Real Estate Review: Time for a Caymanian overhaul

For most of us reading this there has never been a more unsettled economic time. It is worrying for all. For some it is a question of a safe place to put their savings; for others a question of how to make ends meet; and for others it is as basic as whether at the end of the day they will have a job or not.

As the Baby Boomers age, finding ways to earn passive income has become more important. Many of them are ready to retire from their regular jobs and have been looking to supplement pensions, retirement accounts and Social Security to enable them to retain their usual lifestyle.

Over the years, the usual method of doing that has been investing in the stock market – but the stock market has betrayed them. For years it had been the barometer for the health of the economy. Now it is largely a game being played by hedge fund managers and stock manipulators looking for short-term gains.

The idea of a stock market was originally to allow companies to raise capital by selling some shares on the open market to the public. But the open market is not really open any more. The whole system has been perverted.

Instead of price/earnings ratios and debt being the benchmark as it used to be, now it is marketing and promotion that determines the attractiveness of an investment; and not only in the stock market.

Always the foundation of retail sales, promotional budgets and marketing now even determine the results of presidential elections! The media, which once was considered objective sources of information, now takes positions based on what appear to be social and political agendas that are often really financial at their core.

This happens in real estate too.

We have lived in an era where if you told everyone often enough how good a product was, it would be sure to sell. Once some people started to buy it and talk about it, it became a sure thing. We are very susceptible to this and shrewd marketers have taken advantage of this weakness.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: The more elaborate the promotion – the more questionable the product. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I think you know what I mean. And yet behind all the hype, real estate is a hard asset that has intrinsic value. Real estate prices continue to come down. But thankfully, this is a direct result of something we can all understand: supply and demand. Understanding the cause of something allows you to make better investment decisions.

Even with the housing bubble in the States most people understand the way real estate works and trust it to appreciate in value over time. It always has.

The time to worry about real estate is when prices are high, not when they are low. And buying in slow times allows purchasers to get more for their money especially in terms of the single most important characteristic in this type of investment – location. Prime properties are just not easily available in boom times. Nobody wants to sell them. In hard times, some are forced to liquidate even prime properties. Buying in a favoured location makes a good investment a great investment.

Further, Cayman has its own local marketplace, which is effected by simple influences such as people needing a place to live and business owners needing a place to do business. Granted some will not be able to make these moves, but in the nearly 30 years I have been here I have always been impressed with the long view and entrepreneurial spirit of the Caymanian. Opportunities abound during hard times if one has the vision and wherewithal to take advantage. Many of the historical factors that have made Cayman a good place to invest are still in place. Some of the properties that are becoming available at reduced prices are prime properties, which will be excellent mid to long term investments.

Is there anything we can do to make it more likely that people will do business here in Cayman? Perhaps a little recession will help us remember why Cayman first became popular.

We need a complete overhaul from top to bottom with integrity and toughness being the only necessary ingredients.


George Town Harbour

George Town Harbour