Commercial Real Estate Trends in the Bahamas
Say “Bahamas” and you probably have a mental image of cocktails on the beach. That's not a bad thing, but there's much more to this island destination than being a vacation hotspot.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas – the official name – is located in the West Indies. It is the richest country in the region, with a GDP ranked 14th in North America – built primarily on tourism and financial sectors (specifically offshore banking). The nation is known as a tax haven, with no income, corporate, wealth, or capital gains tax. This strategy that has earned them both fans and critics.
Here’s what you need to know about commercial real estate (CRE) trends and news in this region…
The Bahamas is one of the first countries to lift the restrictions on international visitors who are fully vaccinated. In May 2021, the new regulation became effective which means those travelers “who are fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period will be immediately exempt from testing requirements for entry and inter-island travel”. Fully vaccinated travelers must still apply for the Bahamas Travel Health Visa with proof of vaccination, at travel.gov.bs.
Above all, this is a welcome relief for the hotel and tourism sectors. This sector is a critical part of the economy, making up some 51% of GDP. Therefore, kick starting tourism related to CRE deals that were delayed as a result of the pandemic.
The government is looking to incentivize land sales at the moment, and is using fresh techniques to promote business. This includes offering discounts on land parcels to young professionals in the western area of New Providence.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in December 2020 that new development was on the cards in this region which constitutes “crown land”. “Crown land is really the people’s land, it’s not individuals, it’s the people and we just want to ensure that the people receive their land,” he said. He also added that the government would promote duty-free building and automatic mortgage qualification for applicable targets of the development.
The Bahamas Real Estate Association’s (BREA) president Christine Wallace-Whitfield has spoken in support of the proposal which would put homeownership within reach for more Bahamas residents. Additionally, this could create development opportunities down the line which is a positive for the construction and CRE industries.
On a slightly lower note, there is a debate around plans recently proposed in the House of Assembly (during the 2021-22 annual budget presentation) that the government could potentially recoup outstanding property taxes directly from the tenants of commercial office and retail properties. The Tribune reports that this would involve paying monthly rentals directly to the Department of Inland Revenue (DIR) rather than the “delinquent landlord – until the debt is settled”. A collection of prominent CRE professionals have spoken out in criticism of the proposal, and it is an ongoing matter.
Also among the budget updates were new tax provisions that would see VAT on realty transactions increasing. The BREA said that the “sector would accept the tax hike if it was accompanied by an improvement in the ease of doing business”.
These are the kind of legislative and regulatory matters that require robust local knowledge, which is why NAI Global always advocated dealing with regional experts, like NAI Bahamas Realty Commercial.