Cayman ‘For Sale’

| 30/11/2010

This past weekend (thanksgiving) it was refreshing to see a noticeable increase in the number of visitors (tourists) to the north coast of Grand Cayman. I was able to interact with many of these guests at several functions and casual conversations, as is customary, I am always anxious to hear their impressions of the area and Cayman in general. The first question they asked, “Why is everything for sale?

I have simply run out of sensible answers and now bluntly admit to our guests that it is a case of “let’s keep doing the same things while expecting different results”. How do we expect to attract new buyers when the impression is that everyone is leaving the area?

A few also expressed their dismay at the large power line poles and the bright red lights on the top of each. The question was asked-why not put the electric lines underground, especially since the area is mostly sandy soil. While I agreed wholeheartedly, I did not have an answer for this one.

This feedback confirms that the things some of us who live here and take for granted, our guests find to be out of context for a so-called “high end destination” and it has a serious effect on their impressions of our country and their desire to return or invest.

For many years I have been asking the Cireba officials to address the issue of the numerous for sale signs which has cheapened the entire north coast. Today, I decided to count the signs and travelled from Morrits Tortuga to Rum Point, Kaibo Park and down Frank Sound rd; to my amazement there were 130 for sale signs on the main road, (I did not check the side roads). I also understand that the signs standing independently along the road are also in violation of the Planning laws.

A couple months ago I discussed this issue with the President of Cireba, and I offered a sensible solution: establish a joint CIREBA/DOT information office in the area so that our guests could visit for information and those interested in real estate could view the listings and arrange viewings. In addition, I offered to assist them in finding a suitable location for such a center. As usual, the answer – we will study it and get back in touch.

I have travelled to many “high end “destinations overseas and found the use of information centers very common; in fact in many areas it is against the town ordinance to erect a for sale sign. As the majority of our real estate agents are from overseas one would have thought that they would be aware of this and try something new for a change.

In this time of severe economic hardships when many of us who own real estate and cater to our visitors are struggling just to survive, one would think that we (collective country) would be acting outside of the box (listening to our guests feedback) to sustain ourselves during these hard times; while working as hard as possible to improve our environment, surroundings and maintain values, (a building moratorium anyone?). Instead we keep grumbling along wishing and hoping things will get better soon; but not this time. Only by utilizing new ideas and hard work will it get better. For the past 10 + years nothing of any substance has taken place with respect to improving the product “Cayman” and the results and statisticsprove this point. Yet we keep looking for excuses as to why our market is down, instead of looking in the mirror.

To compound our problems we now have a barrage of plastics and other garbage which appears to have floated in from Haiti along the entire north coast beaches. Again, I recently asked our Govt. to send out a few prisoners to clean it up like we did a few years ago under the auspices of the North coast tourism council. It was great for the inmates and well received by the community. Again, the answer was we will study it and let you know. What is there to study? Garbage is ruining our beaches and the coral reefs and we need to clean it up. In addition, we have many young north siders out of work now and the lion fish is also invading our reefs- could it not be arranged that a small bounty be worked out to pay these young men to go out and kill these lionfish? Or is that to be studied as well?

Cayman had two assets when we started in the tourism business 50 +years ago; – friendly, hospitable, hard working and caring people and a pristine environment. For those who are still trying to decide what label to put on the jar “Cayman”, I suggest you look inside the jar as the contents are diminishing fast. Our efforts should be on fixing the product not wasting time and scare dollars on what the label should be. But the latter is so much easier than the former, so we continue with the charade.

For the real estate industry I would like to remind them of what President Reagan told Gorbachev about the Berlin Wall: “Tear down these signs!"

Cayman has been asleep for too long regarding our tourism product; it is time we wake up before our dream turns into a real nightmare.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am an ex – pat home owner who loves Cayman. Our house has been completely furnished locally, we shop locally and we regard this as home. However we are seriously thinking of putting our home up for sale and when / if it sells we will rent. The only reason for this line of thought is insecurity of tenure. If we had that we would spend money locally on home improvements and continue to live our life in Cayman where we love and consider home. As we stand, we always have to have a reserve for what the future may put in our path. I am not posting this as a negative comment, just expressing our thoughts.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Expats, do not buy in Cayman. It is too risky.

    Cayman is for the Caymanians. Let them buy and "invest".

    • Anonymous says:

      Your comment is just rude and doesn’t really contribute much value. There are many other places in this world where expats are not even allowed to buy any property at all. How would you cope living in one of those countries?

  3. Joe Mamas says:

    Your problem is the same problem everyone else on Cayman has.Those who have been "put" in charge, Those who "lead" do not have the ability to get anything done.  They have surrounded themselves with like minded relatives and friends and have created  safe non working environment where the is no responsibility and very little expectation of progress.  Even the few educated and forward thinking (actual representatives of the people) cannot get any good ideas through this multi layered barrier.  This is Caymans curse.  Lots of money, lots of potential, lots of great people, and a totally incompetent XXXX Government that is all about itself and those paying for it all are powerless to change it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tara I’m with you on this  (see below in case you missed it)

    People are not selling their property because Cayman is a horrible place to live. People are selling because of the economic downturn world wide and the roll overs, etc.

    Yes, great idea, let’s hide the fact that there are properties for sale…. Duh. When I was looking for a place, I spend several weekends driving thru the areas that I was interested in looking for these signs!!! Dingdong hello??

    Not everyone wants to drag an agent around for days on end while they show you what they want to sell instead of what you are interested in!!!  Wasting everyone’s time! And I found that they don’t like to work on weekends when it’s convenient to me!

    Sorry, just thought that was a silly idea. (really stupid actually, but I’m trying to be nice)

    • Pit Bull says:

      It is a pretty horrible place to live if arts, culture and decent food are what you like.

      • Anonymous says:

        So true, Pit Bull. I can’t wait to get back to the museums, art galleries, Covent Garden, yob culture, the weather, the class warfare, increasing VAT, idiotic ‘elf and safety rules, Simon Cowell,Cheryl Cole and Wayne Rooney and his wife and other WAG stories, drab clothes, drab, provincial people asking me if I had met any "half-castes" or – gasp -"coloured" people when I was here and whether people really ate turtle (as opposed to the splendors of tripe, sheeps’ stomach and blood pudding).

        • Gastro Gnome says:

          Most of the world’s finest cuisines include blood sausage and tripe – French, Spanish, Italian.  A lovely smoked black pudding with pork and apple.  Heaven. 

          No-one eats a sheep’s stomach.  You are just showing your ignorance on that one.  It is merely a casing for haggis.

          Turtle.  The thought is foul.  The morality is disgusting.  The taste is, well, only worth one try for anecdotal value.

      • Anonymous says:

        LOL! I love it. A Brit saying that Cayman is terrible place to live if decent food is what you like. Anyone who has lived in Britain knows that it is infamous for its awful stodgy cuisine.

        What exactly are you here for, Pit Bull? To be an obnoxious malcontent? 

        • Pit Bull says:

          I am here for the cold hard cash.  It is the only reason I can think of for being here.

          And London has some of the finest food in the world, including some wonderful examples of the Modern British movement.  So perhaps you can drop the cliche.

          • Anonymous says:

            Pit Bull, London does not equate to the whole of Britain. Most of us cannot afford to live there and so we have to make do with the 99% that is the rest of Britain and I can assure you "stodgy" and various other pejorative expressions are not cliches when it come to a lot of the food on offer. The "Modern British" movement of which you write is not much in evidence in Scunthorpe, Gateshead, Paisley, Inverness, Swansea, Middlesborough, Leeds, Bradford etc. But curries, fish and chips, deep fried sausages, haggis, black pudding and pies – ah now that’s a different matter.

            • Pit Bull says:

              By population London is about 14% of the English population and that does not even count the Home Counties.  In terms of cultural significance London is even more important.

              I have to say I never really did the provinces other than for the odd weekend in the country.  But I can’t say anything about the food in Gateshead, Paisley or Bradford, since I cannot possibly think of any good reason to go to any of those places.  They sound awful places.

          • Anonymous says:

            "I am here for the cold hard cash".

            Unfortunately you tend to confirm the worst stereotypes of expats.

            Not a cliche at all. The food is generally stodgy and the meat is under-seasoned. The pub fare is particularly bad. If you think it is wonderful then it doesn’t say much for your palate. I’d stack up an average meal in a Caymanian home compared to the average meal in an English home any day.  

  5. Anonymous says:

    A common sense approach to dealing with some troubling issues.

    Was very refreshing to read.


    Come on Government, respond! We are all watching you!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Government has responded but as usual you can’t tell.  If your still watching your wasting your time.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The for sale signs are there because there is a massive disconnect between supply and demand for beach houses. Many of the houses and lots have been listed for years and years at ridiculous prices that no one is going to pay. Apparently, the brokers think that buyers are too stupid to recognize that when there are hardly any sales, the prices must be too high. It also doesn’t help lot sales that it is really, really hard to get a beach house built without being screwed multiple times. In fact, everyone involved with our house warned us about everyone else involved. That doesn’t do much to sell people on the place.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t believe that "for Sale" signs is an issue for a tourist, but it may be an issue for someone who is looking to invest in Cayman.

    Overnight tourism has crumbled for a long time. Sour looking people working in the tourism industry, mount trashmore, general problem with garbage flying all over the roads and beaches, outrageous prices for lousy service, having to sip a $10 cocktail from a crappy plastic cup, Americanized food instead of local cuisine and the list goes on and on.

    Where most other tropical vacation destinations are turning the page and are looking towards eco friendly tourism, Cayman still believes that bigger is better and aims to put concrete everywhere! While other destinations realize that people come for the "local" experience, we still "Americanize" everything as much as possible.

    I wonder when Cayman will catch on that we are losing ground in the tourism industry very fast……

  8. Sell Out says:

    What an excellent opportunity for Caymanians to buy back what they sold off to expats all those years ago.

    Oh, it wasn’t Thanksgiving weekend, this is the Cayman Islands, not the USA. That sort of mindset however, is part of the problem here.

    You reap what you sow.

  9. Carol says:

    I have said before and will say again! Cayman ought to have the cleanest beaches and roadsides in the world. We have any number of low security prisoners sitting at HMP Northward, living like prima donnas, who could do this. With careful supervision and a proper work program, this could be done. Not one officer supervising 20 people on 200+ acres.  We need to come up with some innovative ideas and not wait for the next high paid individual to come up with it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    bo, the truth hurts?……..typical caymanian response…..let bury the issue..hide it…so we can bleed some more tourist dollars from foreigners….

    this place is in serious decline for many reasons…lets tackle the issues instead of trying to cover it up

  11. 2much says:

    I’ve heard the same comments:
    "Why is everyone looking to sell if it’s such a great place to buy?"

    Yes, Caymanhas beautiful attributes: sea, shore and flora, but it is being overwhelmed by the visual blight of signs, the dump, haphazard development, and yes those towering concrete columns by CUC. If the poles weren’t bad enough, they topped them with a cherry making NorthSide a red-light district. Why is CUC allowed to do a hack job on trees rather than seeking guidance from an arborist? It broke my heart to see some of the most beautiful poinciana trees ‘hat racked’ this year.  They seem to justify poles over underground lines based solely in financial terms – but the poles take away real value from the real estate and tourism products and general aesthetic and comfort of our neighborhoods. 

  12. Anonymous says:

    Bo always has great ideas to problems he identifies.  I think his solution to the "For Sale" sign problem is plausible; we just need the real estate guys and the DOT to pick up on the idea.  Who knows? Maybe the DOT can get a cut of the funds gained from sales, which could provide funds to help improve the product within that particular area. 

    Or better yet, maybe the community groups in NS could get together with the real estate groups and do the same thing.  I understand there is an active community group in NS that seems to be raising awarenes about what is good in their community.  This would put another feather in their cap and give them an opportunity to demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit.

    However, I agree the DOT could do more to enhance the Cayman product  rather than spending large sums of funds on marketing overseas.  Sometimes the best marketing is word of mouth and repeat visitors.

  13. Adam Smith says:

    The radical answer would be to halt new developments and restrain supply, but that would harm construction and property industry.

    The easier answer would be to reduce stamp duty sizeably, even on a temporary basis, to allow stock to move without forcing sellers to realise too high a loss.  (And boy they are taking a pounding out there).

    I suppose if the realtors on the island actually charged sensible fees rather than run a nice little cartel that would be a big help.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Well said Bo.


    • Anonymous says:

      Well Said? I think not!


      It’s not always bad news to see ‘everything for sale’. The usual and quite often correct answers to say are that people’s lives change and so do their needs: people want to downsize, upgrade or are selling for financial reasons, or they are getting too old to travel, or they bought another place (here!). Life goes on, people roll with it.

      There are 3 real estate offices in the North Side district, why would CIREBA put up a general one? To hurt those that are already there? CIREBA doesn’t believe in hurting it’s fellow colleagues, XXX

      Garbage: put your money where your mouth is and under the auspices of the North Side Tourism Council organize a clean up campaign. That would be much more beneficial than waiting on Government to act on something that is a community responsibility.

      Light poles are not going to change people’s minds about Cayman being a ‘high end, world class’ destination: high, random crimes, unfriendly encounters, not spotting a Caymanian during their entire trip, not having Engligh-speaking workers in front-line positions like receptionists, F&B servers, taxi drivers, etc is what’s killing our ‘tourist charm’.

      • Carol says:

        Amen! And Amen!

        • concerned CAYMANIAN TO THE BONE says:

          The truth hurts! But kudoos to Bo Miller for your observations. Bo, I putup a sigh to give away some breadfruits and a member of planning had me take it down but across the street was 3 house forsale signs!

          What a double standard!

          To those who are purchasing properties one thing to remember is to take 25% off the sale price and start your negotiations!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Bo you are very right about this.  And I’m certain the next question to be repeated over and over by tourists will be "why are there so many Neighbourhood Watch signs all over the place?"  I assume someone thinks that this is a good thing that people are ‘coming together’ to watch out for criminals in their neighbourhoods, however I believe this is probably just signs being put up everywhere in the hopes that it will deter criminals – I think not! All I can say for sure is that it does not send a pretty picture to visitors!

  16. Tara says:

    Whilst I would agree with Bo that the Island started looking tacky some years ago – this has less to do with the for sale signs and more to do with the banners and signs that appear everywhere often advertising an event that took place in the past.

    As for the For Sale signs, I would say that the tourist in question must be fortunate to come from some part of the world that has been protected from the global crisis we currently find ourselves in – having travelled around the States, the UK and France specifically, I can confirm that For Sale signs are sadly popping up everywhere and this epidemic is not specific to Cayman.

    With regards the appearance of rubbish along our shorelines, I would suggest that given the tragedy that occured in that area when some prisoners were on a work release, it would be far preferable for Mr. Miller to put his money where his mouth is and instead of pointing fingers and trying to figure out who should be responsible for the mess that perhaps he might grab a few friends, a few bin bags and spend an afternoon enjoying the sunshine whilst cleaning up the coast – perhaps he might instigate and annual pre Christmas clean up ending with refreshments on the beach to encourage community participation as was so common in the "good old days".

    I certainly don’t mean any disrespect with this post but do feel that too often we’re quick to point out problems without a willingness to become part of the solution – it’s time we all (and this is not aimed in any way at Mr. Miller – I include myself and every other citizen and resident of these Islands) took responsibility for keeping our environment clean and safe and take care of one another rather than living the insular lives that seems to be the preference in this day and age.

    • NorthSideSue says:

      You are way off base with this comment!  I’ve been a part of  many of the beach clean up efforts Bo has organized in North Side.

    • anonymous says:

       I think Bo hit the spot with his comments. And Tara, I believe the For Sale sign epidemic on North Side started well before the downturn in the economy. 5 years ago I was being askedwhy all the For Sale signs, and I could only speculate that it was the wealthy always willing to sell for the right price. I sometimes wonder if the lack of property tax makes the act of buying and sitting on the property with a for sale sign up from day 1 a little too easy?

      Nevertheless, there are many valid comments in this viewpoint. Often I think the answer to tourism in Cayman would be the simpler things. More small business, tour operators, and authentic personal interactions, ideally with Caymanians but even with expats as long as they are genuine. I think the average tourist has destination fatigue, tour operator fatigue, and general travel fatigue. I am not sold that dolphinariums, Mandarin Oriental hotels, and crowds from cruise ship passengers are what tourists are after. I think the Caribbean did itself a disservice when it sold out to the cruise corporations. 

      There is no turning back for 7MB, but there is still hope for the cruise dock to falter, and the port dock too. The last thing East End and Northside need is a homeport for the cruise lines. The vast majority of people I’ve met on the front lines in tourism preferred the north side to 7MB for it’s actual laid back feel. They all mentioned 7MB as a beautiful stretch of beach but were not in favour of the massive condos, taller buildings, and traffic. 

      Keep up the good fight Bo. You are a sensible person who talks to the tourists and the residents and has a clearer picture of the reality in Cayman. May the powers at be and wealthy elite hear you before they pave paradise and put up a parking lot (or docks).



      • Chris Johnson says:

        For those who remember the building of the old Holiday Inn, the Government refused to give them permission to erect their usual sign. In fact no sign was erected as all knew it was the Holiday Inn. In certain parts of Aspen, New Orleans and probably other locations fast food restaurants such as Burger King are also not allowed to erect their traditional signs. From what I saw they werestill doing well. Several years later, after the hotel was built, when Mr Jim Bodden was in charge, signs became less regulated, starting with the hideous advertising signs along the road to the airport. Now it has become a free for all. Try driving down North Church street to see the numerous banners advertising for the sale of gold. Of course come election time every pole gets its fair share of campaigning rubbish. However like many things it is too late to turn back the clock.

        Bo thank for raising yourpoints of view. Can we have more?

        • Deadright says:

          Chris Good post. Remember when Caribartel [ now Harbour Heights] painted its sign on the roof and Dennis Foster ordered to to paint over it? Those were the days when politicians were men and not wimps.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tara I’m with you on this

      People are not selling their property because Cayman is a horrible place to live. People are selling because of the economic downturn world wide and the roll overs, etc.

      Yes, great idea, let’s hide the fact that there are properties for sale…. Duh. When I was looking for a place, I spend several weekends driving thru the areas that I was interested in looking for these signs!!! Dingdong hello??

      Not everyone wants to drag an agent around for days on end while they show you what they want to sell instead of what you are interested in!!  Wasting everyone’s time. And I found that they don’t like to work on weekends when it’s convenient to me!

      Sorry, just thought that was a silly idea. (stupid actually, but I’m trying to be nice)

    • Janice says:

      "I certainly don’t mean any disrespect with this post but do feel that too often we’re quick to point out problems without a willingness to become part of the solution"

      Did Bo said he wasn’t willing or had nothing in his plans to be a part of the solution?

      First answer this question with fact before you make a reply!

  17. NorthSideSue says:

    Well said, Bo.  Those of us who have been visiting the island for many decades will continue to come because we still see the vestiges of what made us first love this place.  But we can hardly expect the first time visitor to view the island through our memories.  I agree, there needs to be some new thinking about Cayman’s tourism product.

  18. Richard N. Parson says:

     Well said.  But will anyone listen?  Will anything be done?  It is indeed sad that "for sale" signs and Mount Trashmore have taken such a prominent place on the landscape of Cayman.   We "old timers" remember when Cayman was unspoiled, quiet and safe.  While I know that Caymanians are now more prosperous, I often wonder if it is worth the price they have had to pay. 

    • lorna says:

      Mr. Parson, I always say, you don’t get the good without the bad in life. It is a cycle and I feel one day after Cayman has fully destroyed her self and everyone runs away, God once again will find her "amongst the seas."

  19. Anonymous says:

    This about sums it up for tourism. There is nothing I can add to this except to say, thank you Bo Miller, and Amen, Amen.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Very well written and I agree with everything stated. My question is, how do we get the people in power to pay any attention to these issues when there is no immediate personal gain for them in enhancing our tourism product and improving the appearance of the island?