Archives for posts with tag: Abaco Market update

“Top Real Estate Trends Impacting You & Your Business”

My name is Dwayne Wallas, 12 years working in the real estate business with HG Christie Real Estate.  I moved to Abaco in 2007.

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I’ve been asked to come here today and present some insight in the real estate market in Abaco.  As you all know Abaco is a unique part of the Bahamas and a unique part of the world.  In my view it is the people that make it unique.

But also and perhaps more importantly it is the geography – it is the only island in the Bahamas which has a relatively large land mass of 650 square miles similar to Grand Bahama or Andros while also having the 120 mile long chain of barrier cays.

This combination is not found anywhere else in the Bahamas or the Caribbean for the most part.  The ‘mainland’ of Abaco offers the ability for farming, logging, and more light industry or the option to have an estate or many acres with waterfront.  The tourism potential of Great Abaco Island is also very much untapped.

The barrier cays offer unique boating experiences together with wonderful communities.  Put the two together and the potential is tremendous.

I believe Elbow Cay is a perfect example of a thriving development model for the Bahamas.  It offers several small scale hotels together with restaurants and most importantly ATMOSPHERE.

The data I will be showing is derived from the Bahamas MLS.  Therefore it only takes into account sales transactions that have had a broker involved.

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What is selling in Abaco?

Hope Town is booming.  The rest of the Abacos have had a banner year but it all trails way behind Hope Town.  The community has managed to strike a balance between authenticity and capacity.  This year you could not rent a golf cart on the cay unless you booked it well in advance.  The real estate market on the cay is similarly very strong.

Treasure Cay is the close second for driving the economy of the Abacos.  The area sees a strong tourism market as well as posting a strong year for the real estate market.  The condominium market in Treasure Cay was in terrible shape, but the past 2 years have finally seen the inventory reduced and the market is beginning to normalize.

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The Marsh Harbour market is a tough nut to crack.  The market for Bahamians is starting to normalize as the banks are starting to ease lending requirements, but the property values are still depressed.  On the other hand the luxury or foreign investor market in Marsh Harbour (MH) is still very much stagnant.  I see lots of growth potential for the centre of Abaco, but it is suffering as a tourism destination.

Marsh Harbour is generally just a transit point and a shipping/business centre.  There is an opportunity to grow the tourism market here and by extension improve the foreign second home owner market.  From what I see MH seems to lack the charm and “islandy feel” visitors expect when they arrive at the airport.

Baker’s Bay is in full steam construction mode and providing tons of employment but not affecting the real estate market of Abaco at all.  It is its own microcosm and has little direct effect on the Abaco economy apart from the jobs.

Similarly the Abaco Club at Winding Bay is in slow growth mode and provides good employment but has little to no effect on the real estate market anywhere else in the Abacos.  The new developer, Southworth, is slowly rebuilding the prestige and demand.

My last point on this topic, as you can see from the chart, the strongest areas of Abaco are Elbow Cay and Treasure Cay.  The remote parts of Abaco have limited demand.

There are some good opportunities in the remote areas, but be aware that you will be in for a long haul.

Similarly the vacation rental market is only really functioning in Treasure Cay or Hope Town.

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So What about Abaco Compared to the Rest of The Bahamas?  

It is often said that Abaco is a more vibrant economy than Grand Bahama and this chart certainly shows that, although it is given that Grand Bahama is more than just real estate sales.  There is industry in Freeport which we lack here in Abaco.  Maybe for the better, maybe not?

Point is, Abaco is a strong real estate investment market, high sales volume and a high average price point.  Prices in Abaco are not too far off Nassau and second in the country.

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It is, I believe, an economic model to be learned from and encouraged to blossom.  The current test case of locally operated property tax collection on Elbow Cay is interesting and I’m keen to see how it works out.

Chart of Sales Growth Abaco

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Over the past 7 years the data shows growth of sales volume of 18% per year.  Despite the growth in the market and strong activity levels, I’m seeing property values are still dropping somewhere around 5% per year.

I anticipate this trend to turn around in the next 12 months.  As inventory is absorbed, we should see prices start to stabilize and begin to push up a little.

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Government Stimulus to Real Estate

Current incentives of 1st time buyers and Family Island Encouragement Act are having positive impacts.  I believe they should continue.

I believe the taxes on the purchase and sale of real estate is too high.

Stimulating the real estate market and providing incentives to buy here will further stimulate the wider economy.  It is said that a new home owner will further spend an additional 10-20% of the purchase price on furniture or remodeling etc.  That adds up to a significant amount of money being circulated around the economy.

I would urge the government of the Bahamas to further incentivize the real estate market and encourage home buyers, both local and foreign.

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The Acreage and Development Market is completely dead…

There has not been a single transaction of a tract of acreage in Abaco in 10 years.  There are many factors at play but the 2 key reasons I believe to be

  1. Restrictions on foreigners purchasing tracts of land via Foreign Investment Board
    • I believe this market should be liberalized.
    • Keeping it restricted does not benefit the Bahamas.
    • The tax revenue on the sale of large tracts of land is a good reason to encourage the market not restrict it.
    • The vast tracts of raw land are not benefiting anyone by sitting dormant.
    • It is all too common to have a large tract of land owned by 10 or 20 people who inherited it and they will never reach a decision on what to do with it.
  1. The cost of developing land in the Bahamas for sales of lots has risen beyond the ability to realize a profit. The cost of utilities, road paving and legal expenses, plus marketing costs are significantly higher than the price one could sell a residential building lot for right now.
    • A Non-waterfront residential lot on the main island of Abaco sells for an average of $30,000
    • Cost to develop a subdivision of lots for sale in Abaco is around $30,000
    • Therefore No incentive to develop.

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The Tribune has recently published 2 articles on land registration reform, one from the president of the Bahamas Bar Assocation, the other form the president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association.  To quote Mr. Elsworth Johnson

“A registered land system would divulge the number of frauds that cause people to be dispossessed of their land. It would also reduce the amount attorneys are able to charge [for real estate transactions]”

Thank you all very much for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts today.

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Have a wonderful day.

(Apologies for my last post, I wrote it and then it got lost when publishing and wordpress posted it to FB and LinkedIn before I realized the post was blank.)

A few weeks back everyone was talking about a recent video shoot for a new music video that Pitbull shot in Staniel Cay, Exuma.  It shows some great images of the mesmerizing waters of the Exuma Banks, and some shots of the whimsical Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  Staniel Cay is definitely one of those places in the world that should be visited at least once in your life.  It is a magical place, the location of the cave scenes in James Bonds ‘Thunderball’ movie.  At the dock, nurse sharks hang out all day and keep you company.  Personally I don’t think the music video does the cay and the area justice, but it is worth a look:

In other news there is a rumor that Miley Cyrus may be spending time in Treasure Cay, Abaco.  Reports are unconfirmed though.  Treasure Cay is home to a fabulous beach and I’ve taken on a new home for sale, sited right at the end of the point, with the best location and positioning in all of Treasure.  ‘Casa Bella’ is the kind of home dreams are made of and indeed made in.  Endless memories will be created in this stylish beach home.  Check it out click on the photo below for more details:

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Recent happenings of note in the Bahamas include the Bahamas Speed Week which was another success but still lots of growing pains.  The participants say it is one of the most striking places they have raced their cars.  Hope Town held it’s annual Boxcart Derby (racing on a completely different level but just as fun) and despite inclement weather was another huge success – Once again I endeavor to enter a cart next year.  We will see if I can pull it off.

Upcoming event – the 242 Colour run in Hope Town on the 28th December.  This should prove to be an exciting event, where you run/walk/crawl a 5k and get covered in colourful paint?  (?? Seems interesting, maybe I’ll try it out)

I would also mention that New Years in the Abacos is lots of fun.  Very family friendly and each of the cays does it a little differently, but there is always great fireworks, usually some Junkanoo and great entertainment across the island.  Pete’s Pub is often a low key but fulfilling atmosphere to ring it in.  Book early though as all of the rental homes get booked solid for the New Years holiday.

Schooner Bay is now functional, with gas dock, marina, several different villas to stay in, the Blackfly Lodge is open for business and there are now 2 options for eating out plus a newly opened general store which is bound to expand and grow.  Be sure to make plans for an afternoon relaxing by the harbour.

Otherwise in real estate news, it seems 2013 is finishing up on a low note, but signs are pointing to a very much improved 2014.  Florida’s real estate market is 30% up year over year, and has steadied out with inventory dropping significantly.  Typically we see spill over in the Bahamas from 6 months to a year later, so I anticipate we will see some big improvement in our local market in Abaco from around spring time through the summer.

That said, there is still a high inventory of real estate here in Abaco at 620+ listings, and over 230+ of those are single family homes.  Homes are continuing to sell much faster than undeveloped land or multifamily properties.  It is now the perfect time to buy, before the almost guaranteed upswing coming next year.  Things have been improving in market but at a subdued rate over the past 2 years.  Most brokers and agents I speak with around town all agree that there will be significant gains next year.

On the other side of the coin though, Abaco Beach Resort and Treasure Cay are both in need of a fresh injection of energy and would really benefit from new owners.  If these to anchor properties in Abaco were rejuvenated it would have a profound effect on the rest of the Abacos.  Both resorts could be an option for the right investor with the right vision.  Send me a proposal if you are interested.  In other news, there has been some recent activity in the commercial market in Abaco, with some significant properties looking to have new owners in 2014.  All good signs but still fairly muted at the moment.

Newly redeveloped projects are doing extremely well – I mentioned Schooner Bay already, other places to check out are Firefly Resort, The Hope Town Inn and Marina, and Bakers Bay is setting new standards in Abaco.  The Bluff House and the Green Turtle Cay Club are both undergoing improvement works and they’ve recently dredged the channel to White Sound to accommodate larger vessels.  All good news and good things happening around the cays.

Finally, take a look at recent video I’ve shot of a beautiful home on Gillam Bay, Green Turtle Cay.  This is almost the perfect home…http://youtu.be/W0yxqA3XWlc

Now in closing can I ask all my readers to please cross your fingers and send positive vibes that the new Marsh Harbour airport terminal will be finally opened and functioning in January 2014 as has been recently promised.

This may be my last post before the end of the year – Happy Holidays, Happy Christmas, Happy New Year, may 2014 be another wonderful year to add to the memories.

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