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WITHIN A FEW MONTHS Barbadians will know the full results of a comprehensive study on the island’s villa sector. However, preliminary findings revealed by managing director of Property Consulting Services Terry Hanton indicate that the sector is a significant growth area. Hanton is co-authoring the study with Central Bank of Barbados Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell. Speaking last Wednesday during a Press conference hosted by Altman Real Estate, of which Property Consulting Services is a division, he said there were over 2 000 luxury homes in Barbados owned by non-residents and they account for 40 per cent of the accommodation stock in the island. “They account for 3 000 rooms compared to just under 5 000 hotel rooms,” he said during the event at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre. Hanton added that in most years around 200 luxury homes are “transacted to non-nationals”, especially British nationals. “The key driver is wealth, so obviously the boom years up to 2007/ 2008 were huge expansion years for the sale of second homes worldwide,” he said, noting that a lot of them were in “amenitized communities” like Royal Westmoreland, Port St Charles, Sugar Hill and Apes Hill. Foreign direct investment Hanton added that the Central Bank’s research showed that real estate accounts for a third of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI). “At its peak, real estate inflows into Barbados were over $800 million in 2007. In 2010 they were nearly $400 million. It is the second largest source of foreign currency to the country,” he said. Hanton went on to note that villa owners and renters spend nearly 20 per cent more per day than hotel guests. “The other main driver has been exchange rate. In those peak years the value of the [pound] sterling was extremely high. It has tailed off a little bit but it is still a significantly good value for a [British] buyer and they look at Barbados favourably. “I would say they look at Barbados first before some of the other islands. We have a more robust product; we have better amenities and more of a lifestyle choice,” he said.