Market Review - 2010

  • Dec 31, 2010

Market Review - 2010

It won’t surprise many that the real estate market in the Cayman Islands suffered seriously during 2010. This was the year that a worldwide recession combined with a number of internal and external threats such as a proposed property tax, the need for immigration reform and a shrinking population, to lead to what the graphs attached show was a serious slump in the real estate market.

As the graphs show, the value of land transfers fell by almost 23% compared to those from 2009 and if you combine the decrease from the previous year, the value of land transfers has dropped a whopping 47% between 2008 and 2010, 2008 being a peak year.

That said, it is very likely we have now seen the worst and CIREBA is cautiously optimistic for 2011 for the following reasons:

Firstly, the internal pressures and threats that led to the uncertainty in the Cayman context, whilst not totally gone, have been abated and in the end, generally, contained. There are still issues but there seems to be a consensus developing as to where Cayman needs to go in relation to areas such as residency and immigration reform for example.

Secondly, the drop in the market has led to a corresponding drop in property values. Vendors and landlords have had to become more competitive and have dropped their prices and improved the quality of their offerings accordingly. Some subsectors of the market are showing discounts of between 10% and 25% on both asking prices and sales prices. At these prices Cayman property represents excellent value and we are starting to see some green shoots of recovery as savvy investors recognise this value and start to come back into the market.

In CIREBA’s opinion what we need now are a few major wins to give the local market confidence and we appear to be well on our way to two of them. The new port in George Town and the final pieces of the jigsaw allowing Dr. Shetty’s project to move forward seem to be falling in place and projects like these will boost confidence in the local economy and eventually put people back to work. It would be good to see progress on the extension of the runway and airport and a new hotel or two also, however there are signs of progress here too. These wins should give the property market the boost it needs and lead to the start of a market recovery, which could be a modest one or could well be even more than we expect.

This is all happening at a time when Cayman is starting to look increasingly attractive compared to the rest of the World. Whilst we may have struggled economically during 2010 and may have felt like we were sinking, our head was still well above water as opposed to many countries, especially in Europe who were clearly gulping it down with little chance of immediate resuscitation.

Who would have thought four years ago that the Ireland economy and property market would have melted down the way they have and that Spain and Portugal’s economies would be so fragile. The main solution these and even the other more stable major economies appear to be able to offer is to increase taxation, or in the case of the US print money, and hence by comparison Cayman should be seen as an increasingly strong option for investors.

The one word of warning here is that our competition both in the Caribbean region and beyond is well aware of this also and at this point are doing a much better job at marketing themselves internationally. We have some serious catching up in this regard, however CIREBA understands a series of initiatives have been planned for the first half of 2011 to take our message to the world and we support these and intend to participate wherever possible.

So whilst we’re not totally out of the woods yet, CIREBA’s predictions are cautiously positive for 2011 and we could even pleasantly surprised by the way the year turns out.

Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association