House market offers good deals

If house hunting is on your mind, ‘buy now’ is the message from Sheena Conolly of Sheena Conolly Sotheby’s international Realty.

According to the realtor, prices have settled and, in realtor-speak, the market has softened. But while prices may be at a low, some buyers may remain hesitant for reasons related to the global economic downturn.

Things have not been all that sunny so far this year.

Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers’ Association President Kel Thompson recently revealed some market trends.

He said the lower priced inland condos and the lower priced houses and house lots are what is selling now.

‘Now is a good time to buy if you are looking for a rental property,’ he said.

The recently released Coldwell Banker Market Report newsletter noted that the number of sales of detached homes has remained static, but there has been a 27 per cent loss in value.

‘So the sales activity is pretty strong, but the sales are occurring at lower price levels,’ the newsletter stated.

Farried Sulliman, managing director of Scotiabank, said strong take-up on various home-buying incentives, including the government guaranteed home mortgage scheme, appears to confirm that.

‘There continues to be a steady demand in mortgages, particularly in the low-to-mid market,’ he said.

‘In terms of the overall market, we have certainly seen a slowdown, but nothing as significant as we had anticipated,’ he added, noting that the bank will continue to offer the best deals it can to potential homeowners.

Mrs. Conolly said that things seem to be looking up now.

The combination of lowered realtors’ rates, lowered stamp duty and the flexibility and great rates lenders are offering is having a positive impact on the market.

‘I think that the Cayman public recognizes these favourable conditions and we are seeing a refreshing amount of activity,’ she said.

Agents at her firm have been out every day on showings, she said.

‘These are showings with people who are qualified and serious about buying.’

Mrs. Conolly said even Seven Mile Beach condos are attracting more interest recently.

G. Robert Totten of Cayman Luxury Property Group agreed, saying that in general things have picked up the last month thanks to a lot of showings.

‘We have got a contract in on a $500,000 condo and also on a piece of land in East End around 200K, so things are starting to move finally, even at the very high end,’ he said

‘We had two showings of a $10 million home in the past week.’

Mr. Totten noted that while the interest was there for high-end properties, the volumes needed to sell out multi-unit preconstruction properties are still absent.

‘Watercolours, for example, is pretty much on hold. Units there are $4.25 million to $5 million. As a very high-end development, right now it just isn’t worth the risk to the developer,’ he said.

He also noted the Island Resort and Residences in East End are not moving either, and high-end properties in general are not selling as well. Beachcomber and the Renaissance still have units for sale.

At the same time, inventory continues to go down on the Cayman Islands MLS system. However, whether it is because properties are selling or whether listings are expiring or being removed because they are not moving remains unclear.

At the mid-level, Mr. Totten says the reduction in stamp duty has definitely spurred interest from potential buyers who may have been on the fence.

‘It would be nice if they could extend it through the beginning of the year,’ he said.

The reality that such favourable conditions for buyers aren’t going to last forever is echoed by Mrs. Conolly.

Her advice to buy now is based on the reasoning that Cayman is not in the same situation as places like Florida, California, or the UK.

‘They have years and years of inventory still on the market due to overbuilding,’ she said, adding that it translates into deals for years to come in those places.

Mrs. Conolly said there are signs the economic downturn is easing, both in Cayman and worldwide.

‘I’m predicting that stamp duty will rise, and the downturn’s end means we are now at the bottom of the curve,’ she said.