Cayman’s Border Opens

In my July 16th article I outlined the Cayman Islands reopening plan. As we are less than two weeks away from Phase 3 of the reopening plan, I thought I would revisit the opening phases, share flight information, and most importantly share my thoughts on the impact our reopening will have on the Cayman Islands real estate market.

Reopening phases

We are currently in Phase 2 of the reopening plan, which began August 9, and saw an easing of the monitoring of vaccinated travellers with the removal of the GPS monitoring. Now people entering the Cayman Islands who are vaccinated travellers with verified documents and thus heading into five days of quarantine are fitted with blue bracelets to make them identifiable as quarantining individuals. These wristbands ensure that the Travel Cayman team can easily identify persons quarantining when they perform their welfare checks. In fact, I just returned from the United States and am writing this during my 5-day quarantine sporting my own blue wristband.

Phase 3 will begin on September 9. This phase will see a limited introduction of tourism during the slow season with some restrictions including a flight slot management system. This allows the government to limit the number of people arriving. With respect to quarantine periods, vaccinated travellers (verified documents) must quarantine for 5 days, vaccinated travellers (other documents) must quarantine for 10 days, and all unvaccinated travellers must quarantine for 14 days.

With respect to the verified documents for vaccinated travellers, the Cayman Islands Government is working very hard to expand its current list of the types of securely verifiable COVID-19 vaccination records. On August 25th they announced that New York’s digital COVID-19 vaccine app, the Excelsior Pass, which has been downloaded by more than 3.5 million people, is now being accepted as a securely verifiable vaccination certificate in the Cayman Islands. At the end of July, the government announced that it was now accepting from incoming travellers SMART Health Cards from the US and records from European countries that meet the ‘EU Digital COVID Certificate’ standard which shows vaccination information as securely verifiable documents.

Phase 4 is slated for October 14, which may seem far off but in fact is only 7 weeks away and will have the biggest impact on visitors. Vaccinated travellers will be required to make a declaration of travel and vaccination status (checked upon arrival). Quarantine requirements will be removed for all securely verified vaccinated travellers. Unverified vaccinated travellers will be required to quarantine for 10 days and unvaccinated travellers for 14 days.

Phase 5 is scheduled for November 18 and sees the removal of quarantine requirement for unvaccinated children. With respect to the quarantine periods, vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to quarantine but the 14 days for unvaccinated travellers will remain in effect.

Incoming flights

With respect to incoming flights, British Airways has added two additional round trip flights from the UK to Cayman in September. While this may not seem like a lot, these flights effectively double the amount of British Airways flights into Cayman.

Although nothing official has been published by the Cayman Islands government or Travel Cayman, flights into Cayman are now appearing on airline websites as airlines gear-up for their return to our islands. It appears that American Airlines will start flying into Cayman beginning October 7 with fares as low as US $81 one-way from Miami (as of writing this article). Additionally, both Canadian airlines, WestJet and Air Canada are advertising flights as of the beginning of November. In the government’s press conference on August 25th the Minister of Tourism indicated he has confirmed that 5 airlines will begin flights into Cayman although a schedule has not yet been finalized.

Reopening effect on real estate

As I have mentioned in previous articles, the Cayman Islands real estate market is continuing to thrive. July 2021 saw more than $106 million in sales with 95 transactions but we are seeing a slowdown in August, which is historically expected. Additionally, it is currently summer holidays in the US, UK and Canada with many people taking time off, traveling and visiting family for the first time in a year and half. As of August 25th we have seen $53 million in sales with 60 transactions for August. This slowdown should continue into the beginning of September but will pick-up as we move into fourth quarter.

What’s of most interest is the number of active listings which was at 1,491 in January and has dropped to 1412 as of today. This represents a 5.3% decline. In fact, we have only seen 59 new listings come on market for August which is the lowest so far this year. I believe this trend is going to continue throughout the rest of the year.

So, what does this all mean? If you are looking to buy in the Cayman Islands, don’t wait. Historically, an increase in real estate sales in the Cayman Islands is linked to incoming visitors. As our borders open beginning slowly in just two weeks and more robustly in just seven weeks, people will start returning to Cayman. In fact, I have several interested buyers who are just waiting until they can visit before finalizing their decision to purchase.

As our borders open, the real estate market could change dramatically. What little inventory is remaining will decline even further and what you are looking to buy may no longer be available or if it is you may have to wait for quite some time with new construction.

Speaking of new construction, even though materials are still challenging to secure, and prices have increased this year, the construction industry in the Cayman Islands is booming. New developments continue to thrive in Cayman and we are starting to see many of these come to life and the owners taking possession as we move to the end of the year.

My advice to any potential buyer is don’t wait. Even if you are looking at a pre-construction property such as The Watermark, Aqua Bay and Lacovia, as more and more residences sell and inventory continues to drop, prices will continue to go up especially along the coveted Seven Mile Beach. As our borders continue to open, more visitors will come, fall in love with what we all already know makes Cayman so special and look to purchase real estate.

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” Benjamin Franklin.