Archives for posts with tag: Real Estate

“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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Check out my latest listing, its luxury, its future investment, its the most prestigious estate on the market in the Beautiful Abacos.

 

HG Christie has finally launched a new website portal that allows you to view listings by area and see their exact location and pricing.  It is kind of interesting and somewhat eye opening, if for instance one zooms into Marsh Harbour or Treasure Cay and views how many properties are currently for sale in a specific area.  There are few little kinks to work out but overall a great tool.  Check it out here:

http://hgchristiebahamasrealestate.bs

 

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New listing above, Casa Bella, Treasure Cay is a dream beach home.

Lately there has been nonstop discussion among Bahamians and foreign owners of homes in the Bahamas about the impending doom of the implantation of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the Bahamas.  The current government stance is a roll out in July of this year 2014.  In all likelihood given the track record (using the Marsh Harbour airport as an example) the introduction will happen in 2016 or 2017.  But, by all account it is coming, just a matter of when.

The typical discussions surround the cost of food or medicines, which are very important items to consider of course, we can’t live without them.  We also cannot live without somewhere to live in.

Currently the rough average cost to build a home in the Bahamas hovers around $150 Per Square Foot or living space.  Porches, patios, garages generally cost anywhere between $30 to $90 per square foot.  This rough numbers are estimates for a very simple home, 4 walls, 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms, tile floors nothing fancy.  Take my advice if you ask a Bahamian contractor to incorporate a bay window or some new roofing material he hasn’t seen before, you can double the cost to build instantly.  In most cases, going with a design outside of the simple box will cost you plenty to build here. 

There is a looking question that no one is really discussing yet – that is “How with VAT affect home values in the Bahamas?” and “How will VAT affect the cost of construction in the Bahamas?”

Well, if we look at an example of a typical 3bed/2 bath, 1,600 sq.ft. nice but simple home built in the Bahamas for $150 per square foot, with a  total cost of $240,000.  That should include all permitting and plans, but typically won’t cover utility connections or landscaping.  We are talking nothing fancy, all off the shelf average fixtures and appliances, no marble, no granite, no travertine, no fancy glass showers or claw foot tubs.  Getting off topic here.

So let’s start with a cost to build a home in the Bahamas at $240,000.

Currently, we pay import duties on all goods imported into the country so the cost of materials is generally quite high in comparison to the United States.  Volumes are low in comparison and shipping costs are high.  At the moment, in my estimation approximately 60% of the $240,000 cost to build is paying for materials. 

So $140,000 in materials, and $100,000 in labour to build a $240,000 home.  (These numbers are for example only, not exact)

According to the government communications, the cost of goods in the country will rise only 5%, however the private sector is saying the end result will be more like 12.5% post VAT.  Using the private sector estimate the cost of materials to build our home will rise to $156,800.  Not the end of the world just yet.

Under the current tax structure of the Bahamas, there is no tax payable on the services provided by electricians, plumbers, tile layers, carpenters, contractors, architects, surveyors, Quantity surveyors, masons, etc.  This is a very big elephant that is discussed but no one has grasped the implications yet.

The moment VAT is implemented, the cost of the services and labour to build a home is going to rise 15% over night.  A large new tax where there was not tax before.   What is the net result?

The $100,000 labour and services component of building a new home in the Bahamas just went up 15% to $115,000.  This is a simplification as VAT has a tax on tax effect compounding the cost to end consumers which ultimately means these estimations are very much on the conservative side.  The reality remains to be seen.

Now our $240,000 home will cost you $271,800.  Additional $21,000 Post VAT.  Do you think the construction will sector will weather this change in the economy well?

I would advise anyone who had plans to build a home, in the near future, you do it now, and hope to finish before VAT is implemented.  I also expect that the market for existing homes will strengthen while the market for vacant land which is already weak will become even softer. 

The cost to buy a home will rise somewhat also – VAT will be collected on the services of lawyers and realtors and home inspectors and appraisers.  Closing costs are expected to rise about a percentage point post VAT in my estimation.

Family Island Development Encouragement Act Ending

It looks like the development and construction incentive for the lesser developed island is ended and may not be renewed.  This serves to put home building back on equal footing for all the islands of the Bahamas.  over the past couple of years it has cost about 30% less to build on the southern islands than the islands of Abaco, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama and Bimini.

 

Below is a recent letter I wrote to a prospective buyer client of mine who asked for any advice I had to give on buying real estate for the first time.  As I was writing it, I thought it might be useful to others as well and thought I’d share it on the world wide web!

It has some good information for those looking to start out with a small entry level investment in real estate.  I should add, that when choosing a lawyer, get recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues, ask around, do some homework on them.  Not all lawyers are good at what they do, and you will want to find one with experience, larger companies have more resources to help you, and make sure you feel good about the relationship of working with them.  A good Real estate agent can give you a couple of good referrals too as we work with attorneys everyday…

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Above: a beautiful beachfront Lot for sale in Central Abaco at a great price of $180,000

Here is my letter that you are welcome to read:

Hi Laura (name changed),

Sorry about the delay, its been busy the last couple of weeks.  Feel free to call or email me anytime,

In purchasing your first real estate investment, do not plan to sell it in less than 5 years.  Ideally make it a 10 year investment.  The ideal plan is to pay it off as soon as possible, and then you can use it as security for future loans to buy more real estate (ie a house).  So you’d pay it off, then you can borrow against it.  The banks like that and it sets you up as a good client for credit.

Get the interest rate as low as possible, 7% would be ideal being a first time borrower.  People with history can get as low as 6% but they will probably want to offer you an 8% loan to start with.  Shop around for the best rate.  Get a 15 year mortgage but pay and extra $100 or more into it every month and you’ll pay it off in 8 years or less.  When paying more than the standard payment, make sure you specify that the payment is for principal and not interest.

When looking for a property to invest in, look for one that is priced lower than other properties in the neighborhood.  Make sure it is elevated and not subject to flooding.  Water views are worth money but cost more.  Also you’ll want electricity connections at the lot, ideally you want a home to be near it or less than 500 feet away, that will ensure its re-sell-ability in the future and help maintain value.  And I wouldn’t invest in something that is too far away from amenities.  You can get good prices for more remote areas, but they won’t appreciate in value as quickly.

These properties are higher price than the ones you inquired about but they will likely increase in value more quickly than Bahama Palm Shores.  The reason behind that is they are right in Marsh Harbour and closer to jobs, shopping, dining, amenities, airport etc.  I would consider spending the extra $10,000 and buy one of these…

http://www.hgchristie.com/property-details/abaco/vacant-land/19128/vision-heights-lot-1/

http://www.hgchristie.com/property-details/abaco/vacant-land/17385/lot10-vision-heights/

http://www.hgchristie.com/property-details/abaco/vacant-land/17384/lot-2-vision-heights/

http://www.hgchristie.com/property-details/abaco/vacant-land/17386/lot-11-vision-heights/

But if you are trying to keep your initial investment as affordable as possible, then Bahama Palm has a great beach and is a nice area which will grow slowly and increase in value slowly over time.

This is one of the best options for a lot in Bahama Palm Shores, in my opinion, crown (government) land on the rear boundary, so no neighbors building right up to your back door and ruining your view of the Abaco Parrots and forest vistas.  You could also cut a private path to the beach…

http://www.hgchristie.com/property-details/abaco/vacant-land/AS12268/perfect-place-to-build-a-home-plus-acres-of-crown-land-at-the-back-door/

Closing costs – keep in mind that you will pay half the stamp tax (you half will be 3% of the price) on top of the purchase price, you will also need to pay some legal fees, most law firms have a minimum fee of $900.  So if you bought a Vision Heights lot for $30,000, be aware that you will have to pay another $900 in stamp tax, and $900 in legal fees on top.  So the total cost will be $31,800.

If you are getting a mortgage to buy the property, there will be another 1% stamp tax on the mortgage document, if you borrow $27,000 (meaning you have $3,000 to put down as a deposit plus the $1,800 above in cash) there will be $270 in tax for the mortgage document and then another $400 or so for the lawyer to prepare the mortgage document and have that registered and work with the bank on the documents.  Lastly, the bank is going to have approximately $260 in fees.

So if you purchase price is $30,000, you will be able to borrow $27,000 from the bank and then be prepared to have $5,730 in cash to close the deal.

I hope all of this is helpful.  Let me know if you have any more questions or want to take some time to view the properties.

All the best,

Dwayne.

Dwayne Wallas

Appraiser/Estate Agent

HG Christie Ltd.

Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas

T: 242 367 5454

F: 242 367 5452

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Above:  Beautifully Restored and Expanded Home of Dramatic Eastern Shores Peninsula, for sale in immaculate condition.

I really shouldn’t put this in writing, but on 4 occasions over the past 2 weeks I have had inquiries from buyers who were interested in a particular property in Abaco and the property had just gone to contract, no longer available.   I hope this trend continues.  As I’ve said before it is the perfect time in the market pendulum swing to buy.  My sister is visiting from the UK and telling me how the market there has heated up significantly with bidding wars commonplace among buyers.  As noted in my last post Florida is up 30% year over year, and seeing more and more gains every week.  The Bahamas is sure to follow, with recent growth in the luxury segment in Nassau.  Exuma and Eleuthera are still struggling a little, but I expect those islands to follow suit too very soon.  Especially Exuma where a duty free building incentive is still in place making it inexpensive to build a home there.

In other news, I have word that Rum Cay is  once again going forward with resort development.  I have to say Rum Cay is one of THE most picturesque islands in the Bahamas, it is just a shame that it is so remote, unpopulated and plagued by mind boggling land title problems.  Hopefully one day that will all be sorted out.  Not all of the island has title issues and there are several development projects with very good title and lots of potential.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the best occasions in Hope Town, so make a note in your calender for The Box Cart Derby on the Saturday of Thanksgiving – great time.   And the annual Hope Town Sailing club Boxing day race the biggest and most prestigious of the year.  Christmas time is just a really nice time to be on the cays anyway.  And there are some spanking great New Years celebrations around the island.  Pete’s Pub is always a good one, and the Abaco Inn and Sea Spray always put out good spreads.

Oh… And the new Domestic (and Non-USA International) Departure terminal was opened recently and I had the pleasure of traveling through it recently.  It is very nicely done, and a massive improvement over the 50 year old terminal that we were using before with the leaky roof and terrible chairs.  enjoy these photos I took.

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This coming weekend make a note of the Kayak Challenge which is a really great time, don’t forget to buy a raffle ticket for the Hobie kayak.

Me – I wish I was doing the Miami Nassau Race this weekend, but family duties call…

And lastly, Hope Town has to be one of the best places on earth to enjoy a little Halloween festivities, here is a photo of my daughter trick or treating around town.

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I have been remiss in not keeping up with this blog and I’ve now missed almost 2 months and not written anything.  Shameful.  Anyway, it occurred to me that a good post would be to share my response to a potential client who has asked about owning a vacation rental home in the Bahamas.  There are some folks who will probably find this information quite useful:

Hi Angela,

I hope all is well.  Apologies for not responding to your previous message, it has been a very busy week.

The condo in Freeport, for $86,000 would be a great investment, they do well as long term rentals.  Freeport’s economy is generally a little depressed at the moment but should improve soon.  Tourism is down on the island so renting short term to vacationers will be challenging.  Definitely possible though, with good prospects for improvement in the future.  Freeport has a number of large hotels so there is plenty of competition for tourists’ dollars.  Abaco by comparison only has 2 medium sized hotels and a number of small ones (12 rooms or less).  And then there are about 2,000 homes or condos in a vacation rental pool.  The island is a big market for vacation rentals.

Elbow Cay and Hope Town are the prime vacation rental market where a good home can get up to 30-35 weeks a year.  On the other extreme Lubbers Quarters Cay typically gets 10-12 weeks a year.  A good rental in Marsh Harbour or Treasure Cay can get between 15-20 weeks.  The property has to have beach or waterfront to swim in and if there is a dock or a pool that the renter can use it is a big bonus.

The reality of owning a vacation rental home in the Bahamas though is not that rosy in terms of income.  Unless you happen to get one of the prime houses on the beach in the middle of Hope Town, that rent solidly back to back through the year, the income generated typically covers expenses and holding costs of the home.  In most cases renting for 15 weeks a year will usually cover annual property tax and the insurance costs and most maintenance and upkeep of the home as well as cover the utilities.  Basically a break even and owing the property does not cost you anything.  Once the place rents more than 15 weeks it can be a money producer, while less than the 15 and it usually needs a cash injection.  This 15 week number is a ballpark average, some homes with low values and low replacement costs could have low rates and therefore might break even at 10 weeks or less.  Other high-end luxury homes tend to never break even on income and expenses, but in the upper tier, the taxes can be quite high so the owner is just happy not to have that liability going out.

Then the real benefit of owning a vacation rental home is the ability to have a place to stay and vacation in, friends and family can use it and you get to enjoy the island life without the big expense of a hotel room or renting out a house for a week.   It does mean that many owners spend their 3 weeks vacationing here doing repairs and upkeep, but it is a small  price to pay for paradise right?   If you want to look at any specific homes and consider the rental income potential and the associated expenses let me know and we can go over the numbers.

The home you asked about in Casuarina Point is not going to be the best short term rental, it would typically expect about 3-4 weeks a year.  The more remote a home the less demand it has as a vacation rental – people on vacation usually want to have the option of a restaurant or two nearby to have dinner in.  Who wants to cook dinner every night when on holiday right?  The Casuarina home would rent for about $1,200 per week for probably 4 weeks a year so it could expect a gross income of $4,800 which would not cover expenses unfortunately.  In the past this home in Casuarina would have rented well, the area was a hot spot for fly fishermen visiting Abaco who needed a place to stay that was close to the sand banks, flats and creeks.  Recently though a few dedicated fishing lodges have opened up like ‘The Abaco Lodge’ and ‘The Delphi Lodge’ which cater to the fishing crowd and offer very nice accommodations and gourmet prepared meals.  These lodges have put the small vacation rental villas out of business essentially.  You would need to factor in management of the house to do check-ins and check outs and make sure it’s cleaned etc.  Most property management and vacation rental professionals will charge 30% of the rental rate which usually includes the cleaning.

But Hope Town and Green Turtle Cay are still key vacation rental hot spots and the right place can bring a decent return on investment.  The trick to remember though is don’t use the key holiday weeks for yourself.  Let it out for Christmas, New Years, Easter, Spring Break, Memorial Day weekend, US Independence weekend, etc. etc.  Many owners of vacation rental homes reserve these keys weeks for themselves and then grumble that the place is not getting enough rental income – well duh!

The Casuarina home has been on the market for about 3 years, the owners are definitely ready to get it sold.  It has potential to be converted into a bed and breakfast type of place if the owner wanted to live there and run it.   There is lots of land to build additional cottages.  The only fees would be insurance (probably about $3,500 p/a) and property tax (about $1,600 p/a).  The only other expenses would be utilities and maintenance, there are no HOA dues.

I hope this is all helpful and let me know if you have any more questions or would like to discuss anything.

Best regards,

Dwayne.

From: Angela
To: Dwayne Wallas
Subject: Re: New listings from Your REALTOR

Hi Dwayne,

About this property: http://www.hgchristie.com/details/abaco/casuarina-point/house-as12181

Was wondering how it would be as a holiday rental, how many weeks of the year. Also how long has this house been on the market for, and what on going fees apply to own it if any? Any details you could provide would be helpful.

Thanks and Kind Regards,

Angela

Infographic For Bahamians Buying Homes

Just a little bit of interesting information to do with home buying – directed at Bahamian residents not foreign second home owners.

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So I am terrible at this blogging thing.  Its been a month since my last post and I had planned to post every week.  This blogging thing takes a lot more determination and dedication than I anticipated.

Why haven’t I posted in a while you ask?  well, I’ve been too busy with training for the triathlon, spending time with my wonderful daughter and keeping up with work.  The other big time consuming activity lately – the real estate market in the Bahamas and Abaco specifically, has taken a significant uptick lately and I’ve been able to find the time to sit down and put together an update.

Since my last post, quite a lot has happened in Abaco.  The Hope Town Museum Heritage festival, which is always fun and good to support the museum. – And any excuse to go have lunch in Hope Town.

There was the annual Man O War Cay flea market, where you can find some of the best fudge and home baked goods on the planet.  It is also a great time to check out Man O War, see the museum, boat building works and history of the settlement.

There were 2 ‘Reef Balls’, one at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge and one at the Jib Room Marsh Harbour Marina. Both are held in aid of the programs and projects of the Friends of the Environment group.  The ‘Ball’ is an elegant evening affair and a rare excuse to get ‘dolled up’ in Abaco.  So fella’s pull out those rarely used suits and black ties while the ladies dig out the equally untouched elegant evening wear.  They are wonderfully entertaining events with both live and silent auctions, and delicious meal followed by live music and dancing and libations.  I’ve missed it for the first time in 7 years of living in Abaco, but the upside was avoiding the hangover the following day.  Always a hoot though and definitely marking on your calender for next year.

Below are a few photos from the joint Interact and Rotary Club “Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival” back in January.

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Above the winning entry for the Abaconian Newspaper, and below the entry for HG Christie.

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I have also taken part in the Hope Town Sailing Club Sunday regatta on the 16th and took home the first place, narrowly pushing Andrew Wilhoyte out by 1 point.

Now this past weekend was the Great Abaco Family Fitness Weekend and I completed my first triathlon.  I did the ‘Sprint’ distance.  I don’t know why they call it a sprint because there is absolutely no way anyone would be sprinting for a half kilometer swim, a 15km cycle and a 5km run – SERIOUSLY?  Anyway, despite the cloudy day, cold water and rain it is a a wonderful day and a great place to do a triathlon.  The beach at Treasure Cay is perfect, a long shallow water swim along the beach in calm water is unrivaled.  The roads for the bike are pretty flat and there is really very little traffic that time in the morning in North Abaco.  And then the run is down a scenic Windward Drive with several spots to see the water and canals.  It truly is a great spot.  The Treasure Cay Hotel was a great supporter of the event providing room discounts.  The hotel rooms in Treasure Cay are reasonably priced for Abaco, and while the rooms could use updating and renovating, they are generally clean and maintained and the big plus is that they usually have a fridge, microwave and coffer maker in them.  Plus they all the rooms have a porch or balcony looking out over the marina.

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Above:  A Beautiful sunrise swim to start of the Triathlon.  The water was cold (65 degrees) but wonderful.

Below: me heading out on the run portion of the Tri:

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I finished 19th out of 34 in my first triathlon using a fat tire mountain bike against mostly road bikes, with a time of 1h 45 minutes.  Not bad for a guy that hates running with a passion.  On the plus side i lost 15 lbs as a result of the training.  and I’ve raised $900 towards the eradication of Polio Effort of Rotary International.  Thank you to all the people who sponsored me to do this and for helping contribute to the end of Polio.  I would not have done this excruciating task otherwise.

Next up on the calender – the Homer Lowe Memorial regatta held in Marsh Harbour.

In other news, the real estate market has shown serious signs of heating up lately.  Just about everyone is in agreement that the ‘bottom’ was reached sometime last year and the housing recovery in the US is in full swing.  As a result, many people who had been waiting and holding off on buying a home or lot or condo have realized now is the time to make that move to buy a vacation home in the Bahamas.  Over the past 2 weeks, there will be about 5 homes in Abaco gone to contract int eh $200,000 to $400,000 price range.  There is also some activity in the higher price ranges too.  I’ve already witnessed twice, where a potential buyer wanted to make an offer on a home and it was already under contract…

My appraisal business has been non-stop too and I’m having trouble keep up with the demand.  As I understand it, Bahamian banks have good liquidity and cash available to lend, but they are only considering clients with strong financial track records.  So while lending is tight, it is loosening up a bit.  As they say, in this market right now Cash Is King when making an offer on a home.

Thanks for reading.

Another Monday morning after another wonderful weekend.  Ho hum well time to get back to work.  Once again I find myself delinquent of not meeting my personal goal of one post every week – Oh well, goals are made to be set and broken right?  In any event due to my lazy posting I find myself in a situation of having too much to write about.  Some might say that is not a problem but a blessing.  It is not a blessing when you have too much to do and too little time to get it done, especially for a Monday morning.

First off, while most of western world was watching the ever entertaining Super Bowl, the Bahamas once again ponied up for an advertising slot and aired a very nice commercial promoting the islands.  It focused on the Exuma Cays natural beauty, but it speaks for most of the Bahamas as there are little hideaway spots like these hidden all over the archipelago.  If you missed it you can see it here either on youtube or the Caribbean Journal site:

Bahamas Airs Super Bowl Ad Featuring Rick Fox and David Copperfield

or

http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/02/03/bahamas-airs-super-bowl-ad-featuring-rick-fox-and-david-copperfield/

It is nicely done and does show off the Bahamas’ hidden “backwaters” well but I must admit I personally found it a little boring and i had no idea why it was felt that David Copperfield should be included…  “my 2 cents”  as we say around here.

What else happened recently?

Well on Saturday Pete Johnston turned 50 for the 19th time.  It was a great time had by all, being a perfect family friendly party, fundraiser and celebration at Pete’s Pub.  There were dozens of kids and families running around the sand and beach or mashing down on the pig roast or jerk smoked chicken which enhanced their usual menu of fresh caught fish.  The day was a fundraiser which successfully raised funding for a young local man in Cherokee (I believe) who has cerebral palsy.  Pete is also a recent grandfather.  I was chatting Pete’s son Greg about the day and we remarked about how the event has changed dramatically over the years – It certainly was not family friendly 19 years ago when Pete first turned 50.  My daughter has a blast and really enjoyed her lunch too.

The weekend before, 26th and 27th of January:  this is another extremely busy weekend for me.  It is a wonder I ever get any of the ‘honey do’ list done at home.  Friday, Saturday & Sunday was the Bahamas National Trust’s   “Art for the Parks”  art show.  I went and had a look at some of the promising and/or talented exhibitors there and our Rotary Club held out 4 the annual Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival fundraiser which beautifies the sidewalk along the marina docks near the art show tent.  it raised $3,000 and is also a competition among artists.

The following day on Sunday, the wife Sheree, the daughter Clara and I got up early and hopped on the 9am ferry to Hope Town.  We had a mouthwatering chicken souse at “On Da Beach” at Turtle Hill.   This is a local staple for folks living in Abaco, our friends Matt & Lindsey have had souse there just about every Sunday for almost 7 years.  Chicken Souse is a bahamian dish for breakfast and is a wonderful recovering meal after a long night ‘plying the party waters’. Which incidentally is on the market for sale if you know anyone interested, details can be found here:  http://www.hgchristie.com/details/abaco/hope-town-elbow-cay/business-as11549.

Then Matt & I headed out to the crystal clear waters off of Hope Town to join the Hope Town  Sailing club for one of the winter series sailing.  We had 14 sunfish on the start line which is great size for a racing fleet.  Several of the racers were in the 10-16 age group, a couple of which nearly beat me to the finish.  It was one of those days of sailing racing that makes living here so perfect.  The winds were NE over the north end of Elbow Cay blowing 8-12 knots.  This made for inconsistent but constant wind shifts.  I was the only one who brought a compass out to track the wind shifts and just beat out Dave to take first place on a tie breaker.  It was some really tight sailing with all boats finishing within a couple of minutes of each other and it could have been anyone’s race.  The HT sailing club is very keen and always a great resource.  I must thank them and especially Dave & Carol Pahl for handling the thankless task of running race committee.  If you want to get involved or learn to sail check them out: www.hopetownsailingclub.com.   And thanks to them for this photo of me sailing:

 

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