Author Archives: Basil

About Basil

I am the producer of the Real Spaces television series and the administrator of the associated website, After four seasons of the television series in Trinidad, I've been to scores of homes to shoot and produce for the series, and will try to impart what i've learned as an author on this blog.

How to clean your glass cooktop using baking soda and water

How to clean your glass cooktop using baking soda and water.

New Agents on 5th Season of Real Spaces

The next season of our hit series will begin broadcasting in March and will feature a host of new agents and properties. The Real Spaces family has grown in the last year with additions like Tucker Real Estate and Golden Key, coming onboard with their listings.

We have also received interest from interior decorators and other suppliers that will be contributing to the content, making the new season more exciting for viewers interested in decorating their newly rented or purchased property. Viewer participation is also being tweaked with correspondence with the producers through our website and email, for weekly questions and trivia, all designed to boost the viewer participation and making our series a continued success.

So, from the production team of Real Spaces to our valued readers and viewers, we thank you for your continued support and look forward to more exciting productions.

The “P” in Preparedness

The events in of this weekend have brought to light a number of issues, none of which goes unnoticed by the residents of Western Trinidad. Every year we face seasonal rains and with it, torrential downpours surprise us every time. These sudden onslaughts always come as a shock to the already strained infrastructure of the urban areas of T&T and has over the years, brought these resources to their knees.

This is a very complex problem that requires a great deal of coordination to solve, thus, the creation of the ODPM. This organization with a clear, yet sometimes obscure mandate becomes visible to the general public like myself, for just a few moments each year. This of course begs the questions of what preparation is being done year round to deal with these annual problems, and just how does the public benefit from the actions being taken by the keepers of the infrastructure we all depend on.

First of all, I’m no expert at the operations of government organizations, but I am confused that the “P” in preparedness isn’t being fully used. As a member of the public Im happy to see periodic messages by text to my cell, of potential weather systems that could be a threat to life and limb. The only messages I have ever seen tho, have only stated that the weather we are experiencing is part of a system, but that we are “Not under and Tropical Storm warning or Threat”.

Now that’s fine, but my questions is, if the kind of destruction and carnage that was experienced in areas of western Trinidad yesterday, is the result of “Normal Weather Patters” then maybe the sensitivity to weather systems that are not considered as “Tropical Storms” should be reconsidered. Maybe a measurement of levels of rainfall should trigger something more than just a text message, and if it already does, why don’t I know about it, I member of the public that lives in a flood prone area and am at risk of loosing my property and, dare I say, much more.

Ultimately, if there is an “Office of Disaster Preparedness”, why do we as the public always feel woefully unprepared when disaster actually strikes. Should the torrential rains of yesterday caused flooding in my area, I would not have know where to go for supplies, or medical attention at temporary on site locations or  developed to deal with localized disasters.

No pamphlets were distributed during the “Dry Season” to train me up in the event of such an incident. No system of converting community centers or schools into shelters or at least, command centers, have been made public for our knowledge in the event of a disaster. I may be wrong but I would like to see more of these things in place.

Now don’t get me wrong. Im not totally negative of the work being done. There has been an obvious increase in the mobilization of resources to the areas affected by these disasters, tho after the fact of destruction. These resources have also brought a great relief to the residents affected, and that is not something to be taken lightly.

The work being done to clear drains and watercourses is also great, but more of a maintenance matter than preparation for a disaster. At the end of the day, this service needs to be one that instills confidence in the public that we are prepared for disasters, when ever they appear. This I think will be the best defense against one of the major problems associated with a disaster, the feeling of not know what to do and when.

Much like the safety briefs done when entering a corporate building for a simple action like a meeting, to the safety briefing on a plane just before the flight takes off. The information is most times ignored but some of the important information sticks with you, at least I always remembered that on a plane, “The closest exit, might be behind me”







Who would you want watching your back?

It seems im part of a small section of Trinidad society that is fast becoming a dying breed. You see, I live in a community that I’ve been a part of all my life. I briefly relocated for a year or so, but ultimately, returned to my hometown. Over the years tho, I have noticed two distinct things, the first is the natural progression of persons growing up in one location, and then eventually moving on to a new location to begin their own lives. Putting down roots in new communities, or developments, opting for townhouse living rather than having to clean a 3000 square foot yard in a family home, has become a bit of the norm these days.

The second thing that I’ve noticed is the less obvious but growing change of the communities that were left behind by these, aspiring persons seeking their own new place. The change being that the communities that were once all composed of owned properties had a certain pride and sense of community. The sense of family and neighborly conversation was commonplace and kids of the area would all play together, shop at the corner store and we would all meet at Church on Sunday Morning. Assuming we got up in time. Today, these homes may have been passed on to these kids, now all grown up, and in an effort to leverage these properties as assets,  are now being rented, or outright sold, sometimes to persons seeking Investment Properties, to yes, rent .

To my estimation, this trend has impacted most of what I spoke of in the previous paragraphs, the feeling of a neighborhood and community is slowly being replaced by automatic gates and shared grounds on rented homes converted into duplex. Now, this is not a bad thing, just a new thing, and the old feelings of course, will go out with …. well, the old. Now there is a more individual sense of space and less of the community life that defined previous generations. But then again, this is progress and I’m sure that argument can be made in may other aspects of T&T living as well. But here, in the community, the imagery is evident, at least to those that slow down to watch. The corner store? Now a bar and night club. The street games, football, cricket, are no more, instead we stay glued screens to watch european teams playing in games far away from the streets of our small communities.

Of course, the next question becomes, as it always seems to these days, How does this impact on the security of the neighborhood. Well, in my humble estimation, (and without a shred of actual statistical evidence to back me up) it does feel less of a safe lifestyle because the question of “neighbors watching out for each other” seems to be also going the way of the birds. Please note, Im writing this a day after the tragic shooting of Akesh Sooklal, a 14 year old boy that was shot by robbers in Kelly Village, Central Trinidad, while trying to raise an alarm that his uncle was being car-jacked at their home.

So, Maybe the comfort of familiar faces might have added to my story having weight a few weeks ago when I started this post. Naively, I thought that would have made a difference, instead, I’m just left to wonder, and venture a question……… an unfamiliar face of a new renter, or the known one of a lifetime resident, the feeling of community ultimately lies in the gesture of every individual to be “their neighbors’ keeper”, if you grew up in the area, or are just passing through.


FSBO vs Sale by Agent..(For Sale by Agent)

By Rhea-Simone Auguste

©MoonLight Rental Ltd.

If you are thinking about selling your property, it may be a tempting idea to bypass use of an agency and sell your home solo. In fact, there are many For Sale By Owner {FSBO) properties on the market. However, the reality is if you lack the experience needed to close a real estate sale – your property may end up stuck on the market for months with no real offers. It may seem pricey but having an agent especially during a buyer’s market can make the difference between “For Sale” and “Sold”.

A good agent can help weed out the curious callers

FSBO sellers may have to sift through hundreds of calls – some from curious buyers who cannot afford your asking price, others from your neighbours who may want to know what improvements you’ve made so they can match their property price to yours.  A seasoned agent can easily identify these calls and can sift through the leads to find you more qualified buyers. Instead of a hundred people coming to your house to view without even making an offer, an agent may narrow the traffic so only genuinely interested buyers make it inside your home.

A good agent networks with other good agents

A good agent usually has strong networking skills and inside their network, they would have a list of agents they work alongside in their company and in other real estate companies.  Agents usually have ready clients interested in purchasing property in specific areas. If your area is on a wanted list, your buyer may come from your agent or another agent’s network.

Your agent absorbs the advertising costs

This one is a big factor and a lot of people don’t realize this. The average FSBO sellers in Trinidad and Tobago may have to spend a small fortune on advertising their property using typical print media. While this may be an effective solution for some FSBO sellers, many end up with a big bill and no real buyers. An agent absorbs the cost of all advertising for your property. It is in their interest to make sure your property is marketed attractively not just in print but now online and if necessary, on TV as well.  Advertising is expensive so when you factor in how much your agent will be paid from the sale of the property, bear in mind they may have spent as much as 35% of their commission in ads for your property.

Your agent handles viewings so you don’t have to interface with buyers

Buyers come armed with lots of questions ranging from practical to perplexing. An agent helps streamline the question process to ensure the focus remains on the value of the property being sold. A professional agent will know how to subdue the fears of a prospective buyer, assuring the buyer of the true property strengths and its key selling points. They know not to make the sale too personal or reveal private information about the sellers. Some FSBO sellers reveal too much when interfacing with clients eg. “I got my cousin to do the kitchen cupboards and he didn’t charge me much,” or “We have to sell this place fast because my wife and I are divorcing and she wants the cash now,” (both real examples, by the way).  In doing so, they may unwittingly open themselves to having to negotiate well beneath their original asking price.

Your agent will have the legal forms and paperwork hassle

Getting a property sold requires lots of paperwork. Purchase agreements must be made and banks require a lot of documents from sellers. Instead of having to drop documents to the bank for the buyer and pay legal fees for drafting purchase agreements, a seller using an agent can relax knowing their agent will handle the follow-up with the buyer to ensure a successful close.

To some, the process of selling a property may seem simple.  In reality, it is a challenging task especially when it is a buyer’s market or when the economy is stagnant. Having an agent handle the toughest parts means you get to focus on the most important parts of the process.

Brighten Your Home for Prospective Buyers.

Article Courtesy Moon Light Rental Ltd.


If you have decided to sell or rent your home, one of the first things you should do is walk the perimeter of your premises and critique your property. Imagine you are a prospective buyer/renter looking at the place for the first time. Is your property clean, well-maintained and free from defects? Is the yard clear of “junk” and debris and inviting to buyers who may have children and want the yard clutter-free?

Sometimes it may be difficult to see your home as anything but your home. It has been your sanctuary and all of the quirks and eccentricities that you added gave it the personal touches. However, prospective buyers/renters are less interested in personal touches and more interested in getting the best property for their money. They are looking for a perfect solution to their housing problem or an investment in a property that will yield a profit in years to come. The less problems they see with the property upfront – the better.

Most sellers are not interested in spending pre-sale of a house because they think it would cost too much to do so. But there are untold benefits of sprucing up your property before prospective buyers see it and topping the list of benefits is – your property can be sold faster with minor improvements.

Here are some quick and inexpensive tips to improve the look of your home for prospective buyers/renters courtesy Moon Light Rental Ltd:

  1. De-clutter your yard! The first thing prospective customers see is your yard. If you have a lawn, have it trimmed before showings and ensure all walkways, drains and concrete areas are free of mould and dirt by power-washing or scrubbing with a solution of bleach and water. A clean yard is an inviting yard.
  2. Front porches/galleries should also be cleaned and made to look inviting to people who enjoy entertaining. If you have a nice patio set or simple chairs and an outside mat – arrange them as though you were expecting company. If the house is being sold/rented unfurnished – consider touch-painting so all surfaces look fresh and new.
  3. Inside the house: Two areas of a house can make/break a potential sale/rental – the kitchen and the bathroom(s). These areas MUST be cleaned thoroughly and the kitchen cupboards should be inspected pre-showing to ensure no insects have made your cupboards their home. The last thing a prospective customer wants is to open a cupboard and have a cockroach jump out and greet them. If your home has had problems with ants, invest in a simple TERRO liquid ant bait solution and place baits a few days before showings. Remember to remove all baits and dead insects before you show your place.
  4. Check your bathrooms and toilets thoroughly before you let prospective customers see your place. Make sure toilets are scrubbed clean and bathroom surfaces look clean to touch. Essentially your prospective customers should feel like the house is in move-in condition immediately. Sometimes sellers lose prospective buyers because of minor cosmetic touches that could easily be remedied.Imagine two men selling oranges. One man picks up fallen oranges and heaps them for sale without washing off the dirt on their peel or arranging them neatly. The other man picks oranges from the tree and carefully cleans them and groups them in tidy heaps. Both are selling their oranges for the same price. Who would you buy from? It’s the same concept when dealing with your house. Remember there may be other homes on the market at the same price as yours so you have to put your best foot forward and make your house stand out from the competition.

Mortgages in Today’s Market

There is no doubt that the economy has changed within the last few years. Has Trinidad & Tobago’s mortgage market grown? The Central Bank’s website seems to point to this. Total Real Estate Mortgages as at October 2000 stood at $3.662 billion TTD compared with July 2011, the figure was $11.386 billion (310% of what it was 11 years ago). So there remains asubstantial amount of mortgage activity in T&T amidst the noted inflation.

Today, it is clear that the environment is very inviting to take a new mortgage or to refinance your existing facility. Some inviting factors are the very low interest rates, tax relief for new homeowners, reduced stamp duty, reduced construction costs (to build a new home), introduction of the Mortgage Market Reference Rate (MMRR) by the Central Bank of T&T (CBTT) and low CBTT repo rate.

  • Interest Rates

The interest rate on new mortgages is at an all time low. The Central Bank has recently launched the policies and guidelines surrounding its Mortgage Market Reference Rate. This yardstick will also see homeowners benefitting from an independently published rate to compare with their mortgage rates. Most mortgages will now be pegged against this benchmark.

  • Tax Relief & Increased Stamp Duty Exemption

There is a reintroduced tax incentive for new homeowners up to $18,000 TTD. This should result in extra funds coming back just for being a home owner. Another good factor in today’s environment is that the government has also increased the stamp duty exemption limits for residential & commercial purchases within the last few years in a bid to support real estate activity. An interesting point to note is that sometimes a person purchasing and building their home may pay less overall stamp duty.


  • Mortgages in Today’s Market….Continued

E.g. A residential lot costing $400,000 is exempted from stamp duty. If the person builds an average 3 bedroom home for approximately $600,000 (1,600 square feet at average construction cost of $375 per square foot), the total output is $1,000,000. If the same person decides to sell the new completed home for $1,000,000, the new home purchaser will have to pay only $4,500 stamp duty on the conveyance.

  • Refinancing & Consolidation

Every person should always be monitoring their financial positions. One of the best practices employed in prudent financial management is to borrow at the cheapest cost. Now is a good time to reduce those high interest rates on your mortgage loan. It is also timely to refinance to improve one’s property condition. Construction cost has experienced some degree of decline over the last few years. This coupled with reduced interest rates indicate a good time to do some of those long awaited refurbishment’s, as home improvements normally benefit the homeowner as their equity is increased, and when it comes to buying a home there is no time like the present time.

Submitted by Terra Caribbean

5 Ways to Sell Your House In a Tough Market

Submitted by Terra Caribbean

To buy or sell in 2012, what with Armageddon coming and all? Absent any ancient Mayan wisdom on real estate strategies, let’s just hope the real cataclysmic event in the real estate market already has passed, even if the rubble from the bubble remains. Meanwhile, here are some tips for 2012, aimed largely at the group that needs the most help — home sellers.

  • Price it right from the start

The old-school strategy of real estate sellers crossing their arms and holding out for a better offer will be brushed off by most home buyers. For a gauge, have your agent produce the latest comparable sales including latest sales and foreclosures as well as a recent summary of sales prices versus original list prices. But be wary that such information doesn’t reflect the homes that failed to sell.

  • Put your best foot forward

Prepare, paint, stage, scrub, improve, repeat. Efforts can include caulking, plastering, planting flowers, adding potted plants, making the windows spotless, pressure washing that oily driveway, edging the walks, trimming the bushes and trees, and mending the fences. None of these is excessively capital-intensive, but when applied en masse, they say “buy me.”

  • Flexibility.

Be flexible I’m not saying bend over backward to accommodate real estate buyers. Bend forward and sideways, too. Be ready to negotiate and offer extras such as closing cost, remodeling work (or a cash credit), appliances, paid condo association/homeowner association dues, a few months of mortgage payment or seller financing. Home sellers who’ve been on the sidelines and who advised their agents to ignore offers by low ballers don’t have that luxury now. Instruct your agent to listen intently to prospective home buyers’ misgivings about the home and adjust accordingly

  • Get a good agent.

Hire a listing agent with lots of experience in modern marketing methods who use Facebook and other social media to sell and seek, not to mention dozens of online selling sites. Some agents even make YouTube videos to showcase your homes, making it easier to quickly link to potential buyers via email.

  • Cash is King

Consider cash offers, even if they’re not the highest. Reject too-low offers from homebuyers gently and with encouragement, telling them they’re oh-so-close. You don’t want to give away the farm, but you don’t want to give it back to the bank either. These days, meeting halfway usually means meeting buyers on their half. Be your own spokesperson. Agents once advised home sellers to retreat from view during showings, lest they disclose something unsavory or otherwise botch the deal. That’s changed. If you can control your ego and emotions and come off as an earnest, flexible seller, you can serve as your best spokesperson. Be ready to answer would-be buyers’ questions about the neighborhood and area schools. Be careful about making verbal promises! In closing, keep in touch with your agent as time passes, ask him/her for regular feedback and about buyers comments, remember your agent is working for you, to get you the best possible price in the quickest time, with the least problems, keeping close to him/her will get you the best results.

… And Good Luck…

The Eternal Question Should I Rent, Or Should I Buy??

The Eternal Question Should I Rent, Or Should I Buy??

MAY 2012

Every professional has asked themselves this. Such a simple question if not answered correctly can make headaches appear and salaries disappear. Thankfully your reliable Real Estate Agents at Terra Caribbean are here to make this decision easier. In the upcoming paragraphs I will discuss the pros and cons of renting and buying, the costs, unseen cost and other factors that must be considered when making this important decision.

Let us look at buying first. Apart from the price there are other costs that people do not realize until they have to pay. The First payment is the down payment which is usually 10 % of the price of the house. Paying this secures your purchase and lets the vendor know that you are serious about buying.

Other costs to consider are the furniture, valuation cost, legal fees, negotiations fees, stamp duties and mortgage fees. It is also important to look into a variety of mortgage packages and to study which package will suit you best.

Besides the costs there are other details one should think about before buying. What is your financial status? If you are a young professional now starting out, then renting may be more appropriate in this time. What are your family plans? Your home must be able to suit the size and needs of your family. How is your social life? Your home needs to be able to accommodate guests comfortably. Last but not least, do you have or plan on having children or keeping pets? Then extra Room must be allocated for them, as they will form an integral part of your family.

If you do decide on buying the benefits are numerous. There is a personal satisfaction and pride of ownership. The security that you feel when you own a home is one of the most comforting feelings you can give yourself. When you move into a neighborhood you become part of a community, this gives you and your family the opportunity to build relationships with your neighbors and form life long friendships. You can also use your home as collateral and stand a better chance of borrowing money down the road.

Renting is a bit less complicated than Buying. It is simple and attractive for people who are just looking for something temporary. The cost usually includes the first month’s rent and security deposit. Renters enjoy the befits of flexible living with the option of relocating easily.They also have less overheads and less responsibility while still having a place to call their own. However they do have to obey the terms of the rental agreement, and most tenants may be subject to increases in rent every couple of years.

For new couples renting may be a first step, a trial run before they decide on buying a home together. Singles might prefer to rent a property because they don’t need all the space that a home will offer. One of the best benefits of renting is that most physical problems you may encounter your landlord will usually fix or pay to fix.

I hope the information provided will aid you in making your decision. You should remember that if you are living somewhere that does not meet all your needs nothing is holding you back from moving to another better location. If you are interested in making the transition from renter to home owner or owner to renter Please contact any Real Estate Agent at Terra Caribbean. Our agents are ready and waiting to assist you in anyway we can.

Best of luck,

David McCartney

Submitted by Terra Caribbean