BREA: ‘Private islands, remote destinations helping set Bahamas real estate market on fire’
Months after much of the world’s economy shut or slowed down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bahamas real estate market is awakening with an explosion of new interest by people from around the world.
“They are seeking a place that is safe and secure, yet has all the advantages of a contemporary lifestyle in a stable, English-speaking location,” said Christine Wallace-Whitfield, President of the Bahamas Real Estate Association, one of the country’s largest professional organizations. “There is nowhere that fits the bill better than The Bahamas – close to the U.S., politically stable government, a peaceful, independent nation with magnificent waters for boating, clean air for recreation and good health and all the amenities people from all walks of life expect in the most urban and sophisticated cities.”
According to Wallace-Whitfield, firms from around the country are reporting heightened interest in property in general with especially great interest in private islands, secure estates in gated communities and land with elevation.
“Waterfront is still a huge drawing card and always will be, but now we are hearing more requests for waterfront with elevation as people become increasingly aware of climate change and its impact on low-lying areas,” she said.
As long ago as 2017, a panel of experts organized by Forbes magazine voted The Bahamas the best place for a real estate investment “hands down.”
A significant part of the appeal – security, explains Wallace-Whitfield.
“As people spend more time sheltering-in-place, the place where they shelter becomes more important,” she said. “Whether we are working from home or just staying at home, that place we call home becomes a central part of our lives. There is no question that the pandemic was a game-changer.”
According to Realtor.com, the pandemic also changed how people shop for real estate, driving more traffic to virtual tours and even the scheduling of online open houses. The time spent per visit on Realtor.com increased 14% in the first lockdown month between March and April, its CEO reported.
A hike in interest in real estate in general and Bahamian real estate in particular has the potential to be the catalyst for this nation’s massive economic recovery, said Wallace-Whitfield, who is serving her third term heading up the 700-plus member association.
“Real estate and development combined create the second pillar of the Bahamian economy and land is far less fickle than tourism so it is a positive for The Bahamas that we are experiencing growth in this area,” she noted. “It is up to us to maximize the benefits of our unique position in the world. We need to be innovative and creative, understanding that just because we did things a certain way before does not mean we have to do them that way forever.”
Among ideas she hopes BREA will consider are economic citizenship that has been calculated to raise as much as $300 million, a reduction in the prime rate that will make borrowing more affordable for the middle class and first time homeowners, stamp tax exemption on certain categories of property or Family Island properties purchased by Bahamians and a graduated increase in real property tax on properties valued at more than $3 million.