Turnaround being seen in real estate sector

The 2008 economic downturn dealt a blow to Barbados’ real estate sector with the lowering of prices and stalling of several projects.

However, officials are reporting that investor confidence is returning to the market.

Managing Director of CIBC FirstCaribbean Mark St Hill.
Managing Director of CIBC FirstCaribbean Mark St Hill.

“On the international market what we are seeing is that the appetite for properties in Barbados is still very high. However, there are fewer takers,” Mark St Hill, the managing director of CIBC FirstCaribbean, told officials attending the International Property Summit at the Concorde Experience yesterday.

He explained that though Barbados’ real estate market was not reduced in terms of its attractiveness, “a lot of what you are seeing is a direct correlation to the three or four quarters of negative growth in the United Kingdom.

“. . . what that translates to is that we are now starting to see buyers coming out and asking questions,” St Hill added.

Senior valuation surveyor at BCQS James Pollard is also seeing signs of recovery on the international market but he concerned that the domestic market is still quite unsettled.

“We look at lands for example that may have sold at 30 bucks a [square] foot, you will be lucky to get at 25 now. Land that was selling at 20 bucks, again you will be lucky to get at 18 to 20 bucks now. So it has been quite a significant correction, certainly in the domestic market. So I think the domestic market is still a long way to recover, but the international market we are certainly seeing green shoots . . . so yes, there is confidence returning from our prospective,” Pollard said.

However, Ian De Souza, the managing director of Republic Bank Limited believes there are some grey areas that must be addressed by Government to keep investors’ interest growing.

“They have to get all the infrastructure in Barbados [in place]. We have an issue now with security, as we are all aware, that has to be brought under control because certainly if there is one thing, and coming from Trinidad I can tell you, one thing that will scare money way is a break down in security. So we have to get the infrastructural issues right. We have to get the security right and the other services right because that’s what we have control over,” De Souza explained.

St Hill also called on Government to accelerate real estate projects while noting that there was a general feeling that a number of projects were with Government agencies for either approvals or some form of direction to be given.

“I just think we need to accelerate and execute a little better,” he stressed, acknowledging that commercial banks we were also accused of not executing projects fast enough.

“So I think all the stakeholders need to put Barbados on top and execute a bit faster because there are many individuals that are gearing up to invest in this country,” he said.

Interested buyers are predominantly British, American and Canadian, with some Russian and East Europeans. Many are said to want a second home, or a rental or retirement investment in a year-round destination.

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