a massive solid oak front door. Views of the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea from the outdoor living room beyond. “It’s windy enough that you don’t have bugs,” said Sarah Danzie, management broker at St. Lucia Sotheby’s International Realty, which owns the list. However, there is a light against mosquitoes and the overhangs on the roof provide shade.

The main house, built with green heartwood and volcanic rock, has an open floor plan and “consists of three walls, and the fourth section or wall is open and faces the sea,” said Mrs. Danzie. “It’s kind of like a treehouse – it’s all wood, it’s just natural.”

The kitchen is closed and air conditioned, with granite counters, wood cabinets and high end Italian appliances. Above the double sink is a glass block window. The dining room is in the open air.

Up an open staircase to the left, the master suite has exposed rafters. Another staircase leads through a stone tower topped by an outdoor stargazing lounge. The suite’s bathroom has a volcanic rock wall, a single sink with a carved lacquered stone sink and an outdoor shower. Two guest bedrooms have mosquito nets and ceiling fans, and share a bathroom with a single vanity and a shower. All rooms are air conditioned. The house, equipped with Internet and surround sound, is sold furnished.

At ground level is a free-form saltwater swimming pool, heated by solar energy due to the property’s cooler climate at high altitude. The house has dual voltage (110 and 220 volts) and a back-up generator that starts automatically.

The guest house, also air-conditioned, has a kitchen, an office, a living room and a patio. A high fence surrounds the perimeter of the property.

The house is a 20-minute drive from Soufrière, once the capital of Saint Lucia, with its restaurants and shops. Nearby are hot springs, mineral baths, a tropical forest and the Tet Paul Nature Trail. Swimmers enjoy the warm waters under the Piton waterfalls and Anse Chastenet beach along the coast.

Hewanorra International Airport, near the Old Fort Quarter at the southern end of the island, is 45 minutes away. Flights within the Caribbean depart from the George FL Charles Regional Airport in Castries, the capital and tourist hub of Saint Lucia, about an hour from Soufriere.

Just two years ago, the Saint Lucia housing market was struggling to recover from the downturn that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. Prices were falling and foreign buyers (especially the British) were suspicious after a wave of hurricanes that hit the Caribbean in 2017.

As 2020 dawns, the buyer’s market has started to heat up, with a rush to rentals and “ultimately a sales boom,” sparked by government efforts to boost tourism, Maria said. Buchner, founder of Blue Reef Real Estate.

When the pandemic arrived and put the brakes on this recovery, “investigations dropped dramatically, sometimes to zero,” Buchner said.

As in many parts of the world, the market woke up again in the fall. “From October to now we have an incredible boom” in sales and rentals, she said, adding that her agency has been selling homes on Zoom and WhatsApp using guided virtual tours.

However, while the number of sales has increased by 30% “compared to the good times before Covid”, prices have fallen by 10-20%, depending on the property and location.

“Buyers took advantage of sellers who had to sell,” Ms. Buchner said. “The prices must have gone down. The inventory scares three-bedroom ocean-view homes that might have sold for between $ 400,000 and $ 500,000 before the pandemic. (Saint Lucia officially uses the East Caribbean dollar, but US dollars are widely accepted.)

Yet the re-emergence of motivated buyers is fueling optimism for 2021 and beyond. “Our real estate market has doubled, inquiries have catapulted across the island and we just can’t keep up,” said Ms. Danzie, Sotheby’s listing agent. “In the middle of the summer, we’ll probably have bidding wars.”

(On June 1, St. Lucia reopened to visitors with proof of vaccination and a recent negative PCR test, Ms Danzie said. Visitors who are not vaccinated should self-quarantine for 14 days in a certified hotel or villa.)

Some who sought refuge in Saint Lucia in the midst of the pandemic decided to buy property and stay. “People are looking for homes further away, private homes, isolated homes where they can be safe and away from high density crowds,” Ms. Danzie said.

A new investor market for “anything bordering the Caribbean Sea” is driven by people who prefer to rent accommodation rather than stay in a hotel, “said Walter Zephirin, Managing Director of 7th Heaven Properties, calling the “Extremely promising market for properties of $ 400,000 to $ 3 million.” Other buyers, he said, were looking “to move permanently or retire.” The Covid gave them the impetus.

Compared to other Caribbean islands, St. Lucia still has relative good deals on garden and beachfront condominiums. Two-bedroom waterfront units start at $ 350,000 and climb to over $ 1 million depending on development. said Gilbert Fontenelle, an agent for Terra Caribbean. The waterfront condos at the Landings Resort in Gros Inlet, on the more developed north coast, sell for a hefty price tag, with listings ranging from $ 800,000 to $ 1.2 million.

Beachfront homes are rarely available outside of seaside resorts. At Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, between the Pitons, a four-bedroom ocean-view villa is on the market for $ 4.25 million, while a beachfront home is listed at 8.95 million. of dollars.

Mr Fontenelle said the growth of the market is mainly due to “improved infrastructure, stable government and Saint Lucia’s long-standing reputation for its natural beauty and friendly people.”

Americans make up 70 percent of foreign buyers, and 20 percent come from Canada, Zephirin said.

For a fee of $ 100,000, some potential buyers from China, Taiwan and India as well as North America and Britain are applying for passports through the government’s Citizen by Investment program, Ms. Danzie said. “People fear that there is another epidemic” and want everything to stay put “rather than being locked in a city in another country”.

There are five different routes to obtain citizenship and a second passport through the CIP Citizenship by Investment program, ranging from $ 100,000 in the National Economic Fund to a business investment of $ 3.5 million. The minimum real estate investment is $ 300,000. Each option offers Saint Lucia citizenship, visa-free or visa-on-entry access to over 146 countries.

Foreign buyers must obtain a government certificate of eligibility for $ 3,000, followed by a permit to possess foreign land for $ 2,500, plus $ 1,000 in legal fees for each, Buchner said. Buyers receive permanent residence for as long as they own the property, eliminating the need for visa extensions.

In May 2020, a change in the law removed the tax benefits of buying real estate through an international or offshore company, making the practice “obsolete,” said Thomas Theobalds, a Castries-based lawyer. A non-resident can still use a domestic business to purchase property, which can be useful for inheritance taxes, “although that may change in the future,” he said.

The new law speeds up the process of buying a home. “In the old system it took six months to get a license, now it takes two weeks,” Theobalds said.

A lawyer does due diligence on title searches and is responsible if there is a loophole in the title. Foreign buyers have to pay 35-40% to get a mortgage.

English, French Creole; East Caribbean dollar (1 EC dollar = $ 0.37), with the US dollar being widely accepted.

Legal fees are charged on a sliding scale of 3-5% of the purchase price, Theobalds said. The stamp duty is 2%.

Annual property taxes are 0.25% of fair market value, with the first $ 75,075 being tax exempt, Danzie said. A property worth $ 1.9 million would pay $ 4,562.

Sarah Danzie, St. Lucia Sotheby’s International Realty, (758) 452-0280, stluciasothebysrealty.com

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