Life On The Bay Island, Roatan

Your Own Home On Our Favorite Caribbean Isle For US$83,500

Approaching Roatan from the air, the view is of a small Caribbean island, 40 miles long, 2 miles wide, and very green. Roatan may be the largest and most developed of the three Bay Islands offshore from mainland Honduras, but it’s still a very natural place. No high-rise hotels here. Construction regulations don’t allow buildings over three stories. This, along with density setbacks from the beach, have succeeded in keeping the development on this island low-key. Bananas and coconuts grow everywhere, and cows and pigs graze in the lush grass. Occasionally you encounter them wandering down the road, as well.

The lifestyle on Roatan is laid-back, the people hospitable and friendly. Change comes slowly on this Western Caribbean outpost.

Roatan’s greatest appeal is its water, which is warm, crystal clear, and home to some of the most beautiful, diverse, and prolific marine life in the world. While Spanish is the official language of Honduras, English is the language of the Bay Islands (once part of British Honduras). The increased tourism and expanding construction industry of the past decade have created an increased demand for labor, and many Spanish-speaking workers from mainland Honduras have migrated to Roatan in search of work. As a result, today, both languages are spoken on the island, as well as many others as, more and more, Europeans and people from all over the world are seeking out Roatan for first and second homes.

The expat population on this island is established, expanding, and eclectic. Roatan appeals to an assortment of demographics, including both retirees and young couples with families. If you appreciate island living, enjoy diving, and want an uncomplicated life, Roatan could have your name all over it, no matter what your age. This island is also an emerging golf destination, thanks to the Pete Dye-designed Black Pearl Golf course, which is attracting a more jet-set crowd.

Roatan, though, is not a typical jet-set destination and may never be. There’s a single main road, which runs almost the length of the island. Access beyond the reach of this main thoroughfare is via a series of other loops, many of which are now hard-surfaced. The second expansion of the international airport in 10 years was completed recently; you can fly here direct from Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Toronto, and Milan weekly. Regular flights to Dallas are planned for next year, and other destinations are added seasonally.

Roatan’s appeal for the retiree is straightforward—it’s quintessential Caribbean at a fraction the cost of more developed Caribbean isles. Real estate, especially, can be a bargain buy right now in the wake of the post-2008 downturn of global property markets, which hit this island hard.

It’s possible to find straight-up fire sales. A home site of more than an acre in the prestigious development of Lawson Rock was priced at US$220,000 in 2009. Today it’s on offer for US$89,900. A five-bedroom house in the same development valued at US$900,000 in 2008 is now listed at US$324,000. And even these discounted prices can be very negotiable. A cute two-story home on a corner waterfront lot in CoCo View was listed for US$120,000 but sold this year for US$83,500.

The cost of living and, right now, especially, of real estate can be tempting, but not all retirees would find life here comfortable.

As Caribbean Correspondent Janine Goben, who has been living on Roatan for 10 years, puts it, “You need to realize that life here is going to be different than you’re used to in the United States. For example, there are no addresses on the island. If you were to ask for my address, you’d be told to look for ‘the Gringa’s house on Brazil Hill above the road to the air traffic control tower after the gates to Larry McLaughlin’s property.’ I find that charming. Some others, though, might find it maddening!”

Janine shares more insights into expat and retired life on little Roatan and provides a comprehensive overview of the property market on this island, including details of particularly interesting current opportunities on offer, in the October issue of my Overseas Retirement Letter, in production now and due in subscribers’ e-mailboxes the 15th of the month.

If you’re not yet a subscriber to the ORLbecome one here now in time to receive Janine’s delightful (and fully illustrated) firsthand report on living the good life on Roatan’s sandy Caribbean shores.

Kathleen Peddicord

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