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Top realtors wary of uncertain 2012

The president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) has said she “doesn’t know what is going to happen” in the property market over the traditionally busy Christmas season and into 2012.

Patty Birch told Guardian Business that, on the whole, 2011 was similar to 2010 in terms of sales.

Some firms did better than others, she said.

“If you’re scared with what is coming up, you might as well go to bed and put the covers over your head,” she said.  “If people cannot change and adjust, then they start to get left behind.”

While there is unusually “more action” this time of year on the residential market, Birch said the industry isn’t holding its breath.  The biggest trend she has seen in 2011 isn’t an improvement or decline in sales.  Instead, she told Guardian Business that leaders in the industry are broadening their education and improving the online network to help bolster sales in a struggling market.

Social media and getting as many listings online as possible have become “huge” in The Bahamas, and it will be increasingly more vital in 2012 in order to achieve a rebound.

“I think there is more recognition now that real estate is first viewed through the Internet,” Birch said.

“In the past, people relied on classifieds more.  Now it’s just the Internet.  In general, people are getting it that it’s the best way to do collaborative selling.”

The approach is more important now than ever.

When asked if prices are expected to fall in 2012, she anticipated that areas where there’s a “glut” could indeed undergo a correction.  She said various realtors had a “good year”, but the people who did looked at the trends and adjusted their business models to accomplish that.

“If people don’t do that, it’s like the photographer that used film, and now everything is digital,” she said.

William Wong, the president of William Wong & Associates Realty, had an even less optimistic outlook.

“2011 was not a good year.  It’s down from 2010 and 2012 looks like it could be as bad as this year or maybe even worse,” he told Guardian Business.

Adding that the Bahamian market is “in for a rough time in the next two years”, he pointed to major problems both domestically and in the United States.  Meanwhile, banks have become increasingly stringent regarding their lending practices and making it difficult for anyone to enter the market.

As far as trends go among leaders in the sector, Wong felt people are “hunkering down and cutting expenses where they can”.

He agreed with Birch that new and collaborative techniques on the Internet are part of a drive to be creative and to attract business.

For the most part, residents are still holding on to their prices, although he expects some adjustments in 2012 as buyers come to grips with a changing and difficult marketplace.

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