Buying Real Estate — Sight Unseen — is the new normal in the Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands Real Estate

All around beachfront views of Sun Serenity, Cayman Islands

Current travel restrictions have not deterred ERA Broker, Jeanette Totten, in the Cayman Islands. Last month, she sold a beachfront property for US$ 8.2 M — the highest-priced home sold “sight unseen” in Cayman Kai.

Despite the local COVID-19 lockdown, the Cayman Real Estate market still managed to generate US$ 77-million in sales by the end of 2020 – proof of how the country’s real estate industry, particularly in luxury property development, continues to be an influential driving force in the local economy.

Certainly, limitations on international travel have pushed real estate professionals to devise new, creative, and technology-driven ways to market their properties to offshore clients, making video meetings and virtual property tours the current norm rather than the exception.
These restrictions did not deter ERA Cayman Islands Real Estate Broker and First Woman President of the Cayman Real Estate Association, Jeanette Totten. In fact, just last month, she sold a six-bedroom beachfront property called Sun Serenity for US$8,200,000 — the highest-priced home sold “sight unseen” in the Rum Point area of Grand Cayman (the largest of the three islands).

Described as the “essence of contemporary coastal elegance,” Sun Serenity has graced the pages of luxury magazines and online design sites not only for its magnificent architecture and impeccable design but also for its spectacular ocean views. Working alongside a fellow CIREBA agent who listed the property, Jeanette was able to bring a buyer and close the deal — sight unseen.

Asked how she has successfully navigated the marketing demands of the new normal without sacrificing personal connection with her clients, Jeanette explains it’s not that different from the typical focused and bespoke service that she offers, except for added tools of communication.
“I listened to what they said when I talked to them, finding out what they were looking for and what they were going to use the property for. Once I had a good understanding of their requirements, I searched through the MLS and forwarded them properties I thought would suit their needs and wants. Knowing the islands and available properties as well as having lived here for four decades, I picked out one that I believed would be perfect for them,” she shares.

After obtaining more details (including photos, rental income, and expenses), Jeanette arranged a virtual property viewing using a popular video chat application. “I did the video call and had the listing agent — who is also the property manager — and the builder on hand in case there were questions I could not answer. We walked through the home and then they spoke to the builder who answered their questions. They then spoke to the property manager to get details on how to continue renting the home to people on holiday.”

Satisfied by the virtual viewing and how their queries were handled with utmost professionalism, the clients decided to move forward with an offer. After a short negotiation, the deal was signed, sealed, and delivered. Well, virtually at least.

“All of this was done without them coming to the island,” Jeanette points out. “Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, they still have not been able to come to Cayman to personally see their new property. Hopefully, they will be able to do so before the end of 2021.”
Having closely observed both the global and local property markets over the last four decades, Jeanette foresees how ongoing transitions and policy changes in major world economies like the USA (which accounts for Cayman’s biggest property clientele) can impact the future of the country’s real estate industry.

“As the current US Administration is moving towards increasing capital gains tax to one of the highest in the world, I can see more Americans looking for alternative places to live in,” she predicts. “If the Cayman government can look beyond COVID-19 and the lockdowns, and move forward to fully opening up our borders with no quarantines, then Cayman real estate will continue to boom. Otherwise, Americans will have no choice but to look elsewhere.”

Echoing the voices of many business leaders on the island, Jeanette supports the call to expedite the reopening of the borders, especially to fully vaccinated visitors from countries with low COVID incidents. “I am certainly in agreement with the policies that have kept Cayman safe during COVID,” she says, “but I think the time has come to fully open.”

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