Real estate ‘on fire’ with $400m in deals




Tribune Business Editor


Realtors yesterday said the market’s international segment is “just on fire right now” with some estimating that $400m worth of property was sold or went under contract during the 2021 first quarter.

Timothy Smith, a partner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate MCR Bahamas Group, told Tribune Business it was likely the amount of real estate involved in such transactions was “double” the $200m shown by the industry’s Multiple Listing System (MLS) as this typically captures around 50 percent of sales activity.

“Real estate right now in terms of non-resident buyers is just on fire right now,” he said. “Total sales volume for sold properties and properties under contract exceeded $200m on the MLS in the first quarter, with properties in Nassau accounting for approximately half that total. 

“The MLS represents about 50 percent of sales and properties because it doesn’t take into account sales by private developers such as Albany and Gold Wynn, which are on stream and doing really well, and private sales. From my knowledge there’s been two private sales island sales not on the MLS. As a result, you’re looking more over $400m.”

Tribune Business sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, yesterday revealed some $70m worth of Harbour Island real estate has sold in the past six months alone as wealthy international buyers seek warmer, more remote locations in which to work while escaping countries and regions with high COVID-19 infection rates.

Mr Smith yesterday said transaction volumes had “probably doubled” compared to pre-COVID levels, and added: “The first quarter is traditionally the busiest part of the real estate season. It’s been exceptional. The demand is just pent-up, and with COVID-19 going on people have realised they don’t have to be where the company is. They can work remotely.”

He was backed by other realtors. Mike Lightbourn, Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty’s principal, told this newspaper of the international buyer market: “That’s the bright spot. It’s very strong at the moment. I don’t know how much longer it stays strong, but as long as it stays it will be bringing in good revenues for the Government.”

He added that activity was “better” than pre-COVID levels “because there’s a pent-up demand which is being fulfilled now. I don’t know how much longer it continues”.

Christine Wallace-Whitfield, the Bahamas Real Estate Association’s (BREA) president, echoed Mr Lightbourn’s assessment by saying: “It’s extremely strong. This is the high-end market. Pre-COVID, my goodness, it’s definitely much stronger than it was back then. It could be a few factors behind it; everybody’s been trying to figure it out.”

She added that several buyers from the US north-west and mid-west had purchased high-end properties “sight unseen”, while the lifting of travel restrictions and increased vaccination roll-out across the US meant the number of prospects flying to The Bahamas to explore real estate had increased over the past month.

With properties valued at $700,000 and upwards in high demand, Mrs Wallace-Whitfield said: “I think the main thing is that people just want to find a piece of paradise. They want to get away from cold weather.

“Hopefully we can keep this up for a long time. I know from Europe and the UK there seems to be a lot of interest. A lot of people from there are planning trips for May. There are a lot of people saying they have got clients and customers coming in from Europe in May. I hope this continues for our economy. It’s been a nice surprise.”

Real estate transactions involving international buyers are a valuable source of foreign currency earnings at a time when tourism remains depressed, helping to boost The Bahamas’ external reserves and maintain the vital one:one fixed exchange rate peg with the US dollar.

They also represent critical tax revenues for the cash-strapped Public Treasury, while the money spent in the local economy by purchasers with the likes of retailers, restaurants, auto dealers, landscapers/gardeners, contractors and furniture stores offers further support for employment and incomes.

Mr Smith, meanwhile, said existing property owners who escaped to The Bahamas during COVID-19 were likely to have sold their family and work colleagues on the merits of owning a home in The Bahamas.

“I have a client flying in from Europe on Friday, where they’re not allowed to leave their homes,” he added. “He’s from Italy. There are still a lot of places on lockdown. For them to work remotely, move around and not be locked down is huge.”

Mr Smith said there had been “a dramatic increase” in purchases of properties valued at $3m and above, and added: “There’s typically a slowdown around May/June, but from what I’m seeing I think this demand is going to go straight through the rest of the year. It’s not just The Bahamas but places like south Florida. It seems like a lot of people are rebounding and opening their minds to new locations.”


Dawes 3 years ago

Am sure this is all great news, but what is the plan long term. Is every one of our islands going to be built upon. When i was a kid you could go to North Exuma and see a few homes on Highbourne and Normans, then not much (some small ones on other islands). Now every single island has a home, and each one has many large yachts outside. Harbour Island has been too expensive for Bahamians for a while, same with the Abaco cays, more and more areas in NP are too expensive for us. When does it stop? I am sure the real estate agents are happy as they are making plenty, but my kids will not be able to see half of The Bahamas i was able to, and their kids even less. We need to work out how this economy will work for all rather then benefitting a few.


JokeyJack 3 years ago

Hey, real estate sales soaring, US stock market been booming for months. Bitcoin thru the roof. Unemployment low, travel booming. Sounds like we need Covid-21 to come in November. Everywhere you just keep hearing great and wonderful news for many months now. Things sound better than before the virus. This virus seems to have brought financial prosperity to all, not to mention how it has cured all other deadly diseases. Nobody dies of cancer or heart attacks anymore, and now after getting the vaccine we may all live forever. In fact, i change my mind on Covid-21. How could things possibly get any better?


g9822033 3 years ago

The markets ability to be irrational will long outlive our ability to remain solvent!


enough 3 years ago

Dawes, I agree. We are outpricing our citizens. If the way we are going as a country is to be another Monaco then we need to be honest. But also keep in mind Monaco has a population of 40,000 along with many other differences.

I am not saying we do not want growth we just need to decide if it will be equitable or will this country be all about gated communities and benefitting the rich. I am not saying one of the other is good or bad, but be honest with what we are doing..


tetelestai 3 years ago

I am afraid, enough, that the question of "growth" has already been long decided. Growth will be inequitable, and, primarily, west of downtown.


Emilio26 3 years ago

enough I understand your cry but honestly a government subdivision like Nassau Village or Jubilee Gardens wouldn't look good on coastal areas or better yet beachfront properties.


g9822033 3 years ago

I tired of these realtors talking up the market. Total BS. My house sold for 50% of appraised value in a middle class neighborhood. I've just sold another property at a 30+% discount to get the deal done. The only people making money are the realtors, lawyers and government - the latter has failed to recognize the need to cater to a local market instead it encourages rich ex pats to come and buy our property, increasing demand (and thus price) out of reach for citizens. I've yet to meet a realtor who has been brutally honest about the market - good times or bad realtors are always making out that the market is on fire just to get the listing. But the reality is far from their opinions about the market. A lot of people are happy to be lied to and to live in blissful ignorance but these puff pieces from BREA members just lack credibility.


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