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Realtors In Foreign Agent Crackdown

THE Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) is aiming to crackdown on foreign agents operating illegally in the Bahamas following its recent annual general meeting (AGM).

The event, attended by almost 100 realtors from the near-700 member organisation, were also informed of plans to ramp up ethics education and overhaul laws governing the industry.

The initiatives were unveiled as Christine Wallace-Whitfield was returned for a second term as president, while a new Board of Directors was also elected.

"There are three goals that I intend to finish within this second-year term," Mrs Wallace-Whitfield told the crowd of nearly 100, a record turn-out for an AGM. "The first is our real estate legislation.

"We have had several successful meetings with the Attorney General's office, and notes have been exchanged, changes made which will all go toward revising the Act successfully, and that will be a great achievement for the association." The legislation currently governing the Bahamian real estate industry is almost 30 years old.

Mrs Wallace-Whitfield said BREA's Board will also place a renewed emphasis on ethics. A new entry-level curriculum that starts with three hours of ethics-related information has been prepared for what she described as a "much tougher and broader" course that will be introduced for the first time next week. The course will also be taught be a new instructor, former BREA president Patty Birch, who Mrs Wallace-Whitfield described as "exemplary".

"Education and ethics are important factors in improving the level of excellence in our industry," Mrs Wallace-Whitfield told attendees at the Nassau Yacht Club. "We are now taking a new approach.

"We have approved the new course outline that entails a seven-day educational course, the first day being focused on ethics with a test given right after. A rest day on Sunday, and classes to resume on the Monday to Friday with the exam on the Saturday."

In addition to the expanded course for new entrants, BREA will host thjree-hour breakfast sessions for industry veterans. Sessions will include representatives from banking, law and government to discuss matters related to real estate.

Mrs Wallace-Whitfield's strongest warning, though, involved tackling what she called "a continuing saga of ongoing complaints of foreign realtors coming on to our shores here in the Bahamas, who try to sell and conduct real estate business transactions." "We are seeing more foreign websites advertising our properties without our consent, which is illegal," she added. "I am currently in conversation with Immigration, the Attorney General's Office, the Florida Association of Realtors and our representative at NAR and the Chamber of Commerce, who have basically agreed to assist us with this increasing problem. "I also met with a few brokers/agents in Exuma who have experienced this serious problem. You will hear of this more in the news moving forward to bring awareness to everyone near and far. It is okay for a foreign real estate company to contact any licensed Bahamian broker firm on a referral basis only, but it is not okay for them to do this on their own accord."

Mrs Wallace-Whitfield thanked outgoing board members Silvina Andrews, Anthony Wells and Laura Kimble, who were not running for re-election, Helen Dupuch, chair of the MLS (Multiple Listing System) committee and others who volunteer their time on various committees, including education and ethics.

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