St. Kitts real estate and economy

Tomaz asked in a comment:
How's the real estate market over there? It seems that resident land is really affordable (for Europeans). It starts with 9$ / sq. ft. How's the housing? GDP? Avg incomes?
The real estate market in St. Kitts & Nevis is dual: first, there's houses and apartments that foreigners can buy outright without requiring an alien landholding license; and then there is everything else. If you come as a foreigner and you want to buy land in the local part of the market, getting an alien landholding license is a drag and unlikely to happen unless you're investing in excess of $1 million US. The part of the market that doesn't require an alien landholding license is comparatively small - it is restricted mainly to the Frigate Bay area and other parts south of Basseterre, the capital. The foreigner parts are the nicest and most well-developed parts of the island; this is where you have the Marriott and several other resorts, as well as a well-maintained golf club. Buying a new property in this area with a value exceeding a certain amount gives you the right to apply for citizenship under the federation's Economic Citizenship Programme. The amount you have to invest in order to qualify is $350,000 US this year, but it was $250,000 last year, and it's quite possibly heading towards $500,000 at some point in the future. When the required amount changes, this has the effect of generally raising the prices of all properties eligible for the Economic Citizenship Programme, while having probably little effect on most other real estate on the island. So, if you're a foreigner buying a nice big 10-year-old 3-bedroom house in the Horizons development project on a hill overlooking Frigate Bay, this might run you $560,000 US; but if you're a citizen, buying a house in Basseterre would be much cheaper, as well as in the rest of the island.

If you get citizenship through the Economic Citizenship Programme, you get almost all of the rights of the local people, including the right to buy land without the alien landholding license. However, you don't get the right to vote.

The CIA factbook is probably the resource to consult for St. Kitts economic data. It shows a GDP at official exchange rates of US$453 million, which works out to $8,200 per head, growing in real terms at about 5% per annum. The currency here is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), which has a fixed exchange rate of 2.7 XCD per 1 USD exactly. You can generally pay USD everywhere and you'll get the change back in EC.

I don't have a definite source on average incomes, but looking at this financial report by Cable & Wireless, it looks like the salaries and wages they paid in 2005 were $8,551,000 EC for 127 employees, which works out to about $25,000 US on average per employee. Like in the rest of the Caribbean, and in particular due to the high import tarriffs and because everything needs to be shipped here, the prices in shops are generally higher than you would get in the U.S., so even the locals have to be comparatively richer here in order to afford the same things as a person in Alabama.


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