ENOUGH WITH THE LOOPHOLES: BREA chief calls for criminal charges and penalties for foreign sales agents

ENOUGH WITH THE LOOPHOLES: BREA chief calls for criminal charges and penalties for foreign sales agents

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) is seeking to bring about amendments to close “loopholes” in the law governing the country’s real estate sector, with its president Christine Wallace-Whitfield calling for criminal charges and fixed penalties to be levied against foreign sales agents.

Wallace-Whitfield, who was elected to a record fifth term as BREA president along with a new board back in May, said: “We are fired up and ready to resume our legislative and industry standards agenda. We have three high-priority goals and I have every confidence that with the energy and determination on steroids of this new board, 2021 will be the year we will achieve these goals that will take this industry to new heights.”

Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) President Christine Wallace-Whitfield.

According to Wallace-Whitfield, the top priority is protecting licensed Bahamian BREA agents.

“That means amending the current legislation and closing the loopholes,” she said, describing the 26-year-old Real Estate Act of 1995 as outdated.

“The industry has changed dramatically since that bill was enacted and the act needs to be updated to keep pace. We have experienced a huge increase in foreign investment but at the same time, we have witnessed a spike in foreign agents doing business here, accompanying or meeting someone they know, engaging in property transactions.”

She added: “The law needs to be amended to make this a criminal charge with fixed penalties and fines. I would not dare go to Florida and show someone’s property and expect to earn a commission. The only reason people come here to do it is because they can. They can get away with it and make tens of thousands of dollars in a single transaction.

“All we are asking is that when a foreign agent comes here, he or she works with a local BREA-licensed agency whose associates know the market, the law, the taxes and requirements for closing.

“Buying property, especially for someone buying in a foreign country, is not like buying a car or a set of tools. Local knowledge is critical and the BREA licensing ensures that our agents are knowledgeable, which protects the reputation of The Bahamas, too.”

Wallace-Whitfield said BREA also saw a spike in the number of foreign appraisers, also operating illegally.

She said BREA does not want to discourage foreign investment, just for them to play by the same rules Bahamian developers do.

The 2021 Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) board.

She also said the organization continues to pursue having a seat at the table when decisions impacting the real estate industry are being considered.

“We need a seat at the table when discussions begin, not after decisions are made,” said Wallace-Whitfield.

“We are more than 700-strong, hard-working professionals who take our positions seriously and the work we do is a major contributor to the economic engine of The Bahamas. Our members and our organization will be treated with respect.”