BREA weighs in on industry rebound

BREA weighs in on industry rebound
Christine Wallace-Whitfield, President of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA)/Bahamas Headshots © 2018 Lyndah Wells

Int’l interest in searches at all-time high, local transactions lower due to COVID closure and lockdown

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Real Estate Association yesterday moved to clarify what appeared to be conflicting comments from various brokers, agents and firms in recent days over the state of the real estate market.

The association noted some were claiming COVID-19 complications had crippled the real estate market and others declaring interest in Bahamas property, especially in online searches, had never been greater.

“Real estate continues to be a critical driver of the Bahamian economy,” said BREA President Christine Wallace-Whitfield.

“We believe that the value real estate and development bring to the Bahamian economy are second only to tourism so to say that the real estate market has suffered as a result of COVID-19 complications is simply a reflection of the realities of the pandemic operating conditions in the same sense that the hotels have a lower occupancy rate.

“Real estate offices were required to close and just re-opened a short while ago. Law firms that handle closings were themselves closed for non-urgent matters. Lending facilities and government departments relevant for transactions we’re operating at limited capacity.”

Hurricane Dorian contributed to a 30 percent reduction in Multiple Listing Services (MLS) transactions over the first quarter, according to Wallace-Whitfield, who underscored the depletion of many Abaco and Grand Bahama listings.

Despite the lockdown that resulted in a slowdown of transactions, international interest in Bahamian property reached an all-time high.

“The positive news is that we have received reports from a number of agencies that the spike in online searches has been remarkable,” said Wallace-Whitfield.

“People are looking for a safe haven where they can lease a home, use technology to operate remotely and feel secure. Once here, those people may look for longer term investment opportunities. It is a win-win, generating immediate and prospective revenue.

“The important thing now is to look at our prospects long-term. We definitely believe there will be bright light at the end of tunnel. We feel activity will rebound as the pandemic declines and Bahamas real estate will continue to hold a very special kind of magical appeal for us locally and for a sophisticated worldwide market.”

One broker in Exuma said she has three pending sales “all based on online searches, but the people can’t get here to see the property. Each one is so serious they are willing to offer a deposit to hold the listing.”

“Like other industries, real estate is re-inventing itself to navigate uncharted waters. We are very proud of our agents and brokers who are continuously sharpening skills at creating 3D virtual tours that would compete with the finest anywhere in the world,” said Wallace-Whitfield, who was recently re-elected for a fourth term.

“They are using social media and technology and creating personal touches that make people feel they are at home in The Bahamas as well as using their websites to keep people informed about the latest rules and policies.”

The BREA head also said there has been a strong response to its webinar invitations.

“Given the economic uncertainty, it is not surprising that we have seen a 50% decline in new listings of properties for sale or rent,” she noted.

“People are staying put, digging in their heels and waiting it out. We applaud government for controlling the virus for so long and look forward to working with them to devise new policies to boost the economy.”

One such policy appears to have positive governmental response – one-year residency to work remotely in an individual’s own business, a vehicle that has already netted success for Barbados.