Barbados is the archetypal Caribbean island. It has the golden beaches, palm trees, the rum shacks, the mix of high-end luxury and more earthy locations and, of course, the welcoming locals. But Barbados ticks even more boxes than this, particularly for British buyers.
"It's a very stable place – economically and politically – it has a familiarity to it for British buyers with low crime, good roads, hospitals and schools and excellent communication from US and Europe. It has a depth of culture which means buyers can winter there without going crazy," says James Burdess, Caribbean director for estate agent Savills.
And whereas much of the Caribbean property market has been hit badly by the economic downturn in Europe and America from 2008 onwards, Barbados, although suffering a slight price correction, has managed to hold its own.
"There hasn't been the panic selling here and as a result there is little in the way of distressed stock. This has kept a floor under prices and allowed well-designed and high-quality developments to continue to sell," says Richard Young from Sotheby's which deals with top-end sales and rental on the island.
There are, though, quite a few unfinished developments on the island, particularly apartment blocks – nothing like the disaster which has beset Spain , but enough to provide a warning to potential buyers on Barbados. Even some high-end developments with expensive villas have struggled, particularly when it comes to finishing important infrastructure such as clubhouses and leisure facilities, which not only appeal to people looking to spend a large part of the year in their new holiday home, but also those hungry for rental income.
Nevertheless, the island still retains its cachet and there are mature developments with the infrastructure in place from which to choose. The Royal Westmoreland resort, (royalwestmoreland.com) for instance, boasts world-class golfing facilities, a luxury spa, colonial-style clubhouse, privacy, a prime location near the exclusive west coast of the island plus simple ownership options – no leaseback or convoluted, guaranteed rental schemes. And all at a price that looks more attractive with the pound's recent stronger performance against the US dollar.
One-bedroom flats with balconies and ocean views start at $395,000 (£248,862) and rise to $995,000 for luxury penthouse, three-bed apartments. There are also villas nestled by the golf course – many of which are owned by leading sporting celebrities such as Ian Woosnam, Joe Calzaghe and Michael Vaughan – ranging from $1.2m up to $5.9m.
The watchword with high-end developments in Barbados is bespoke, with new-build villa purchasers at Royal Westmoreland able to have layouts tailored to their wishes, thanks to a team of on-site architects.
"The appeal of this place is that people can see that it is mature – that the development works. Buyers may come here four or five times on holiday and then decide to buy. We find the custom-build home option is becoming increasingly popular as whole families look to create a living space which suits their needs," Jonathan Jeffrey, the sales director at Royal Westmoreland says.
The centrepiece of Royal Westmoreland is the 18-hole, championship golf course designed by the renowned American Robert Trent Jones, Jr. There are 200 luxury villas at Royal Westmoreland, with 24 available fairway plots, but with a second golf course given the green light more should become available in the future.
If buying in a large development isn't for you then there are smaller, low-rise apartment blocks and stand-alone villas for sale in Barbados.
"The interesting thing about this market is that it caters for most budgets and you can find reasonably priced property in beautiful locations," Mr Young said. "There are, for example, one-bed apartments available at Sunset Crest near the exclusive Sandy Lane resort on the west coast for $200,000. You can buy a really nice townhouse for $500,000 and upwards. Generally, the low end and top end of the market has been doing well, while it's the middle – say around the $700,000 mark – where property hasn't moved as fast."
Crucially, building space on the island is limited. Much of the west coast, which has the most amenities and picturesque beaches is built upon. On the east coast, which bares the full brunt of the Atlantic, there is room for development but swimming is hazardous.
The resilience of the Barbados market is reflected in the financing options available. Mortgages are available mainly through the Canadian Scotiabank. Terms vary according to circumstance, but mortgages of up to 70 per cent loan to value can be had and borrowers are assessed on affordability criteria rather than just multiples of income. Lenders look at other debts, including UK mortgages, assets and income before making their lending decisions.
The legal system is based on the UK and the buying process will be familiar to Brits. In terms of fees and taxes buying is comparable to the UK, but on selling costs can pile up with 1 per cent stamp duty and 2.5 per cent property transfer tax due. In addition, there are legal and estate agency fees to pay, so owners can expect to be hit with 8-9 per cent charges when selling-up. As for ongoing costs, most developments levy a management charge for the upkeep of communal areas and facilities, normally this is done on a square meter basis, so the bigger the property the more the owner has to pay.
All this means buyers who are cost conscious would be well advised to consider attracting rentals, says Mr Young: "Rental income can help soften this expense and most buyers look to their property to wash its face, in effect cover the costs associated with it by renting out during the long holiday season. Best advice is to buy on the beach or in a resort to attract rental."
The good news for renters is that visitor numbers to Barbados are up – 15 per cent year on year – with several direct flights from the UK, US and Canada each day. But Barbados' enduring popularity is no surprise as it's still the classic Caribbean destination for holidaymakers and home buyers alike.