By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamian realtors yesterday hailed the prime minister’s decision to allow the sector’s morning re-opening, but said: “We can’t wait to get back to work full-time.”
Peter Dupuch, founder and president of ERA Dupuch Real Estate, told Tribune Business that permitting the industry to open its offices between 9am to 1pm five days per week was “a step in the right direction”.
Reacting to the move, which was contained in the latest change to the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Order, Mr Dupuch voiced optimism that realtors will now be able to serve the pent-up demand that he and others believe has been building over the past two months.
Confirming that his firm was “loaded up” with a backlog of requests for appraisals and property viewings, he added: “That certainly is a help. At least we can start to do something. I can’t wait until it opens up full-time, and I’m hoping this is a step in that direction.
“We have the same amount of people on our website every day looking for properties, and that has not stopped, but we cannot do showings. As soon as we come back up I think we’re going to be inundated.”
The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), the industry body that is responsible for licensing and self-regulating agents, has been lobbying the Government extensively in recent weeks for the industry to be opened up. It has based its arguments on the sector’s economic importance, especially as a potential foreign exchange earner, and its ability to enforce social distancing and other health-related measures.
Christine Wallace-Whitfield, BREA’s president, said of the Prime Minister’s action: “This definitely a wonderful step towards our request that we’ve been working on for many weeks. It’s a great, excellent boost.”
She added that real estate’s re-opening would link well with the resumption of construction two weeks ago, given that the sectors go “hand in hand with the other” and account for a significant chunk of economic activity that has the ability to generate some badly-needed foreign exchange inflows.
Mike Lightbourn, Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty’s president, told Tribune Business: “It’s important to get back to work. We’ve been able to pay our staff but there’s a bunch of companies that have been unable to do that. A number of smaller companies I know have had a very hard time.
“Real estate and construction account for approximately 20 percent of our GDP, and construction has already started up again. Any sales we make to a foreigner can bring in foreign currency, but Bahamians have real estate needs just like anybody else.
“We’re very well aware of all the protocols necessary and will be abiding by them. It all helps the economy to get rolling and I don’t think there are any potential health dangers. The pent-up demand from customers wanting to look at property and talk to agents is good.”