silver airways exuma eleuthera
Harbour Island is best known for its spectacular Pink Sand Beach.
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How to Live on Harbour Island, Bahamas

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - August 5, 2017

It’s one of the most charming islands in the Caribbean: Harbour Island, the in-the-know high-end destination off the coast of North Eleuthera in The Bahamas, long a celebrity hotspot and favored haunt of travelers looking for beauty, authenticity and exclusivity.

Whether you’re looking for a world-class beach, unmatched historic architecture or the kind of small-town feel that’s hard to find in the Caribbean these days, Harbour Island is for you. So what do you do if you want to buy a home or move there?

To learn more, we talked to Robert Arthur, who moved to Harbour Island with his wife and children in 1989 and runs Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty’s sales office on the island.

The famous Pink Sand Beach.

Why live on Harbour Island?  

Harbour Island offers the best of the Caribbean. Close to the US and UK ( An overnight BA flight gets you to Nassau from the UK, then a short hop over here) If you’re in NY , you can leave Your place at 6AM and be at sip sip in time for a Lobster Quesadilla and Jalapeno Margarita lunch on the Pink Sand Beach. Then there’s the great food. I’ve traveled a good part of the Caribbean islands, and we have some of the best food at the “High End” pricey places, and the native “Street food” is awesome also, like Ms Francis’ stew fish and potato bread or Ms  Higgs’ bread pudding, or Louanne’s conch chowder. Weekly supplies from the US and Nassau, as well as farms in Eleuthera make finding fresh food and other things relatively easy … most of the time.

The island is safe … common sense is still needed of course … but the people are still very friendly, and look out for each other.
I read “best beach “ reviews, and have been to lots of the beaches mentioned. We have the right combination of clear water. cool reefs. pink sand and a cold drink does not require a long drive or hike.

What’s the real estate market like right now?

The market is doing very well. Sales volume is up from a couple years ago, and prices are steady. Most of the “high end” homes and lots on the beach are sold or pending. Properties under $500,000 are still struggling a bit.

What’s the average price for a beachfront home? What about a harbourside home or an inland property? 

Beach homes range from $3 million to $20 million. On or a view of the Harbour from $2.5 million to $5.5 million. Inland, a fixer upper can range from $600,000 to $2.5M for a cottage. You can grab a condo in a resort for $$480,000 to $900,000.

You won’t find a concentration of historic architecture like this in any other town in the Caribbean.

Are there certain areas of Harbour Island that are better for buyers right now?

Harbour Island is such a diverse place. Each part of the Island has a different flavor. Some folks like  the village — everything is in walking distance: restaurants, wine shops, shopping. Folks who seek privacy like the North End called The Narrows. Very expensive. Very quiet. Very private.

Condos at Valentines Resort are getting more sales traffic now, because of its entry level price on the island. For the buyer looking to fix up an old cottage, properties in the village are a good buy — if they can find one.

How long does it typically take to purchase a home?

Anywhere from 30 to 60 days for a commercial purchase. A condo requires a permit that can take up to  6 weeks to obtain.

What are the taxes like?

There is a  2.5 percent government stamp duty on all real estate transactions valued under $100,000. There is a total tax of 10% on all real estate transactions valued at $100,000 and over. This includes the 2.5 percent government stamp duty.

What about property taxes?

The first $250,000 on owner occupied residential property is tax exempt.

On the value of owner/occupied properties between $250,000 and $500,000, the rate is 3/4 of one percent.

On the portion over $500,000, the tax rate is 1% of the market value of the property.

As of 2013, there is a ceiling of $50,000 on an owner occupied home.

Can I get a mortgage? 

Yes. Most local banks will mortgage a property.

What do foreign buyers need to know about buying a home on Harbour Island?

I usually recommend they read Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop The Carnival”!

The key is a good real estate agent. No matter how much you read, or how well you study the market, there is no substitute for local knowledge. The people here are very friendly, and most of them will guide you in the right direction regarding the “ins and outs” of life on the island. And make sure check out the Island’s website “myharbourisland.com” and read the 10 reasons not to come!

For more information, visit Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty’s Harbour Island section.

 

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