St. Lucia's property market remains stable
Last Updated: September 18, 2014
Yet residential property prices have risen only minimally in Saint Lucia over the past several years, mainly due to the global financial crisis. Despite this, there have been numerous residential developments over the past decade, a notable feature being attractive tax incentives. St. Lucia has a somewhat odd economy, highly dependent on tourism, and with 23% unemployment. Yet there is an increasing 'buzz' about St. Lucia
The island has excellent beaches, scenic waterfalls, mountains, rainforests, orchids and exotic plants. The twin mountain peaks of Les Piton drop dramatically to the water´s edge on the west coast. In the south, visitors get close to bubbling pools of lava and steaming sulfurous spouts at Sulphur Springs Volcano, or splash in the sulfur-infused waters of the Diamond Waterfall and Mineral Baths.
The higher-end residential market is the strongest. Larger apartment prices have risen from US$2.15 million maximum in 2011, to US$3 million currently.
In The Landings, in Rodney Bay on St Lucia’s northwest, one-bedroom apartment prices now start at US$550,000, unchanged over the past three years. The Landings was St. Lucia’s first residential private yacht harbour. It opened in December 2007. About 70% of buyers are British.
In the Allamanda, villas now sell at US$1.9 million, almost unchanged from US$1.85 million in 2011. The Allamanda is in Anse Galet, on St Lucia's northernmost tip.
In other residential developments like The Seaside, Marquis Estate, Cotton Bay Resort and The Tides Sugar Beach, apartments and villa prices were almost unchanged in the past three years, based on current advertisements.
Despite sluggish house price rises, St. Lucia continues to attract foreign investors and visitors. In fact, the island is increasingly seen as one of the world’s most interesting property markets. St. Lucia is in many ways comparable to neighboring Barbados, but its prices are about 40% to 60% lower.
A note of caution. St. Lucia offers great tax breaks, and is stunningly beautiful. But yields on condos are some of the lowest in the world, at 2.3% gross. So if you are looking for income from your property, you need to be selective. Houses in St. Lucia, on the other hand, can earn reasonable rental returns, at 3.57% gross, according to a Global Property Guide research.
Reasons for the rising buzz about St Lucia:
- The island is one of the most accessible in the region, with direct flights from the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK. British Airways recently increased direct flights from Gatwick to St. Lucia.
- One of the region’s lowest crime rates.
- A tax haven with no VAT, no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax and no estate tax.
- Top destination for weddings and honeymoons
- St. Lucia boasts a world-class casino, plus a multi-million pound shopping mall with a multi-screen cinema, and new restaurants and bars.
- St. Lucia celebrates a few unique events every year such as the Caribbean20 Cricket Tournament (January), Nobel Laureate Week (January), St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival (May), St. Lucia Carnival (July), Creole Day (October), Oktoberfest En Kwéyòl (October), and the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (December).
- St. Lucia has a new niche—health and wellness. With the support of the government and other private institutions, St Lucia’s Health and Wellness Retreat, an annual event where guests can enjoy an array of health and wellness activities, workshops, and other treatments, was launched in November 2011.
St. Lucia’s currency is pegged to the US dollar at EC$2.7 to US$1.
Rental incomes in St. Lucia – poor rental yields, at 3.57%
There has been a modest increase in the average price of houses in St. Lucia this year. Last year’s average house price was US$1,826 per square metre (sq. m.), and this has increased this year by 4%, to US$1,915 per sq. m..
This slight improvement is welcome since in St. Lucia, house prices have been falling since 2009. The most dramatic fall was in 2010, when prices fell for as much as 20%.
Rents have not yet risen with prices. As a result yields are now poor. A 200-sq. m. house earns a rental return of 3.57%, whereas last year, the same house might have earned a rental return of 5.25%.
Rental income tax is high
Rental Income: Rental income is taxed at progressive rates. Tax rates start at 10% and can go up to 30% depending on the tax base.
Property: Property taxes are levied at a flat rate of 5% of the property’s annual rental value, as determined by the Inland Revenue Department.
Capital Gains: Capital gains are not taxed in St. Lucia.
Inheritance: There are no inheritance taxes in the island.
Residents: Residents must pay taxes on their worldwide income.
Buying costs are very high in St. Lucia
Round-trip transaction costs, i.e., the total costs of buying and selling a property, range from 11.50% to 21.50%. If the seller is a foreigner, the vendor’s tax is 10%. The seller also pays for the 6% real estate agent's commission. The buyer pays legal fees (0.50% to 2.50%) and stamp duty (2%). Foreigners need an Alien Landholding License to buy landed properties.
Research in progress.
Meagre economic growth, rising unemploymentSt Lucia's economy is largely tourism-dependent. It has been weak in the past several years, due to the adverse impact of the global financial crisis and aggravated by the eurozone debt crisis. It is expected to expand by a meagre 0.34% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2013, the economy contracted by 1.5%, after a decline of 1.3% in 2012, a minimal growth of 1.4% in 2011, and declines of 0.7% in 2010 and another 0.1% in 2009.
Inflation stood at 3.37% in the first quarter of 2014, according to the Central Statistical Office. Inflation was 1.5% in 2013, down from 4.2% in 2012, 2.8% in 2011 and 3.3% in 2010, according to the IMF.
St. Lucia’s unemployment increased to 23.3% in 2013 from 21.4% in 2012, according to the CSO.