Monday, October 24, 2011

Shakespeare Question

“TO BE OR NOT TO BE? …” The famous opening line from William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, could easily be turned into another memorable question if Shakespeare was a Real Estate agent in Freeport: “TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY?” That is the question today. Many people have asked themselves this question, especially in these uncertain economic times. While both the options of renting or owning have their benefits, the decision to purchase a duplex, condominium, or house (rather than renting), is complex, and based on a number of factors. Nearly everyone believes buying a home today is a good financial decision. The question that remains is whether or not now is the right time to purchase a home for you!

For most people, deciding to purchase a home is the largest financial decision of their lifetime. Before making the jump into homeownership, potential homebuyers should consider the “soft” lifestyle issues as well as the “hard” financial ones. In Rotary clubs, we have the 4-way test of questions for guiding wise thoughts, communication, and action: Is it the truth? Is it fair for all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial for all concerned? In Real estate we also have four financial and lifestyle questions to consider when determining if buying a home is the wise decision for you:

1.     Do you have a steady income? At or near the top of every potential homebuyer’s mind is whether or not they can afford to buy a home right now. Buying a home remains a sound financial decision for those with documented income and a good credit history. A steady income can also provide a strong backbone for the initial down payment and future mortgage payments. Don’t hesitate to speak with your real estate broker to determine all the “other” costs of home ownership, such as insurance, pool maintenance, power, cable, water, gardener, and general upkeep. Your real estate broker can help you answer and uncover questions about the cost of homeownership. Make sure you know what your monthly operating costs will be, including your other living costs so you can budget properly.  Don’t fool yourself.

  1. Do you plan to stay in a home for an extended period of time? With proper planning, a home purchase has historically proven to be one of the strongest investments you can make. Along those lines, it’s imperative to understand that investing in a home is much different than investing in a stock portfolio. Homes typically appreciate in value over time, while the owner builds his or her equity through monthly mortgage payments. If you anticipate staying in a home for only one or two years, it doesn’t necessarily mean buying is not for you, but you are less likely to see a significant financial return on your investment. Based on the current market and closing costs, you need to be prepared for a long term investment, otherwise it does not make sense. Remember, you will be responsible for half the government stamp tax (2% to 6%, based on the price) and your legal fees (2.5%).

  1. Do you plan to sell a house in order to buy a house? Your local real estate agents can help you understand current local market conditions, and will help you make smart decisions when listing a home on the market. If you do not currently own a home that needs to be sold prior to purchasing a new one, now is a particularly smart time to buy. Even with lenders becoming increasingly more thorough in their approval process, mortgage financing is still widely available for those with a steady income and solid credit. High inventories and low interest rates give first-time homebuyers a tremendous amount of opportunity and flexibility in our market.

  1. How do your other options compare? For renters, calculating month-to-month housing expenses is as easy as inquiring about the monthly rent and average utilities. The calculation gets a bit more complicated when considering the monthly cost of owning a home. A real estate professional can help you understand a range of financial considerations from annual service charges, to hurricane insurance, to property taxes if you buy outside of the “bonded area”. And in 2015, we might be faced with property taxes like Nassau.

There is no one right decision when it comes to renting versus buying a home.  Each individual should take the time to look at their own personal and financial situation to decide what will work best for their needs and lifestyle.  To Buy or Not to Buy?: that is the question worth answering in today’s real estate market.  (And a side note for Shakespeare fans—“Did he or didn’t he?” is the question asked in a new movie called Anonymous, asking who really penned some of the world’s greatest plays—a suspense-thriller that opens in U.S. theatres October 28th!)

Until Next week. — James Sarles

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unique Canal Home

Coldwell Banker / James Sarles Realty Listing 1053
This exquisite octagon shaped home, comprised of over 3,000 square feet of living space, is situated in a quiet neighborhood of Bahama Reef Yacht and Country Club Subdivision, just a 2 minute drive from Port Lucaya, beaches, restaurants, shops and entertainment. Built to withstand any storm, this two-story residence enjoys two wrap-around wooden porches, extending into a raised pool area, paved driveway and beautifully landscaped grounds. Interior highlights such as the exposed beam ceilings in the upper level, rounded wooden staircase as well as tile flooring throughout make this residence sparkle with elegance.

The home’s principal rooms feature a oversized Living Room Area downstairs, comfortable Den that could double as Library or Study, Family Room upstairs as well as Dining Area, perfect for elegant entertaining. In addition to that, four bedroom suites insure plenty of comfortable accommodation. Spacious Kitchen with custom made wooden cabinetry offers a cozy Breakfast Nook and is situated on the second level of the home. Large windows enhance the property’s spectacular scenery of manicured grounds, vast canal views and even the ocean. Master Suite is a private retreat with regally appointed Master Bath boasting Jacuzzi tub and double sinks with tastefully tiled vanity. Deep water dockage with additional floating dock would easily accommodate a sixty foot vessel.
Status: Active
Price: $582,000
Rental Term: Monthly
Address: Flamingo Road
Subdivision: Bahama Reef Yacht and Country Club
City: Freeport
Unit: 1
Block: 12
Lot: 24
Latitude: 26.502278
Longitude: -78.662535
Beds: 4
Baths: 3
Square Feet: 3,000
Lot Size: 24,000 sq ft
Zoning: Single Family

Canal Front
Motivated owner
Ideal rental property
Ample dockage
Tastefully landscaped

For more information on Listing 1053, contact Coldwell Banker / James Sarles Realty at 242.351.9081, #9 Regent Centre, Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is The Sky Falling Or Is It Time To Invest?

There is a classic children’s story about Chicken Little—a character who is hit on the head by an acorn and proceeds to run with his friend Ducky Lucky and others to tell the King that “the sky is falling… the sky is falling!”

If you talk to people around Freeport, or listen to the daily onslaught of mainstream news, you probably agree with Chicken Little that the sky is falling when it comes to our economy. If asked about real estate prices on Grand Bahama, Chicken Little would tell you that “The Sky is Falling”, and everyone’s house prices are falling so don’t sell or don’t buy. We have many Chicken Little messengers on the island that think Grand Bahama will never get out of its current slump, and that the housing market will never recover—nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s another way to look at it:

There are 2 important points to consider regarding our current real estate market.

One. Unlike our neighbors to the North, we never really experienced the boom market, which created the American housing bubble. In 2008 when the US housing bubble burst and many homes lost almost 50% of their value, sleepy Grand Bahama prices did not move very much— because they had never soared that much—and so they also did not come down that much either.

Two. We seem to forget that real estate follows a cycle; we forget that history repeats itself.  Its like we all have amnesia and we have never seen down markets before.  There is a saying that what goes up must come down, and what is down must come up.  Real estate is no different.  There were major shifts or down real estate markets in 1979, then 1987, then 2008.  According to top economists, we are slowly (very slowly) recovering and the markets may stay flat for a while, so we are in a new paradigm—a new model for growth.
It’s All About Timing

If you wait for the markets to hit bottom or fully recover you might be waiting a long time. Prices don’t really go up or down for logical reasons. Sellers and buyers change their minds based on their confidence in the marketplace—that’s what really causes prices to go up and down. Unfortunately, no one can tell you exactly when we reach bottom, because when the market prices begin to rise, it’s only then that you realize you missed the bottom!

There is no doubt in my mind that if you are looking for motivated sellers and deals in real estate, this is the time. It’s one of those times when the aggressive people make a lot of money, and the more timid just look from the sidelines and become what I call a “Would of, Could of, Should of” seller or buyer.

If you are a potential homebuyer, condo buyer, duplex buyers, land speculator, canal homebuyer, or commercial buyer get up off your seat and look around for deals. The market is soft right now, so this is the time to get a terrific value at the right price. Listing prices have not fluctuated on paper, but the actual deals that are being made reflect reduced prices.

No one knows for sure what is in store for the world economics, or Freeport, but what we do know is that throughout history, real estate has proven to be a great long-term investment. While prices are down and sellers are motivated, this may be the right time for you. If you have been thinking about real estate, this is the time to get out there and start looking.
How To Get Started

How do you begin your search? First, find a real estate professional that will help you identify and locate the features you’re looking for in a property. Ask your family, friends and business contacts for referrals of real estate professionals that they have worked with—people who helped them successfully with their real estate purchase and sale. When you find the real estate agent/broker, talk with them about your practical needs and describe the property of your dreams. Work with a realtor you feel you can trust, who communicates a clear understanding of your goals and shows you listings that match your search criteria.

Do your financial homework. Meet with the banks to determine how much you can borrow based on your income, and research interest rates. Decide how much cash you can put together for a down payment, and how much you need to put aside for closing costs, which typically amounts to between 4% and 7% of the purchase price of a property. Do your homework financially.

As you go out property-hunting, concentrate on neighborhoods that are ideal for your needs. Look at homes that have enough square footage, a pleasing floor plan, and a suitable yard for your family, or boat dockage if that’s important to you. You can always repaint the walls and replace the carpet, but changing the “footprint” of the home is more complicated and costly.

Don’t procrastinate. Do it NOW. If your realtor has a property to show you, go out to look at it immediately. If you really like the home and can picture yourself living in it contentedly, consult with your realtor about making an offer right away.
Before entering into negotiations for the home, ask the seller to fully disclose any serious defects that may require repairs, particularly any that involve one of the major systems in the home.

Don’t wait for interest rates to climb – initiate your home buying process now because the future of Freeport might just surprise you. Many of us who have been around Freeport for many years know that Freeport has always been the bridesmaid—never the bride—but the time is coming that Grand Bahama will succeed in spite of itself to fulfill its potential.

Bouncing Up

We have all become very jaded and think that Freeport will never get ahead. Nothing could be less true. I believe it is impossible for Grand Bahama Island with all its potential and strategic location, to stagnate forever. From a pine barren covered island inhabited by Lucayan and Arawak Indians, then re-discovered by Columbus, then settled by the displaced colonial loyalists and slaves, and then re-discovered again by Wallace Groves, the island has come a long way already. At one point in time, not that long ago, it seemed impossible to imagine the size and scope of the Container Port, the Grand Bahama Shipyard, the industrial sector, the airport, the infrastructure, the homes, the condos, the communities, the utilities, the schools, the restaurants, the shops, the business owners, the employees, the canal system, and our incredibly resilient and caring people.
Shift Happens

Freeport is a city with great potential. It will move forward. Sure we could improve on quite a few things, but it only takes a series of small changes to make a major shift. If we fix things like the airlift situation, create a first class cruise port, develop medical tourism, create more jobs, attract more investors and visitors, beautify the island’s landscaping, and have all of Freeport working together, these changes will create a major shift in the economy and Freeport will be reborn.

This will of course change the real estate landscape, and the market could change from a buyers market to a sellers market almost overnight. There are many people working towards this change and we all need to pitch in to help our community fulfill its promise. It will not be done for us. All of us in our own small way must make it happen—and it will.

It is time to bring the magic back to Freeport—a community that was once proudly dubbed The Magic City. At Coldwell Banker/James Sarles Realty, we believe in the future of Freeport.

Good Luck with your property hunting. Until next week!   — James Sarles

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Real Estate Advice In These Difficult Times

by James Sarles, President, Coldwell Banker James Sarles Real Estate

I have been a Real Estate Broker on Grand Bahama Island for over 10 years, and as a Broker, the number one question that people ask me is what is the future of real estate on the island.  No one has a crystal ball that can see the future exactly, but with the current state of the economy there are many factors that give us an indication of the future of real estate on Grand Bahama Island.
An important point to keep in mind is that it is very difficult to make broad statements about the state of the Grand Bahama Real Estate—because there are many different real estate markets on the island. There is a big difference between raw land, lower income homes, high-end beachfront homes, condos, and duplexes. No one would ask you how the weather is in the United States because that’s too general.  The weather is, of course, different in Buffalo, New York, than it is in Phoenix, Arizonia.  So, when looking at real estate, we have to identify what sector of the market we are talking about—especially when looking at trends.

One of the biggest problems we have on the island, in my opinion, for the local residential housing market, is lack of jobs and good paying jobs.  This lack of jobs has caused the local residential prices to fall.  If the job market improves you will see the residential real estate market, and all sectors of the market, improve.  It’s that simple. Jobs create consumer confidence and the ability for buyers to borrow money from the banks for mortgages. Not only can people borrow money, but homeowners can pay their current mortgages. If you look at The Freeport News, there are growing pages and pages of Foreclosure Homes being sold by the banks.  As long as there is a huge supply of bank sales it will be difficult for a “normal” seller (trying to sell their home so they can move up, move down or change addresses) because buyers can buy bank-distressed homes at highly discounted rates if they have cash, a good job, and good credit.  Real Estate is about movement and without movement you have stagnation, which creates a dead market. So in light of all this we don’t need a crystal ball to tell us that there is high unemployment, an oversupply of homes, a big supply of bank foreclosures, banks not lending money, and a flat real estate market with prices going down because sellers can’t sell due to lack of buyers.  So, the future of the residential market in the short term is going to be more of the same for the rest of 2011 and most of 2012. Until we can clear the inventory of distressed homes and the job market improves, the real estate market will suffer. This is a general statement of the future of the entire market in the residential sector, which does not mean that there won’t be buyers and sellers, but the market will be very competitive and the majority of sellers will have to continue to be patient in the local residential housing market.  If you are a seller in this sector be patient and do EVERYTHING  you can to make your house competitive in this very difficult market.  Hire a professional real estate agent and price your home for exactly what it’s worth. The strategy of pricing a home high and letting buyers make a lower offer can backfire. If you are a seller, you are in competition with every other house on the market and there are more homes on the market than there are buyers—hence, it’s a Buyer’s Market.

Is the Real Estate market dead?  The answer is no.  The real estate market is slow in the residential sector; however, there are other some sectors of the market that are showing some signs of growth.  Income producing properties, some vacation rental properties, and commercial property are showing signs of recovery even in these difficult times.  If you are an  investor with access to cash or bank financing there are  really good deals in this sector of the market. In all sectors of the market, sellers have had to lower prices, with buyers locally and from abroad coming to our “depressed economy” looking for a deal. The good news for buyers is that sellers are getting real and willing to take a real look at offers. The offers are few and far between, so real offers are being considered.

As I have said so many times, real estate has been, and will continue to be, the best investment you can make for your future.  Our down market can be looked at as an opportunity . If you have been thinking about investing in real estate this is not the time to sit on the sidelines. This is the time to take advice from successful investors like Warren Buffet, who look a  down market as an opportunity to buy.  You will not get any better deals then now.  Its easy to be a “would of, could of, should of” investor, but if you have a good steady job, and cash for the downpayment, NOW is the time to invest in your future through real estate. Interest rates are low now and sellers are motivated.

If you have been considering a real estate investment now is the time. Do your homework. Research the market. Work with the professionals, and make a good deal. I wish you all success with real estate. Until next week! — James Sarles

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coldwell Banker James Sarles Realty Assists Local Expansion for Industrial Sector Growth

POISED FOR DEVELOPMENT – As City Services Ltd. gets ready to break ground on its new headquarters on Queen’s Highway, Port Authority officials are excited about signs of growth in the island’s industrial sector. Pictured (left to right): Cornelius Williams, Personnel Director; Pete Hughes, Executive Vice President; Ginger Moxey, Vice President-GBPA; Joseph O’Brien, Managing Director; and Charles Pratt, Manager of Development-GBPA.
By Deidre Rahming, GBPA, 10.2.2011 via The Bahamas Weekly

Freeport, Bahamas – General contractors, City Services Ltd. released their plans for further expansion within the island’s industrial centre with the purchase of over 5 acres of land from Freeport Commercial and Industrial Limited (FCIL) a subsidiary of the Port Group of Companies.

Through joint efforts of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) and local brokers, Coldwell Banker James Sarles Realty, City Services was successful in acquiring two heavy industrial parcels of land to begin immediate construction of the company’s home office and heavy equipment maintenance facility complex.

Making an inspection of the site was GBPA’s Vice President, Ginger Moxey, accompanied by City Services’ management team. “This purchase illustrates your company’s confidence in the Grand Bahama economy,” she expressed. “It also demonstrates the effectiveness of the open-door policy of the Port promised by our President Ian Rolle in his mandate to encourage reinvestment.”

Joseph O’Brien, Managing Director, City Services Ltd. praised GBPA’s willingness to work along with its licensees to facilitate development. “We are extremely pleased with the efforts of the Port Authority and Sarles Realty for conducting this transaction expeditiously and as seamlessly as possible,” he stated.

“I want to say it’s been a pleasure working along with the Port Authority to consummate this sale,” added broker, James Sarles. “People from around the world are looking at Grand Bahama from an industrial perspective and its Sea Air Business Centre offers a sterile zone with a lot of opportunity.  With the success of the City Services’ acquisition, it leads me to believe and get excited that we can work with the Port to promote available inventory throughout the world by means of our Coldwell Banker commercial enterprise.”

He further described the acquisition as a “win-win for all”, sharing that he looks forward to working with the Port’s team on future projects. “This is just the start of many good things to come.  In these tough economic times, it’s important that we build the industrial sector,” Sarles stated. 

City Services Ltd. began service in 1997 as general contractors. A marine construction services division was established in 2008. Slated for completion by the end of the first or second quarter of 2012, the 29,000 square foot complex due to be constructed on Queen’s Highway, will house an excess of 25 staff members.

According to Mr. O’Brien, “our multi-million dollar expansion project shows we are bullish about Freeport’s future and dedicated to the community. Our company has built a strong reputation of reliable, on-time services in Grand Bahama and with the extension of our ever growing marine services, we like what we see for our company’s future on Grand Bahama.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Street Beats Wow Grand Bahama

by Paula Boyd Farrington

Grand Bahama Island was treated to a high-octane performance by The Street Beats Group from New York City last night. The Street Beats rocked the audience at The Regency Theatre with their enormous talent and energetic urban groove — a riveting combination of drumming, tap, hip hop, and break dancing that had everyone on their feet wanting more.

Presented by The Grand Bahama Performing Arts Society—a three-year old organization that has donated over $18,000 in scholarships this year to local Bahamian performing arts students—the event also featured the talents of Eight Mile Rock’s dance troupe, Exclusive, as well as tap and ballet numbers by students of the Lois Seiler Dance Academy, Georgia Taylor's School of Dance, and The Bahamas Dance Theatre.

An inspiring workshop with the Street Beats was held the morning of the show, giving enthusiastic local students a chance to meet the performers upclose and learn about their edgy blend of dance and percussion using everyday objects, such as paint containers and trash cans.

Created by a former member of the off-Broadway show, Stomp, The Street Beats Group creator, Zoilo Ruiz, has also composed and arranged for the World Famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, is a cast member of Slamm with legendary rock drummer, Carmine Appice, and is also the virtual drummer in the video game Rock Band 2

For a small community like Grand Bahama to be able to enjoy this professional and internationally-celebrated group, is thanks to The Grand Bahama Performing Arts Society, their members, hard working committee, and major sponsors, who include: Thayer’s Natural Remedies, Pelican Bay Hotel, American Airlines/American Eagle, The Bahamas, Mackey Media, and Keen i Media.

A big thank you to The Grand Bahama Performing Arts Society for an unforgettable evening of exceptional entertainment, for reminding us how much incredible talent we have right here on the island, and for bringing a new rhythm of performing art support and expanded horizons to everyone who calls these lovely shores home.