During the year 2014/2015 the issue which engaged uppermost attention of your Board of Directors was the finalisation of the draft legislation for the Brokers’ Bill and I am pleased to report that this is almost complete and ready for submission to the Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications. Other key areas were the engagement of Realty Server for the provision of a reliable multiple listing service (MLS) FIU Compliance and National Risk Assessment.
Taxation & Legislation
At the last Annual General Meeting, we reported that the Taxation & Legislation Committee and the Board of Directors, had retained the services of a Legislation drafting attorney, attached to the Law Reform Commission, to structure the final Draft Legislation Document and to prepare the Working Paper which would accompany the Bill to support its content and relevance to the industry in order to avoid lengthy deliberation or objections, and make sure that all cross references are consistent and that potential impacts on other existing legislation would not be contradictory.
This exercise took much longer than anticipated and the final draft from the Attorney-at-Law was only received in February 2015. The Taxation & Legislation Committee and Members of the Board of Directors met on February 9, 2015 and again on March 20, 2015 to review the amended document submitted by the Attorney-at-Law which necessitated further amendments and the development of the Regulations to the Bill.
The legislation process will now be directed through the appropriate channels via the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment & Communications (TIIC) for submission and review by the Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment & Communications. We have received the endorsement from the Permanent Secretary in this regard and expect a positive and expedited reception based not only in part by the already legislated FIU requirements, but the clear need to legislate the industry.
The real estate market in Tobago continued to face challenges, in part due to international tourist arrivals which remain at minus 80% of 2006 figures. With tourism at such low levels, the incentive to invest in Tobago is slight. In addition, the Loan Guarantee promised by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago for any new resort development on the island has not been forthcoming despite international investment conferences that publicised its availability. As a result of preparations for the start of two new resorts on the island, and the existence of at least one serious developer, approaches were made to the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, requesting the amendment of the Land License Order of February 2007 so as to exempt all Designated Development Areas from the need to apply for a license. The Chief Secretary promised to speak with the Minister of Finance to advise him of this recommendation which would be crucial to the success of any new resort development. Feedback from the few Tobago agents involved with sales to foreign nationals confirms that due to short staffing in the Ministry, licences are not being issued in an acceptable time frame, so Tobago remains largely unattractive to international investors despite having greater potential for development and greater access to good infrastructure and well-priced utilities than many other Caribbean islands.
Attendance by AREA at the quarterly Supervised Entities Working Group meetings held by the FIU was regular and the President, also attended 2 workshops in preparation for the National Risk Assessment exercise on Trinidad & Tobago in 2015.
Disciplinary & Ethics
The Disciplinary & Ethics Committee reviewed 4 matters during the course of the year 2014/2015 which involved complaints against members of AREA and decisions were handed down on all matters. The Association has been able to engage the assistance of a young Attorney-at-Law, Ms. Shalini Sankar to sit on the Disciplinary & Ethics Committee, which will be invaluable to the deliberations of the Committee.
Education & Training
Regular Housekeeping Meetings were held in 2014 along with the one day seminar entitled “Best Practices for Real Estate 2014” held on May 21, 2014 at the Queen’s Hall, to ensure that our Members keep themselves updated on matters related to the real estate industry and qualify for their continuing education credits for renewal of their membership in 2015.
For the first time, the Principles of Real Estate Sales (PORES) graduation exercise was held immediately following the one day seminar at Queen’s Hall, as a joint effort of UWI/Roytec and AREA. Although the graduation ceremony was not well attended by graduands, UWI/Roytec were pleased with the arrangements for the function and the ceremony will again be held following the seminar in 2015.
The second offering of the Diploma in Real Estate Brokerage programme commenced in May 2014 with 17 students.
Training for teachers was conducted by UWI/Roytec and attended by 8 members of AREA, to assist in the delivery of the Principles of Real Estate Sales programme.
Membership Rules & Admissions
During 2014/2015, we welcomed 21 new members to the Association, 8 Brokers, 12 Sales Associates and 1 Corporate Member. One Broker member resigned from the Association due to personal commitments.
The membership base now stands at 58 Resident Broker members, 30 Sales Associates, 17 Corporate and 3 Honorary Life members.
The Public Relations Committee was active throughout the year holding regular meetings and co-ordinating the “Best Practices for Real Estate 2014” seminar which was well attended and supported by our sponsors. The Association gained exposure through participation in the Trinidad & Tobago Group of Professional Associations (TTGPA) Professional Services Day and in the publication of the professional directory.
AREA maintained its presence in the 2014-2015 Who’s Who publication by Prestige Business Publications, and its internet directory, with 9 Members subscribing to the AREA page at a discounted rate and AREA expanding its corporate information on the page, to include the Board of Directors.
The total number of transactions reported for 2014 was 118 down by 13, from 131 in 2013. There were 45 Exclusive Residential listings, 68 Lead Residential listings and 5 Commercial Lead listings.
The total volume of these transactions were as follows :-
Residential Exclusive: $65,778,737.00
Residential Lead: $109,487,150.00
Commercial Exclusive: $0.00
Commercial Lead: $56,500.00
It should be noted that these statistics do not reflect 100% of submissions by AREA Members.
An introductory presentation by Realty Server of Canada, was held on September 18, 2014 to sensitise members to the listing service being offered by this supplier, for the provision of an exclusive listing database. Based on the response from the members in attendance, it was agreed to engage the services of Realty Server and a contract was signed between RS and AREA on March 17, 2015. Work is currently underway with the set up of the data capture forms for the system, which it is expected should be launched in 3 or 4 months time.
Overview of the Industry
We have seen a significant increase in activity over the past year, due in part to the record low bank mortgage rates and also the need for investors to seek other more lucrative investments than holding their money in the banks with interest rate returns below 1%. There was also an increase in expat rentals and growing interest from foreign operators seeking accommodation for their operations in Trinidad & Tobago. Though the bank mortgage rates have already begun rising, it is hoped that the activity will continue, as investors seek better returns and look to real estate as the area of interest.
Vote of Thanks
On behalf of the members, I wish to thank the Directors and those other members of the Association, who have served on the Board and the various Committees over the past year, and who have given their time and energy to promote and develop AREA.
As my third year as President draws to a close, I wish to thank our Members for their support during my term and to assure you that my full support will be given to the new President of the Association along with my continued commitment to AREA and its objectives.