house hunters

House hunting began long before we arrived on the island. NS was scouring daily after we accepted our job offers. We quickly learned that there was a TON of housing inventory due to over-building after Hurricane Ivan, as well as a net outflow of people from the island.  Bonus! Both of our firms advised us to negotiate on rent terms, as it was clearly a renter's market.

There are several main neighborhoods on the island:

>> Seven Mile Beach (SMB). We talked to seniors at both our firms before accepting positions, and they unanimously recommended living in this area.
Advantages: You're living on (or within several blocks of) one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most of the shopping and hotels and many restaurants are along this strip. You're probably not far from work (all of the accounting firms that I'm aware of are in SMB or George Town.) However, one of the main reasons people choose this area is that it's only a short taxi ride from home if driving should, ahem, become an issue.
Disadvantages: Mainly price. There are many housing options and a few different price points, but for the most part, all of them high. Also you'll deal with some tourist action.

>> George Town (GT). This is the closest Cayman gets to a city (and it is the capital). The cruise ships pull in here; the airport is in the eastern section; there are many businesses and restaurants downtown.
Advantages: You're probably a 2-minute (or less) commute to work. Everything becomes excessively convenient.
Disadvantages: Again, price. Also, even more tourists.  Plus, depending on where in GT you are located, you can deal with some traffic getting into the heart of town.

>> West Bay. This is just north of the SMB corridor.
Advantages: Only about 7-10 minutes from the SMB public beach. It's also home to The Cracked Conch (a dive shop where we're getting certified), Dolphin Discovery, and the Turtle Farm. It also borders Barker's National Park (read: kitesurfing haven) on the east (it's the point on the right that faces Rum Point).
Disadvantages: It's also home to "the four-way stop". This famous intersection gives no end of grief to UKers who basically have never encountered these and don't know the (simple) rules. In reality, this is the smallest, most forgettable intersection I've ever seen in my life, but it can cause (relatively) nasty traffic delays before and after work. However, the biggest disadvantage to West Bay is its reputation; there are supposedly some shady sections of this neighborhood. You just have to know where to live.

>> South Sound. This is immediately south of GT. We didn't consider this area at first since I am working in SMB and we thought the commute would be annoying.
Advantages: The commute isn't that annoying. If you have children, this is the area to be, because most of the private schools are nearby.  If you live in the right section of South Sound, you'll bypass all the schools getting into GT and not deal with any related backups. We offhandedly looked at several apartments in this area (which in retrospect were technically in GT, but the area is referred to as South Sound) and were pleasantly surprised with the quality and cost of what we saw.
Disadvantages: It's harder to get a place directly on the beach, although you're going to be near the sea at any point. Some of the beaches in this area are what they call "iron shore" - hard coral formations and no sand. Very picturesque; hard to relax on.


>> Prospect and Red Bay. South and east of GT.
Advantages: Up and coming area with "rapid" development. Hurley's Supermarket is located here, which I think is exciting simply because it's not Foster's (which as a clown as a mascot and freaks some people out). The area also has several other shops and restaurants, as well as a skate park. You're also not far from the airport (for those of us expecting the not-infrequent guest.)
Disadvantages: For me, a long commute to SMB, through prime school territory. Also, finding a property on a sandy beach is hit-or-miss.

>> Other areas on the eastern end of the island I don't wish to define because there is no chance you will live there. (But to be fair, here are there names: Savannah, Beach Bay, Bodden Town, Frank Sound, North Side, East End, Rum Point, Cayman Kai).

Upon arrival, along with all the other random things we had to do to set up our lives, we contacted several realtors (hopefully they're used to such disloyalty) and set up viewings for apartments we had seen online. (If you don't look online before coming, I'd suggest visiting the realtors' offices to look at pictures of listings to find something you're interested in viewing.) The areas we were most interested in living were SMB and West Bay because of location and price. We had a budget of of CI$2300/month (at the very high end) but wanted to find something at or below $2K. Along with a price limitation, our hit list included:

 -- 2 bedroom / 2 bath
 -- beach front or within walking distance
 -- under 20 minute commute for both of us
 -- something NOT in the heart of party central
 -- decent utilities usage (primarily a concern for NS)
 -- normal stuff like washer/dryer, dishwasher, yadda yadda yadda
 -- furniture that had been updated within the past decade

The biggest thing we learned was that you can find what you're looking for as long as you're flexible on one more points. Like if being in the SMB corridor is of utmost importance, then you may have to settle spending more. If beach front is your thing, there's plenty of it - get out of SMB to find your price point. If modern furnishings strike your fancy, we found gorgeous places in South Sound for very reasonable rents (but no beach.) And so on. (Of course, if you come to the island with money to burn, disregard all my advice and move into the Ritz for CI$15K/month.)

Anyway, with all that information in hand, we viewed enough places to convince ourselves that the original property we had our eye on in West Bay would suit. I know, I did say that West Bay had its rougher areas. This info just didn't phase us, especially after living in a low-income complex in NJ for four years. (Talk about character-building. But hey, we saved money on a military paycheck!) We've driven through several sections of West Bay without a great deal of concern. Our place is at the end of a quiet road - no hustle and bustle at all - with a fabulous view of a private, serene beach. The price was right as well. The landlord was asking CI$1900/month.  We offered $1650, wanted cable included ($70/month value), asked for the first month at half price, and requested the lease not start until November (most leases were started in October). NS' strategy was to ask for a lot, figuring we'd get denied on something. We got it all. Boom.

I'd love to post photographs, but in case you hadn't noticed, we're still at Sunshine Suites. It's nice to have free rent, but we're both fully ready to be settled in a proper apartment, prepare for guests, and to UNPACK THESE BOXES. But I digress. For now, I'll revel in my 2-minute commute.


  1. You should have applied for house hunters international! I think you would have been a great show to watch! Enjoy!

  2. If this apartment doesn't work out, maybe we will in a year. :)

  3. I just had to read this post again and remind myself that I need to be flexible - I saw some flats in Sydney today and have a couple more lined up for tomorrow and was discouraged but you reminded me this isn't my forever so if I don't have stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops but it has everything else I want (location being most important) then I have to settle for the white appliances :)

    1. I hear ya. I feel like my condo is a direct reflection of who I am, but in this case, it's more of a reflection of the lifestyle I lead. I'm more into my view than into my kitchen - it's a give and take!