A recent discussion with a young Caymanian who is interested in buying property has led me to write this article, which reflects my views on how one ought to go about approaching the process of buying a property in the Cayman Islands.
I find it interesting how prospective buyers go about the process from their perspective, starting by looking for real estate. It seems to me that these buyers decide what they need or want, begin looking at what’s available via signage, via ads or online, and this then leads them to contacting the agent through finding a property they like. But in retrospect, this is completely backward. In my view, they should be finding the person first who is then able to find the right property for the buyer, based upon that buyer’s – and possibly their family’s – specific desires, wants and needs.
Do your research
If a buyer were to undertake medical, legal or financial advice, it’s highly unlikely they would do so without doing their research first when it comes to the pedigree of the entity offering the advice. In my opinion, it’s the same with real estate. As far as a buyer is concerned, I believe their most critical move is to find the right real estate broker/agent. This may involve a phone call and an interview, to give them a feel for who they like and who can provide the best and most reliable information. This then gives them the opportunity to evaluate their services and build a relationship of trust, as this purchase will likely be one of their largest investments.
Once they have committed to work with one agent, it is then time to evaluate the market in its current state and from there, a good agent will be able to drill down the specifics as to the buyer’s needs and wants. The great thing about Cayman’s MLS (multiple listing system) is that the buyer only needs to share their personal information with one person and they will then get access to all listings on the island, so there is a good level of privacy and confidentiality. This entire process allows buyers to identify an available property that specifically suits them.
The goal as far as the buyer/agent relationship is concerned at this early stage is to have all the buyer’s questions answered to their satisfaction and to allow the buyer to come away with a good understanding of the current market environment and the purchasing process. The agent should then be able to advise the buyer on properties that are suitable for review, advise the buyer to possibly get pre-qualified for a mortgage with a bank if need be, and they should also have introduced the buyer to ancillary service providers, such as bankers, surveyors and legal advisers. They should also be able to give the buyer an idea of closing costs. A good agent will be able to narrow a buyer’s search down to perhaps five to ten properties to ensure that the buyer’s time is not wasted. They should view the properties together and eventually find one that perfectly fits the buyer’s needs.
Service is the key
In this digital and highly competitive world, the difference, as with many goods and services, is the level of service an individual receives. Ultimately, people are prepared to pay for good service as long as that service brings them value. Finding a great real estate agent who is alert to both the needs of the customer and the market in which they operate will, at the end of the day, be the best move a buyer can make.
James Bovell is broker/owner at RE/MAX Cayman Islands.