Four-term BREA President Christine Wallace-Whitfield inks memorandum of understanding with real estate associations in New York and Sarasota, surprising their members by letting them know how much The Bahamas standards for real estate transactions mirror theirs and those of the National Association of Realtors®.
BREA inks historic links with New York, Sarasota realty associations
In one of its most far-reaching efforts to date, the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) has inked links with realty associations in two major affluent markets in the U.S. in recent weeks, signing memorandums of understanding with Long Island, NY and Sarasota, Fl real estate groups.
BREA President Christine Wallace-Whitfield called the initiative ‘historic and significant.’
“The COVID-19 pandemic that forced people to work remotely unleashed a never before seen demand for property in warm climate markets, especially those like The Bahamas where the lifestyle is enviable,” said Wallace-Whitfield. “While we were experiencing this explosive demand for residential, we were also seeing more agents coming in from abroad so we wanted to reach out, network, see how we could work together and make them formally aware of the law requiring foreign agents or brokers to co-broke with a BREA-licensed agency or member. At the same time, we wanted to share information about our market, useful insights into the processes around real estate transactions in The Bahamas and shed light on the Family Islands.”
The presentation to Realtors® in Long Island, NY, was face-to-face, in Sarasota it was virtual.
“It was an honour to accept invitations from both organizations and to deliver key messages, including sharing the many similarities between our professionals in The Bahamas and theirs,” said the four-term president. “I think there was a general level of surprise at how sophisticated our profession is. When people think of the Bahamas, they think of the visitor experience, lying on a chaise lounge with the sun beating down on your face, and they don’t realize that for the working professional, it is an all-out, consuming occupation, or that we rely on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) as they do, or that their rules and regulations as set by the National Association of Realtors, are our rules and regulations.”
The veteran broker said audiences in both presentations were happy to hear professional standards in The Bahamas were so stringent.
“I assured them that we were more alike than we are different,” said Wallace-Whitfield, citing one major difference.
“We still do not have a digital land registry but we are working on it,” she said.
Florida, she noted, has grown by more than 400,000 new residents since April of 2020, a month after the pandemic started, a number that roughly equals the population of The Bahamas.
“If Florida is the number one choice of Americans for relocating since the COVID-19 pandemic turned our worlds upside down, The Bahamas is the number one choice in this hemisphere outside the US.,” she said.
“Like you, networking is the foundation on which we stand and trust is the pillar on which we depend. But, unlike you, we are spread out over 500 miles and 100,000 square miles of open ocean. We are often asked ‘How do you sell real estate when property is scattered across so many islands?’
“I love that question because I get this picture of someone who does not realize how connected we are imagining an agent putting on a bathing suit, holding up a sign saying follow me and swimming to a nearby beach where drinks with paper umbrellas and a form that says ‘Sign here’ are waiting.”
Wallace-Whitfield told agents in Sarasota she hated to dispel that image but the reality is far less glamorous, explaining the frequency of flights, inter-island ferry service, availability of private planes and vessels, all make visits to remote properties reasonable.
Above all, she said, she wanted to ensure audiences in New York and Sarasota that working with a local agent who has local knowledge and will hand-hold a buyer from abroad through the transaction, was to their advantage.
“Working with a local agent is in your favour as well as being the legal and ethical thing to do,” she explained in presentations to more than 100 agents and brokers. “As BREA agents, it is our responsibility to understand the law, to know the market in the immediate area where your client is looking, to share information about closing costs and real property tax, to explain Central Bank and other monetary and regulatory policies. You would not wander into a strange land without a map and you should not wander into The Bahamas without letting one of our licensed agents be that map for you. We are in this high demand situation together and the closer we work with one another, the more all of us will benefit from it.”