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From a blog of the Baltimore Sun newspaper, comes this write up of a travel promotion for a few Caribbean islands: 
"This is a travel deal that you can put stock in. Literally. Elite Island Resorts, a chain of Caribbean hotels in Antigua, Barbados, Grand Cayman, St. Lucia, British Virgin Islands and Nevis, will let you trade in your devalued U.S. stock for an island vacation...the offer extends to March 31. 

"You own stock in company XYZ. Today the stock is valued at $5. But last summer on July 1 - the date Elite has set for the offer - your stock was trading at $50. Elite will give you credit for the higher stock value and accept the transfer of stock as payment for your vacation. The maximum stock transaction is $5,000 per room. Cost varies depending upon the resort you select, but let's say you stay 10 nights at $500 per night = $5,000 = 100 shares of your stock in XYZ." 

For links to Elite Island Resorts' list of 400 approved stocks, and more details, visit the Baltimore Sun

Maybe we'll see you here this winter after all! 

 
Whether you're ready to settle into your first home or looking to buy your fifth; are moving cross-country or cross-town, it's smart to identify which attributes of a new home are most important to you. Be sure to sit down with your real estate agent and discuss your needs and wants for your new house. Here are five topics to think about when buying a home: 

1) What You Can't Live Without 
Our lifestyle choices are often reflected in the homes we buy. Are you a motorcycle fanatic? If so, a roomy garage would be important to you. Have a big family? You'll likely need to buy a home with at least four bedrooms. Perhaps you or your spouse is a gourmet cook. In that case, a well-designed kitchen could be a must for you. Before your real estate agent begins a home buying search for you, he or she will want to know which home attributes you can't live without. 

2) Schools and Family Needs 
The quality of school systems has long been of importance to home-buying families. If you have children or are thinking about having children in your new home, you'll want to discuss school information and statistics with your real estate agent. Not only is it important to consider the location of your home relative to area schools, but you'll also want to think about the quality and diversity of local school offerings. Your real estate agent can provide statistics and information about both public and private schools in all the neighborhoods in which you're considering buying a home. 

3) Commuting 
With our island lifestyle, commuting isn't much of an issue, but even some type of commute can detract from a home-buyer's quality of life and the time he or she gets to spend at home. If having little or no commute to work is important to you, convey this to your real estate agent. 

4) Community Details 
Whether you hope to live in a vibrant urban neighborhood, or a charming country town, the demographics, details and community statistics of a particular area are almost as important a consideration when buying a home as the details of the house itself. Do you want to live in the thick of the action? Prefer to get away from it all? If a particular aspect of a community is important to you like a defined downtown area, be sure to tell your real estate agent so that he or she can keep this consideration at the forefront of your home search. We are all familiar with the amenities of every location on our island, so just let us know what's important. 

5) Budget 
Of course, the most rigid constraint of a home-buying search is typically the buyer's budget. Defining budget parameters quickly and early focuses a home search to a particular segment of the market. However, with the creative lending solutions available today, budget constraints are not as rigid as they once were or as many home-buyers assume them to be. Many innovative mortgage options are now available to both first-time and veteran home-buyers. Before beginning a home search, you should get preapproved for the amount of a mortgage, then you and your realtor can be realistic in your home search. 

This blog starts a weekly series of posts on getting to know the Cayman Islands. Why should you visit? Why should you invest in real estate in the Cayman Islands? Why and how could you move to the Cayman Islands? Over the next few weeks, we'll try to give you the basic information and links to answer those questions. 

Many thanks to Cayman Islands for its resources. 

Where are the Cayman Islands? In the western Caribbean, the 3 islands of the Caymans, a British Overseas Territory, are 480 miles south of Miami, 150 miles south of Cuba, and 180 miles NW of Jamaica. The islands are Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman, which cover about 100 sq miles. 

What currency is used in the Caymans? The Cayman Islands has its own currency, first issued in 1972, whose basic unit is the dollar, issued in notes with denominations of CI$100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 and coins valued at 25 cents, 10, 5 and 1 cent. The CI dollar has a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar of CI$1.00 equals US$1.25. Or, the US dollar equals CI $.80. There is no need for visitors to exchange their US dollars into local currency. The US dollar is accepted throughout the islands at a rate of CI 80 cents. Major credit cards and travellers checks are widely accepted. 

What time zone is used in the Cayman Islands? The Caymans are in the same zone as EST, or 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight savings is not observed. 

What language is most widely used in the Cayman Islands? The main language is English. There are other minor languages as well, such as Spanish, and many uses of Caribbean slang words. 

What medical services are available in the Caymans? The government of the Cayman Islands' Health Services Complex is located in George Town, Grand Cayman. It boasts modern equipment and facilities, in addition to an increased number of highly trained personnel. A 24 hour hyperbaric decompression chamber is available for divers and an air ambulance service for other emergencies. is also a private hospital - Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial - in George Town, as well as a number of other private facilities that offer a variety of professional medical services. In Cayman Brac, there is a government hospital - Faith Hospital. 

When is the best time to visit the Caymans? The Atlantic Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends officially on November 30. However, the Caribbean is a large region and most storms have shown a tendency to veer to the Northwest (towards the US Mainland) long before reaching the far Western Caribbean area. Consequently, the Cayman Islands have often been spared the full wrath of devastating hurricanes. The summer or "rainy" season runs generally from mid-May through October, and the average temperature in the winter is 75 F and 85 F in the summer. 

Will my cell phone work in the Cayman Islands? As with the other Caribbean Islands, you'll need a SIM card for your GSM worldphone. 

Is there internet service in the Caymans? There are several providers, WiFi hot spots, and internet cafes on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. 

You can see from these basic facts that the Cayman Islands are modern, comfortable, and ready for your visit. Check our blog next week for a post on the history of the Caymans.

According to Fractional Life, Wyndham Hotels has just announced a Fractional Ownership opportunity on Grand Cayman.  

The 170-room Ramada Grand Caymanian Beach Club and Resort is adjacent to the North Sounds Club golf course on the waters of the Grand Cayman North Sound Lagoon. Other amenities include an on-site restaurant, lighted tennis court, beach volleyball, freshwater pool, hot tubs, and water activities such as scuba diving and deep sea fishing.

There will be studio, 1 and 2-bedroom suites with full kitchen and laundry facilities in-suite. For additional information visit www.caribbeanresidenceclubs.com and read the full announcement here in Fractional Life.

There is no doubt about it: there are a lot of homes on the market. Understanding that, how do you, as a seller cause your home to stand out from your competition? Home staging, says Barb Schwartz, CEO of StagedHomes.com, is an oft overlooked function of real estate selling. 

Home buyers need to mentally 'move in' to a home to see themselves living there. If you cannot accomplish that then you've lost them. Schwartz offers six simple tips to help sellers in a downtrodden market improve their position. Here are the final three: 

4.) Work in ones or threes. Arrange items on hard surfaces, such as coffee tables in ones and threes. If you have a large surface use 3 items, for smaller surfaces use one. If you put 10 things out you've overdone it and created clutter. For three items, they should be closely grouped in a triangle. 

5.) Decide from the doorway. A buyer will get their first impression of a room from the doorway, so when evaluating your staging efforts you should do the same thing. Stage the room, go back to the doorway, re-stage, go back to the doorway and keep doing that until you have it right. 

6.) Make your place 'Q' tip clean. The home should be immaculate. If you were selling your car, the first thing you would do would be to have it completely cleaned up, inside and out. A home is no different and it goes beyond simply making a presentation. Buyers will wonder what other, less visible problems might come with an unkempt property.