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Realtors critical of condo financing plans

Realtors have branded “disastrous” Government’s decision to offer Grand Atlantic condos at 100 percent financing.

The announcement by Public Works Minister Michael Weeks opens 78 of the Government-funded units for purchase at no down-payment.

Chamber of Commerce real estate division head Dale Young called it a decision sure to backfire on ordinary house owners.

Last night she told

The Royal Gazette her division had recently been “extremely encouraged” by National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief’s revision of land policies, relaxing the “restrictive” laws on the sale of homes owned by Bermudians to non-Bermudians.

“The policy addressed only those homes with an ARV of $177,000 or greater would be available to sale to non-Bermudians,” she said.

“Through the real estate division’s concern for the dire condition of the real estate market; for those citizens unable to maintain mortgages, and unable to sell their property, we had been able to consult with Government with ideas and suggestions to help stimulate the inert real estate market.

“This revised land policy was a small step in the right direction.”

However, she called Monday’s announcement “a disastrous decision” following moves to allow real estate to regain its footing.

She said: “The press statement regarding Grand Atlantic Units states that ‘Government has made another significant impact on easing the Housing issues facing residents in the Island of Bermuda’.

“This statement reveals that the advantage given to the sale of Government owned housing has a very significant negative impact over the Bermudian citizen property owner or seller. This stance by the Government will not ease the housing issues facing our residents, but will exacerbate the housing issues.”

Added Ms Young: “In addition, the extra 78 condominiums will bring prices further down, potentially leaving mortgagors (i.e., the borrower) with a shortfall between their debt amount and the lower price that their property will have to sell for.

“This has happened in the United States with disastrous results and should not be encouraged in Bermuda.”

The South Shore development’s new financing arrangement was settled upon in tandem with Butterfield Bank, who have loaned Government an undisclosed sum backing Grand Atlantic.

Government’s approval of 100 percent financing for the units was met with a chorus of dismay by local realtors.

Property Group Limited director Chris Valdes Dapena, former chairman of the Chamber’s real estate division, said the Grand Atlantic move put “a lot of low-price condo units on the market at a time when they’re not selling”.

Noting that condos were a tough sell in the local market, she described conditions now as “very, very, very soft”.

“The timing of this is probably not the best from anybody’s perspective.”

Asked if the low cost interest payments under a 100 percent financing deal might flood the rental market, she said: “It could. Rental values are down. The worry with 100 percent financing is you open up the door to the same kind of loans that are largely behind what put us in the position we’re in now.”

She described condos as “particularly hard-hit” in the local market.

Realtor Leonard Gibbons agreed.

“Somebody who has no money to put down, how are they going to pay the interest and principal?” Mr Gibbons asked. “And anybody going in there is going to be moving out of somebody’s rental unit, which that somebody is depending on to pay their mortgage.

“It’s a huge problem. We have a glut of housing. I don’t know what units at the Government housing in St David’s have sold. I go past there and don’t see a lot of lights on. The poor guy who’s trying to move up in the market is going to have nobody to buy.”

Mr Gibbons conceded that the terms of the 100 percent financing deal were not yet known, but still called the idea “frightening”.

He added: “Maybe I am being pessimistic, but I can’t see this working.

Asked if he could see any respite in sight for real estate, Mr Gibbons said: “Not in my lifetime. How can it pick up?

“Construction’s down, exempt companies are leaving the Island, people are leaving. I don’t see any way.”

The Grand Atlantic development - Government is criticised for allowing 100 percent mortgages.
OBA: Taxpayers could be ‘on the hook for any failed mortgages’

Shadow Minister for Public Works Mark Pettingill told

The Royal Gazette that the OBA supported “any sound arrangement” to help Bermudians own their own homes.

He continued: “However, the Government-backed plan supporting 100 percent financing for first-time homebuyers treads a very fine line with people who, under normal circumstances, would not be able to afford a condo at Grand Atlantic development.

“We are very concerned the people looking for affordable housing today will be hard put over the long term to meet the monthly mortgage demand a Grand Atlantic condo will require.”

The OBA MP said that 100 percent arrangements had already put a lot of mortgage holders in difficulty.

“We therefore put great stock in the Minister’s statement that 100 percent financing will be offered only to ‘qualified’ first-time homebuyers.

“We are not happy with the fact that the financing scheme is backed by the Bermuda Housing Corporation, meaning taxpayers are on the hook for any failed mortgages.

“It is another example of a desperate government relying on everyday Bermudians to rescue it from its self-inflicted policy bungles pension diversions to cover its cash shortfalls being the most recent example.

“The 100 percent financing arrangement puts these properties into direct competition with Bermudian homeowners and landlords, who do not have the luxury of being subsidised by government.

“It may cost them sales or rentals but that is the price they will have to pay for a government scrambling to save a housing project that proceeded without any realistic understanding of the market.”

Mr Pettingill accused Government of “building for the sake of building” at the Grand Atlantic site, and criticised the development as overly expensive.

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Published March 14, 2012 at 10:00 am (Updated March 14, 2012 at 10:02 am)

Realtors critical of condo financing plans

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