Real Estate, Property Development, and Facilities Management
October 28th, 2022
Looking at Recovery
Programmes such as industrial expansions and redevelopments of the capital city are areas that AREA is happy to see coming on stream.
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.
The impacts and costs of crime are seen and felt everywhere. But some approaches can begin to turn the tide.
Director of Broadview Surveillance Systems Marcus Tewari sees the reality of our national insecurity daily. “The need for greater security and secure property development and management is evident daily here,” he points out. “The ‘Broken Windows’ theory is at play in every corner of the country,” he adds. But he highlights some measures on the horizon at the State level that can pair well with personal advice for the average citizen.
“Technology is currently an excellent avenue for secure property development (SPD) for those who can afford it. If technology like smart locks, smart controllers, and smart alarm systems can be made more affordable, it can support the way forward in SPD and really impact the attractive influence of a person’s real estate. But as the cost of living rises, this type of technology will remain a back-burner item for the most,” Tewari notes.
Still, Tewari constantly urges his clients to invest in adequate security and networking systems. “Go beyond simply setting up camera systems with DVRs that can be removed,” he urges. “Cloud and remote-based systems are better but remember to mix the traditional with the innovative – have an emergency plan, secure your property and assets with reinforced doors and windows, and be vigilant too,” he adds.
“Recently, there have been discussions by Cabinet and the Minister of National Security on the Private Security Bill, which is expected to expand the number of persons available to protect and serve. This will strengthen the platform of the state protective services,” he highlights. He believes that the public sector needs to improve its Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) implementations, too.
A key area in deterring crime would be to secure our borders and limit the flow of illegal firearms into the country. In July 2022, nine law enforcement and protective services officials received training to help combat drug trafficking on the trans-Atlantic cocaine route. The nine officers are attached to various protective services units in T&T and benefitted from a five-day workshop delivered by Benoit Verniquet of the French Customs/Coastguard, who also is the Deputy Coordinator for the Seaport Cooperation Project (SEACOP) in the Caribbean, and Christian Stafrace of the Malta Defence Forces. The project was supported by the European Union and SEACOP.
“Once the protective services of T&T are giving the support necessary to its citizens, they will be encouraged to invest in technology of their own to secure their assets. Once it’s proven a few times, that should lead to a domino effect in reducing crime. This is all it takes to encourage secure growth,” Tewari says.
Combined, technology, legislative and co-operative measures, and improved response and detection rates by the T&T Police Service can improve our outlook into 2023 and beyond.
Article by: Kieran Andrew Khan