'We didn't hit $1bn, but we did very well'


Tribune Business Editor


The Bahamian high-end real estate market will "do at least as good as 2023 if not better" in 2024, as one major realtor said of last year: "We didn't do $1bn in sales but we did very well."

George Damianos, Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty’s president, told Tribune Business there was "no question" that his firm - which specialises in premium properties - had enjoyed "one of our best years" in 2023 despite not matching the prior year's 10-figure sales number.

And, looking ahead to the current year, he disclosed that he is "really going to be pushing for 2024 to be better than 2023" as "there's nothing on the horizon" to suggest the possibility of a downturn or negative forces strong enough to impact the wider market and buyer demand.

"Obviously in 2022 we did over $1bn in sales, which was a real record," Mr Damianos told this newspaper of his company's performance. "We didn't do as well; we didn't do $1bn in sales in 2023, but we did very well. I'm optimistic I may get another [$1bn sales year] before I retire.

"I think 2023 is way up there as one of our best years, no question about it. It was better than probably 2019. I think we still have a little bit of upward momentum for The Bahamas. We still have some upward motion left in us.

"I'm really going to be pushing for 2024 to be better than 2023. I'm really going to be pushing for 2024 to be better than 2023. I'm really going to try and push this further along than we were last year. We're getting more inventory and getting good feedback about the market, so I would say it will be at least as good as 2023 if not better."

Mr Damianos justified his optimism by saying there has been little to no change in the fundamentals driving the high-end Bahamian real estate market despite a slight cooling-off following the post-COVID boom of 2021 and 2022.

"I think that there's been no real major change in the economy of The Bahamas or worldwide, or in the US where most of our buyers come from," he said. "There's been no real shift to make you feel there's a recession or slowdown in the marketplace.

"There's a lot of money in the world looking for a great vacation home or second home and place to come to. That's where it is in the high-end market. Things may go the other way and tighten up for us, but there's nothing on the horizon that I see which is going to make that happen. It's early in the year, but I think we'll be fine.

"I'm still very optimistic about 2024, and I don't see enough of anything to make me change and make me feel like this is a bad year. I think we will have a good year in The Bahamas. Things are moving in the right direction, and my agents are dealing with the right buyers and right people. I think The Bahamas has a lot going for it right now and my competitors feel the same way."

Ryan Knowles, founder and chief executive of Maison Bahamas Real Estate, told Tribune Business he expects 2024's high-end real estate market to be "significantly stronger" than last year's even though the 2021-2022 boom is "behind us for now".

Pointing out that inflation in most major economies was starting to subside, or stabilise, amid expectations that global interest rate rises may have peaked, he added of 2023: "It turned out to be kind of what I expected as far as being a year of transition.

"Coming off an incredible high in 2022, things cooled off across the board in the luxury market. The temperature kind of came down a bit as people were coming to terms with higher interest rates. We had some incredible sales, some record-breaking sales in different communities nonetheless.

"The 1 percent, the wealthiest sector of the market, continues to shop for homes and want the luxury experience..... Coming into 2024, the buyer sentiment seems to be back. Buyers, from what I've been seeing in the last couple of months, there's a confidence and urgency to purchase that stopped for a while."

Mr Knowles said this urgency is seeing high-end buyers make an offer "right away" on real estate they desire, as opposed to taking time to consider their decision and making multiple trips to The Bahamas to view a variety of properties. "The speed of the transaction is back," he added.

Asked how 2024 is likely to play out, Mr Knowles told this newspaper: "I think it will be better than 2023. There was really a lot of shock when interest rates went the way they did at the start of the year. The first half of 2023 was slow. I think if you talk to any number of realtors they will attest to that.

"In the second half, it picked up again. The last few weeks, we've been fielding a lot of inquiries. There are a lot of prospects looking in the $1m to $3m range, and also from folks in the $5m-$10m range. I think it will be stronger than 2023 if I had to guess; significantly stronger. It won't be 2021 or 2022; they are behind us now."


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