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Birch: Real estate can be a sentimental business

If you ask the average Bahamian if their home is a part of the economy, the answer would probably be’no’, according to Patricia”Patti”Birch, a realtor with Morley Realty and the president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association(BREA).

“They don’t see it like that, they see it as an emotional investment, but it’s really a financial investment,”Birch toldGuardian Businessyesterday.”Real estate is a business, but it also has a huge emotional aspect.”

Despite the fact that so many Bahamians would not consider themselves to be participants in the sector, Birch estimated that everyone is involved in some way or another, saying that in the simplest terms people lived somewhere and worked somewhere. In addition to the revenue streams it generates for the Public Treasury, Birch also said real estate ownership may be part of the’Bahamian Dream’.

“I think one of the dreams of young Bahamians is to own a piece of land or a home, and it’s the dream of every business owner not only to have their own business, but to also own the land its on, own the building and so on.

“This is a driving dream in The Bahamas. I’ve never seen people work so hard toward that dream, and sacrifice so much for it.”

With an appreciation of both the business and emotional aspects of the sector, Birch said she has a passion to ensure that she and the industry are the best they can be. She said she has taken almost every course that has been offered, reads constantly and is always online to stay abreast of market trends, government regulations, selling techniques, international developments, and anything that impacts on real estate.

For Birch, it all started with the recommendation of a close friend as she contemplated entering the real estate industry after over 20 years in the hospitality sector. It was a challenging time for real estate, according to Birch, around 2003, and she acknowledges that at the time she did not understand that she was entering a profession. Her friend recommended she have a talk with David Morley.

“[Morley]sat me down and had a good three to four-hour talk with me about real estate. After that talk, I decided it was something I’d try,”Birch said.”I’ve been very lucky that he has been my mentor. He himself was a BREA past president so he has been very helpful to me as a president as well, in understanding the historical aspects of BREA.”

Birch said she is passing the mentorship torch along, doing a lot of work helping younger professionals with the contractual aspect of the industry, and passing on the message that they need to understand as much as possible about the industry.

“I also do a lot with younger salesmen who call me all the time and say, what do you think I should do?Or, how do you think I should do this?I always encourage them like I was encouraged to get the most education you can. Even if you sit in a course and you take away only three things that can help you with your profession, its worthwhile. Its an investment in your own future.”

Birch pointed out that although salesmen work for brokers, they are like independent contractors who can move from one firm to the next. What she said makes them valuable is the knowledge they carry with them.

The BREA president said people coming into the field often have misconceptions about the time it takes to become successful. There is a lot to learn and many branches to specialize in, such as a focus on commercial, residential, real estate listings, developments, and appraisals. As a part of the learning curve, for a licensee to be valid new licencess also must spend time under the direction and control of a broker.

The swings of the real estate market formed one of the great industry challenges, according to Birch. An event could cause a shift in prices from morning to afternoon, and often such events are out of the control of the market, said Birch. A government announcement, for example, could impact prices instantly. As another example Birch said the foreclosure market in South Florida likely reduced demand for second homes in The Bahamas.

BREA is scheduled to have their board elections on March 24, and Birch expressed praise for the current board and its understanding of the real estate industry.

“I can’t speak for previous boards, but the board I served with, every single one of them has had a strong commitment to the industry and a willingness to give back to it.”

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