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To sell or to lease


Published: May 23, 2013

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For some in my line of work it could be considered a dilemma, for others not so much; to sell or not to sell.  Many Bahamians I’ve spoken with from all walks of life lament that Bahamian land is being sold at a rapid pace to foreigners, who oftentimes have deep pockets and are in a position to purchase prime real estate.

I admit, as a practicing realtor and Bahamian, I’m torn on this issue and typically side with my friends who feel that we’re just selling all of our Bahamian land heritage, but on the other hand I’m challenged because selling property is how I make my living.  I will be the first to admit that the downturn in the economy has made it a bit challenging to successfully do that, but I feel strongly that we must put selfish reasons – such as commission – out of our minds and factor in how we can preserve our country and still do business.

In some countries, they have very stringent conditions of selling land to non-nationals; in fact rather than selling, they opt for a long term lease arrangement.  Some will argue the sale of land to non-Bahamians fuels the economy and creates jobs, in most instances through commercial ventures.

On the other hand, once a piece of property, whether a small cay or plot of land is sold, it’s gone forever unless a Bahamian has the disposable capital to buy it back.

We have billed our country as one offering sun, sand and sea and a land where one can live, work, and play.  That is all well-intentioned, but we must think long term.  How can we address selling land to non-Bahamians and keep the majority of it in our hands?  For instance just the other day a prime piece of property, the 700 acre peninsula known as Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, was up for sale at a $20 million price tag.  Did the owner pay that much for it initially?  I doubt it.  But One Eleuthera, a conservation group, echoed my point, in asking how many failed development projects have to dot our landscapes before we demand more sustainable projects in addition to the idea of simply not selling them?  If you’ve ever traveled to Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera you will conclude that it’s definitely an unspoiled bit of heaven on earth, which in my opinion should have never been sold.

Singapore is a small island nation like The Bahamas: there, the government has taken the position not to sell land, but to lease to buyers instead.   That way the land stays in the hands of the people.  Is it impossible at this point for us in The Bahamas to think conservationally and consider land-leasing options as opposed to outright sales?

I understand real estate agents want to make the sale and close the deal.  But there must come a time when we draw a line in the sand and take a utilitarian approach to preserve our country for generations to come.  If not, those generations will not be happy that we made no effort to preserve an inheritance for them, but instead, for the almighty dollar, sold it all.

• William Wong is the president of Wong and Associates Realty.  He was also a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and the Bahamas Real Estate Association.  Questions or comments can be emailed to William@wongsrealty.com.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 May 2013 19:21

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