Real estate industry holds 1st Zoom AGM, New Board Elected
Wallace-Whitfield Re-elected BREA President, 1st Female to Serve a 4th Term,
More than 50 members of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) attended the official body’s first ever virtual meeting, naming a new board and re-electing broker Christine Wallace-Whitfield, the first female to serve a record fourth term.
Wallace-Whitfield stressed that along with ease of doing business measures for members, including the introduction of BREA identification cards to facilitate entry into gated communities for property showings, she would make enforcement against foreign agents selling land, homes and condos in The Bahamas without going through a local agency a top priority.
“BREA continues to work alongside the Attorney General’s office on legislation to prevent foreign brokers, agencies and fraudulent entities from engaging in the practice of real estate illegally in The Bahamas,” she told members during the virtual meeting. “Our goal is to ensure the Real Estate Act protects our industry, a field reserved for Bahamian citizens and those with the right to work in the country.”
The subject of foreigners earning substantial commissions selling property in The Bahamas without affiliation with a local agency has long been a hot topic for the 700+-member association.
“BREA-licensed agencies have not only met our standards and passed our exams which are based on the U.S.-based National Association of Realtors courses and licensing procedures, but they know Bahamian law, financing, our tax regimes, and because they live or operate in the area or on the island where a home or parcel of land is, they have local knowledge. All of that is critical to creating a seamless transaction with a transparent outcome that protects the real estate industry as a whole,” said Wallace-Whitfield, one of less than 5% of Bahamian practitioners to hold the Realtor title.
She also noted that Bahamian agencies pay National Insurance, V.A.T. on income, and contribute to the local economy in “dozens of ways” which, she said, the foreign individual who flies in and out and collects a commission because they have contacts elsewhere does not.
“All we ever ask is that is the foreign individual who may have clients interested in The Bahamas to do is to apply for affiliation with a local agency and work on cooperative basis,” she said. “There are many who do so successfully and that success is shared. That is the law and for too long, we have stood by urging enforcement while the foreigner slips in under the radar, pretending to be a visitor at the border.”
According to the 4-term president, interest in The Bahamas remains high, despite the challenges of the past year including Hurricane Dorian which ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama last September and the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in a nearly 3-month lockdown that started in March with tourism still not fully operational. She announced that record numbers were now signed up for delayed introductory courses and that BREA’s sister real estate association in Florida, the Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association, would hold a virtual tour of locally listed offerings in October.
BREA also presented its first Good Neighbour Award to Ashley Brown, a broker with Damianos Sotheby’s who “answered the desperate need for housing following Dorian” by creating a group that used social media, calls and every avenue they could to locate housing and put displaced families from impacted islands into secure homes in Nassau.
“There were so many agents who assisted and we want to thank each and every one and all those agencies which introduced divisions searching for free or very affordable housing for displaced families. This is the true spirit of industry professionals pulling together to pool resources and know-how to help others.”
Retiring directors and officers Heather Peterson, Lana Rademaker, Jolika Buckner and Elbert Thompson were thanked. The 2020-21 board includes returning officers Hartman Longley II, Vice President; Cara Christie, Secretary; and Sara Callender, Treasurer and new directors Kim Kikivarkis-Dillett, Helen Dupuch, Sally Hutcheson, Brian Austin, John Constantakis, Jim Bernard, Nikki Boeuf, Mike Lightbourne, Kimra Ritchie-Sweeting and Kirk Ingraham.