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Island Buying in the Bahamas

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A major player in the Bahamas private island scene since 1992, Kevin Cross is one of the top island brokers in the world.

Why buy? “The Bahamas have the best beaches on earth,” declares Kevin. “What also makes us stand out from a lot of other places is that we’re just a stone’s throw from the U.S. There are direct flights to Nassau, which makes it easy for people from Europe to get here. And there is a stable democracy, which makes buying here even more appealing.”

How to buy? With only between 20 and 25 private island properties on the market at any time, potential buyers need to work with the right broker to find the right island. Kevin says, “A lot of people don’t know the Bahamas; I try to give them answers, details, maps—the best picture they can get without actually being here—something to visualize. When I’ve answered enough questions the client usually comes down. So about once a month I charter a seaplane or helicopter and take a client to view properties. It’s difficult to call it work when you’re in a seaplane in shorts, landing on a beach, but it is still work.”

“Buying in the Bahamas is straightforward,” the Bahamas-born broker says. “It takes a bit more time when you buy property over a certain size. The government has to investigate that a buyer is a ‘desirable person.’” Foreign Investment Board reviews take between two and eight months, depending on the size of the development.

He adds, “People don’t always realize how much an island costs to upkeep. I tell them as it is; there’s a lot of work and a lot of money involved in private island ownership. One of my clients spends one million a year to operate their island compared to the $100,000 a non-island property would cost them. I offer insight into the ins and outs of island ownership if someone hasn’t owned a private island before, and advice on how to avoid the pitfalls. It’s a very specialized type of lifestyle. I advise on whom to contact for what and the best way to get materials to the island when constructing. My knowledge of the Bahamas, and its specific regions, is as detailed as the nature and personalities of the people in certain areas. I walk buyers through the whole process and am a resource to them after they have bought. ”

Who buys? Although the market is very much affected by the strength of world currencies, Cross’ clients are predominantly American. “I seem to be getting more Europeans these days,” says Cross. “I’ve yet to have Japanese or Chinese clients. A couple of Russian oligarchs have shown interest in Bahamas. The market is changing a bit. It used to be that private island interest was from very wealthy families. More recently, because so many more celebrities are buying, developers are now eyeing private islands. Everything slowed the past year, but the Agha Khan just bought property in the Exumas. There are a lot of celebrities nosing around right now, although none have bought recently.”

And is it a good time to buy in the Bahamas? “Yes,” says Kevin, “For some properties.” He estimates that up to 10% of properties on the market have been “fire sales.”

Hot properties.
The 167-acre Children’s Bay Cay ($60,000,000 for all 167 acres or a pre-development price of $650,000 per acre), just north of Great Exuma, is offered as one property or sub-divided into 14 beachfront or pristine waterfront parcels with lots ranging from 5.5 to 16 acres. Plans, if desired, are available. A full-time concierge and maintenance service will be available to secure the property and attend to owners’ needs. Children’s Bay Cay has been approved under the Hotel Encouragement Act and offers many tax benefits to lot owners, including savings on duty free construction materials and long-term property tax relief. Long a haven of the rich and famous, the Exumas offer some of the Bahamas’ most spectacular real estate.
With an international reputation as a fishing destination, Walker’s Cay ($26,000,000) already boasts a fishing resort on the 58-acre island. Sitting, unused, since suffering hurricane damage, plans are in place for a grander, more upscale development. With an already established name and reputation, an airstrip, and a fantastic marina, Walker Cay has vast potential.

A crown leasehold property in the Abacos, Little Hog Cay ($1,950,000) is a 20-plus-acre island in the North Bahamas, just a mile from mainland Abaco. The island boasts a 1000-foot-wide, mangrove-rich lagoon, two magnificent beaches, a studio home, and beachfront guest cabana. Offering the only completely protected deepwater dockage in North Abaco and a slew of permissions in place that often otherwise take years to approve, Little Hog Cay is an angler’s paradise situated between the area’s four best sportfishing destinations (Walker’s Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Treasure Cay, and Marsh Harbour.) A full-service marina and airstrip is just fifteen minutes by boat.

Great Whale Cay ($80,000,000), an 850-acre, whale-shaped gem in the Berry Islands with dramatic cliffs and above sea level heights of up to 60 feet, offers the convenience of a 4000-foot paved runway and some of the Bahamas’ best beaches. The perfect cay for diving and sportfishing fans, Great Whale Cay—formerly owned by heiress Joe Carstairs— is one of the closest islands to mainland U.S.A. It sits just 150 miles east of Fort Lauderdale. Crying out for development, the cay boasts 850 acres of incredible beaches, deep water, and coral reefs. Fly-fishing, big name fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking are all obvious attractions. Extensive development plans and permissions are already in place, including for an airstrip, marina, marina village, inn, parks, restaurants, swimming pools, spa villas, and 155 individual homes.

For first-time private island buyers, Kevin points out “Goat Cay is not so exciting to look at, but is a good price and great location.” The 22-acre cay is “a nice size for a private island, right next to Great Harbour Cay and close to Florida.” Goat Cay is a five-minute boat ride from the stores and international airport at Great Harbour Cay where Jack Nicklaus used to bring his yacht and play golf until a legal dispute closed the fairways. With legal matters seemingly close to a resolution, prices could soar, making this $1,200,000 island a potentially valuable property.

Just 130 nautical miles from Florida’s Palm Beach, 30-acre Moraine Cay ($2,750,000) is one of the most incredible spots in the Abacos.

Only nine miles northeast of Foxtown, Little Abaco, the secluded, tropical isle is one of the closest Abaco destinations to the U.S. Rising to an elevation of 24-feet above sea level and offering back-to-back crescent beaches, Moraine’s three villas (currently at varying levels of completion) enjoy pleasant breezes at all times. The island also offers a dock, boulder breakwater, and utility shed. Extensive reefs nestle just offshore and ocean sportfishing (monster grouper, yellow fin tuna, dolphin, and wahoo) is magnificent. Closer to shore, fishing enthusiasts can find an abundance of lobster, conch, snapper, stone crabs, and hogfish in the crystal clear waters.

To view a selection of islands for sale in the Bahamas, click here