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Two colleagues in the real estate arena, William Wong and Chris Darville, have now merged into one company to form Darville-Wong Realty. The details were finalized on February 1.
Both Wong and Darville said they both have been seriously discussing the merger for the last four years and decided now to make the marriage official, which will create a merged firm with a staff compliment of 12 agents and two brokers.
"I think my reason for the merger is economics and the way I travel today," said Darville. He shared that he finds his new partner to be fairly aggressive and both companies have a great team of agents so it made sense. "In this business most agencies have basically the same listings, and we just find that with the combined businesses, we bring synergies together and economically it made more sense," said Wong.
It only makes sense to share and pool the resources, said Wong, and it's something he sees as mutually beneficial for all involved. "We're quite optimistic that with the combined synergies and the staff and our advertising, we could enjoy a good share of the market," said Wong.
"I'd like to see us target more of the commercial properties in New Providence and also expand our wings more in the Family islands," said Wong. "There seems to be an increasing demand for properties in the Family Islands and also we're going to have one of the best registers for rentals in New Providence." The plan, Wong said, is that when people think of rentals they will think of Darville-Wong Realty.
Additionally, the merged firm will offer property management in its services, along with appraisals and sales.
"We will become a one-stop shop. In addition to that, we have a mortgage broker on staff that can pre-qualify and secure financing for potential clients, so you don't have to go anyplace else," said Wong.
Wong, a former president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), has seen a number of transitions in recent weeks, having relocated his firm from its Love Beach office back to the Cable Beach strip which, he said, only made sense with a number of developments like Baha Mar taking place.
Both Darville and Wong have a number of years of experience in the real estate industry and are committed to making the presence of Darville-Wong Realty felt in the market.
Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty has launched a concierge and property management division, making it a full service real estate company.
Mike Lightbourn, president of Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty, said the new division is in keeping with his company's projected growth plan.
The new service covers vacation rentals, property staging, coordinating general home maintenance, repairs and renovations, concierge relocation services, bill payment and custom tailored management packages.
Owen Shephard, with a background in real estate and construction, heads the new division.
Shephard said the company provides a "truly turnkey" service and takes the hassle out of relocation, home ownership, sales and rentals.
Relocation services also cover helping expats with the school enrolment process for their children, or application for membership into clubs and marinas.
The home staging aspect concentrates on making properties appealing to the highest number of prospects with the goal of selling homes faster and maximizing profits.
Mike Lightbourn Real Estate became affiliated with the giant U.S. based real estate franchise, Coldwell Banker, in 1999, operating from rented premises on Bay Street.
Today it is headquartered on East Shirley Street, two doors away from the Bahamas Real Estate Association.
The business has grown steadily and now has offices in Abaco, Exuma and Long Island, and agents in Andros, the Berry Islands, Bimini and Eleuthera, including Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.
The Coldwell Banker network covers about 3,000 offices worldwide.
Property values are expected to increase over the next five to 10 years, according to some of the country's top realtors and developers.
John Christie, vice president at H.G. Christie Limited, shared with Guardian Business that property values, which have been stagnant for the last five years, are poised for an increase.
In fact, Christie estimated that prices could go up five percent on an annual basis.
"Once the demand is greater than the supply, the prices will push up quite a bit. We are expecting that to happen because we are at sort of an equilibrium now. No one really knows how the world is, there could be a lot of economic uncertainty.
If the world becomes unstable financially then you will find that prices that will stay down. If the world continues to make slow progress, then we should see a steady progress in price appreciation."
The realtor also believes the construction of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar mega resort will be a factor in the real estate market demand.
"Once that happens, we are looking for a lot more traffic and bodies. If there are more buyers that will certainly push the prices up. The number of rentals will also drive the prices up. If the rental prices go up, the sale prices will go up. That's the way it's worked in places like Sandyport," according to Christie.
Jason Kinsale, president of the Balmoral development, said that in addition to Baha Mar's December 2014 opening, a big indicator that will determine an increase in real estate prices is the strength of the country's financial services sector.
"We need the bankers to keep driving the demand for rentals and that would bring investors into the market.
Baha Mar is going to have a major influence on what is going on. When we see strong rental demand that is really what is going to drive the prices even higher."
Kinsale also believes scarcity will play a significant role.
"Scarcity is really what is going to drive up prices, so you look at the major gated communities, Sandyport, Columbus Cove, Caves, they are all really getting to a point where they are essentially sold out or have very little inventory left. The reality is that a lot of people don't want to go further west than Caves. There is Lyford Cay and Old Fort Bay, which are unique developments. Even Old Fort Bay is getting to the point where you are seeing vacant lots becoming scarce," he said.
"Historically we have seen prices increase. If you want to use Balmoral as an example, when we launched in 2008 our townhomes that sold for $350,000 are now selling for $390,000 and we validated that price point through actual sales. There is quite a difference between what people believe something is worth and what the actual market will pay. That's a $40,000 increase in some pretty difficult times so if we have been able to do that over the last four years, I'm sure we will be able to do that over the next five to10 years at least."
According to him, The Bahamas generally follows U.S. trends and recovers approximately nine to 12 months after that jurisdiction. Markets like Florida, New York and California are already starting to see an increase in real estate prices.
"If you look at what's going on in the Florida real estate market, that's actually starting to boom again. If you look at what's going on in Cincinnati, they're up by 13 percent, New York, California they are recovering and it's important to get positioned now before you have to pay those higher prices," he shared.
He is encouraging both buyers and sellers to take advantage of the market's current pricing.
"I'm seeing that the foreigners are buying and Bahamians really have to start making decisions because they are going to be a victim of these price increases. One of the things that we have to think about is if a $400,000 townhome increases by three percent or even four percent year over year, how does the average person find $12-16,000 the next year?
"I think if you are buying real estate right now, my opinion is that you have to appeal to the foreign market. Foreigners want to be on the ocean and in gated communities. To buy properties outside of those environments is not opening up your market internationally and selling domestically will limit growth in international demand."
Amid increasing enquiries the Ministry of Finance explained today that maintenance fees for condominium and homeowners' associations will be subject to VAT if the annual billings exceed the mandatory registration threshold of $100,000...