(From left) Patrons of the homeownership expo Kerry-Anne Caddle and Justin Sobers received a wealth of information yesterday from (standing) Scotiabank personal banking officer Tencie Persaud and (extreme right) Cherita O’Dell of Barbados Real Estate 246.

Good time to buy

PROSPECTIVE homeowners are being advised to take advantage of a dip in the real estate market, which has led to lower prices and some negotiating in their favour.

Yesterday, many Barbadians received this free advice and other tips during the Scotiabank’s Real Estate ‘Jumpstart to Home Ownership’ at its Warrens branch, which not only brought together mortgage specialists from the bank, but also some of the leading real estate agents and lawyers who were on hand to advise on the legal process of purchasing a property.

Branch Manager Sterl Lyons said that the initiative, which was well received, was intended to cater to interested persons who may not have the time during the week to learn more about their financial health or how to go about acquiring a mortgage.

He told the Barbados Advocate yesterday, “Now is probably one of the best times for real estate and purchases. As you know the market is depressed and that is essentially a buyer’s market as opposed to a seller’s market. So right now properties that would have been valued for significantly more a couple years before are much lower and making it more affordable for customers.”

Lyons said his institution has also dropped rates considerably through an ongoing special. “How we do our pricing is based on risk. So we know not everybody would have the same qualifications criteria and not everybody would be in the same financial position. So we evaluate the risk and we give the rate to match the risk for the proposal.”

“In terms of the rate, it is probably the best time to take a mortgage. Hopefully as time goes on the values will appreciate, but things are depressed right now. Persons are purchasing properties for a lot less.”

Noting that defaulting has not been a major problem in the current climate, the manager stressed the importance of contacting the bank if they find themselves in a financial bind.

“We haven’t had instances where persons are losing their properties too much through the climate. And even if you have a circumstance the bank is here to work out those scenarios with you.”

In fact, he says dodging the financial institution is the worst thing that a customer could do at that point. He explained that there is a team dedicated to working through these challenges.

“If they are not in contact with you they can’t make decisions other than what is on the mortgage clause. If they can speak to you then they can talk to you about what sort of arrangements should be in place.

“ Unfortunately the culture in the Caribbean is not the same as around the world. People are embarrassed to have a conversation about mortgage defaults and that sort of thing. I tend to encourage persons to do quite the opposite. The best thing is to have that conversation.

“We have had so many scenarios where persons have been able to restructure their commitments, simply by virtue of talking to the individual and saying ‘here’s what I want you to do. I know you can’t make a full payment but I want you over the next three months to make 20 per cent or 60 per cent of the payment.

“If I see you have the capacity to do that then I probably would restructure your loan and bring you back to a place where you could make the payment comfortably. Or we might have some suggestions about where you could rewrite it. So there are a number of things you can do, but you must chat with the people who are reaching out to ask what is the circumstance.”

He explained that for some persons, selling may be involved in the negotiations. “Because depending on your circumstance, if you’ve lost your job, you have a debt or you have some sort of major illness and you don’t want to deal with it anymore, you [may] prefer to sell it, take out the equity and buy something smaller and live in it. The main thing is having a team to walk them through that process,” Lyons said. (JH)

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