By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian realtor is targeting expansion into Eleuthera, Abaco and Freeport once it finds “the right people” after seeing sales volumes quadruple compared to its first two years in business.
James Bernard, president of the newly-named Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bahamas Real Estate, told Tribune Business that the tie-up with the international franchise had put the company “on the expressway to fulfilling that dream” of becoming the leading real estate brokerage in this nation.
The broker and senior appraiser, who formed the previously-named LX Bahamas Luxury Realty Group in January 2019, said the company’s growth had already exceeded expectations prior to partnering with a franchise that has some 50,000 real estate agents and 1,500 offices worldwide.
“When we started this business it was me and two agents,” Mr Bernard revealed. “We grew from three to now 19 agents, and continue to grow. We have agents on the ground in Harbour Island, Exuma, New Providence and Paradise Island.
“We plan to expand to Freeport, Abaco and Eleuthera in the near future. It’s just a matter of finding the right people in those territories. We have grown quickly and we intend to continue. I would say the growth has exceeded our expectations, and we have a lot of agents reaching out. Word of mouth, our agents, are the best recruits.”
Mr Bernard said Berkshire Hathaway planned to expand into its three target islands “fairly quickly”, adding: “As rapidly as we find the right people to work in those markets we’ll expand into them. Eleuthera is a robust market, Abaco is as well, and Freeport is the second city. I do think they are key markets, and I think they will contribute substantially.
“I think we can probably cover Eleuthera with three to four more agents, Abaco with maybe five to six more agents, and probably a similar number in Freeport. When I started LX Bahamas, the number one goal was to build the number one brokerage firm in The Bahamas. We’ve a long way to go there, but joining Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices puts us on the road to the expressway to fulfill that dream.”
With $400m worth of Bahamian real estate said to have been sold during the 2021 first quarter, Mr Bernard said that gave an insight into how strong demand has been for high-end properties valued at $1.5m and above since the 2020 third quarter when persons started travelling again as COVID-19 restrictions eased.
He disclosed that many purchasers in this surge have been company chief executives and other corporate leaders who, having initially rented properties in The Bahamas to escape the pandemic, quickly converted to purchasers when they realised they could work from home and enjoy the lifestyle and climate this nation has to offer.
Now, Mr Bernard said, many of these buyers have been speaking to their colleagues and staff about the benefits of living in The Bahamas. Many of these corporate titans, he added, want “their right-hand men and women” to follow them to this nation and base themselves here, which he feels could spark a rise in demand for properties valued between $500,000 and $1m.
“It’s been strong since the third quarter of 2020,” Mr Bernard said of the Bahamian high-end market. “We saw a lot of wealthy families moving here since the beginning of the pandemic. Most of them were coming in and renting homes. Once they were able to move in and looked at the quality of life The Bahamas has to offer, we saw many become purchasers and that was the start of the boom.
“I think it’s fairly sustainable. We’re seeing this whole work from home movement that COVID-19 has driven. People are realising that they can live where they used to vacation. As long as they have Internet connectivity that trend will continue. As technology gets better, and people use it more and more, it will open up more places to live. The Bahamas is going to be in a good position to take full advantage of that.”
Explaining why he believes properties priced between $500,000 and $1m are poised to take-off, Mr Bernard added: “Speaking to some of the purchasers that have come here, a lot of them are company owners that moved to The Bahamas and are now talking to their staff and that sort of thing. We’re seeing that side of things pick up.
“I think the trend is going to continue and going to pick up in the $500,000 to $1m range. A lot of these guys who have moved here want their right-hand man and woman with them. I’ve seen that where chief executives of technology companies have moved here and are trying to bring in their support staff.”