Finding our Cayman home

I love looking at houses for sale, keeping an eye out for our forever home and dreaming about ‘what if we won the lottery’ homes. So when we had to start looking for a house in the Cayman Islands I was in my element.

To Google I went, armed with my search queries for letting agents and real estate agents (or estate agents to you and I). This was slow, painful and time consuming, as I couldn’t find a similar site to Rightmove, Zoopla etc, so I was checking each individual site every few days for new listings. During a catch up with his recruiter Ste just happened to mention that we had started looking at houses and Joanna told him about a site called ecaytrade.com. What a life saver! It’s like ebay but just for Cayman. All the local agents post their new listings here and people post houses they are renting privately too. So I created an account and saved a search for 3 bedroom properties and just let the alerts pop into my inbox.

There seemed to be four types of properties available:

Apartments – not ideal with two small children who like to run about

Town houses – sort of terraced, two or three storey houses on apartment like complexes

Duplexes – semi-detached houses

Single family homes – detached houses

After lots of discussions, we decided we would like a house of some description with a private garden for safety when the little ones are playing outside. This was not as simple as it sounds. Fully fenced in gardens are rare in the Cayman Islands and communal outside spaces are a lot more common.

A couple of weeks before we left the UK I found the same agent kept popping up with property adverts so I dropped Colleen Martin from a company called BCQS an email with our requirements. All the agents here have access to all of the properties available so you can find one you like and they can search all the listings for you.

Coleen couldn’t have been more helpful, I gave her our requirements and budget, she sent me a couple of links to look at in the meantime and advised to give her a call once we arrived.

Fast forward to 24th September (the day after we arrived) and I called Colleen who sent over a list of available properties, including one I’d had my eye on for months but was at the very, very top end of our budget. We chose two properties to view both in gated complexes with pools; a four bed semi detached house 20 minutes from town and a two bed detached 5 minutes from town with an extra loft room. Colleen met us at our temporary accommodation the next day and we followed her to the houses for viewings. What a service! No wondering which street/complex/house we were looking for, she knew everything about the properties and could answer all of our questions. UK estate agents take note!

After hours of pros and cons and budgeting we went with the house in Savannah. It met all our requirements and more. It has spare rooms for visiting family, a playroom for the children, a fenced garden, a pool, a gym, a safe gated complex, a utility room, the list goes on.

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Now, you would think all we had to do was fill in an application form, have our references checked, pay a holding deposit and first rent payment. As we’ve since found out, in Cayman nothing is simple or straightforward. If you ever find yourself renting a property in the Cayman Islands you need to do the following before you can move in…

  • Fill out a tenancy application form
  • Pay the full security deposit upfront (usually equivalent to one months rent) via bank transfer.
  • Sign and witness the tenancy agreement.
  • Complete a water company transfer form signed by tenant and landlord (our letting agent forwarded this on) and pay a deposit. Ours was $150.
  • Complete an electricity transfer form. Take this with your signed tenancy agreement and your passport to the Caribbean Utilities Company office and pay a deposit. This varies depending on the size of the property. We paid $450.
  • Pay your first month’s rent (or pro rated) ready to clear the day before you move.
  • We also paid $150 deposit to the the broadband provider before we moved in so we could get connected not long after our move.

Yes, I know that seems totally straight forward and I’m totally over-reacting, but believe me it didn’t feel easy. Especially when all of our available funds were in the UK and Ste’s Cayman bank account was taking almost two weeks to be ready to use (this is the priority service!) which held up the reimbursement of our relocation expenses.

Our first attempt at transferring our deposit failed (we were transferring US dollars to a Cayman dollar account – I’ll post about services for international transfers, how to etc at a later date), we had to find a witness for our tenancy agreement when we didn’t yet know anyone on island, the trip to the CUC office for the electric took over an hour and the broadband had to be done in person. I didn’t have access to a car for our first two weeks on island and you have to do everything in person and everywhere has queues. So Ste had to try and fit this in while doing his first week at work and during office hours – luckily his new employer is really understanding about and they expect it to be the case. Cayman generally has 9 to 5.30 opening hours for businesses with only some being open on Saturdays and online services are rare. It’s like 1980s UK but with smart phones!

We got there eventually and we moved in a month later. Now to relax and enjoy our lovely new home and garden, complete with banana trees and iguanas!

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Some useful links:

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