February 17, 2023

Benefits (and Cautions) of Real Estate in Bermuda

Marc J. Homer, MD, FACR

In a
previous SRS article, I related the circumstances of my Bermudian citizenship. At the end of that essay, I hinted about the benefit of this status. In this essay, I will now divulge that benefit.

My wife and I visited Bermuda many times over the years and eventually considered owning a home there. Many decades ago, when I was giving a mammography course at the beautiful Sonesta Beach Hotel in Southampton, Bermuda, we arranged for a realtor to meet us during a free afternoon to show us homes for sale. After the realtor drove up to the hotel entrance and we all introduced ourselves, my wife said we were interested in seeing two-bedroom waterfront homes.

When the realtor heard our American accents, she responded that unless one of us had Bermudian status, she was very limited by law as to what she could show us because non-citizens were only allowed to live in certain areas on the island. I then proudly opened my attaché case and handed her documentation of my status.

After looking it over very carefully, she informed us that she was now permitted to show us homes anywhere on the island. She said that the only property available at the time was a one-bedroom with a water view, but she wanted to show it to us anyway so we could see the neighborhood. We got into her small car (a luxury on the island) and off we went.

The neighborhood was clean but not elegant. The home was situated on less than a half-acre. It had a very small wading pool in the back. The house reeked of mildew and the appliances were very old. Regarding the water view, when I stood on my tiptoes, I was barely able to see the ocean from the bottom left corner of the kitchen window.

Although we had no intention of buying the house, we politely inquired about the asking price. When I heard the price, I had to restrain myself from laughing. It was even more expensive than multibedroom homes on more than an acre of land in the suburbs of Boston (not a cheap place to live!). I will never forget the four terse sentences of the realtor’s reply: "Land in Bermuda is dear. Bermudians are wealthy. The price is non-negotiable. The house will be sold in a week." I then turned to my wife and whispered in her ear that I wanted to go back to the hotel to enjoy the rest of the afternoon … and I was finished looking for homes in Bermuda.

I would now like to leave you with three takeaways. If you, or someone you know, want to buy a home in Bermuda, make certain you are familiar with the restrictive rules regarding non-citizens. Bermuda is an expensive place to live so ensure you have enough assets. Finally, if you are considering staying at the beautiful Sonesta Beach Hotel, forget it. It was destroyed in 2003 by Hurricane Fabian.