Miami – Modern Luxury
July 2008

The Radar Realty!
By Tiffany Rainey
Exit strategy – stung by a slowing U.S. market, developers and speculators look for salvation south of the border
Developers and jet-setting buyers aren’t letting a little thing like the economy keep them from seeking out extreme opulence. Some of the most recognized names in luxury real estate are setting their sights on the pristine shores of the Caribbean and under-utilized Central American coast. Sandy vistas, verdant jungles and translucent blue waters lure investors looking for a way to recoup losses without losing their tan, while tax incentives souped-up ownership rights and suddenly amenable governments within these Central American and island countries only sweeten the deal. Here’s a look at three of the new realty hot spots within a few hours’ flight from Miami.
COSTA RICA In many ways, this tiny republic is the forerunner to the current boom. With a traditionally democratic government, the ecologically diverse country has long attracted international buyers to its tropical locale. Over the past decade, myriad residential developments sprang up and real estate prices soared, and there’s no sign of a slowdown.
There’s also an emphasis on environmentalism in Costa Rica that should prove attractive as green issues become more prevalent. At the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo on the Pacific coast, residents and visitors can feel a lot less guilty about their carbon footprints; the resort’s sustainability programs affect everything from its drinking water to its spa to its golf course. The site is a success, with two to three-bedroom residences at $1 to $3 million almost 100 percent sold.
Florida’s Soler Pazo Group is hoping for similar sell-through with its new entry on the Caribbean coast, Isla Moin. The development, which includes condos, villas, secluded estates and a mega-yacht marina, will sit between two national parks and is naturally sheltered from hurricanes, ensuring that those who dock at Isla Moin can rest easy when storm season lays siege to the rest of the Caribbean.
PANAMA Since Costa Rica is hardly undiscovered at this point its neighbor to the south – Panama – is attractive to those looking for an in on the ground floor. Investors once wary of the nation’s infamous political past have warmed up to the new regime and its recent loosening of restrictions on foreign ownership. Panama City, the capital, looks like a mini-Miami, complete with cranes dotting the expanding skyline. Not surprisingly, luxury developers are clamoring to be a part of its reinvention.
Trump Ocean Club, an inclusive community with a casino, shops, restaurants, office component and residences, is one of the first full-scale projects going up just outside of the city. “It’s larger than the AOL Time Warner building in New York and has all the amenities of a Las Vegas casino,” boasts Jack Studnicky, head of sales for the project.
Further north on Panama’s Pacific coast, Sis Diamonds Resorts International is constructing an eco-minded development called Palacio del Mar, which offers condos, beach homes, a marina and spa. Who’s buying? Pretty much anyone, according to one resort exec. “What was once the playground of a privileged few is quickly becoming the haven for a generation of global retirees and second- and third-home buyers,” say Sis Diamonds Vice President of Operations Richard Kiibler.
CARIBBEAN Big-name developments has also moved in on the island nations of the Caribbean. The Raffles Resort Canouan Island, situated on a smaller island within the Grenadine archipelago, is modeled after an amphitheater, with the bay and miles of coral reef just below the surface taking center stage; the resort also includes a spa, Trump golf course and casino. Costa Blanca, nestled on the shores of the Dominican Republic, targets the classically athletic with a Greg Norman Signature Golf Course, tennis courts and marina.
Luxury communities are sprouting up throughout the Caribbean, and with ultra-exclusive islands such as Turks & Caicos and St. Barths becoming almost brand names in themselves, don’t expect a real estate downturn in this part of the world anytime soon.