Archives for posts with tag: Treasure Cay

“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.

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

 

I must apologize to my readers, I have been too busy over the past 6 months to sit down and write as often as I should.  Since January, I have only had time to write once.  I shouldn’t really be taking the time now to write this but I have put it off for too long.  There have been some significant changes in the real estate market in the Bahamas lately.

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The Iconic Abaco Estate, Man O War Cay.

If you talk to seasoned real estate brokers in the Bahamas how have been in the profession for 20 years or more, they will tell you that historically in the US election year the market in the Bahamas dips.  Suggested reasons include pre-occupation of the US buyers, or uncertainty for the US economy based upon who wins the presidency, or simply that would be buyers are putting money into the campaigns of their chosen candidate.  Who knows the real reason – there is only opinion and anecdotal evidence.  And until 2008 there really was little empirical evidence to prove that the market was up or down.  As I’ve written in this blog before, the presence of our Bahamas MLS is a great improvement and tool for the real estate business in the Bahamas.  We now have 8 years of good data with the possibility to tease out some real trends based upon real numbers.  It’s night and day compared to the end of the 20th century when the internet was still unfolding.

We still have little real access to data from the Government.  But perhaps in the future that will change.  There is a silver lining to the implementation of VAT – a brand new division of government was established to collect and keep track of Value Added Tax.  It is called the Department of Inland Revenue (i know, very original right?)  This division is staffed in large part by trained accountants, who will hopefully keep good records.  Through the collection of VAT, there may be a beneficial result in the provision of detailed accurate data on the performance of the economy and perhaps even real estate.

The Bahamas still needs to clean up its act in terms of the ease of doing business in real estate transactions.  Ask any real estate professional and they will tell you the current system is not sustainable.  Excessive costs, taxes, inadequate recording, and insufficient tenure of title are a few of the downfalls in the business.  Add to it he need to provide an appraisal for every real estate transaction and the speed with which a sale can occur gets slower and slower every year.  It is still possible to close a sale in 2 months, but it is the exception.

Now for some hard numbers:  Last year January –June 2015 saw 248 real estate transaction recorded on the Bahamas MLS, the same period this year is posting 291 sales.  A 17% increase in sales activity is stellar.  Equally positive is the increase from 209 transaction during the 6 month period of 2014, showing a year over year increase of 19%.  (Side note:  There are 25 properties still pending from 2013 on the MLS)

2016 1st half sales volume

The table shows a strong growth in sales volume in the Bahamas.  I expect this trend to continue steadily.  Given this is a US election year which is supposed to be a slow period for sales in the Bahamas and given the data shows a strong market leading into this election, it is reasonable to assume that the real estate market in the Bahamas will see a bumper year. Dare I say bubble?  Or is that too early?

If the 17% growth continues, we can expect to see 340 transactions in the first half of 2017.

One interesting  point for sellers to note, is that over the past 4 years, there has been a steady 3000 listings on the Bahamas MLS.  (this year is 3,010, last year was 3,008).  This would tend to support the idea that there are a large number of sellers around the Bahamas who are fishing with prices which are unrealistic.  And these sellers continue year in and year out just hoping the movie star or lottery winner comes along to buy their home because it is so much better than the neighbors.   While at the same time there is a large segment of the market who are likely listening to their Realtor or broker and being serious about getting their home or land sold.  Point is, listen to the real estate professionals, and get second and third opinions on pricing and values.  Don’t list with a company or agent just because they say they can sell it for the highest price.  Work with the realtor who is giving you the real picture.

There are a few really good opportunities around to take advantage of this growth in the Real Estate Market.  One of them is a package of 16 beachfront condominiums in Marsh Harbour.  The possible returns could be substantial with the right person at the wheel.  Take a look at the details here:

http://www.hgchristie.com/eng/sales/detail/529-l-82276-f1603081131700243/abaco-towns-by-the-sea-16-condo-package-chance-investment-mls21404-marsh-harbour-ab

Aerial Photo ABTBS for web

PS: the construction incentive, called the Out Island Encouragement Act, was extended for another year so building materials are still import duty free until June 2017.  VAT is still payable though.  This is a good reason to start building that dream home now.  Call or email if you have any questions about this.

Ever dreamt of having your own private island complete with deep water marina and 2 beautiful beaches all within an 15 minute ride to amenities?  And at a reasonable price?

Here is a sneak peek at an upcoming Private Island Listing, and this one has it all:

Cove panorama

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

 

All I can say it is has been an extremely busy 2014 so far in the real estate business. I have not been able to make myself sit down and write up an update to this blog. Every week, Every day has been non-stop trying to keep up with the demand. Demand for appraisal work and for sales work and often juggling both can be tricky. Both disciplines have specific time frames to work with. Buyers and sellers want immediate responses and while clients looking for appraisals are always on a limited time budget.

ABACO - WINDING BAY PLUS 49

Above: Incredible New Price on a harbour front 1.8 acre parcel in Little Harbour.  $200k for a beautiful piece of paradise.  It has beach, deep water for a dock, and 40′ elevations, it has it all except that pesky electricity supply.

Speaking of Appraisal work – there has definitely been an uptick in appraisals services volume which indicates that a) credit is become more available and mortgages are become easier to obtain and b) consumers of real estate and loans are expressing more confidence in the economy. Typically you would not borrow money if your financial future was looking poor right? I will mention that the commercial banks in the Bahamas have severely clamped down on appraisal standards and lending requirements here.   In the past a simple cost/replacement calculation would have sufficed to justify a value estimate however now every local bank is requiring that at least 2 comparable sales are included in the analysis and used to justify the final number reported. In some ways this is a good thing for our market, it is a maturation of the lending and mortgage business here partly as a result of the implementation of the Bahamas MLS. On the other hand it means value estimates are generally lower than they were in the past and less subject to the ‘interpretation’ of the appraiser. In any event higher reporting standards will benefit everyone in the long run.

How is the Abaco Real Estate market doing these days?

Well I’ve pulled up some sales activity numbers from the MLS which give a pretty good snap shot of the past year. Everyone is aware that the South Florida real estate market saw a strong bounce back and return to positive appreciation about 2 years back (2012). We expected it to happen in the Bahamas last year however while 2013 saw a little improvement, appreciation was stagnant. 2014 appears to be seeing a similar flat line in property values but that is a good thing, certainly better than a declining market. Steady markets are good, they are reliable, predictable and safe. Excessive appreciation is often a bad thing leading to a correction as we have all seen about 5 years back.

The past year of Abaco Real estate sales volume shows a huge uptick this year:

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You can see at the end of 2013 there was a steady transaction rate of 2-6 which is reflective of the whole of 2013 and typical or 2012 also. You will notice that as of February, there was a marked improvement in sales volume. You will also note the modest increase in sales of properties over $1M.

Interesting to note – In a previous post I wrote about the busiest month of the year for sales activity, and April is typically one of the best for real estate both in the Bahamas and in the United States. But for some reason this past year, April saw a huge drop. I will have to look into what happened in April this year.

Additionally, August is typically one of the slowest months of the year for sales, but this year is looks like it is one of best of the year.

All in all, I have strong confidence that the market in Abaco is back on track and we will see some good but steady growth this coming year.

That confidence is supported by several factors at play that will return Abaco and the Cays back to a strong yet sustainable growth level.

Treasure Cay is supposed to have a new managing partner coming on to take over and rejuvenate the community. The area sorely needs some new energy to revitalize and upgrade. It is a shame because the community has such tremendous potential but is being held back in my opinion.

Winding Bay, The Abaco Club is set to have new management and ownership coming October. The Abaco Club has been struggling to realize its full potential for the past couple of years and property owners have seen the value of their investment erode away substantially. With the pending take over by Southworth, out of New England the area should see a substantial upgrade and corresponding improvement in property value. I have confidence they will be the right fit and benefit all of Abaco.

The new Marsh Harbour International Airport (MHH) has been operational for some time now and is an immense benefit to the island and offers a clean, efficient and air conditioned space for travelling to and fro. Now we just need direct service from Atlanta by Delta or even perhaps direct service to New York. It is a beautiful building and gone of the days of sloshing through mud to get to your car or taxi.

The Hope Town Inn & Marina has been open for over a year and they have seen tremendous approval by the market. The marina is always very busy, and the rooms are on constant turnover. The property is attractive, convenient and becoming a staple of the Hope Town scene.

Great Guana Cay maybe seeing some big things coming on stream soon, but more to come on that later.

Unfortunately Green Turtle Cay is still struggling a little in terms of visitors, but this is proving to be a positive aspect for the second home owner market. Folks are finding the quiet and peace away from the busy tourist action the ideal spot for a quaint second home. The old New Plymouth Inn is ready for new life and would be a wonderful retirement project for the right person. It has lots of history and character and would be a ton of fun to return to it’s glory days.

Lastly, my 2 cents – A house painted white seems to have serious trouble selling in the Bahamas. I suppose it is the only colour to paint a house in certain parts of Greece but it does not seem to work here. Anecdotally, there are several bargain homes on the market in Abaco that have been sitting for a good long while and I attribute it to the colour of the house – white. Similarly unpainted cedar siding seems to be equally difficult to sell.

Happy back to school and International Literacy Month, And Coastal Cleanup Month!

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Whats New in Abaco? (Above photo: start of the GAFFW Triathlon in Treasure Cay at Sunrise)

It has been a long time since my last post and I’ve been chastising myself for weeks. But the reason for it is the tangible uptick in the real estate business here. Sales activity is looking up in terms of volume although prices are generally staying level. In the wider picture though, requests for appraisal services has improved dramatically over the previous year, vacation rental and boat bookings are generally stronger than 2013 and overall the economy in Abaco looks to be doing much better. I would almost hazard to say that the things are starting to look quite rosy here.

Anecdotally, there has been a few properties that have sold in the past 6 months at full asking price after having 2 or more serious persons interested. I haven’t seen that happen in years. As I have written before the condo market dam has broken and sales volume is gaining serious ground. There is great value to be found in the condo market right now so it just makes sense. A recent sale in Hope Town set a new price record for a single family estate on the cay – “Oasis” was acquired for $5.5M at the beginning of this year setting the bar for residential real estate on the cay.

Interest in Treasure Cay has risen since the recent announcement (i.e.“leak”) into the papers about a serious potential for sale of the remaining development holdings as well as the marina and resort components. Nothing is certain but the party from Vancouver has been in due diligence since 2013 and things maybe looking positive for a sale. If this happens the market there should improve significantly. I’ve been saying for a long time that the community needs some fresh energy at the helm. The restaurants and hotel are looking run down, the Spinnaker Restaurant hasn’t been altered (not even the drapes) since the 1980’s – time for some sprucing up?

In other recent news around the island, the new airport is promised to be commissioned and open this month, April. So we all wait with baited breath on that one. A company called IJet charters was trying to start a seaplane service that would deliver you straight to Hope Town, bypassing the MHH airport and the taxi and ferry rides. A great idea and was well received by many residents, homeowners and visitors, however it seems there is a bit of opposition from the government side. The hurdle will have to be overcome. I can’t stress how important a service like this would be for Green Turtle Cay. Ever since regular flights have pretty much ceased into Treasure Cay Airport, it has become a major trek for residents and visitors to get to GTC. One must fly to Marsh Harbour Airport, then take a 40 minute car ride (or $85 taxi fare) to the GTC ferry dock and then ferry over. Basically this adds $85 and almost an hour to the travel time to get to GTC. Not good.

But if there was seaplane service that dropped your right to the Green Turtle Cay Club, how great would that be? And GTC’s economic outlook all of a sudden looks worlds brighter.

Government is pushing ahead and building a shipping port in North Abaco, basically in the middle of nowhere and to the complete bewilderment of everyone…

Lastly, the GAFFW (swim, run, tri, fun) was another great success in its third year. Tomorrow marks the end of the sailing season in Abaco, being the Homer Lowe regatta for Opti’s and Sunfish. After this, the Hope Town Sailing Club which hosts the races will be losing most of its membership (winter birds/second home owners) until they return in Novemberish. On the other hand everyone is looking forward the summertime Regatta Time In Abaco with the corresponding ‘Fiddle Cay Stranded Naked Party’.

Almost forgot – Alburys Ferry service started offering a new service taking passengers to Lubbers Quarters (finally) and between HT and MOW and HT and Guana Cay. I hope it catches on. And so the gears slowly turn and Abaco slowly develops and slowly becomes bigger and better. The big question is do we want it to? Or do we want it to stay the secret paradise that it is?

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^^ My ‘selfie’ after the triathlon relay I took part in, filling in as runner and got my time under a 10 minute mile.

(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.

Well, It is the end of June/Beginning of July already.  6 months till Christmas and the other busy time of year.  Here in Abaco it is pretty much non-stop activity every weekend for me.  Next week the Abaco sailing regatta starts on Wednesday 3rd with the famed Fiddle Cay “Cheese Burger In Paradise” Party which marks the Skippers Meeting and beginning of the races.  The Party serves up free Cheesburgers at one of the most idyllic spots in Abaco, a beautiful beach on an uninhabited cay next to Green Turtle Cay.  The burgers are given away free which is made possible by very generous donations made every year by business owners and second home owners on the cay and one very cool guy that puts it all together and seeks no recognition for it all. If you know who I’m talking about give him a pat on the back.

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Photo of RTIA 2008, Hope Town Race Courtesy Robert Dunkley, http://dunks.smugmug.com/SAILING

The Regatta Time in Abaco, check out the website at www.regattatimeinabaco.com has been going on for almost 40 years and my Grandfather has raced in just about every one of them.  I’ve been racing in it since I was 15, having missed about 4 of the years for various reasons.  It is a great time, great racing and wonderful way to see the beauty of Abaco’s Cays and Seas.  There are five races held in different parts, the first starting in Green Turtle Cay.  The last one this year is held in Hope Town.  The format, or order, of the races and locations has changed over the years.  Until recently the final race and party was held in Marsh Harbour at the Jib Room and Marsh Harbour marina.  I still remember the first time I raced the regatta and snuck an alcoholic drink or two with the friends I was sailing with (we were a little underage then).  Needless to say we did get into a little bit of mischief but nothing too unruly.  The final party was in the old Jib Room (aka Marsh Harbour Marina) which had a bar area up stairs which is now just storage.  It was a great spot with wonderful view across the harbour.  The current owners Tom & Linda have made several changes over the years but it is better than ever and great place for lunch or dinner (they only serve dinner on Wednesday and Saturday).

This year there is a new race being held starting in Great Guana Cay and finishing in Marsh Harbour, which should be an interesting race, typically it is an upwind beat the whole way.  I’m interested to see how the race committee plans the new course.  One race that has remained pretty much the same throughout the past 30+ years is the Marsh Harbour to Hope Town race.  It is a great course which starts right outside the entrance to Marsh Harbour, usually has a short beat up to the Crossing Ferry  Dock area, followed by a long beam reach to the southern tip of Scotland Cay.  After rounding the bout at Scotland Cay, the course turns back upwind to take you through the narrow channel between Man O War and Garden & Sandy Cays.  This beat from Scotland to round the bouy near MOW often makes or breaks the race.  It all depends on how well the navigator can plan the tacks through the tide currents that rush in or out of the cuts to the Atlantic Ocean (your sailing inside the barrier reef and cays) and playing the wind shifts that occur at a various points.  There is always a significant shift in the wind shadow of Garden Cay and if executed right it can really pay off.  The final test is to get through the cut with as few tacks as possible.  The ideal course would cost the boat only 3 tacks to turn the mark at Sandy Cay (incidentally, its for sale at $10.9M) and head on down to Boat Harbour.

The next stage of the course takes you along the dramatic “Sugar Lumps” (purported to have bat caves and Lucayan cave paintings) and the beautifully developed Matt Lowes Cay, and the beautiful shoreline of Sugar Loaf Cay.  (The home called Sugar Loaf Pointe, is for sale and you can see it as you sail by in the race).  The final turning mark is just outside of the Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina where many an epic bill fishing tournament is held every year.  The pool bar there has seen plenty of ‘tall tales’ told.

The final leg of the race put the Iconic Elbow Reef Light House on the starboard bow and the finish just outside Hope Town Harbour.  This MH-HT race has pretty much stayed the same for almost 30 years as it is a great race, both challenging and very enjoyable, taking you along many scenic areas of the cays.

The regatta has not always been the way it is now.  In days gone by, there races started in Hope Town and ended in Green Turtle Cay.  Other progressions over the years are the disappearance of a round the bouys race just outside of Treasure Cay; A race from Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbour which was basically one long spinnaker run before the wind and my grandfather says he used to really enjoy that one.  It started with a short beat to weather and ended with a short beat, but the majority of the race had the Sea of Abaco lit up with colourful sails dotting the horizon for the 13 nautical miles.  I’ve seen a couple of photos that have survived from those days and it liked a fantastic sight to see.   There is a story about he dolphins being released from pens at Bakers Bay while everyone was partying in Treasure Cay.  There are many stories about the long gone but not forgotten “Roosters Rest of Green Turtle Cay”.  The anecdotes and episodes over the years are numerous and it is a wonderful event for sailors.

The organisers of RTIA are to be commended for tirelessly putting it on every year.  The original founders of the RTIA are to be thanked in particular – the Late but Legendary Lindsey Scott, started up the regatta many moons past, later skillfully run by Dave and Kathy Ralph, and now ably heralded by Ruth Saunders.  Give them all a congratulatory pat for the good time you’ll have while, racing, cruising and partying.

And last but not least, never forget the thankless job of race committees across the world.  As usually run by Carol & John Ewing, who do a fine job of handling a very complex regatta.

See you on the course 🙂

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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

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