By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A top realtor yesterday said he is hoping the $29 million sale of Children’s Bay Cay will “create some excitement” and spark an upswing in the private island market.
George Damianos, head of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, confirmed to Tribune Business that the deal for the well-known 167-acre cay, located just north of Great Exuma, was on the verge of closing with the purchasers only awaiting Investments Board approvals.
Describing the necessary permits as “imminent”,Mr Damianos said of the transaction: “It’s basically been one of the very few transactions that’s occurred this year in private islands. There are lots of islands down there, and some sell and some don’t.
“In general, the sale of private islands has been slow this year, but I’m hoping the fact this has been sold will bring people forward to make a move, those that have been looking.”
Suggesting that the Children’s Bay Cay purchase would help to stimulate the Exuma economy, via work for both contractors and full-time employees, and direct spending by the new owners, Mr Damianos said 2013 private island sales were up compared to last year.
He acknowledged, though, that activity in this market niche - the peak of the Bahamian real estate industry - had been relatively low for the past several years in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and global recession.
Now, hoping that the Children’s Bay Cay deal might herald a revival of buyer interest, Mr Damianos told Tribune Business: “There’s a good possibility there could be a turn of events in the private island business.
“We’re optimistic it might create some excitement in the private island market for the Exumas. It’s a very special cay.”
Located relatively close to Exuma International Airport, Children’s Bay Cay already possesses a new 1.4 acre marina, dredged to a depth of 16 feet.
There are three houses on the island, with two located on a hill top to form the main compound. Between the two there are five bedrooms, while the third property is a one-bedroom cottage just to the south of the marina.
Mr Damianos disclosed that after dredging the marina, the now-vendor had previously looked at selling off lots on Children’s Bay Cay for individuals to develop into their own private homes.
However, he “changed hid mind” following the global financial meltdown in 2008, and Children’s Bay Cay was placed on the market to be sold as one private island.
The purchasers, Mr Damianos said, had no plans other than to enjoy Children’s Bay Cay for their own private use.
“There are no plans to do anything over the top,” he added.
Assessing the wider implications of the Children’s Bay Cay purchase, Mr Damianos told Tribune Business: “It’s important because it does create employment in the Exumas.
“A lot of the islands depend on that type of work, whether they be a sub-contractor or employee on the island. We both know that once these islands are traded, and people use them, it puts nothing but money into these economies.
“It’s great for the economy, and in the Exumas it doesn’t take very much at all to help a little bit in those neighbouring communities.”
Children’s Bay Cay’s purchasers will join an exclusive group of private island owners in the Exumas.
They include actor Tyler Perry; illusionist and magician, David Copperfield; actor Johnny Depp; country singer Tim McGraw; Liberty Media chief John Malone; and Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury goods outfit, LVMH.