Looking at Recovery
May 9th, 2023 | Related To: Association of Real Estate Agents (AREA)
Is real estate an essential service?
You may change your mind when you consider the point of view of Mark Edghill. He has served in the Association of Real Estate Agents (AREA) in various capacities for the past few years, including the last five as President. “We did lobby the Government to be considered an essential service. Given that people were losing their jobs, moving out and having domestic issues, real estate should be considered essential,” he notes. “Shelter is a basic human right,” he highlights, “so it means that real estate should be allowed to operate given that we can also mitigate contact too, should we face a similar situation again.” Given the warning signals of other possible pandemics, Edghill urges reconsideration.
The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the real estate industry. Job losses have sent people back to family homes and negatively impacted persons who previously qualified for mortgages – with a number moving out of that bracket. “Many large offices also downsized, and of course, many businesses closed down so that commercial real estate saw a downturn. Recovery is ongoing, but we aren’t there yet,” Edghill notes. The industry is also awaiting the proclamation of legislation that will provide regulations and the registration for licensing of realtors too. “This has been with the Registrar General for some time, but we understand that there are other pressing issues to deal with like the economy,” he notes. “However, it stymies our ability to move forward.”
But how can we re-energise local real estate?
Tourism as a Means to Real Estate Growth
The AREA President notes that tourism is one key area of our economic recovery that needs greater attention. “Having a clear tourism product remains a challenge for us. Tourists that visit our shores may want to buy a vacation or retirement home, and this happens all over the Caribbean. If you invest in a development or a certain amount into property, in many of the northern Caribbean islands, you can easily access residency and in time, a passport for that country. We have nothing in our legislation to compete with this and these Caribbean countries are all benefitting from something that we should be as well,” Edghill adds. “We can look to events tourism, not just in terms of Carnival but also in terms of conferences and trade shows to assist in bringing in high net worth individuals too. Many countries in the region have also introduced digital nomad passports, but we have no legislation to facilitate this, and we need to move quickly,” he advises.
The ‘dis-ease’ of doing business in T&T remains a challenge, however. “We need to move away from this bureaucratic nightmare we are stuck in when people attempt to do business in T&T. From simple things like hosting events to moving businesses to our shores. We also need a reprogramming of our culture in terms of understanding the importance of the tourist dollar and the improvement in everyone’s lives if we welcome tourists – providing great service, keeping clean beaches and public spaces that they come to enjoy. We would also like to see faster digitisation as well as greater support for the development of small businesses. If we can get these aspects together along with our tourism product it can definitely improve our economic position,” he advises.
Recognising that Grenada has created the incentives for yachting and concomitant industries, he urges decision-makers to look at opportunities afforded by our geographical location. “Aviation is another sector, and we are strategically located to be a hub for air travel, and we haven’t acted on this with the importance that we should,” he notes.
Hope on the horizon
Programmes such as industrial expansions and redevelopments of the capital city are areas that AREA is happy to see coming on stream as these involve the redevelopment of real estate for higher value purposes. “The Port and City of Port of Spain redevelopment projects, along with the plans for City Gate, Invaders Bay and the former PowerGen site will really bring a new vitality back to the city if those earmarked projects do move forward,” he adds. “But to have interest in those projects, we have to show to international investors, that we have an economy that is stable and has a positive outlook,” he notes.
“We need to see greater collaboration between public and private sectors but also between realtors and developers. There is immense potential here still but it also hinges on our culture being receptive and ready for these investments. This means that other areas like crime and corruption along with the ease of doing business must be addressed collectively,” Edghill advises.
AREA recently aligned with the US National Association of Realtors (NAR), an American trade association for those who work in the real estate industry with over 1.4 million members. The organisation will collaborate with NAR in training and education to bring more information, technology and expertise into the local real estate space.
Article by: Kieran Andrew Khan