Antigua & Barbuda was not immune to the international crisis, but it seems the country is back on the right track. The government is working to make AB the preferred investment and tourism destination in the region, which is having a great impact on the real estate sector. You’ve been here for over 30 years, how did you start and how has the sector evolved?
Since I first came to the country, the island has made a steady and strong progress in many aspects, both commercially and financially, especially in the service and real estate industries.
After the 2014 elections the Labour Party came back into government, and I must say that they are doing everything that needs to be done to bring the island into a flourishing time. The economic crisis hit us hard; many establishments had about 50 or 60 percent less bookings than usual and, of course, the real estate sector went on hold for several years. We have, however seen an improvement over the past three years, especially in 2016, which has been a much better year than the previous two.
How would you describe the collaboration between the government and the private sector to boost the real estate sector?
The effort is clearly visible. The Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) is a great leap. Since its approval two years ago, the difference is already noticeable. The government sees this as an opportunity to attract investment and create revenue thanks to the charges of each application. A percentage of the money goes to the state treasury, which is normal since it is going to be invested into infrastructure projects throughout the island, such as roads, lighting, sanitation, and other services.
What were the major challenges when you were starting out?
There were many. Even though I was starting from zero I was, in a way, lucky. It was 2004, right in the middle of the real estate bubble, so I had three or four very good years until 2008, when it all started to go downhill due to the international crisis. That period, as it was for many thousands of other businesses, was a bit of a struggle. But when you start a business, particularly in a developing country, nothing is easy.
Would you say the sector has gone back to where it was before 2007?
I think we are actually doing better. The crisis is long gone. Now that the economy is doing better, the government is focusing more on promoting the country. In the meantime, smaller and local real estate agents are appearing, but at a lower level. It takes a while to get the hang of the business. I’m glad to say the top 10 agencies in the country offer a very good service overall.
What would you say are Paradise Property’s main advantages?
I think a good work ethic is probably number one, together with a deep knowledge of local real estate market. Transparency and honesty in dealing with investors is another of our fortes. We also speak various languages, which means we understand where they come from, their mentality, culture, and requirements. This business is not just about saying: “I want a two-bedroom apartment, please find it for me.” It’s about understanding what the client’s dream is and helping them make it a reality. I take pleasure in making it happen.
What message would you like to convey to our readers about Antigua, the real estate sector, and about Paradise Properties?
Paradise Properties will take their desire to own a property in Antigua to heart. If they were to select me as their representative, I would definitely make sure to scout the island inside out to find the perfect investment for the perfect price. That is probably my strength. It makes them feel more confident in placing their trust in me.