Archives for posts with tag: Abaco Second HOme Market

“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.

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Total Bahamas MLS listings active right now:  2,145

Total Listings Sold On the Bahamas MLS in the past 6 months: 86

However, it is worth noting that I personally have been involved in 3 transactions in the last 6 months, that are not being recorded on the MLS for various reasons, either it was a ‘pocket listing’ or just recently expired etc. If one assumes that one quarter of the licensed agents in the Bahamas have been involved in one transaction that was not recorded on the MLS it bumps up the number of sales transactions up to 221.  This sales volume figure is modest but indicates strong gains over the previous year.  In the past month, every active broker or agent I’ve spoken to has seen a marked increase in inquiries, visits, showings and offers.  This is all leading to a significantly improved real estate market for the year of 2015.

The long wait since 2007 is definitely officially over in my opinion.

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Above: Beautiful Luxury Estate on Man O War Cay. Multiple dwellings, 3 beaches, large private marina. More information here:

http://www.hgchristie.com/details/abaco/man-o-war-cay/house-as12394/

Every company in the Bahamas is seeing major improvement across the board. In the local Bahamian real estate market, it seems the commercial banks are starting to make loans a bit easier to reach although the lending standards are still quite high. Typically Scotiabank is looking for the borrower to have 30% equity, however they are currently offering extremely low interest rates. RBC has in my opinion been the easiest bank to work with in terms of securing a mortgage with 10% deposit/equity and they will allow the borrower to finance closing costs which is a major help to a first time real estate buyer looking to start out. The government stamp tax of 10% (usually split between buyer and seller) is still a major financial hurdle for most buyers of real estate in the country, so being able to get financial assistance with that is a blessing. CIBC Fist Caribbean is offering 15% equity/deposit with interest rates on par with the other institutions.

In the non-resident or second home owner market there has been a large increase in interest from potential buyers and the sales activity is indicating a strong improvement. The problem I am seeing now though is that sellers who had been on the side lines waiting for the past couple of years have now seen the market improvement and chosen to put their property on the market. This has had the effect of increasing the inventory of available properties on the market which causes the market to skew in favour of the buyers. That said, I believe we are out of the woods and it is still a great time to buy.

When you have multiple people looking at making offers on one piece of real estate that definitely shows a vastly improved market for the past years. I have seen multiple offers at the same time on 5 different occasions in the past 6 months.

Happening right now a reality TV show called ‘Below Decks’ filming in Abaco right now. It is a Bravo network show similar to Big Brother set on a luxury yacht. The film crew is based out of Abaco Beach Resort and has been using the beautiful scenes of Abaco as the backdrop. Good exposure for the island, however I think it only appeals to the teenage audience so economic spill over is likely to be very limited.

I have heard mention of the possibility of the Marsh Harbour airport runway being extended so we might finally see direct flights from New York and Atlanta. Something that will make getting to the Abacos from Europe and the Northeast US much, much easier.

The Friends of the Environment Annual Reef Ball was recently held at the Abaco Inn with great success, and the Marsh Harbour edition is coming up in about a week. Great Cause, Great Food and Great Fun to be had at the Marsh Harbour Marina.

Upcoming events in Abaco – Great Abaco Family Fitness Weekend (Triathlon), Fishing Tournament season, Hope Town Music/Songwriters Festival (Happening Now).

Get out of the snow and come down for a visit.

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