A Three-Bedroom Mountainside Home on St. Lucia
This 2,950-square-foot home, built in 1979 and remodeled in 2019, sits on the northern face of the Gros Piton mountain near Soufrière, 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 unobstructed views of the Pitons’ twin volcanic spires 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.
Besides the open-air three-bedroom, two-bath contemporary main house, the one-acre property includes a separate one-bedroom guesthouse.
Concrete steps flanked by plants curve up to a massive solid oak front door. Views of the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea beckon from the open-air living area beyond. “It is breezy enough that you don’t have bugs,” said Sarah Danzie, managing broker of St. Lucia Sotheby’s International Realty, which has the listing. There is a mosquito light, however, and roof overhangs provide shade.
The main house, built with greenheart wood 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,” Ms. Danzie said. “It’s sort of like a tree house — it’s all wood, it’s all natural.”
The kitchen is enclosed and air-conditioned, with granite countertops, wood cabinets and high-end Italian appliances. Above the double sink is a glass block window. The dining area is al fresco.
Up an open staircase to the left, the main suite has exposed rafters. Another staircase leads up through a stone tower topped by an outdoor stargazing lounge. The suite’s bathroom has a volcanic-rock wall, a single vanity 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 shower. All the bedrooms are air-conditioned. The house, equipped with internet and surround sound, is being sold furnished.
At ground level is a free-form saltwater pool, which is solar heated because of the property’s cooler climate at high altitude. The house has dual voltage (110 and 220 volts) and a backup generator that kicks in automatically.
The guest cottage, also air-conditioned, has a kitchen, an office, a living area and a patio. A high fence surrounds the perimeter of the property.
The home is a 20-minute drive from Soufrière, once the capital of St. Lucia, with restaurants and shops. Nearby are hot springs, mineral baths, a rainforest and the Tet Paul Nature Trail. Swimmers enjoy the warm waters beneath the Piton Waterfalls and the Anse Chastenet beach along the coast.
Hewanorra International Airport, near Vieux Fort Quarter on the island’s southern end, is 45 minutes away. Flights within the Caribbean leave from the regional George F.L. Charles Airport in Castries, St. Lucia’s capital city and tourist hub, about an hour from Soufrière.
Two short years ago, St. Lucia’s housing market was struggling to rebound from the downturn that followed the global financial crisis of 2008. Prices were down, and foreign buyers (especially British) were wary after a spate of hurricanes hit the Caribbean in 2017.
As 2020 dawned, the buyer’s market began to heat up, with a rush for rentals and “ultimately, a boom in sales,” sparked by government efforts to boost tourism, said Maria Buchner, the founder of Blue Reef Real Estate.
When the pandemic arrived and put the brakes on that recovery, “inquiries slipped dramatically, sometimes to zero,” Ms. Buchner said.
As in many parts of the world, the market woke up again in the fall. “From October up to now we have an incredible boom” in both sales and rentals, she said, adding that her agency has sold homes on Zoom and WhatsApp using guided virtual tours.
However, while the number of sales rose 30 percent “from the good times before Covid,” prices have dropped 10 to 20 percent, depending on the property and location.
“Buyers took advantage of sellers who had to sell,” Ms. Buchner said. “Prices had to go down.” Inventory is scare for three-bedroom homes with sea views that might have sold for $400,000 to $500,000 before the pandemic. (St. Lucia uses the Eastern Caribbean dollar officially, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted.)
Still, the re-emergence of motivated buyers is stoking optimism for 2021 and beyond. “Our real estate market has doubled, inquiries have catapulted on the island and we just can’t keep up,” said Ms. Danzie, the Sotheby’s listing agent. “By midsummer we will probably have bidding wars.”
(On June 1, St. Lucia fully reopened for visitors with proof of vaccination and a recent negative PCR test, Ms. Danzie said. Visitors who aren’t vaccinated must quarantine for 14 days at a certified hotel or villa.)
Some who sought refuge on St. Lucia amid the pandemic decided to buy property and stay. “People are looking for more remote homes, private homes, secluded homes where they can be safe and away from high-density crowds,” Ms. Danzie said.
A new investor’s market for “anything that borders the Caribbean Sea” is being driven by people who would prefer to rent a place than stay in a hotel,” said Walter Zephirin, managing director of 7th Heaven Properties, calling the market “extremely buoyant for properties from $400,000 to $3 million.” Other buyers, he said, were looking “to move permanently or for retirement. Covid gave them the impetus.”
Compared with other Caribbean Islands, St. Lucia still has relative bargains on garden and waterfront condominiums. Two-bedroom waterfront units start at $350,000 and climb to more than a $1 million depending on the development, said Gilbert Fontenelle, an agent with Terra Caribbean. Waterfront condos at the Landings Resort in Gros Inlet, on the more developed northern coast, sell at a premium, with listings ranging from $800,000 to $1.2 million.
Beachfront homes are rarely available outside resorts. At Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, between the Pitons, a four-bedroom sea-view villa is on the market for $4.25 million, while a beachfront home is listed at $8.95 million.
Mr. Fontenelle said the growth of the market is mainly because of “improved infrastructure, stable government, and St. Lucia’s longstanding reputation for its natural beauty and friendly people.”
Who Buys on St. Lucia
Americans represent 70 percent of foreign buyers, with another 20 percent coming from Canada, Mr. Zephirin said.
For a $100,000 fee, 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 are concerned there might be another outbreak” and want everything in order to stay put “rather than be locked down in a city in another country.”
There are five different routes to get citizenship and a second passport through the Citizenship by Investment CIP Program, from $100,000 to the National Economic Fund to a $3.5 million enterprise investment. The minimum real estate investment is $300,000. Each option offers St Lucia citizenship, visa-free or visa-on-entry access to more than 146 countries.
Foreign buyers must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the government for $3,000, followed by an Alien Land Holding License for $2,500, plus $1,000 in legal fees on each, Ms. Buchner said. Buyers receive permanent residency as long as they own the property, negating the need for visa extensions.
In May 2020, a change in the law eliminated the tax advantages of buying real estate through an international or offshore company, making the practice “obsolete,” said Thomas Theobalds, a lawyer based in Castries. A nonresident can still use a domestic company to buy property, which can be helpful with estate taxes, “though that may change in the future,” he said.
The new law speeds up the process of buying a home. “Under the old system, it took six months to get a license, now it takes two weeks,” Mr. Theobalds said.
An attorney does the due diligence on title searches and is responsible if there is a flaw in the title. Foreign buyers must put down 35 to 40 percent to get a mortgage.
Languages and Currency
English, French Creole; Eastern Caribbean dollar (1 E.C. dollar = $0.37), with the U.S. dollar widely accepted.
Taxes and Fees
Legal fees are charged on a sliding scale from 3 to 5 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Theobalds said. Stamp duty is 2 percent.
Annual property taxes are 0.25 percent of the fair market value, with the first $75,075 exempt from taxes, Ms. Danzie said. A property with a value of $1.9 million would pay $4,562.
Sarah Danzie, St. Lucia Sotheby’s International Realty, (758) 452-0280, stluciasothebysrealty.com