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Real Estate President Clarifies Market's State

The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) yesterday waded into the mixed assessments of the industry’s strength following its emergence from COVID-19 lockdown.

The association moved to bring context and perspective as some brokers, agents and firms argued that COVID-19 complications had crippled the real estate market, while others declared that interest in Bahamian property, especially as measured by online searches, had never been greater.

“Real estate continues to be a critical driver of the Bahamian economy,” said BREA president, Christine Wallace-Whitfield. “We believe that the value real estate and development bring to the Bahamian economy are second only to tourism, so to say that the real estate market has suffered as a result of COVID-19 complications is simply a reflection of the realities of the pandemic operating conditions in the same sense that the hotels have a lower occupancy rate.

“Real estate offices were required to close and just reopened a short while ago. Law firms that handle closings were themselves closed for non-urgent matters. Lending facilities and government departments relevant for transactions were operating at limited capacity.”

Those conditions along with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which depleted the industry’s Multiple Listing Services (MLS) inventory of many Abaco and Grand Bahama listings, contributed to a 30 percent reduction in transactions via that system during the 2020 first quarter, she said.

“The positive news is that we have received reports from a number of agencies that the spike in online searches has been remarkable,” said Mrs Wallace-Whitfield. “People are looking for a safe haven where they can lease a home, use technology to operate remotely and feel secure.

“Once here, those people may look for longer term investment opportunities. It is a win-win, generating immediate and prospective revenue. The important thing now is to look at our prospects long-term. We definitely believe there will be bright light at the end of the tunnel. We feel activity will rebound as the pandemic declines, and Bahamas real estate will continue to hold a very special kind of magical appeal for us locally and for a sophisticated worldwide market.”

One Exuma-based broker, who BREA did not identify, said she had three pending sales “all based on online searches, but the people can’t get here to see the property. Each one is so serious they are willing to offer a deposit to hold the listing”.

“Like other industries, real estate is reinventing itself to navigate uncharted waters. We are very proud of our agents and brokers, who are continuously sharpening skills at creating 3D virtual tours that would compete with the finest anywhere in the world,” said Mrs Wallace-Whitfield, who was recently re-elected for a fourth term.

“They are using social media and technology, and creating personal touches that make people feel they are at home in The Bahamas as well as using their websites to keep people informed about the latest rules and policies.”

The BREA chief said there has also been a strong response to its webinar invitations.

“Given the economic uncertainty, it is not surprising that we have seen a 50 percent decline in new listings of properties for sale or rent,” she added. “People are staying put, digging in their heels and waiting it out. We applaud government for controlling the virus for so long and look forward to working with them to devise new policies to boost the economy.”

One such policy appears to have received a positive government response – the one-year residency to work remotely in an individual’s own business, a vehicle that has already netted success for Barbados.

Comments

Clamshell 3 days, 19 hours ago

Bwahahahaha ... The Tribune plays host to dueling real estate titans: One day, it’s Neil Hartnell’s courageous reporting based on whatever spiel is offered by whoever buys him a free lunch; the next day, it’s the “official” real estate association contradicting them.

Gotta wonder who’s telling the truth ... if any of ‘em are.

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