The digital age
The digitalization of the real estate industry is happening just as quickly as in any other industry. Improvements in the transfer of property and the closing of real estate transactions is currently taking place, with such transactions soon moving to an online system. Moving to an online method for legal processes within our industry has been the point of focus for a committee of real estate and conveyancing professionals and government representatives. We can see real progress being made, with the goal soon to be achieved of creating an easier, quicker and more cost-effective method for closing transactions for everyone concerned.
I am pleased that such forward-thinking steps are being taking within the real estate industry, yet I cannot help but think that digitalization still does not lead to less paperwork, or even more security. In particular, I am concerned about the possibility of information being disrupted, essentially, of data becoming vaporized. Data, it seems, is becoming reduced to literally an electronic pulse, one which I am concerned could evaporate in an instant. As much as people talk about the security that surrounds digital information, there always seems to be someone who is able to hack into that information. It is therefore a real concern, not that the information is so private but rather the inconvenience of losing it and what that means.
The cost of digitalizing the way we do business is another drawback to this progress. The licensing process for software is one example. Securing the security is another. I have at present 85 different passwords that I need to remember in my daily life. Storing these passwords securely is therefore another worry.
While I am pleased at digital progress speeding up processes and making them more efficient, I am conversely pleased that government is to retain a physical file for the original deeds to parcels of land, which are a vital backbone of real estate in the Cayman Islands, just so long as they are kept safe from hazards and disasters, both man-made and natural.
Immigration a key point, moving forward
In the last edition of the Cayman Financial Review I looked ahead, speculating how the new American president might affect Cayman’s real estate industry. It is interesting to note that, since that article, the world has probably focused the most on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, more than any other changes he has made in his first 100 days in office.
Likewise, we, too, have had considerable focus drawn upon our own immigration policy, in particular the rules around permanent residency. I noted that the topic of immigration came up at a recent real estate and property conference held in February by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) at the Kimpton Seafire in Cayman. In fact, an entire panel discussed the implications of immigration on the industry and it was noted that government policies on this issue were crucial for the health of the real estate industry.
Wealthy retirees, it was heard, looking to purchase property to qualify for their 25-year permanent residency certificate, were having to wade through an incredible and off-putting amount of red tape in order to attain their residency. Those in limbo waiting for their permanent residency grant, who also reside and work in Cayman, were unsure as to whether they ought to sell up or remain, with the uncertainty surely being an extreme inconvenience and terrible worry for themselves and their families.
Additionally, local construction firms rely on the efficiency of the immigration process, having to hire a considerable number of skilled and semi-skilled workers from overseas to meet the shortfall of available labor in the Caymanian workforce. This is another reason why it is crucial that Cayman’s immigration laws need to meet the appropriate needs of the industry. With the expected growth in our population over the coming years, I believe it is critical that government works to quickly resolve these issues.
Professionalism in this new era
At the RICS conference, John Hughes, RICS president-elect, spoke about professionalism within our industry, another point which I touched on earlier last year in this publication. Last year I detailed how the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association (CIREBA) worked diligently alongside government to ensure that our members behaved with the utmost professionalism, transparency and respectability. As far as the conveyancing industry was concerned, RICS members could not just keep pace with a changing world, they should strive to set an example, Mr. Hughes advised. Professionalism, he said, was about being accountable to others, about being at the top of your technical ability and about the behavior you display. These are sentiments that I believe are particularly relevant to our real estate industry as we move into a new and exciting era of growth for the Cayman Islands.