House Hunting in the Seychelles: A Coral Island Paradise for $2.7 Million

Long a destination for tourists and high-end investors, the African archipelago is struggling to balance foreigners and locals in its housing market.

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A Four-Bedroom Beachfront Villa in the Indian Ocean

$2.7 MILLION

This four-bedroom beachfront villa is on remote Desroches Island, a car-free, three-mile-long coral atoll in the Seychelles Islands, the 115-island archipelago off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Built in 2009 with a three-part wood shingle roof in the Creole architectural island style, the single-story, 4,730-square-foot villa sits on 0.6 acres, with a fringe of coconut palms along a white sandy beach lapped by turquoise waters.

The house’s front-garden foliage keeps it “well hidden” from the unpaved road connecting it to rest of the island, said Robert Green, founder of the London-based international real estate brokerage Sphere Estates, which has the listing. The road is used only by pedestrians, electric buggies, bicycles and a rare motorbike.

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An indoor living room opens to an alfresco great room with a lofty wood plank ceiling, with the garden and an Indian Ocean beach beyond. Credit…Courtesy of Sphere Estates

A double front door opens to a home designed for indoor-outdoor living all year round. The flooring is hardwood. Ceiling fans whir throughout.

The indoor common space, with the living and dining areas and kitchen, extends to a lofty covered alfresco great room. Bi-fold sliding doors open onto an expansive wood terrace connecting all areas of the property. “The lateral living layout, with plenty of terraces, beautiful wooden decking and covered outdoor space, is very special,” Mr. Green said.

The kitchen is square with a high ceiling and two white ceramic sinks, granite counters and cabinets made from local casuarina wood. Foldable windows above cabinets along two walls form an indoor/outdoor bar. Behind the kitchen is a scullery with a double sink.

Bedroom wings flank the entertaining spaces and extend into the garden. Each has a suite with a vaulted beamed ceiling, folding doors on two or three sides, and air-conditioning. The en suite bathrooms have dual countertop sinks, wood cabinetry, a free-standing bathtub and indoor and outdoor showers. There is an additional guest suite, as well as a smaller children’s or staff suite overlooking the entrance garden, also with indoor and outdoor showers.

A raised 13-by-26-foot infinity-edge pool is tucked into the U-shape formed by the back of the house.

Abundant foliage ensures privacy from the neighboring villas. Beyond the beachside garden is a grove of mature coconut trees. A soft white-sand beach meets the Indian Ocean.

Desroches Island has about 100 residents — a fraction of the roughly 99,000 in all the Seychelles. White-sand beaches and 14 world-class dive sites surround the island, which is home to the Island Conservation Society’s Tortoise Sanctuary. The Four Seasons Resort Desroches, the only resort on the island, provides transportation to its restaurants and spa. The daily scheduled flight from Desroches’s runway takes 35 minute to Seychelles International Airport on Mahe, near the capital city of Victoria.

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The kitchen, which looks out on the pool, is square with a high ceiling and two white ceramic sinks, granite counters and cabinets made from local casuarina wood. Credit…Courtesy of Sphere Estates

Market Overview

The Republic of Seychelles, which declared its independence from Britain in 1976, has long been a destination for tourists and high-end real estate investors.

After a “dreadful year” because of restrictive measures during the pandemic, the market started picking up last November with “a lot of buyers desperate to secure a second home” on islands that “seem to be safe and have a lot of outdoor experiences to enjoy,” Mr. Green said.

Since March 10, however, sales to foreign buyers have trickled. A government-imposed moratorium on issuing permission (known as “sanctions”) to nonresidents for the purchase of land for residential use is limiting activity, “with buying restricted to certain areas only,” said Jean-Paul Maurel, a partner and director at Premium Realty.

“Prices are holding with a minor correction down, but foreigner investments are less due to low confidence and the foreigner residential purchase moratorium,” Mr. Maurel said.

Nevertheless, said Lana Prokopyeva, chief executive of Royal Seychelles Investment, “real estate prices in Seychelles will only rise due to very high demand and shortage of land within the country and high deferred demand from foreign buyers who are awaiting legislation clarification in order to invest in buying real estate in Seychelles.”

Ms. Prokopyeva pointed to an ongoing government audit intended to better understand “what improvements in legislation are needed for a more thoughtful differentiation of the sale market to non-Seychellois and Seychellois.”

She continued, “It is very important to accurately divide these two markets,” which impact prices for locals. “There are foreign buyers in this market with incomparably greater financial opportunities than those that citizens can afford.”

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Two bedroom wings flank the entertaining spaces and extend into the garden. Each wing has a suite with a vaulted beamed ceiling, folding doors and air-conditioning.Credit…Courtesy of Sphere Estates

Before the moratorium, foreigners made up 25 percent of the buyers in the Seychelles; now they represent 5 percent, Mr. Maurel said.

At the moment, foreigners can only buy homes in places like Eden Island, a man-made marina development connected to the island of Mahe by bridge, or condominiums in places like Pangia Beach, which has a private marina, and where a four-bedroom beachfront penthouse with an infinity pool is currently on the market for $2.65 million. At the Four Seasons Petite Anse resort, a three-bedroom villa is asking $7.25 million.

Launched about 20 years ago on a 138-acre reclaimed coral flat, Eden Island is “nearing completion,” said Brian Gradner, the project sales and marketing manager with Pam Golding Properties. Since inception, 360 new apartments, 120 new houses and 75 new villas have been sold.

“Resales have been ongoing for the past few years, too,” Mr. Gradner said, some to investors and others for personal use. Prices start at $400,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, $550,000 for a two-bedroom, and $700,000 for a three-bedroom. Houses, known as “maisons” begin at $900,000, and villas start at $2.95 million. Amenities include a marina, clubhouse with gym, pools, tennis court and four secluded beaches.

Foreigners may also purchase in high-end developments on Mahe such as Royal Palm Residences or Westview, where prices range from $5 million to $15 million for a villa.

For leasehold properties, like the Desroches Villa, the seller owns the lease. Buyers “pay upfront to lease the land and property for X years,” Mr. Green said. “At the end of the term, the land and property reverts back to the government unless a new lease is negotiated.”

Plots and houses for sale outside the gated resorts are “for the domestic buyer,” Mr. Green said. “It is more complicated for foreigners.” Alternately, “buyers set up a Seychelles company and buy through that,” he said. “It is easier. We have people to handle that.”

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The 4,730-square-foot villa sits on 0.6 acres, with a fringe of coconut palms along white sandy beach lapped by turquoise waters.Credit…Courtesy of Sphere Estates

Who Buys in the Seychelles

Clients from Russia and the United Arab Emirates find buying in the same time zone desirable, Mr. Maurel said. Buyers also come from South Africa and Europe, which have two- to three-hour time differences.

Americans and Canadians are also among the buyers, Mr. Green said, while some from China are “starting to pay more attention.” European buyers come from Britain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia.

On Eden Island, where buyers qualify to apply for Seychelles residency, “44 different nationalities have purchased homes,” Mr. Gradner said. “About 25 percent of those have bought more than one home.”

Buying Basics

Property on outlying islands, or any besides Mahe, Praslin, La Digue and Cerf Island, may not be purchased freehold, and is typically purchased leasehold, according to the Seychelles Investment Board. The lease on this Desroches property expires in 2072, Mr. Green said.

Foreigners can buy privately owned property, but must request permission from the government. The application process is typically handled by a notary or lawyer for a fee of 1.5 percent of the purchase price.

Closing costs include a 5 percent stamp duty, as well as an 11 percent sanction duty on foreigners buying a property as a holiday home or residence, according to the Seychelles Investment Board. Notary fees are usually 2 percent.

Most foreign buyers pay cash, Mr. Maurel said, adding that residential properties (except for those on Eden Island), condominiums and resort properties cannot be rented out by foreigners.

Houses are marketed in euros, pounds or dollars, but taxes and fees must be paid in Seychellois rupees.

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Desroches Island has about 100 residents — a fraction of the roughly 99,000 in all the Seychelles. White-sand beaches and 14 world-class dive sites surround the island. Credit…Courtesy of Sphere Estates

Websites

Seychelles government portal: egov.sc

Official tourism site: seychelles.com

Languages and Currency

English, French and Creole; Seychellois rupee (1 rupee = $0.074)

Taxes and Fees

A quarterly fee of around $4,600 is payable to Islands Development Company Ltd., the company in charge of the outer islands, Mr. Green said. An annual fee of $6,900 covers island maintenance, and for the villa, regular basic cleaning and airing, garden and pool maintenance, water and electricity.

An annual property tax for all foreign owners was introduced last year, calculated at 0.25 percent of the property value.

Contact

Robert Green, Sphere Estates, sphereestates.com; 011-44-20-8166-5320

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