A Three-Bedroom Home on the West Coast of Curaçao
This circular villa overlooks the Caribbean Sea from the highest point in Rif Sint Marie, a coastal area in western Curaçao. Built in 2007 on nearly three-quarters of an acre, the three-bedroom, four-bathroom house is in the gated, resort-style community of Coral Estate.
With its covered, wraparound terrace, the two-story, 3,982-square-foot house was built “to take advantage of the views,” said Ray Seijs, chief executive of Curaçao Sotheby’s International Realty, which has the listing.
The front of the upper-level residence offers panoramic sea views; to the rear, native flora stretches across the coastal landscape to the Jan Kok salt pans, a feeding ground for flamingos, and a small beach on a lake favored by kitesurfers. On the ground level, a one-bedroom apartment has an open floor plan and sea views.
A brick driveway behind a gate slopes up toward the house, past a low coral-stone wall, to a raised stone platform with a 20-foot-round pool and a smaller whirlpool. A staircase climbs past the pools and a second platform with a gazebo to the upper-level entrance.
A dark-wood Surinamese door opens into a foyer, with the U-shaped kitchen to the left. A curved, granite-topped counter with two round sinks faces the foyer and terrace. A center island with a raised dining bar separates the kitchen from a rotunda-like atrium at the center of the house.
A covered, beamed terrace, equipped with electric shutters, wraps the upper level with open-air entertaining and lounging space. Floors inside and out are polished coral-stone tile.
“All the rooms have a curved feeling,” said Rachelle Laclé, the office manager at Curaçao Sotheby’s International Real Estate.
The living room beyond the atrium has fitted-glass panels and a vaulted, beamed ceiling. A dining area to the front is open to the terrace.
The master bedroom has sea views, a large walk-in closet and a door to the terrace. The en suite bath has a curved glass-block shower and a vanity with a concrete countertop and a snail-shell-shaped sink.
To the left of the atrium is a study, a hall bathroom and a bedroom with a door to the terrace. From the terrace, a wood boardwalk curves over the backyard, leading to a picnic area overlooking the lake and the salt pans beyond.
The ground-level apartment has a master suite with a walk-in closet and private porch. Also downstairs are a cabana with a shower and toilet, a laundry room, storage and an open two-car garage with a dumbwaiter to the upstairs kitchen.
The Dutch island of Curaçao has about 160,000 residents and is roughly 40 miles north of Venezuela, in the Southern Caribbean Sea. The seaside Coral Estate community has 300 homes of varying styles, as well as lots and condos, some under construction. There are two restaurants, a day spa, a communal pool, a private beach and the Oasis Coral Estate Beach, Dive & Wellness Resort. Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital, is 17 miles southeast. Its pastel-hued center was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Hato International Airport is 25 minutes from the property.
Until the coronavirus shut down Curaçao to tourists and foreigners in mid-March, the luxury market, popular with vacation-home buyers, was strong.
Prices started at $750,000, up from an entry point of $600,000 two years ago, Mr. Seijs said, and more homes were selling above $2 million. His priciest listing, a $5.9 million, seven-bedroom, six-bath house built in 2016 on a small peninsula overlooking Spanish Water Bay, dwarfed the highest listing two years ago of about $3.9 million, he said. (Curaçao has no multiple listing service, and overall market statistics are not available. The official currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder, but most listings are marketed in American dollars.)
Mr. Seijs attributed much of the uptick to Curaçao’s status as one of a handful of Caribbean islands outside the hurricane belt. When Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the region in 2017, the island wasn’t touched. “The market was helped,” he said. “A lot of people were about to buy a house in areas that were affected — St. Martin, for example — and they came to Curaçao.”
As more tourists have arrived in recent years, additional flights to the island became available and the number of buyers increased, said Hans Vervoord, the broker-owner of RE/MAX BonBini, noting that “insurance is much lower” without “the danger once every five years your house is destroyed.”
Fleur Rutten, the managing director of International Fine Living, a brokerage near Willemstad, said Curaçao’s reputation as “a safe place to invest” isn’t just because of its agreeable climate, but for its economy, legal system and status as a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The island also attracts a certain kind of buyer with its laid-back, flip-flops-and-shorts aura. “It’s not like St. Barts, where people show off with their Chanel,” Ms. Rutten said. “People chose Curaçao because they can be more anonymous.”
Curaçao’s remote location makes real estate on the island “very competitive — it is cheap,” said Stef Nas, the broker-owner of Century 21 Curaçao. “Prices are 30 percent less than on Aruba. You pay double for a similar property in St. Martin.”
Ms. Rutten said an abundance of available land also keeps prices down. Most development is in the southwest, around Willemstad and Spanish Water lagoon, “the golden coast of Curaçao,” she said. To the west, “there are a lot of beaches but no hotels or developments yet, so great opportunity.”
Among the most popular areas with vacation buyers are the 1,500-acre waterfront Santa Barbara Plantation, with two marinas, a beach resort, a golf club and a tennis center, and the gated Blue Bay Golf and Beach Resort. The Wharf, a mixed-used development currently planned near the historic waterfront strip known as the Handelskade, will have a hotel, shops and 35 apartments, Mr. Seijs said.
When the coronavirus pandemic spread in Europe and North America, Curaçao closed its borders to all but returning residents and essential medical workers. “Website traffic and enquiries dropped considerably,” said Robert Cooper, a director of 7th Heaven Properties, which specializes in luxury Caribbean properties.
“Somewhat surprisingly, we have now seen an increase again, as buyers spend more time at home browsing the internet,” he said. “I suspect that many buyers will spend time window-shopping, which may well translate into sales in the longer term.”
Who Buys in Curacao
Mr. Vervoord said that buyers come from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia, Serbia, the United States and Canada. As the coronavirus crisis continues, agents are “trying to do video viewings,” he said.
Mr. Nas said that half of his buyers are from the Netherlands, and the other half from the rest of the world. Until five years ago, when they could no longer get their money out, Venezuelans were also a strong presence in the market, he said.
There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Curaçao. Dutch and American buyers can reside on the island for six months without a permit; Canadians and other nationalities can stay for three months.
Title checks and closings are done by a government-appointed notary representing both the buyer and seller. All payments are through a special escrow account.
Transfer tax is 4 percent; notary fees are 1 to 1.5 percent, plus a value added tax of 9 percent.
The real estate commission is 4 to 5 percent, paid by the seller.
Besides property, foreigners can buy homes built on lease land owned by Curaçao, with a 60-year lease.
Languages and Currency
Dutch, Papiamentu, English; Netherlands Antillean guilder (1 guilder = $0.56)
Taxes and Fees
The annual taxes on this property are 7,000 Netherlands Antillean guilders ($3,900), with homeowner association dues of 4,320 guilders ($2,400) a year, Mr. Seijs said.
Ray Seijs, Curaçao Sotheby’s International Realty, 011-5999-515-7797; curacaosothebysrealty.com