Homage to Real Estate Agents in Jamaica

Three years ago I decided to take the Real Estate Sales Person course offered at the University of Technology.  I’ve always had a knack for sales and figured…how hard could it be?  This, along with the fact, that so many established agents seemed to be making a great living…I set my sights on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I signed up for the course, paid the fee, bought a pencil case for my pens and markers etc…, bought binders and notebooks…I was ready to go to school.  I got to class early, found a seat up front….I needed to hear every word and in a class of about sixty students I needed to be extremely attentive.  I realized on the first day that this was not going to be a “walk in the park” as I had previously thought.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of reading we had to do, construction technology, law, physical planning, marketing, map reading, valuation etc..etc.   Listening to the other students I knew that I was not the smartest person in class…but I was smart enough to figure out who was the smartest person in class.  I moved my seat next to his and made him my best friend for the duration of the course.  We studied together, debated, discussed, reasoned…and when I didn’t understand some point of another….he “dumbed it down” for me…all the way down until I got it.  Thanks to him, I passed, framed my certificate, joined the Broker of my choice and was ready to go.    Here is where the “homage” to agents comes in.   Selling real estate is really, really hard.   You will spend days, weeks and maybe months with a client…searching for and then trekking from property to property, numerous phone calls, driving up and down only to have the deal fall through in spite of your efforts.  The competition out there is very stiff.  There are a lot of agents vying for a piece of a very small pie…and some agents are more cut-throat that others.  Haggling over a client is not unheard of.  The agents that make it are the ones willing to put in the really hard work. Seven days a week…twenty-four hours if necessary….and they know their stuff.  They stay educated on new laws that may arise in the real estate industry.  They recognize that knowledge is power and their reward is often that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  They focus on their clients; network both locally and with the Jamaican Diasporas and constantly keep themselves updated with new properties being built in Jamaica. The really good agents know how to suss out legitimate prospects so as to maximize their time and effort and they let no opportunity pass their way.   So, the moral of this is….even though I cannot classify myself as one of these, I do not grudge these extremely hard-working agents their pot of gold, they’ve certainly earned it.

 

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Heritage Listings III

Heritage Properties of Jamaica

The Great Houses

Bloomfield Great House, Manchester

Jamaican real estate surely has nothing grander than its magnificent and seemingly eternal great houses; they are legendary and irresistibly inviting to those who love history and fine architecture.

Bloomfield Great House is one such magnificent piece of heritage property in every sense of the word.  This grand structure is located in the heartland of Jamaica in the parish of Manchester.

In the evening, the white birds start their fly past from left to right across the backdrop of the parish capital Mandeville, mushroomed on the hills;  the birds fly by almost as a mark of respect for this grand, old lady for she is still a beauty at 200 years old and the showpiece of Central Jamaica. This flawless edifice stands proudly on a hill south west of the town centre.


The two-story house was built in the traditional Caribbean colonial style and is positively gleaming after a well-deserved and well done renovation.  This marvellous, old structure and gem of Georgian architecture began life as the centre of a coffee estate and, later a citrus plantation; believed to be the site of the first citrus packing house in Jamaica.

Bloomfield is located on five acres of land in the cool (Jamaicans might even say chilly!) climes of Manchester offering the finest panoramic view of Mandeville and its surrounding hills.  Point of interest: it is now one of Jamaica’s finest art galleries featuring works by many of Jamaica’s leading artists.

Seville Great House, St. Ann

In the Garden Parish of St. Ann sits Seville Great house, highly symbolic of the English period. After the capture of the island in 1655, New Seville was abandoned by the vanquished Spanish with the conquering English dividing up and allocating the land to the English Army’s victorious officers and other soldiers of repute. In this allotment, the city of New Seville became the property of one Captain Hemmings and was thereafter known as Seville Estate. In 1745, Captain Hemmings’ grandson built the great house on the site of the original house which was built at the end of the seventeenth century.
The house was originally a two-storey structure but its top storey was blown off during a hurricane circa 1898, and was never replaced. Seville Great House is made of wattle and daub boasting beautiful timber floors and English tiling. The doors are of solid raised panel mahogany with predominantly sashed windows later modified to include jalousies.  The living and dining rooms are elegantly separated by beautiful mahogany arches.  The spectacular verandah is enclosed by a set of square wooden columns, along the entire northern end of the building specifically designed to provide adequate ventilation, sunlight, and privacy. An elegant projected entrance portico forms the landing for bifurcated cut stone steps.  Seville’s roof is made of cedar shingles with a distinct cap and comb feature.
A beautiful lush, green lawn surrounds the property enhancing it even further.
Just another two of Jamaica’s very own ‘stately homes’!

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Heritage Properties

And now for something completely different

Prime Jamaican Real Estate…..

The ‘Great Houses’ of Jamaica…

 Jamaica’s heritage properties deserve much more than a mention; if an illustrated book doesn’t already exist, then it needs writing!  Jamaica’s ‘Great Houses’ (from the plantation era) are numerous and magnificent.  To visit one is to step back in time and relive the past.  Some are more famous than others and some more well-preserved but they all have their own fascination and a story to tell.

Let’s start off with Jamaica’s most famous or should I say, infamous?

Rose Hall Great House

White witch of Rose HallNot far from the golden beaches of Montego Bay, sits Rose Hall Great House, surely the most written about and intriguing of all Jamaica’s Great Houses.  Rose Hall is a magnificent Georgian structure, built out of cut-stone on its first two levels and stucco on the third and uppermost levels; surrounded by 6600 acres. The main entrance to the second level is a perfectly symmetrical, cut-stone, and very grand staircase.  The furniture, which is all made from Jamaican mahogany, is genuine 17th, 18th and 19th century.

Rose Hall was built in 1770 by George Ash for Mr. John Palmer, then Custos of St. Thomas and his wife, Rosa.  The couple died without issue and their grand-nephew, John Rose Palmer, inherited the house.  In 1820 he married Annie Mae Patterson, the 2nd and last mistress of the house who, legend has it, was and still is, the most well-known inhabitant!  Therein lies a tale, you’ll have to Google that one: the ghost of Annie Palmer, the ‘White Witch’ herself….

Rose Hall was purchased and renovated privately during the 60’s and early 70’s and is now a major tourist attraction.

Moving on to another Great House and another beauty…..

Good Hope Great House

Good Hope Great House

Good Hope Great House really is a beauty; from its high raftered ceilings to its pinewood and wild orange floors.  The estate consists of one thousand acres and is located just outside of Falmouth, Trelawny on Jamaica’s North Coast; sitting back majestically from the main road in ‘splendid isolation’.

The Good Hope estate was built around 1755 and was home to one of the largest sugar fortunes ever made in 19th century Jamaica.  The original owner, Colonel Williams, acquired the estate via a land grant.  The Colonel was the grandson of one of the first settlers in the island after its conquest by the English. Good Hope later became the property of one John Tharp who became the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica.

The estate has been carefully restored and contains a rare inventory of historic buildings. The Great House has a total of 10 bedrooms throughout its three buildings:  the Old Great House with four bedrooms and the Coach House, formerly a carriage house 250 years ago, now has 5 bedrooms.  Every room at Good Hope is furnished with 18th and 19th century Jamaican antiques.

Like Rose Hall, it is a major tourist attraction.

Just two of these magnificent old plantation houses to whet the reader’s appetite.  In the next Heritage Properties article, I will tell you all about Greenwood Great House and Marlborough Great House., each has its own story.  Watch this space……….

Part 2…….

Heritage Properties of Jamaica

Prime Jamaican Real Estate is an understatement when describing The ‘Great Houses’ of Jamaica.  One of the island’s most famous and well preserved, right down to its Wedgwood china place settings is Greenwood Great House; close to the border where the parishes of Trelawny and St James, Greenwood has overlooked the surrounding community for 211 years.

Visitors often find this 15-room tribute to Georgian architecture even more fascinating than Rose Hall, probably because it hasn’t undergone nearly as much restoration plus it has a more genteel, literary past; an altogether less “scary” history.

This magnificent residence was erected between 1780 and 1800 and was home to Richard Barrett a member of the famous ‘Barretts of Wimpole Street’ no less!  Richard was cousin to one of England’s renowned and best beloved poets; Elizabeth Barrett Browning whose immediate family was one of the largest landholders of that era. On display within these sturdy old walls, is the Barrett family’s original library complete with many rare books dating as far back as1697, along with portraits in oil of the family, exquisite Wedgwood china, rare musical instruments and a marvellous collection of antique furniture.  In the grounds is a well-preserved glass carriage which, in its day was the Barretts’ own horse-drawn hearse.  This Great House is one of if not the best, preserved and well maintained in Jamaica.

Greenwood, in all its splendor, is open for tours daily and hosts functions at the property by special request.

Greenwood Great House, very much alive and well and central to Jamaica’s tourist industry.

And on to yet another monument to Jamaica’s marvellous history and colonial architecture: Marlborough Great House. 

Heritage Buildings

Situated in Spur Tree in the parish of Manchester, Marlborough is said to have been built circa 1795 and designed by one Mr. Forsyth, a Scottish architect.   The house is a finely proportioned Georgian residence with regency influences. A significant feature of the building is its high and imposing portico, which raises its large columns right up to the roof, the gutting of which is made of fine copper. 

The first known owner of Marlborough House was the Honourable Richard Boucher. He was an Assembly Member of the then new Parish of Manchester and he also later became Custos of the Parish. The Bouchers are believed to have been Haitian refugees who came to Jamaica in about 1792.

This Great House boasts three bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a well- proportioned kitchen and dining room with large storage space on the lower level.  A one-bedroom cottage together with a four-bedroom cottage also sit on the property.

Leading up to the house itself is a dramatically long driveway which ends in the secluded serene picturesque grandeur of the house itself set majestically on just under 10 acres of fertile land famous for luscious fruit-bearing trees.

And, Marlborough House is currently still a private residence, very much lived in; it has certainly stood the test of time.  Mr. Forsyth of Scotland certainly knew how to build a good, solid house that would last!

More Jamaican architectural treasures to come….

 

 

 

 

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BUYING AND SELLING PROPERTY IN JAMAICA – OUTLAY FEES AND AGENTS

Outlay fees are defined as the total cost or expenditure required or incurred in acquiring an asset, achieving an objective, or executing a decision.   Outlays are those items of expense incurred by the professionals acting on your behalf.  Generally, if the property involves a dwelling house, there is a probably a mortgage payable to a lending Institution. So, there is usually a fee for obtaining the Title Deeds from the bank, building society or other lending institution.  The Lending Institution will also charge for releasing the Mortgage from the title of the property when the sale is complete.  Costs in obtaining an up to date map and Folio are also part of outlay fees.

Professional fees would include the fee payable to the Realtor and the Solicitor for the services provided.

It can be argued that if the seller is in financial difficulties, he or she may be at a disadvantage when trying to sell a property but unable to access initial outlay fees required.  Normally the seller is required to pay the Realtor’s fees since there is a contract between seller and agent. There is the commission you’ll owe in order to sell your home. When you’re talking about a home worth millions, that’s real money!  Does the buyer have to pay a higher deposit because the seller is having problems finding the costs associated with the sale of the property?  If so, that could be one reason why properties stay on the market longer than others.

Realtors vs. You! Pros and Cons

In these trying times, can outlay fees be avoided?  In a relatively small country like Jamaica, it’s a fair question to ask: “do I really need a realtor to sell my home with all of the services available to me?” Technically no, you don’t absolutely have to involve a realtor, however, the owner must take into consideration different aspects of ‘going it alone’.

By selling it yourself it’s entirely up to you to get this home sold and do all the considerable ‘leg work’.  Beyond listing you in the databases and a ‘For Sale’ sign in your front garden; you alone are responsible for finding prospective buyers, showing them the house and handling the entire house sale process.  No mean feat.  You do get to control when the house is available to show and you don’t have to be constantly vacating your home when the realtors come knocking but, the Realtor, on the other hand, will more effectively and more efficiently market your property.

To reach the same audience at the agent’s disposal, you would need to invest more than the fees paid to a Realtor as he or she knows where best to market which type of property, and continuously extends his best efforts to do just that and track results. Your property will be placed in the right marketing vehicles plus the agent has a network with other realtors and brokers, providing essential feedback to help shape the direction of the product being offered for sale, your property.

A Realtor will work with you for compliance on all required disclosures and forms whereas homeowner might inadvertently omit something that could, in the future, become the source of a legal liability down the road thereby incurring fees not previously taken into account.

And, most importantly, the price must be right, no one will buy a property that is overpriced. An agent can provide that very important advice to help you achieve the best price for your property.

Much to think about before doing away with those professionals involved in selling real estate.

 

 

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Swapping homes?

 Whatever next you’re thinking but don’t panic…it’s just another trend!!  Not “wife swapping” this time, but home swapping. In Jamaican parlance, we would say:  “a di lick”!!  Okay, “it’s the latest thing” in a manner of speaking: the latest that is, in a long line of online enterprises.  The writer doesn’t yet know whether this trend will take off in Jamaica as it appears to be overseas or whether the Jamaica Real Estate sector (or Jamaicans themselves) are quite ready for this phenomenon but, bear with me and read on, because it’s sure to “reach” here and soon; what with Jamaica being the well-known tourist destination and one of many reasons for which this island is rightly famous.

Home swapping or ‘home exchange’ as it is more widely known is, simply put, just that, a ‘temporary trading of accommodation’.  In this all-pervading internet age, where computers, smartphones etc. play such a big part in our lives, there are now websites entirely dedicated to ‘home exchange’.  So, two home owners ‘find’ each other on the internet, on just such a website and agree to switch homes for a mutually agreed period of time.  Both parties if they can agree on all the ‘niceties’ involved in such an exchange, limit their travel or vacation costs, to airline tickets only.  It could work – a lot of checking and rechecking on the facts would have to be done before the final exchange otherwise it could be a disaster.   How is it possible to make sure that the home where you’re planning to stay in say, Australia, actually exists or really looks as good as it does in the photo?!  The websites visited, I assume, have their own security checks and balances in place, one would hope.

The obvious benefits are: free accommodation with all the comforts and modern conveniences of your own home while, at the same time, enjoying a holiday along with big savings on hotel bills and the fact that your property is not left unattended while you are away.  Judging from a couple of websites that deal exclusively in this type of transaction, you can swap cars too..and who knows what else..but I digress!

It’s not difficult either;  by registering with the website(s) of your choice that cater to this idea, you then go ahead and list your property information along with your desired traveldestinations. You and your residence are then part of that website’s database with your listing becoming immediately accessible to other registered, like-minded members.  After that, it’s a case of simply contact other participating homeowners resident in all far flung regions of the world!  Just pick the country; stick the proverbial pin on the map!  And, you are not limited to one exchange only, you can ‘swap homes’ as many times as you  like.

Apparently, home exchange is becoming more and more popular as a ‘vacation alternative’.  Mmmm…. I wonder how the hotel chains are taking this news!

So, if you’re feeling adventurous and daring, click on this link Make yourself at home anywhere in the world, live like a local and stay for FREE. 40,000+ Worldwide Listings  or this one: www.homeforexchange.com and think carefully before making any sudden moves…pun intended!  Not for the feint hearted!!!!

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Investment Property

When is a Property an Investment Property?

With regard to Jamaica real estate, with all its ups and downs and a fluctuating dollar in the mix, buying an investment property can still be a money-making venture if your plan is to turn such purchases (investments) into an income-earning business.  With such a plan in mind, a purchaser (potential landlord)  might want to invest in a property such as a duplex (a dwelling built as or turned into, apartments but with separate entrances for two tenants, i.e. two-storey houses having a self-contained apartment on each floor; also side-by-side apartments on a single lot sharing a common wall) or, other units suitable for family living. With a duplex property the owner has the option to live in one unit while renting out the other(s).

Whether in Jamaica or anywhere in the world for that matter, people always need somewhere to live so owners of real estate may have purchased land or houses for investment property purposes. Investment property means either land or a house purchased solely to rent for a profit.  Investment properties can be any type of real estate: apartment buildings, a duplex, a single-family dwelling unit or even a vacant lot. ‘Investment  property’ therefore is house or land where the owner is not living on the premises, but sometimes the owner may occupy a portion of it.

The rental money collected from the tenant(s) must at least cover the mortgage, if one obtains and the owner does not have to find that substantial monthly mortgage payment and is on his /her way to owning property.   When the mortgage is paid off,  the owner continues collecting rent for a clear profit and the owner may consider the purchase of another such investment property; by using the equity in the first property.

So, if you plan on becoming a Jamaican landowner/landlord, do the math!  Correct calculations are as important as buying the right property because of the need to cover the costs of running your property for as long as the mortgage lasts, if such a mortgage exists. The object of the exercise is to end up with a healthy property value and of course, a healthy profit.

The downside?   If you don’t “do the math” or make a wrong choice on your investment property, your investment can turn into a severe drain on your available cash!

So what earnings should you anticipate in reality? The yield of a property represents the year’s rental income, denoted as a percentage of the property’s value. When considering the yield, remember it is usually quoted gross. Gross rental yield can vary from as little as 4% up to 15% or even 20% of the property’s value. Average rental return is around 10%, and anything less than the desired 10% may not be worth all the effort, unless your main investment goal is capital appreciation.

Net yield is calculated using the amount left after purchase fees, repairs, void periods (times when there is no tenant for whatever reason) and subsequent mortgage repayments plus running costs.

The potential investor may want to mull over the following:

  • Cheaper property will usually provide a better annual return whereas expensive properties in upscale areas may provide a lower return but are more likely to appreciate in value.
  • Look for rental income that equates to approximately 130 – 150% of the mortgage repayments and allows you, as landlord, to cover any of those ‘void periods’ after a tenant vacates plus maintenance, repairs, insurance, refurbishing, etc.
  • Potential landlords must always consider whether or not their expectations on returns on investments are realistic, so, seek out a reputable real estate agent and take him/her out for lunch, pick those brains and find out!

 

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Affordable Real Estate? Affordable Living? Is there such a thing?

Downsizing, cutting corners, call it what you will but, every year after the dreaded Annual Budget, we all try and find ways of ‘affordable living’.

Reach Falls – Jamaica

One thing remains constant; when it comes to Jamaica real estate (like most Caribbean property) it holds its value and if you can hang onto it, do!  This is true even in the hardest of times and despite occasional political unrest together with a fairly constant high crime rate, simply because Jamaica is such a beautiful land with an idyllic climate. The tourism industry, through it all, not only stays afloat but keeps relatively strong.  So if you’re trying your utmost to survive; struggling to keep your head above water – don’t sell that gorgeous property – yet!   Jamaica real estate will continue to increase in value and be sought after for years to come, especially as waterfront and island homes are becoming harder to find.

With all the gloom, doom and worldwide recession, Jamaica has still managed to make tremendous strides in creating an environment conducive to enterprise development and as such, has maintained a strong international profile so, the secret is out, Jamaica is a destination for trade and investment in all sectors and some of the world’s leading companies have made Jamaica their home.  This all bodes well for those who have invested in local properties and real estate.  Hang on to your land – it can only appreciate.

Now, away and apart from Jamaica real estate, we think there is indeed such a thing as affordable living on a day to day basis and we base such a claim on the following facts.  Take your average Jamaican box lunch, still remarkably cheap especially if you convert it into US$ or sterling.  The ubiquitous box lunch is going, on average, for about US$4.00 or £2.70p!!  And, the Jamaican box lunch is a life saver: good Jamaican cooking and extremely filling.  When our local vegetables are in season, they are a steal – literally!  Local lettuce is going for J$50 to J$60 for 2 nice ‘heads’ in a pack as one example and, we can all still find and head off to a free beach on a sunny day; all we need is our bus fare/gas money and enough for a, you’ve guessed it, box lunch!  And then a day out in magnificent Hope Gardens is still entirely free!  Let us not forget a good friend somewhere cooking a huge pot of ‘Saturday soup’ which is invariably delicious and is accompanied by plenty of lively debate thrown in, on the verandah, of course.

Beyond the image of a tropical paradise, the country’s people have a solid reputation as innovators (especially when “money tight”) and trend setters. Jamaicans are ordinary folk who often rise to great heights; their vibrant energy and indomitable spirit set them up for achievement in all spheres of life, be it culture,  commerce,  politics,  public service and last, but by no means least, sport.

So, whether its real estate or living life, Jamaica, still great value for money!

Food, still cheap…   

 

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Purchasing Jamaica Real Estate from Afar…

There must be something about this country Jamaica, because it still attracts holiday homes for the rich and famous with the likes of supermodel Naomi Campbell; actress Jane Seymour, rock star Keith Richards and couture designer, Ralph Lauren being amongst the homeowners who have been, or still are, homeowners in Jamaica.  Jamaican real estate – still very much sought after.

Real Estate Jamaica

As for Jamaicans in the Diaspora; wherever they may have settled in life, always have a deep and enduring connection to their homeland and it would be fair to say many of those who left the island and lived many years overseas, still want their very own piece of “the rock”.  It’s a given!  The all-knowing, all-seeing Jamaican ‘grapevine’ has it that not only do members of the diaspora want to visit their Jamaican homes as often as possible but they all strive to come back home eventually and stay.

Wherever more than two Jamaicans are abroad, they gather, they form associations and clubs.  Real estate in Jamaica must be one of the many hot topics up for discussion especially for those nearing retirement age.  Retiring members of the diaspora are increasingly buying up real estate and houses at a rate set to send up the prices. International mortgage financing is now readily available providing mortgages for foreign nationals, returning residents and investors and can be had in all the major world currencies as well.