The Barbados Real-Estate Market Is Seeing Signs of Life Thanks to Some Eager New Residents

The Barbados Real-Estate Market Is Seeing Signs of Life Thanks to Some Eager New Residents

After 20 years of vacationing on the Caribbean island of Barbados, British architect Ian Adam-Smith and his wife, Helen Adam-Smith, decided to buy a property and relocate there. “My three children have grown up visiting Barbados, and every time we went, we wished we could buy something there,” he says. “We love the climate, the beaches and the people.”

Having recently bought a property, the Adam-Smiths are taking advantage of the island’s innovative new visa scheme to move to the island full-time while they pursue their application for permanent legal residency status.

A sitting room at the home of Ian and Helen Adam-Smith.


Aniya Emtage Legnaro for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Adam-Smith and his wife are relocating to Barbados, a process made easier by the island’s Welcome Stamp visa program.


Aniya Emtage Legnaro for The Wall Street Journal

Called the Welcome Stamp, the visa, which launched in mid-July, gives non-nationals a 12-month residency permit while working remotely for an overseas employer. It was designed as an antidote for the island’s pandemic-damaged economy, by creating demand in the property rental and sales market and for long-term tourism.

The Adam-Smiths moved in October from their English farmhouse in West Sussex to their new home in Barbados, using the new visa scheme to live there legally while waiting for their application for full residency to be processed. “It’s a great scheme,” says Mr. Adam-Smith, 54. “Prior to the pandemic, no one had really realized how well working remotely could function. We’re applying for residency but as these things take time, the Welcome Stamp gives us the opportunity to move there earlier.”

The pool patio at the Adam-Smith home.


Aniya Emtage Legnaro for The Wall Street Journal

The architect will continue to run his practice with his two sons, and remain actively involved in online client meetings, bringing business to the firm, and working on project plans. “The visa allows me to continue working and to travel between Barbados and Britain as needed,” he says.

In August, the Central Bank of Barbados reported that Covid-19 had created severe economic challenges for the Barbados economy. Though the government’s virus containment policy has been successful, flights have returned and hotels reopened, short-term tourism is still well below normal.

An aerial view of the Adam-Smith home on the island of Barbados.


Aniya Emtage Legnaro for The Wall Street Journal

In addition to a focus on long-term villa rentals, anticipated knock-on effects of the Welcome Stamp include increased income trickling down to local businesses and renewed interest in real-estate sales. Property agents report a significant boost in the rental sector and a bump in purchase inquiries since the visa was announced.

Barbados Tourism Marketing says that 1,918 visa applications have already been received by the government. “The idea is that visitors may prefer the controlled, private space of a villa, to a hotel,” said Chris Parra, an agent with One Caribbean Estates. “A lot of people want to live in the Caribbean, many already work remotely and would love to stay for a year without restrictions.”

Before the pandemic, Mr. Adam-Smith worked part-time remotely from his second home in France and doesn’t think his clients will notice any difference in service from Barbados. His new home is a four-bedroom, five-bathroom villa of 5,000 square feet on a 1-acre plot. It was constructed in the early 1960s and is ripe for extensive renovation.

Mr. Adam-Smith is in the process of extending and redesigning the property to create a villa of up to 7,000 square feet. He intends to relocate the kitchen to what is currently a main sitting room, known in Barbados as a great room, and create a new great room as part of the redesign. In addition, the Adam-Smiths have added traditional shutters, new joinery, and made repairs to the roof. The garden, which was very neglected but contains valuable planting and trees, will be remade. He is inspired by the work of Oliver Messel, a British architect who was responsible for designing some of the most famous homes on the island in the mid-20th century.

Blissed Out in Barbados

Bajan Heights, a gabled, five-bedroom, four-bathroom villa of 7,000 square feet, is on a plot of almost 37,000 square feet. The house is situated on the Royal Westmoreland estate on Barbados’s west coast. It is listed with One Caribbean Estates for $5 million.

One Caribbean Estates

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The house is located in the Sandy Lane resort, where homes regularly list in excess of $10 million. Homeowners have access to three golf courses, tennis courts and a personal cabana on the resort’s famous beach. “It was a bargain,” says Mr. Adam-Smith of the house, which had been listed at just under $2 million.

The Welcome Stamp visa is only available to people who meet the government’s criteria, which includes an annual income of $50,000 or more generated from overseas employment. Successful applicants will be considered non-resident for tax purposes, which should remove the need to change status with tax authorities in their home country. Similar programs are now operating in Costa Rica, Antigua, Bermuda, and the European country of Estonia.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

Main requirements for the Welcome Stamp:

  • Applicants must be over 18
  • Evidence of annual income of at least $50,000
  • Visa fees of $2,000 per individual; $3,000 for a family
  • Valid health insurance
  • Income must be generated outside Barbados
  • Permit holders must be non-resident in Barbados for income tax

Barbados is attractive for a number of reasons. The United Nations ranks it as “very high” and above most other Caribbean nations in the 2020 Human Development Index. In addition, the government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced investment in infrastructure and health care.

For those who will only be taking advantage of a one-year stay, the island has a broad range of rental accommodation, from one-bed condos at $1,500 a month to detached six-bedroom villas at $10,000 or more a month. Utilities are usually extra. Sally Mayers, rentals manager at local agency Chestertons, says average budgets of her clients range from $2,500 to $3,500 per month, rising to $10,000 per month for a detached villa or townhouse in a gated resort.

Ms. Mayers reports a 75{911ea05452e114f1778c76ca86733b6032c246f8f651bb1f01d12abf04b54efb} rise in rental inquiries since the visa announcement. “We’ve been bombarded,” she said. “Rental agreements are usually one or two weeks but clients now want three to 12 months, we’re having to work quickly with landlords to alter pricing and contracts.”

A Place in the Sun

Cockade House dates to the 18th century and is home to well-known British designer Timothy Oulton. A former plantation house, the property measures 8,526 square feet, with seven bedrooms and bathrooms divided between the main house and two additional cottages, on 24,000 square feet of grounds. It is listed with Chestertons at $9.99 million.

Dan Christaldi

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Mr. Parra has seen inquiries for rentals rise around 70{911ea05452e114f1778c76ca86733b6032c246f8f651bb1f01d12abf04b54efb} since mid-July. He says most clients want established communities on the more developed west coast of the island. These include Royal Westmoreland, Apes Hill, a golf development currently undergoing extensive upgrades, and Sandy Lane, famous for its celebrity clientele. Mr. Parra says there is also growing interest in the east coast, which is less developed but also has fewer rental options.

According to Mr. Parra, most rental inquires under the new visa scheme are from residents of the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and from a range of occupations, including banking and technology. “As well as the traditional retired and 50-plus age group, we’re seeing families and applicants in their 30s and 40s,” he said.

The hope that a thriving rentals market will eventually increase property sales is also becoming reality. “Sales are already rebounding, with inquiries in the $2 million-plus range,” says Ms. Mayers. “Hopefully there will be a trickle effect from renting into sales, as visitors realize Barbados ticks a lot of lifestyle boxes.”

Where the Ex-Pats Are

These residential resorts are most popular with renters, according to local agents.

Sandy Lane

One of the most established resorts on the island, with a high-end hotel and private homes attracting ultrahigh-net-worth and celebrity residents. It has a beachfront location, vast grounds, three golf courses, luxury spa, and four restaurants. Average monthly rent: $3,000 to $15,000

Apes Hill

This inland golf and polo resort of 470 acres has apartments and luxury villas. The resort is undergoing large-scale redevelopment to improve the golf course, facilities and residential offering. Average monthly rent: $3,500 to $7,000

Idyll Moments, a villa for sale in the Royal Westmoreland neighborhood.


Chestertons Barbados

Royal Westmoreland

With a roster of famous residents, a popular golf course, beach club and restaurant, this is one of the best-known residential estates on Barbados. It has a mix of apartments, townhouses and villas with pools. Average monthly rent: $3,500 to $12,500

Port St. Charles

On the upper west coast, near Speightstown, the resort has the benefit of a marina as well as beachfront. It offers one- to three-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom townhouses built around a lagoon, with some beachfront properties. Facilities include tennis, two pools, a spa and yacht club. Average monthly rent: $2,000 to $5,000

Sugar Hill

A secure, gated resort on 50 acres of tropical gardens, this property has championship tennis courts, a fitness club and a restaurant. A mix of apartments and custom villas with pools and sea views, there is a communal clubhouse, two pools and residents can access private beach clubs. Average monthly rental: $3,000 to $5,000

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