High-end real estate deals lead mid-year reporting statistics

Number of property sales flat

Real estate figures for mid-2011 show the number of property sales is flat compared to the first half of last year, but overall sale prices are up.

According to Land and Survey Department statistics for January to June, the number of freehold transfers is nearly the same as through the first six months of 2010, but the value of transfers increased more than 145 per cent.

“The real estate market at the high end is actually rebounding quite nicely this year. We’ve seen a 100 per cent increase over the same period last year, which was a very bad year,” CIREBA president Jeremy Hurst said. “But that’s been substantially due to a limited number of high-value sales, including the Dart acquisition of Stan Thomas’ properties.”

Hurst, who is broker/owner of IRG, is referring to the Dart Group’s purchase of developer Thomas’ properties that included the former Courtyard Marriott, the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and extensive raw land that include 1,500 feet of Seven Mile Beach property. That deal, announced in late January, paved the way for the broad agreement between the government and Dart to relocate a section of West Bay Road, extend Esterly Tibbets Highway, close the George Town landfill and open a new solid waste facility.

The magnitude of the Dart acquisition is readily apparent in Land and Survey Department data, which show February 2011 as having the highest valuation of property switching hands in any month since at least the beginning of 2006, when earliest records are available online.

Further, the $395 million in property transfers so far in 2011 is the highest total value for the first half of any year since 2006. On the flip side, the 879 property transfers so far this year are the least number of transactions since 2006. The first half of 2010 had 887 property transfers valued at $161 million.

Comparable numbers for previous years were 1,002 transfers totalling $190 million in the first half of 2009; 1,224 transfers totalling $286 million in 2008; 939 transfers totalling $230 million in 2007; and 1,443 transfers totalling $367 million in 2006.

In CIREBA’s latest real estate market update, Hurst said sales for the first half of 2011 totalled $322 million, compared to $161 million for the first half of 2010. He also notes with optimism that figures for June increased significantly since dropping off in April and May. There were 165 property transfers in the month of June totalling $93 million, according to Land and Survey data.

The statistics on a month-by-month basis for this year are as follows: 118 transfers totalling $37 million in January; 221 transfers totalling $141 million in February; 144 transfers totalling $73 million in March; 107 transfers totalling $25 million in April; and 124 transfers totalling $27 million in May.

In addition to the rise in high-end deals, Hurst said Cayman is also seeing a bit of a rebound in the middle of the residential market, in the $200,000-$500,000 price range, saying The Careenage in Grand Harbour and San Sebastian in South Sound have been doing very well.

“I think locals and expatriates are feeling more comfortable to acquire condominiums,” he said.

According to Coldwell Banker’s mid-year market report, the number of condo sales has risen 6 per cent compared to the first half of 2010, while the average sale price is up. The same report notes that the number of houses sold has increased 42 per cent compared to 2010, and the average sale price for houses is up, too.

The Coldwell Banker report attributes an overall 4 per cent decline in sales volume to a 41 per cent decline in the number of raw land sales, compared to the first half of 2010.

According to the report, the supply of available residential properties is increasing, slowly, at a rate of about two listings per week.

“Pending sales are down 32 per cent though YTD, and that is not a good sign,” according to the report.

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