By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A furious Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) president yesterday slammed the “member” responsible for leaking inaccurate data suggesting market sales volumes rose 20 per cent in 2015, when they actually dropped almost 10 per cent.
Carla Sweeting branded a report by online news site, Carib Journal, suggesting that the Bahamian real estate market enjoyed a sales ‘surge’ in 2015 as “totally wrong” and far removed from the reality experienced by many BREA members.
She blasted an unnamed realtor for providing inaccurate data from BREA’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to Carib Journal, suggesting they had done this to boost their own interests.
The online report said real estate sales volumes and average prices, based on MLS data, rose year-over-year in the Bahamian market by 20 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, in 2015.
The Carib Journal added that sales volumes and average prices stood at $216.14 million and $517,086, respectively, for last year.
This compared to $180.29 million and $492,585 million, respectively, for 2014, according to data coming from a report produced by Integra Realty Resources, a US-based firm that appears to have no offices in the Bahamas.
BREA, though, yesterday provided Tribune Business, with MLS data that is drastically different from the figures quoted in the Carib Journal article.
Total sales volumes for 2015 were shown to be down by almost 10 per cent, or more than $15 million, compared to prior year levels.
The gross figures, as measured by the MLS, were $138.035 million in cumulative sales compared to $153.175 million in 2014.
And while the average sales price was up by almost 3 per cent year-over-year, at $448,166 compared to $435,157 in 2014, the MLS figures provided by BREA are markedly different from those quoted by Integra and Carib Journal.
Other figures supplied to Tribune Business showed that the number of MLS listings sold decreased by 13 per cent year-over-year, dropping to 310 in 2015 compared to 356 the prior year.
The average days that MLS listings spent on the market also increased, from 254 to 325. The number of listings entered on the service also rose, from 2,356 in 2014 to 2,925.
Ms Sweeting did not blame Carib Journal or Integra Realty Resources, the report’s author, for the inaccuracies, instead suggesting they had been fed incorrect data by a BREA member who she declined to name.
She expressed concern, though, that the reports painted a misleading picture that everything was “rosy” in the Bahamian real estate market.
Ms Sweeting also conceded that the MLS likely featured only between 40-50 per cent of total real estate market listings at any one time, even though its membership had continued to expand and was now up to 280.
Describing reports of a 20 per cent surge in sales volumes as “totally wrong”, the BREA president said: “We’re probably 20 per cent down, not at a 20 per cent surge.”
Although MLS sales volumes for the 2015 full-year were down by half that percentage fall, Ms Sweeting reiterated of the online report’s figures: “They’re not right; they’re wrong.
“When I get my hands on the member who told them this to satisfy their own interests, their big ego.... I don’t understand why I have to deal with this stuff.”
Ms Sweeting told Tribune Business last year that Bahamian real estate sales, as measured by the MLS, were down 50 per cent at the 2015 mid-year compared to 2014.
Describing this, and Central Bank of the Bahamas figures released last year, as “more in line” with market trends, she added: “I would love to tell you they [the inaccurate date] are spot on, things are wonderful, the market is growing and selling, and life is great. But the reality is, it’s not.
“I’ve spoken to every real estate agent as well, and they are with me in saying the online report is wrong.
“It’s wrong, and no one call tell you that we are doing better than we’ve ever done in real estate in the past three-four years. They can’t just tell you that.”
Ms Sweeting was backed by Mike Lightbourn, Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty’s president, who told Tribune Business: “I don’t knew where the hell they got that number from.
“I don’t know where they got that 20 per cent from. Not everybody goes on the MLS, although it’s probably a good barometer.”
While Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty’s 2015 sales had increased slightly, Mr Lightbourn said the increase was nowhere near the cited 20 per cent.
“The realtors I feel sorry for are the ones who mainly have a Bahamian clientele, because they are the ones catching hell,” he told Tribune Business.
Peter Dupuch, ERA Dupuch Real Estate’s president, said that while his firm’s 2015 sales activity was also up slightly to compared to 2014, he understood that the MLS was down year-over-year.
“We were up a bit from 2014,” he confirmed. “I’m not privy to the MLS, but I had heard that sales across-the-board for realtors were down, and listings also.
“I didn’t see any surge, but we have had some decent sales. My business has always seen steady increases, sometimes more than others, some years more than others. We’re struggling along.
“Our sales are fine, but we’d love to see the market stimulated, and it doesn’t seem to be stimulated lately. Hopefully, things will change in that matter.”
Mr Dupuch said his firm had seen good sales in Hope Town, and in Treasure Cay, “where all the deals are right now”.
“You can buy a condo in Treasure Cay now for a fraction of their cost four years ago,” he added. “So sales up there are pretty steady and perhaps even increasing. Also, sales in the gated communities seem to be relatively strong as always.”