Real Estate

Realtors lament industry issues facing Bahamians

by: Jaimie Smith

Due to the economic challenges in Grand Bahama many businesses are negatively impacted. The real estate industry is no different.

The Freeport News spoke with two realtors recently and were given a detailed prospective on how the real estate industry has functioned over the years on the island of Grand Bahama.

Trevor Johnson, the long time realtor of Churchill and Jones noted that the real estate business in Grand Bahama has been sluggish for years.

" I have been here from 1969. Our company has been here since the 1960s. I have seen it at its heyday and we are now witnessing what is going on now,"  said Johnson pointing to the lack of flow into the island of buyers as a prime reason for the real estate sales dropoff.

" When you go to Nassau you see jets coming in and out every five minutes. With Freeport, on the other hand, I cannot understand for the life of me, why there is no big move to try and get persons here on the island. They now say that they are doing it now as of November 1, with Sun Wing from Canada but I don't see how it makes good business sense to not have these hotels filled up. If people are complaining about certain things then listen to the people, try it for a while and if it doesn't pan out then you can say, well at least I tried. I think that is what is taking place, Freeport is just being stagnated, there is nothing happening here. Freeport has declined tremendously,"  stated Johnson.

Johnson said that the norm of the real estate industry is a buyers market that is not panning out into sales.

" You can only have a (real) buyers market if you have persons that can afford to buy. You would have individuals coming in and wanting to buy this and wanting to buy that. They go to the bank but unfortunately cannot qualify because the bank themselves are not confident with the economy of Freeport."

Johnson claimed that there are professionals from Nassau with disposable income but are not willing to invest on the island.

" What was the last serious industry or development that was brought here? We can probably count them on one hand. In recent years, PharaChem and the Grand Bahama Brewery. In the past five years there has been nothing new. The hotels are just sitting there. There is no encouragement, nothing to demand them to do something with these properties that they have. What do we do? We just have to sit here and deal with it and it is sad. The Bazaar, what do we do there? The Princess has three golf courses, one of which was never developed. Nothing is being done with that. The Shannon Golf Course, which was a huge tourist attraction years ago, is closed. Across from Shannon is the Discovery Bay, which was supposed to be developed, and nothing has transpired. What is the problem? It has to be something to do with the persons that are involved and in charge.

" We don't need bodies to come just in the winter. We need somebody who has the vision to see way beyond that, to bring people, people of substance. We donâ t want just the all-inclusive people. They come here and donâ t want to even spend money with other persons. It is all for that one property that they come to. It is a good thing, yes because people are being employed but what are they paying them? What does the individual who works in the hotel or tourism industry have to offer. Jobs are not really secured. Their jobs are based on occupancy rates of hotels? When the season is over they go back to two to three days so the banks then look at that. This is the whole picture that we are looking at,"  he added.

According to the realtor, the banks consider several aspects when it comes to lending funds, in particular how they will be able to maintain a mortgage.

" That is the whole trickle down effect that comes back. Then you have investors that come here and build things, but then they get their power bill, they complain and ultimately leave. They have already hired 100 people. Those 100 persons went out and bought homes. Three years later they are out of a job because the persons who came here with the investment couldn't afford to sustain their businesses. Now that young couple that was trying to do something, they have stress, and get divorced. It's a sad vicious circle. We do not have the disposable income here on Grand Bahama for a single person to go out there and buy a house. The amount of persons whose houses are being repossessed is staggering."

He also mentioned the amount of residents reportedly living without basic necessities.

" When you drive around some of these subdivisions, there are many people living in homes without house meters. You will be shocked to see how many people living in Grand Bahama are in houses without a power meter. People cannot afford it. Many do not have water either."

With regard to repossessions Johnson added, "There are many houses and condominiums in the market right now, that have been repossessed because of lack of payments. Persons just don't have the funds to pay. With Bahamians, a lot of them would buy a condo but disrespect the condo fees. Now you have mortgage and condos and in some instances you cannot afford to pay both. If you look at it, the average condo fee in some instances is basically the total cost of the upkeep of a home. People just don't equate that with paying a maintenance fee."

Donna Laing Jones, a realtor at H.G. Christie concurred with Johnson regarding financing being a 'big issue'  as it relates to the industry.

" Everyone is looking for a good deal. Foreigners come to Grand Bahama because they know that they can find better deals here than in Nassau. A lot of people don't want to go to Nassau; they donâ t want to go to Abaco so they come to Grand Bahama."

She added that there are many persons in the market looking for second homes over the $500,000.00 range, attempting to qualify for permanent residency.

" Everyday we have persons that are still looking to Grand Bahama to purchase and looking to come here to settle down. A lot of persons that come and work with the industrial companies on the island, they love it. They donâ t want to go back. They end up buying something here. They bring their children, send them to international schools. When it is time to retire, they are right here. They don't want to go anywhere; this is what they call home." 

Meanwhile, according to Johnson and Jones, financing because of the many factors continues to be a problem locals.

 

Published  Monday, November 10, 2014 

 

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