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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.

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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.

 

(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.

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

Join The Turtle Trot

And support Friends of the Environment, proudly sponsored by HG Christie Ltd. Real Estate. Taking Place in Hope Town, Abaco. What better location for a scenic run/walk/scoot/jog/bounce?

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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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Above: Beautiful oceanfront acre and 3 bedroom home for $340,000.

Well, a lot has happened recently:   Lou Reed will be missed, World Polio Day marked the near eradication of the disease on the 24th Oct, Hurricane in the UK, and this week marks 1 year since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.  Thankfully, Abaco and the rest of the Bahamas have escaped all the major storms this year.  The hurricane season is not over yet though and once in a rare while a storm will come through in November.

I always tell folks that if a home survived Hurricane Floyd it will survive anything.  It is described with bone chilling details by some of the locals who witnessed it.  There weren’t any deaths, but the destruction to property was unprecedented.  Some people on the cays say it was so bad, they drained their concrete water cisterns and rode out the storm inside.  The tanks are usually 8” to 10” solid concrete to as good as any bomb shelter and the perfect sanctuary from extreme elements.

A good resource for Bahamas hurricane history is on this website:  http://www.bahamasweather.org.bs/index.php?page=storm-history

It describes Hurricane Floyd as the worst on record since the 1929 storm.  The ’29 hurricane was so bad because it did a U-turn and came back to hit Nassau a second time.

In the real estate market – Things are looking like they are improving at the moment.  The broker at HG Christie, John Christie says he is seeing a good boost to activity – there have been a few good sales in the luxury segment notably at Ocean Club, and Lyford Cay in Nassau.  John also noted that the private island’s market has seen a good boost recently, but in the same breath he says that private islands sales seem to be a completely different world.  (meaning the ups and downs don’t seem to correspond to the rest of the real estate market).  The new development projects in Nassau are doing well, and being well received by the market, namely Balmoral, Albany, the Old Fort Bay Town Centre.

In my recent experience, the year of 2013 started out well, with plenty of activity during the first three months, then as of April it seemed like someone turned off the tap the real estate market in Abaco seemed to be in the doldrums all summer.  Then lately, over the past 6 weeks it is like another mini uptick in interest and activity.  3 times in the past 2 weeks I’ve had serious inquiries from buyer who were literally a week or two too late.  The property had just been signed up and deposit either down or expected to be soon.  One purchaser in August/September took a long time to send in the deposit and after 8 weeks of waiting, another buyer showed up, wrote a check and bought the property.  So these are signs that things may be turning around.  The Florida market is up 30% year over year, and inventory is now at the lowest point since 2007.  When supply is low, it pushed values up.  So what is happening is sellers who were waiting for improvement are not starting to get into the market.

Here in the Bahamas we generally see a 9-12 month lag time between an upturn in the market in Florida and when that spills over to the Bahamas.  The mechanism of why this happens is not really understood, but I would love someone to do some research and tell me (anyone?).  That said, many brokers that I speak to in the Bahamas are expecting a significant upturn in the market during the spring of next year.  – All assuming there isn’t a massive fall out from the new VAT tax regime set to become reality in the Bahamas in July 2013.

What are the current stats on the Bahamas MLS?  1,756 active listings right now for the entire Bahamas.   557 active listings in Abaco.  While this is a large inventory which is a good thing for buyers, the number of well-priced properties is fairly limited.  In my humble opinion probably under half of all properties on the Active Bahamas MLS database are priced to sell.  The other half are all ‘fishing’ or simply unwilling to face reality.  So, in Abaco that would leave less than 278 well priced active listings, we’ve had 67 sales for the year 2013 to date, and probably another 4 or 5 this week that aren’t updated as yet.  That is an Absorption rate of 7 a month, which is higher than we’ve seen in 5 years.

Bahamas wide, there have been 279 transactions on the Bahamas MLS for 2013 year-to-date, again a good indicator, though a long way from a seller’s market.

Things are looking up for the market, and while prices are not rising and therefore property values are not rising, it is still a good time to buy.  And you probably don’t want to wait too long, as I’ve seen with several instances lately…  It is a nice change to see buyers fighting over a property instead the sellers begging someone to buy…

As John said – Pricing is still extremely important in this market.  Listen to a realtor or an appraiser you trust, it can save you months or years of waiting and as it is said time is money…

As the end of the year gets closer, lets all hope that the European economies stabilize and the US economy gains more speed.  And take advantage of the well-priced properties before someone else gets there first.

**Side note, I recently arranged an aerial photo shoot of a new listing with a company that uses an RC drone to get the images.  They obtained some fantastic shots of a new listing here in Marsh Harbour – check it out,  European Luxury and Tropical Caribbean Flair. http://www.hgchristie.com/details/abaco/marsh-harbour/house-as12275.

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Nice Job and shout out to Sky High Media.

How similar is the Bahamas Real Estate Market to the US Real Estate Market?  Well for starters, 2 years back I had read from the National Association of Realtors, that the most common house colour of homes that sold was yellow so I decided to find out if that held true in the Bahamas.  And guess what, it is the number one colour of homes sold in the Bahamas, by a very large margin.  Go figure.  The number 2 house colour was blue, which is my personal favourite choice for a home.

Then more recently, I had read that the biggest time to sell a home was Spring and Summer.  According to Realtor.com, “Selling in the spring and moving in the summer is a perfect arrangement for families. Families like to move during the summer to prepare for the new school year. The weather is warm and accommodating for moving and relocating. Springtime, with its blooming flowers and pleasant temperatures, is an ideal time to present your home to the real estate market. Real estate agents boast that over 50 percent of homes are sold during the summer.”

So, does this trend extend to our little real estate market as well?

Thanks to having a proper Multiple Listing Service here in the Bahamas, I am able to tease out some real data on our market place.  Prior to 2008, there was no data sharing, no listing sharing among real estate brokers in the Bahamas.  Trying to figure out the dynamics of the real estate market in the Bahamas either came from straight up guess work, or from decades of experience in the business.  Most decisions and value assumptions were performed inside a small bubble based upon the experience and results of one’s small sphere of business.  Now, the Bahamas Real Estate Association has full embraced the 21st century and on the cutting edge of real estate.  Most recently gaining a datafeed portal to the Realtor.com website.  Now prospective buyers can go to the number one real estate portal in the US and search for real estate in the Bahamas.  This was a massive step forward for the industry in our ‘backward little country’ (I say that having intimate knowledge of my home, and how we function, and some chagrin at how some things get handled here in my beloved Bahamas).  The Bahamas MLS is the number one tool for selling real estate in the western world, and has already become the main tool for buyers and sellers of land and homes in the Bahamas in just under 5 years of existence.

Now to the point, I analyzed the number of real estate sales that were placed under contract during each month as recorded on the Bahamas MLS over the past 5 years to date, and what I found, interestingly supports the trends in the USA.  Perhaps our love affair with our great neighbor to the north has an influence, or maybe it is just fundamentally a byproduct of our school year, fiscal year and indeed April is one of the most beautiful months of the year in the Bahamas.  The seas warm up, the air temperature is not stifling hot yet, the Poinciana trees start to bloom in May.  We have a few showers to bring out the green in the landscape.  The busiest real estate months in the Bahamas are April & May, closely followed by March and September.

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More generally speaking, the Bahamas real estate market is doing ok.  Nassau is definitely seeing a return to a strong and stable market and economy, which I believe is largely a result of geography, being a densely populated metropolis with a large number of visiting tourist and most especially being propped up by the large scale development projects of Bahamar and Albany.  And to a lesser extent the Balmoral project is turning a long at a good clip.  On the flip side, the other islands of the Bahamas have had a struggling year.  Abaco’s struggling market I know about first hand, while my colleagues in Eleuthera and Exuma and Grand Bahama are seeing a similarly flat market.  It is a shame because the lesser developed parts of the Bahamas rely on the real estate component of their economy very substantially, and when real estate drops off it hurts every other sector of the micro economy.  Real estate on our family islands drives the incomes of at least half of the economies of the small settlements scattered around outside of the big city Nassau.  We don’t have large resorts to bring in mass tourism.  When real estate sales activity dries up in Abaco, air travel drops, the restaurants suffer, hardware stores and grocery stores struggle with turnover, it impacts taxi drivers, ferry drivers, boat and car rentals, folks who caretake homes and handle vacation rentals.  Even the lady that cuts my hair says she sees her bottom line affected when the real estate market in Abaco drops off.

I would propose that the pending implementation of VAT (purported to be 15% of all sales in the Bahamas) is having a strong negative effect on the real estate market in the Bahamas and all other parts of the economy.  No one likes to see taxes raised, and when there is an uncertainty, any element of the unknown in the future financial realm it directly affects people’s confidence.  When the confidence is impacted, then prospective buyers or investors, hold off on making large decisions, ie buying or selling real estate.

For instance, I don’t know how this VAT will affect the economy, my life, my financial bottom line.  I don’t know what the fall out will be and how long it will take to smooth the hiccups.  As a result, I’m not going to take any unnecessary risks.  Similarly the level of tax burden has gone up significantly in the Bahamas over the past year, and everyday Bahamians see it and feel it.  So when taxes go up, spending and borrowing drop almost immediately.  So when someone asks me about ‘How’s the real estate market these days?’ – I tell them it is pretty rough, everyone is in a holding pattern to see what the present government will be doing.  It is difficult to try to plan a new project of business venture when you don’t know what your cost of goods is going to be in 3 months, 6 months, a year from now.

So, I hope that things will settle down, I hope we will see a steadier, more predictable business environment to work within soon.  I for one would like to see less rocking of the boat.

For those interested here are the recent remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister at the recent Abaco Business Outlook seminar, where he paints a positive picture, but apart from Baker’s Bay and some agriculture he is hard pressed to make any positive remarks about the economy of Abaco directly:

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/Abaco-Island-bahamas/Hon_Philip_Brave_Davis_at_Abaco_Business_Outlook_Conference_201330725.shtml

 

Well, this past summer has been so busy and action packed I’ve not had time to write a blog post in months.  My inner self is chastising and berating me!

So much has happened in the past 3 months since my last post that I don’t know where to start.  The end of beginning of June saw the Harbourside Marine Rotary Tuna Classic Fishing Tournament.   This is a great event, at a beautiful time of year for fishing in teh Bahamas and for Tuna which is my favourite fish to catch.  This year it was partly hosted out of Schooner Bay in South Abaco which is where the winning catch was caught from.  Proves that Abaco is a great place for tuna fishing.  I just wish I had more time and money to go fishing, I haven’t been out fishing in over two years…  I am firm believer that a bad day fishing is still better than a good day at the office.

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Other happenings include the 38th annual running of Regatta Time in Abaco.  It was middling turnout this year, but the winds were up and the racing was lots of fun.  However the event was dampened due to a silly scare of a very inconsequential tropical storm that never materialized.  As a result, the final 2 races were cancelled and most of the participants went home early.  Our crew came out with a bang, winning the first race, and then having a major breakdown (most of the mainsail hanks broke out of the mast track during a jibe at 1 min to the start) so we never got into the second race.  Then the third race we placed second.  It was great sailing with winds in  the 15-20 knot range and nice and steady.  The Balamena’s favourite weather.  Here is a photo of us receiving our first place trophy from North Abaco member of Parliament Renardo Curry.

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It was a fun time as always.

Another neat event was Bahamian Brewery holding a mini-E class Bahamian Sloop regatta in Treasure Cay.  I had a great time racing the E class boats.  They are 14′ long, and hand made out of wood in the Bahamas.  they sail pretty well and can be handled easily by one person or in heavy weather it is more comfortable with 2.  The juniors went out in the morning and crewed for a very promising young lady who placed first in the first race but couldn’t pull it off in the subsequent 3 races.  It was followed by a sculling competition which i didn’t hang around for but it looked like fun.  I now need $12,000 to buy an E-class sailing sloop – any willing donors out there?

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Above:  me crewing in the Sands Light boat.

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending the night in Hope Town, and staying at the Wee House.  It is a beautifully furnished and decorated 1 bedroom cottage in the heart of Hope Town.  Right between the Harbour’s Edge and the Hope Town Museum and a stones throw from the main public dock.  I had not spent the evening relaxing on the back porch in Hope Town in a very very long time.  It is a wonderfully relaxing thing to do.   The view of the harbour from the porch is picturesque and the cottage has been very thoughtfully appointed, there is even a small cooler to pack a lunch in.  Below: the view from the porch as the sun goes down.

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And lastly, I just had the pleasure of watching a new video at http://www.ConchSaladTV.com about the proposal to create the East Abaco Creeks Park.  very neat and worth watching.  check it out:

https://vimeo.com/63784340

Thanks for reading, and I hope you get to enjoy Abaco sometime.

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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