The Real Story of Real Estate in Grenada!

In 2014, my alter ego “Don Quixote” wrote a commentary entitled “The Real Estate Market in Grenada Stinks!” This is highly recommended reading/re-reading, as this commentary builds on that.

My purpose then was to highlight that the Real Estate Market in Grenada is/was virtually non-existent and, more importantly, to precipitate corrective actions from government and other key players. Despite concerted attempts over the last 3 years (other than one incident very recently), I have failed miserably in attracting any senior government attention. Unfortunately, the Market has continued to decay. The number of listings for sale has grown and almost every property that was for sale in 2014 remains unsold today!

I acknowledge that my judgment is at odds with the prevalent view of realtors and obviously of government also. Realtors generally promote a view that “the market is improving”. This view seems to be simply based on “significant” increases in the total sales over the past two years – 2015 and 2016”. They completely fail to acknowledge (at least publicly) that the absolute sales levels are inconsequential – even when compared to their own firm’s sale listings.

In 2014 I believed that the crucial reason for the sad state of affairs is that Grenada needed lots more “Aliens” with the means to invest and to support themselves from offshore incomes. I am now more convinced of this! These folks are not choosing Grenada in droves because their turnaround cost (ie total cost of buying and selling) of real estate in Grenada at 42.26% was the highest of a list of 25 locations in the Region!

Note: This 42.26% cost compares to a low of 8.82% in Puerto Rico, 12.08% in Barbados, 18.82% in St Vincent and the Grenadines, 21.98% in St Lucia, to mention a few competing locations. www.globalpropertyguide.com/Caribbean/Grenada/roundtrip-cost.

As if that was not bad enough, additional research has revealed that the compounded cost in Grenada is really higher – 47.9% or 53.8%! The latter figure pertains where a buyer contracts with an agent other than the selling agent. Turns out that Grenada is not only the highest in the region but also the 2nd highest in the World!

My earlier conclusion – that the market in Grenada was “virtually non-existent”, was based on anecdotal information and from knowing friends and associates who had been trying to sell their homes for years. There was simply no statistical information available at the time. Fortunately, Century 21 Realty has since, with great effort and credit to themselves, produced 2 statistically based “Grenada Real Estate Market Reports” covering sales activity for 2015 and 2016.

The tone of these Reports is generally positive. To wit, the opening statement of the 2016 “Market Overview” is – “A pronounced improvement in Grenada’s real estate market began in late 2012.” And, to quote the Prime Minister in the “2017 Budget Statement” “Last year, 2015, had remarkable improvement in real estate sales, with sales volumes surging by 71%. As 2016 comes to a close, the Grenada real estate market is projected to set a new high, with a nearly 20% increase over 2015.” (PS The final figure for 2016 was reported by Century 21 as “nearly 23%”).

The key numbers from Century 21 can be summarised as follows:

$US 2013 2014 2015 2016
Total Sales ($000) 27,136 23,807 40,753 50,025
# of Sales 503 460 481 576
Average Sale 53,930 51,791 84,772 86,905
% Inc. in Total Sales -12 71 23
% Inc. in # of Sales -9 5 20
% of Total – Power of Sale 10.6 10.7 11.6 14.6
% of Total – International n/a n/a 25 20

These are extracts from the Report for 2016;

  • Geographic distribution remained consistent – St George with over 70 of the value. St John, St Mark and St Patrick combined for only 6%.
  • The average sale value of US$86,905 for 2016 included all transactions, many of which were small parcels of vacant land, often in outer parishes.
  • Noticeable changes were an increase in power of sale transactions and a decrease in foreign buyers.
  • Actual sales prices averaged approximately 14% below FINAL listing prices, with many properties having experienced several price reductions over several years since first listing. While difficult for sellers, this has made real estate more affordable and attractive with Grenada remaining a “buyer’s market”.
  • Average value of foreign purchases was US$224,235, nearly 3 times overall market value.
  • British buyers declined from 18 to 6; Canadian from 5 to 1; US increased from 4 to 8 and Caribbean also increased from 1 to 9 (primarily “exodus” Trinidadians).
  • 40% of value of International purchases was represented by 2 “development” properties.

Unfortunately, much potential critical analysis was omitted from both Reports. For example, I refer to lack of analyses of the data along following lines: ($’s & #’s of transactions)

  • By Market/Category – Personal/Commercial/Agricultural.
  • By Property Type – Land/Single family dwelling/multiple unit/Commercial
  • Price Distributions (in appropriate ranges) – Land/Single Family Dwellings.

Even though such critical additional analysis was not presented, there are a number of observations that can still be reasonably concluded from the data in the Report for 2016. These are:

  • A US$86,907 average sale mandates that the large majority of the 576 sale transactions had to have been for land and, in particular, for small and/or agricultural parcels.
  • With such a trivial average sale transaction amount, for the math to work, there could only have been 5 or fewer transactions above US$1 Million.
  • That there were very few Foreign Buyers was totally predictable, consistent with the very high “penalties” Grenada applies to this group. Of the 29 total, 2 were purchases of “development properties” – most likely to exploit the combination of the potential attractions of the Citizenship by Investment Program (“CBI”) and the generous tax concessions that these projects receive. (Note: This combination provides an absolute boon to developers – if the CBI Programme actually produces sufficient buyers for the proliferation of projects.)
  • The average residential purchase by these other 27 foreigners (less than 5% of the total buyers) amounted to US$224,235 – nearly 3 times the overall average. The predominance of these purchases must have been for land, as the typical cost of building lots in locations generally targeted by foreigners falls right in this range. Also, only 35 of the 172 currently listed “Single Family Homes” on the Century 21 website are at or below this amount, and virtually none are located in areas usually favoured by foreigners.

Note: Understandably, an emphasis on buying land and then building (even with the usual headaches involved) is, on the surface, a rational way for a determined foreigner to somewhat reduce the extremely high transaction taxes and fees that they face in Grenada. This is, however, only a temporary solution as when time comes to sell, they will have to find another foreigner who is prepared to step up to the same high expenses on the much higher value of the now developed property. Also, the seller again faces very expenses on the sale value.

Tragically, completely missing from the Century 21 Reports is any information on the “supply” side of the market – viz the number and value of properties available/listed for sale. How can one know whether the “nearly 23% growth and total sales of US$50,025,235 in 2016” was not actually constrained by lack of availability of properties for sale OR perhaps only an insignificant part of what was available for sale? Does “Don Quixote” need to apologise publicly for proclaiming incorrectly in 2014 that the “The Grenada Real Estate Market Stinks”?

Faced with this lack of critical information, The Grand Poobah embarked on a voyage of discovery. I painstakingly tabulated the online listings of 4 of the major realtors in Grenada to get some idea of the supply side of the market (circa 20 April 2017).

This is what resulted: (E&OE – “errors and omissions excepted!”)

Realtor Category # of Listings Value $US Millions

Average Listing Price

$US

Median Listing

$US

% of # Above 2016 Ave. Sale

 

Remax Any/Total 780 426.6 546,950 200,000 70
C21 All Properties 204 155.5 762,196 560,000 99
Commercial 24 27.7 1,204,675 728,026 96
Land 241 74.5 309,206 126,607 70
C21           Total 469 257.7 549,497   84
Terra Residential 458 195.4 426,727 120,000 62
Commercial 46 69.0 1,499,714 450,000 96
Terra           Total 504 264.4 524,659   65
Coldwell/Banker Total 162 94.3 581,956 252,000 76
Grand Total 1,915 1,043.0 554,210   73

Notes:

  • Extensive effort was made to exclude duplicate listings within individual websites, but shared listings between realtors were not totally identified and removed, but the obvious multimillion dollar listings were. (These were minimal.)
  • Listings with “Price Available on Request”, of which there were a considerable number and typically for obviously expensive properties, are not included.
  • “Exclusive” listings of the many other Grenadian Realtors not in the sample are not included.
  • Properties for sale privately are not included.

My educated guess is that, with the potential “modifiers” noted in the “Notes”, a comprehensive total of ALL Real Estate currently available for sale in Grenada may well prove close to or even higher than the aggregate listings of the 4 Realtors selected for study. Further, that the characteristics of an all-inclusive total listing will closely correspond to those of the four realtors. With this, the following observations are reasonable:

  • On a very simplistic basis, the US$1+ Billion value of properties available for sale represents some 20+ years supply at the 2016 sales rate of US$50 Million.
  • The “profile” of what was sold in 2016 is totally dissimilar to what is available for sale. To wit, the average Listing of US$554,210 is 6.6 times the 2016 average Sale of US$86,905.
  • The large difference between what’s being offered and what is selling means that higher priced properties remain unsold for the longest periods. Consistent with this, the 5 (or less properties) that sold for US$1+ Million in 2016 would have come from an inventory of some 201 Sale Listings included in the Table above.

Note: For perspective, a prime measure of a “healthy” Real Estate Market is one where the supply of properties available for sale approximates 6 months of recent sales.

Even if my “Analysis” is only approximately correct, the current state of the Real Estate Market in Grenada is nothing short of a national crisis! The problems have been festering unattended for years and, at current sales trends, will only continue to get worse. With such an incredible overhang of unsold properties, even when the trend is reversed, viz more properties are being sold than the rate of new listings, it will take many years to achieve any reasonable measure of a “healthy” market condition.

The trend will surely not reverse itself if all of the players in the market continue to “whistle past the cemetery in the dark” and I am here mindful of a former Canadian Prime Minister who reportedly announced, “sometimes one is forced to take the bull by the tail and face the situation!”

Serious adjustments across every component of the market are essential. These include

  • Significant downward adjustments of Listing Prices to better reflect the realities of current market conditions.
  • Material reductions in all Transaction Costs – viz Government Taxes and Levies; Sales Commissions and Legal Fees.
  • A manyfold increase in the supply of buyers – foreigners in particular!

Stay tuned for more from The Grand Poobah. I plan to further define the issues and challenges involved and to contribute to possible solutions. In the meantime, readers are encouraged to share this and earlier material (referenced at the opening) with their friends and associates. More importantly, to ensure that their Parliamentary Representative is fully aware and attuned to the importance of a healthy real estate market, and that they are fully playing their full part towards achieving same.

The Grand Poobah (aka Don Quixote)

PS: The reader should be able to appreciate how critical the lack of further categorisation/analysis of the sales in the Century 21 Market Reports (as outlined earlier) is to understanding more of what is actually happening in the marketplace and to determining appropriate corrective actions. Perhaps Century 21 may consider publishing an Addendum to their Report for 2016, as those details would be in their database.

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