• Bahamas Realty hails ‘phenomenal’ year
• Aiming to match sales volumes in 2022
• To open western NP office in New Year
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian real estate firm yesterday said it is aiming to “hold” the gains realised from this year’s 75 percent sales volume increase in a market that “shows no signs of slowing”.
Michelle Martinborough, Bahamas Realty’s head of operations, told Tribune Business the company is seeking to replicate this year’s “phenomenal” performance in 2022 amid expectations that international buyer demand will hold-up for “at least another year”.
And, with much market activity centred on western New Providence, she revealed that the company will open an office in the Caves Shopping Centre early in the New Year so it can better cater to clients in that area.
“We’re just closing off our numbers for this year, but it looks like we’re closing off 75 percent ahead of last year, which is phenomenal,” Ms Martinborough told this newspaper. “We don’t anticipate any slowing down with Canada only opening back up now.
“We’re expecting an influx of those buyers, and are really excited to see what is coming up this winter season. The US is now opening across the board, and a lot of our clientele from abroad come through the US, so that will only increase activity for us in The Bahamas. We’re very excited about what is on the horizon and are gearing up for a busy season.”
Bahamas Realty’s 75 percent year-over-year sales volume increase will have been achieved against comparisons with a COVID-plagued 2020, which depressed real estate activity for a portion of that year. However, multiple realtors have indicated that international buyer activity rebounded much faster than expected so last year was not a complete write-off.
No numbers were provided, but Ms Martinborough echoed these sentiments by revealing that “we did not predict we would be in such a good position a year later” following The Bahamas’ first COVID-19 lockdown and associated restrictions.
She identified multiple drivers behind The Bahamas’ real estate recovery, including the “pent-up demand” induced by worldwide COVID lockdowns; US purchasers viewing this nation’s real estate as a hedge against inflation and increased taxes at home; the search for “safe havens” away from the pandemic; and the lifestyle this nation offers combined with home working.
“It’s the pent-up energy from the pandemic,” Ms Martinborough said. “People were cooped up in their houses, could not move about, and everybody had been sent into shell shock. Once we opened up they saw you could move freely in The Bahamas, it was a safe haven and we had handled the pandemic well.”
Some may disagree with the latter assertion given subsequent events, but the Bahamas Realty executive said the concept of home working, married with the Bahamian lifestyle, had opened up a younger buyer niche.
“We now have the 30 to 40 year-old age group that have that second home, which they would typically have to wait for retirement to achieve, putting money into that,” she added. The Bahamas’ tax neutral platform and US proximity remain key attractions, while the return of Canadian and European buyers will help to maintain momentum.
“I don’t anticipate demand stopping any time soon,” Ms Martinborough said. “We don’t see any signs of it slowing down, that’s for sure. How long will it last? If we knew the answer to that we would all be millionaires.
“From our projections we’re looking at another strong winter season and, beyond that, we will have to follow the economists closely and see what happens..... Even though our prices are going up, we’ve not had the jump they’ve had in places like Toronto, so they’ll [Canadian buyers] still feel they’re getting good value here.”
Bahamas Realty is forecasting that it will retain 2021’s gains with a matching 2022 performance. Ms Martinborough added: “If we can hold or duplicate the same numbers we will be very happy with that. If we can maintain that 75 percent, and hold it at the same level in 2022, we will be in a very good position.”
Moving where the market activity is, she added: “Bahamas Realty will be opening a new office in the west in the New Year. We are relocating to the Caves Shopping Centre. We have operated with the office out east for a very long time, 40 years, but with all the development and all we do on the commercial side and property management side, we decided to open there to be closer to our clients while they can come and find us. We look forward to opening in January or February of the New Year.
Donald Martinborough, Bahamas Realty’s chief executive, estimated that “the real estate boom in the west” of New Providence had produced a 30-40 percent average increase in prices in the area compared to the prior year as businesses moved out of Nassau with employees following.
“One has to wonder how long something like this will last,” he told Tribune Business of current market demand. “I think we’re in for a few years; a good few years of this type of market.” Mr Martinborough said he could see current activity levels maintaining “for the next two to three years”, with The Bahamas feeding off a surging US real estate market.
He added, though, that “not a lot of Bahamians” were participating other than those moving to western New Providence as they followed their work. There have been growing concerns that the influx of foreign buyers is starting to price Bahamians out of the market, and reduce the availability for locals, along with suggestions that overseas purchasers can afford to pay more in taxes.
Ms Martinborough, meanwhile, said Bahamas Realty is seeking to “scale up” its business to respond to the heightened demand via the recruitment of seasoned agents as well as new ones who can be put through training schemes.
“We’ve never grown at a rapid pace just to grow,” she said. “We’re very selective with agents. Our name, our ethos, our reputation in the community are very important to us, so we will only add agents suitable for Bahamas Realty, and have the same values and ethos we have.
“We don’t have set numbers. We have some targets that we’d like to hit, but we’re looking for the right agents to fill the space before we fill them.”