By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) was yesterday urged to “be cautious” in using its Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to produce market data reports, given that its listings only represented 25 per cent of total activity.
Ryan Knowles, a realtor with H. G. Christie, told Tribune Business that the volume of transactions conducted via the MLS was still not sufficient to provide “a true reflection” of the Bahamian real estate market.
Reiterating concerns voiced to this newspaper earlier this year, Mr Knowles said he was “a little bit apprehensive” about BREA’s plans to use MLS data to launch a Quarterly Real Estate Activity Report.
While the facility could provide a general guide to prices in the Bahamian real estate market, he argued that activity levels were still too low to generate an accurate assessment of transaction volumes and their total worth.
“The MLS is becoming more and more reliable, but it’s a very slow [journey] to get to that point,” Mr Knowles told Tribune Business.
“I think the MLS may represent 25 per cent of all market activity, and even that number may be generous, so I’m a little bit apprehensive about BREA deciding to do that.”
BREA last week launched the Quarterly Real Estate Activity Report as a ‘value-added’ service spin-off from the MLS, believing it will provide all participants with up-to-date, accurate information on the market’s performance.
BREA is hoping that buyers and sellers, and their realtors, can use the data to determine strategies and property prices, the ultimate goal being to drive Bahamian real estate sales.
But Mr Knowles said: “If I were BREA, I’d be cautious about how they market that data, because it’s not a true reflection, not a complete picture.”
Questioning the percentage of sales that top firms, such as Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, H. G. Christie and Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty, made and recorded through the MLS, he added: “You’ll probably find one out of every four, one out of every five, sales are closed, recorded on the MLS. I’d be surprised if the number was higher than that.”
Data provided to Tribune Business from the first Quarterly Real Estate Activity Report, for the 2012 second and third quarters, showed that on New Providence, the total value of home and condo sales through the MLS dropped 45 per cent quarter-over-quarter, falling from around $24 million to below $15 million.
While units sold via the MLS also dropped 17 per cent over that same period, down from around 24 to 20, a brighter spot was the 50 per cent quarter-over-quarter increase in New Providence vacant land sales.
And new MLS listings on New Providence also increased by 12 per cent in the 2012 third quarter, while expired listings - listings that have not sold within the contracted listing period - were flat.
On Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, the total value of home/condo sales via the MLS rose 59 per cent quarter-over-quarter, rising from over $7 million to just under $12 million.
Vacant land sales through the MLS also rose 56 per cent in three months to end-September, compared to the quarter before, although the number of units sold and new listings dropped by 40 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.
Expired listings on the MLS were also up 5 per cent over the same period in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
But Mr Knowles said that while the MLS could provide insight into general market pricing trends, it had not reached the point of generating comprehensive information on total sales volumes and values.
“If you’re talking about the number of sales and values, there’s no way the MLS can give that,” he told Tribune Business. “Many sellers are still sceptical, and don’t want to list exclusively on the MLS, instead keeping it on the open market.”
Mr Knowles acknowledged that comparable services in the US and other jurisdictions were able to capture, and provide, accurate data on every transactions taking place in their markets.
While the Bahamas had a long way to go, Mr Knowles said title insurance companies had access to data involving every conveyance. But he added that “no one seems interested” in using this to provide market data comparable to developed jurisdictions.