By Monique Stringfellow
Wimco Villas and Sibarth Real Estate combine forces to help visitors experience the laidback wonder of St. Barths.
Tim Warburton, president of Wimco Villas, has been connected with St. Barths since, well, before the island’s name carried the international cache that it does today. While he was a young boy, his mother spent a good deal of time exploring the isle’s wonders. Warburton’s mother was among what he calls St. Barths’ early adopters-a group of adventurous French and American trailblazers searching for a new place to spend their winters.
These pioneers set a precedent that visitors throughout the years have happily maintained. St. Barths has always been a place for people looking for a unique vacationing experience. It is a corner of the French Caribbean that attracts intellectuals, creatives, and other sophisticates heading south from U.S. metropolises, especially New York City. “People who are doers,” says Warburton, “people who make things happen in their domain,” are the types who flock to the island’s warm sands.
Wimco was established as a villa marketing and reservations company in 1983, in partnership with local property management company Sibarth. Today, Wimco has more than 250 private villas on the island available for rent, most of them on an exclusive basis. There is a symbiotic relationship between Wimco’s villa rental business and Sibarth Real Estate’s sales business. Clients will rent a villa on St. Barths first, and while on the island, may ask to see a few homes for sale. Once they purchase a villa, they will often decide to make it available for rent for a few months a year-a virtuous cycle for both companies. Sibarth Real Estate is headed by Christian Wattiau, originally from Belgium, who has 25 years experience of selling real estate in St. Barths. A prime example of how the companies work together can be seen with Villa VBB. VBB offers a 180-degree panoramic view of the ocean, allowing guests to see the magnificent sunset every day of the year. Wattiau mentions the “nautical life” that passes by, including yachts making their way to the nearby harbor. The pool at SIB VBB is a 40-foot masterpiece, equipped with granite waterfall. Sibarth can broker the sale of such villas, to later be available to rent by the week through Wimco.
Villas on St. Barths range in size from one to six bedrooms, and all possess a certain flow between rooms that is ideal for entertaining but is also private. Many of the villas provide ocean views and are equipped with the latest technological advantages. Wimco provides a plethora of concierge services, including arranging provisions in advance of the guests’ arrivals, hiring a private chef, overseeing the delivery of wines and spirits, scheduling private spa treatments at the villa, and booking island activities such as scuba, tennis, or spear fishing. It is this full-service treatment that sets Wimco and Sibarth apart from other rental and real estate agencies. Combining intimate knowledge of the island and its villas with a savvy understanding of legal, financial, and international issues, the team stands poised to satisfy almost any client request.
All evidence points to the fact that St. Barths is a unique place. There is not a single large hotel here, and palm trees provide the de facto yardstick for judging the upper limits of any new construction. It’s physically impossible, given landing strip limitations, to land a plane with more than 19 seats, and the harbor is simply too small for properly accommodating cruise ships, ensuring a relative absence of “day boat” tourists that is appreciated by locals and regulars. Upon entering a restaurant, one is as likely to encounter the proprietor as a seasonal employee. Wattiau says this personal connection transfers to clients as well, noting that most are long term, returning season after season.
While the international press has done much to spotlight the island’s celebrity quotient, St. Barths prides itself on its relaxed and unpretentious style, which Warburton refers to as “t-shirt casual.” Should the occasional celebrity make an appearance, the typical reaction has been one of French nonchalance. This is a major element of the island’s charm. The residents are mainly French with the remainder comprised of Italians, British, and Americans. Wattiau notes that with recent market fluctuations, he has seen a higher proportion of Europeans than ever before.
Looking towards the future, St. Barth’s hopes to be recognized as a unique place for an entirely different reason: taking initiative in the green movement. The island’s former favorite slogan, “St. Barths D’abord” (St. Barths First), is poised to transform into “St. Barths: Vert D’abord” (St. Barths: Green First). According to Warburton, there is no community more ready than St. Barths to take on the challenge of sustainable living. “If not us, then who; if not now, when? We have the funds, the vision, and the resources to make this happen. There is a nonstop supply of solar energy, water power, and wind power. I think St. Barths could be an example for other places.”
From its days as a discreet hideaway to its current incarnation as a chic, grounded respite from the chaos of 21st century life, St. Barths has always been a magnet for innovators. With an eye towards the future, it seems likely that Warburton and Wattiau, and Wimco and Sibarth Real Estate, will ensure that this legacy continues.
Wimco Villas & Hotels
Sibarths Real Estate