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Real Estate Market 'Fair' In First Half

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

NASSAU-based realtors have described activity during the 2014 first half as “fair” and “steady”, with some noting significant activity in the high-end market.

Mike Lightbourn, president of Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty, told Tribune Business: “I would say it’s been pretty good, the winter part. As we approach summer things usually slow down a bit.

“I think one of the biggest issues with selling to locals is the mortgage situation. Banks have been burned so much in the past and they just aren’t lending. They take forever to make a decision.

“Recently, we had an approval that had to go to Canada for final confirmation, and they came back saying that the client needed to come up with 25 per cent of the purchase price, which killed that sale. We have so many unknowns in front of us. I don’t know what effect VAT is going to have on real estate transactions; maybe now is a good time to buy ahead of VAT if there are going to be added costs.”

Mario Carey, chief executive and president of Mario Carey Realty, said there was significant real estate activity stemming from the Baha Mar development. “Things are trying to get a little better. I would say that there is a unique energy that is building up relative to Baha Mar,” he added.

“Anything in close proximity for sale, rent or development is moving. There is a strong demand for beach-front properties.

“We are still restrained by banks relative to lending. I still can’t understand why the Government has not been able to get the banks to do some sort of incentive programme to allow funds to flow into the hands of Bahamian people. Right now, it’s still a buyers market.”

Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for Investments, recently told Parliament during his contribution to the 2014-15 Budget debate that real estate sales for 2014 have already exceeded $693 million.

He added that in 2012, real estate sales totalled over $400 million, with New Providence and Abaco accounting for 49 per cent ($199.376 million) and 27 per cent ($110.258 million), respectively.

Mr Rolle said 2013 saw an increase in real estate sales by more than 78 per cent, with the total figure exceeding $714 million. New Providence and Abaco led the way with 49.9 per cent ($357.394 million) and 18 per cent ($134.332 million), respectively.

Exuma followed closely at 15.2 per cent ($109.298 million). “This positive change has continued in the New Yea,r and 2014 looks promising with sales to date already exceeding $693 million,” said Mr Rolle.

John Christie, chief execitive at H.G Christie, said: “Things have been pretty good. It’s been a generally good year so far. There are lot of things in the works, a lot of things looking to come to fruition. Interest in the private island market is strong as well as the gated communities. There is a fair bit of activity overall.”

Peter Dupuch, ERA Dupuch founder and president, said sales so far this year have been “steady”. “Right now it’s still buyer’s market. The high-end market has seen an increase in sales. During the boom there were a lot of high-priced properties, but a lot of people had to sell when they ran into some trouble, so they are selling, but they are selling at a lower price point,” Mr Dupuch said.

“Everyone is looking for a deal right now. The middle market has been up and down. VAT is coming and no one really knows what’s going on. Then there is a lot of confusion over the Stamp Duty exemption. The low-end market is struggling right now.”

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