From the Fifties the Bahamas was the go-to destination for the wealthy and even today the 700 islands have a starry sprinkling of celebrity residents. Sean Connery lives in a surprisingly modest house at Lyford Cay; singer Shania Twain has a grander home nearby while Johnny Depp, in true Pirates of the Caribbean style, has bagged an entire island for himself.
Defying global recession
Daily direct BA flights from London land at Nassau on the main island of New Providence where property ranges from £129,400 apartments to multimillion-dollar canal-front homes on gated Lyford Cay.
Albany, on a soft-sand beach in the south-west, defied the global recession to sell 140 homes worth collectively
£252 million since 2008. The 600-acre resort opened in 2010 with a completed Ernie Els-designed golf course, a 71-berth deep-water marina and extensive sports facilities: tennis courts, gyms, a fabulous spa, a mini water park and restaurants and bars. Ten professional athletes own homes there including golfers Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.
Property is well-built, spacious and supremely comfortable with prices from £946,300 for villa plots and £1.26 million for off-plan marina apartments. Thirty-five of 250 planned villas are built, letting for up to £3,800 a night. Owners in Albany's rental programme pay no property taxes for 20 years and no import duty on building materials or furnishings, a potential saving of 40 per cent.
"New Providence has year-round life with international schools and an established infrastructure," says Albany boss Christopher Anand. "This project needs to attract members who live here, not just holidaymakers."
Popular with UK buyers is Sandyport, an older marina resort on the north coast where prices have dropped 30 per cent since 2007. Three-bedroom homes — 500 are built with a further 150 planned — start from £438,400.
"Beachfront property offers the best value throughout the Caribbean, especially if it offers the possibility of a berth," says James Burdess of Savills. "That's the dream for many buyers and simple supply and demand help prices stay strong."
The sugar-almond coloured beachfront homes at Palm Cay at the more remote eastern end of New Providence look striking value. The 70-acre marina resort created four years ago by two British developers has three-bedroom townhouses on a dreamy beach for £504,360. Homes elsewhere on the resort start from £314,760 with furniture packages from £19,000.
A mini Las Vegas
The Bahamas seems an unlikely location for the largest resort complex being built in the western hemisphere but that's happening at Baha Mar on Cable Beach. Planned to open in 2014 and largely funded by Chinese money, Baha Mar aims to be a mini Las Vegas. It will have 2,200 hotel rooms, the Caribbean's largest casino, five acres of conference facilities, a Jack Nicklaus golf course and even its own wedding chapel.
The scale of this project — 26 floors at its highest — looks overwhelming after the low-level homes elsewhere but it is largely welcomed locally. There will be 307 homes for sale, spread between the Grand Hyatt, Mondrian and Rosewood Hotels. Twenty per cent sold in four months this year to buyers from Russia, China and India.
Prices range from £757,000 for a fully furnished one-bedroom flat of 830sq ft to £8.83 million for the Casino Residences aimed at "whales", high rolling gamblers who think nothing of dropping £650,000 on the casino tables.
It is boating, not gambling, that brings most visitors to the Bahamas and particularly to the Abacos, a glorious collection of laid-back islands with more boat berths than hotel rooms.
Schooner Bay on Grand Abaco, 30 minutes from Marsh Harbour airport, is a 320-acre site with two beaches, a protected forest and a newly completed working harbour with 150 berths. Half the 130 plots in Phase One are sold and the first owners have moved in."All successful Bahamian communities are based around a harbour, which is why we built that first," says James Malcolm of Schooner Bay. "The Abacos are the boating capital of the Bahamas."
A Fishing lodge and guesthouse are nearing completion but otherwise there are few finished facilities. Prices start from £123,000 for duplex studio apartments and £94,650 for plots. Completed two-bedroom cottages of 900 square feet are £346,950 and it's £583,500 for three bedroom properties on the beach.
CONTACTS AND FACTFILE
* Savills: savills.co.uk/abroad 020 7016 3740
* Albany: albanybahamas.com
* HG Christie: hgchristie.com
* Schooner Bay: schoonerbaybahamas.com
* Baha Mar: bahamar.com
* Stamp duty: ranges from four to 10 per cent
* Annual costs: at Schooner Bay are £2,000; at Albany £5,990 with club fees of £10,000 for a family, and at Palm Cay £2,840.
* Legal system: is based on English law.