Cayman Islands real estate market update Q3 2021

As we are already two thirds of the way through 2021, I thought I’d take this opportunity to do a deep dive into the Cayman Islands real estate statistics by not only looking at year-over-year numbers but comparing this same period to 2019 as well as the first half of 2021. I then look at what the future holds in the Cayman real estate market and multiple factors which will undoubtedly impact our market for the rest of the year and in 2022.

It will be no surprise to anyone that the real estate market in the Cayman Islands is continuing to thrive even with the many challenges we are currently facing such as our closed borders, lack of visitors and thus potential real estate investors, as well as the increasing costs and ongoing challenges with sourcing building materials for new construction.

One thing to keep in mind with all these numbers, which were sourced from CIREBA, is that we must remember that the Cayman Islands borders closed to visitors beginning at the end of March 2020 and are still basically closed as of the date of writing this article. This means that the Q3 data from both 2020 and 2021 will be from a closed country although it’s hard to determine what type of impact this has had on the overall real estate numbers. I’ve added in some data from Q3 2019 which provides a very interesting and clearer picture.

Active Listings

For Q3 2021, active listings are averaging at 1,420 per month, which is down 11.5% year over year for the same period in 2020 and but only down 1% compared to the same time in 2019. So basically, the inventory that came on the market in 2020 has already been absorbed. Since January 2021 the number of new listings coming to market has been declining. In comparison to the same period last year, active listings are down 5.4%.

When we look at volume, the active listings tell much more of an interesting story. The average value of all the active listings from January to September 2021 was $2.06 billion compared to $1.7 billion in 2020, which is a 18% increase. In fact, in since May 2021 the active listings have topped over $2 billion monthly.

One thing to also keep in mind is that out of the current 1,437 active listings 423 are pending, which means they are guaranteed to close leaving only 1,014 actual listings. In fact, there are also 311 listings that are pending/conditional which means there are only 703 listings that are available for sale as the others are effectively spoken for.

New Listings

Since January 1, 2021, 1,079 new listings have come on market compared to 1,047 during the same period last year, which is a 3% increase. When you look at both the active listings and new listings transactions you will see that overall inventory is continuing to decrease.

Since January 2021, the total of those 1,079 new listings amounted to $1.7 billion compared to $1 billion in 2020 which is a 70% year-over-year increase. Since January 2021, the average price of a new listing was $1.58M compared to $956K in 2020 which is a 65% increase.

Solds

Not surprising the story is much the same with respect to solds transactions.

For the first two thirds of 2021, 823 properties were sold averaging 91 per month with close or more than 100 deals closing in each month from March through August. In comparison, there were 466 solds during this same time in 2020 with an average of 52 per month. This is a 75% year-over-year increase.

One thing to keep in mind is that several pre-construction developments went sold during this period including Harmony 7, One Canal Point, 19 North, Downtown Reach, FIN as well as numerous new land developments plus many land listings in the sister islands.

It’s important to note that in 2019 for the same time, there were 616 solds averaging 51 per month which is means that 2021 saw a 34% increase compared to the same time in 2019 when our borders were fully open.

When we switch to the volume, the story become quite different. From January to September 2020, solds volume came in at $428 million compared to $819 million and thus a 91% year-over-year increase in 2021. When you look at numbers for 2019, we see that the total sales amounted to $466 million which means that 2021 saw a 75% increase compared to 2019 for the same time.

The average per sales transaction for the first two thirds of 2020 was $918,729 versus $995,731 for the same period in 2021 an 8% increase. But if you look at just Q3 the average sale price in 2021 was $972,932 versus $796,840 in 2020 a 22% increase. What’s even more surprising is when you look at the same period in 2019 against 2021 where the average sales transaction was $582,875 versus $972,932 which is an increase of 67%.

The next 6 months

Where will the real estate market in the Cayman Islands go over the next 6 months? Honestly, it’s hard to tell at this point.

With our borders basically closed with no firm date to open, people are making alternative travel plans between now and as far in advance as spring break of next year as I noted in my last article.

On October 5th, the Cayman Compass reported that American Airlines has confirmed it will not be resuming flights to Grand Cayman until February 2022. American Airlines specialist global communications Brian Metham indicated “due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19, we’ve paused flights to Grand Cayman and expect to resume service in February 2022.”[i]

American Airlines is arguably the largest US airline with service to the Cayman Islands with regular flights out of Miami, Charlotte, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Those passengers represent a large portion of the traditionally 82.3% of Cayman’s tourism market which comes from the US.

On Tuesday, October 5th Cayman’s Premier Wayne Panton advised that before opening its borders, the Cayman Islands government will give a month’s notice of its plans. The premier said, despite being repeatedly asked when the borders would reopen, he was unable to give a precise date, because of the constantly changing situation. “I don’t want to just pick a date and run with it and cross our fingers and hope for the best,” he said.[ii]

When the government does decide to open our borders and drop the quarantine requirement for vaccinated travellers, we will see an influx of visitors, but it is unrealistic at this time to think that it would be like flipping a switch and that our numbers will automatically be back to where they were pre-COVID.

The business community is focused on supporting the Cayman Islands government in opening on the 22nd of November as they feel we are #Ready2Reopen (https://reopencayman.com/).

Although many may be frustrated with Cayman’s current opening status, I do believe change is right around the corner. The reality is that after a year and a half of not being able to travel, there is pent-up demand to travel. I believe that once our borders do open that we will see people return to our shores.

As I’ve shared several times, what makes Cayman so special will still be here and that is the most important aspect when it comes to real estate. Our stable government, first-rate healthcare system, excellent schools, first-rate communication services, and the clean environment, all lead to one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. We are one of the safest countries in the Caribbean, considered the culinary capital of the region, have excellent quality of builds, multiple industries which support our country plus an easy to access location. Over the last year and a half none of that has changed. In fact, one could argue that Cayman has only gotten better.

I understand and share with many people’s frustrations, but it would be sad to see people making the short-term decision (to go and purchase real estate on another island) versus a long-term investment. Despite all the challenges, the latest statistics show that the Cayman Islands real estate market is continuing to thrive. If people decide to go elsewhere, they could be missing out on opportunities that are very unlikely to exist when they do return to Cayman.

[i] Cayman Compass, October 5, 2021
[ii] Cayman Compass, October 5, 2021