Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Roatan real estate agents report an increase in property turnover in recent months that may signal the beginning of the end of a five-year down market.
“I think we’ve bottomed out,” said Larry Schlesser, who owns the RE/MAX franchise for the island. “We just recently sold our first real development piece in a while.” But Schlesser said the uptick so far had been “nothing dramatic.”
However, Steve Hasz of Roatan Life sees “the beginning stages of a resurge.”
Both analysts said the Roatan real estate market headed south about a year after the housing bubble burst in the US in 2007-08. On Roatan the downturn was aggravated by the political turmoil on the mainland in 2009, when the Honduran military expelled President Zelaya. Property sales nosedived from 209 in 2007 to just 59 in 2009 and have hovered below 100 since.
“In 2006 people were selling real estate out of bars, because people would come by with bags of money wanting to buy property,” said Hasz. Then, said Schlesser, “the overall market kind of plummeted.”
Since March, though, Hasz said sales picked up and inventories have dropped.
“You’re currently seeing 37 properties pending (with contracts signed and earnest money deposited),” Hasz said. “Last year I was seeing as low as nine.”
Excluding seven or eight properties that have been “pending” for years, Hasz said, this represents a rough tripling.
Neither analyst is seeing any upturn in prices yet. But Hasz expects prices may start to recover in the first half of 2014.
“I think over the next year we’re going to see the market start to make the transition from a buyer’s market to a market where we can sell lots again,” said Hasz. “People will start building again.”
Hasz said Americans and Canadians continued to be the primary purchasers of Roatan properties. But he said he was selling more properties now to mainland Hondurans, as well as Guatemalans and Salvadorans.
“Mainland Hondurans are taking a role right now,” he said.