Tag Archives: News

The Best Time to Buy is NOW!

By Rhea-Simone Auguste

© MoonLight Rental Ltd.

For those of you unfamiliar with the way the real estate market operates, there are two terms you should get familiar with: Buyer’s Market and Seller’s Market. At present, it is safe to say it is a Buyer’s Market. What this means is there are many houses for sale on the market leading to better prices for buyers. Sellers looking to move on want to SELL and FAST for less than the actual value of their property. Instead of listing a property for sale and waiting for a long period (over a year in some instances) to get it sold, sellers are more open to negotiate the selling prices of their house/land. If you’re thinking about buying a property for residential use or as an investment – now is the best time to buy.

As a buyer, you now have more choices within a price bracket. Let’s say you are looking for property under 1.2 million in East Trinidad, you can choose from a number of new developments including gated community properties where the starting price for some of the houses is $825,000 (Coral Park, St. Helena) or some hovering closer to the 1.2 maximum in The Crossings, Arima.

Areas close to St. Augustine have maintained steady prices with properties closer to the University of the West Indies commanding higher prices with sellers demanding well over $400 per square foot in some instances because of the commercial possibility of the area. It is a highly sought-after location for student housing and renting a one-bedroom apartment in the area can cost between $2500-$4000 depending on the furnishings and amenities offered

A must-watch area for investors is Trincity. Old-fashioned homes close to the Mall can be bought for under 1 million but with minor improvements – roof changes and aircondition installation together with minor infrastructure adjustments – properties can be resold for over 1.5 million in this highly demanded area

Also on the rise is St. Helena. Roughly 10 minutes drive from the Piarco traffic light, the area is rapidly developing into a townhouse and apartment complex hotspot.  The area will likely see an increase in properties being built by year end with the value of properties likely climbing higher in years to come.

In the San Juan/Santa Cruz area, a number of new developments may well be in the plannings. Vast stretches of residential land is on the market for sale at present – opening the way for investors to buy and build residential communities. Santa Cruz offers properties on par in terms of land structure to Maraval  however the prices are much more reasonable with land being sold around $100/sq.ft compared to Maraval where $130/sq.ft is the on the lower end of the price scale and not necessarily in the best areas.

In the Western end of Trinidad, prices continue to be on the higher end for houses – think multiple millions for a three-bedroom flat in Westmoornings. However, if you’re open to the idea of building – you can get land between TT$65- TT$95 per square foot in Glencoe with all the conveniences of a West property including a shorter commute to Port of Spain.

Central Trinidad is rapidly gaining popularity among buyers as the new overpass constructed by Grand Bazaar has helped to ease the traffic woes of those heading into South-bound lanes from Port of Spain after 4PM. Additional changes to road infrastructure including newly paved areas in some parts of Cunupia and environs has opened areas for development. Although buyers can access more land for their money in Central Trinidad, caution must be exercised when buying in and around areas prone to flooding including parts of Caroni, Freeport and Gasparillo.

Thinking about going down San Fernando to live? Southern home prices continue to climb with homes in Palmiste climbing to supremacy with sprawling mansions with asking prices crossing 8 Million and up.  More affordable homes can be found in Vistabella from as low as $1.5 Million. Buying land and building is the best for the under 1.5 Million buyer interested in San Fernando and environs but locating land under $100/sq.ft. may present a challenge unless you have a diligent real estate agent looking for spots as they come up.

It is an excellent time to buy and if the economy continues in its present direction, more properties will likely be put on the market as homeowners battle with rising costs of living and the decision to sell property becomes more enticing.

Pre-qualify: When and why?

By Rhea-Simone Auguste

©Moon Light Rental Ltd.

moonlightrental@yahoo.com

 

Mary Marshall wanted to buy a house. She did a rough calculation of how much she thought she would get in a mortgage based on how much rent she was currently paying. Then, she called a realtor and said – “I am looking for a house around 1.5 million”. Mary was linked to a sourcing agent who promptly sent her a list of homes close to her given price range. After viewing several properties, Mary found the perfect home in her ideal neighbourhood. She signed an offer to purchase with a bid on the house and excitedly took the information to the bank to get started on her mortgage process.

Mary reached the loans department with all of her payslips and financial documents and the information on her dream property, certain that she would get through with her loan in a hurry. The loans officer went through all of her documents and with one sentence, crushed Mary’s hopes for buying the house – “You are not qualified for 1.5 million.”

“Not qualified?” Mary was confused. She paid $8000 a month in rent and she figured she could get a 25 year mortgage at least so she should be able to handle a 1.5 million dollar mortgage. However, she had a few loans, 2 credit cards and she had defaulted on a loan previously and that affected her credit rating. The bank would only offer her $900,000. Now she had to start the process of house-hunting all over again and say goodbye to the idea of owning the gorgeous property she considered her dream home.

Mary could have avoided the heartbreak and the hassle if she had gone to her bank first.

If you are seriously thinking about making your first home purchase, your first step should be getting a pre-qualification from your bank. The pre-qualification process is a useful tool as it helps you to get a clearer picture of your current financial status. Doing a pre-qualification is easy and some banks even do them over the phone. You simply supply your bank or mortgage lender with your overall financial picture, including your debt, income and assets. After evaluating this information, a lender can give you an idea of the mortgage amount for which you qualify. There is no charge for this pre-qualification – this is a free service offered by most banks.

A pre-qualification should not be confused with a pre-approval however. Getting pre-approved is the next step, and it tends to be much more involved. You’ll complete an official mortgage application (and usually pay an application fee), and then supply the lender with the necessary documentation to perform an extensive check on your financial background and current credit rating. (Typically at this stage, you will not have found a house yet, so any reference to “property” on the application will be left blank). From this, the lender can tell you the specific mortgage amount for which you are approved. You’ll also have a better idea of the interest rate you will be charged on the loan and, in some cases, you might be able to lock-in a specific rate. With pre-approval, you will receive a conditional commitment in writing for an exact loan amount, allowing you to look for a home at or below that price level. Obviously, this puts you at an advantage when dealing with a potential seller, as he or she will know you’re one step closer to obtaining an actual mortgage.

The advantage of completing both of these steps – pre-qualification and pre-approval – before you start to look for a home is that you’ll know in advance how much you can afford. This way, you don’t waste time with guessing or looking at properties that are beyond your means. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage also enables you to move quickly when you find the perfect place. When you make an offer, it won’t be contingent on obtaining financing, which can save you valuable time. In a competitive market, this lets the seller know that your offer is serious – and could prevent you from losing out to another potential buyer who already has financing arranged.

Gated Communities in T&T, a trend or a new way of life?

Within the past decade or two , there has been a movement towards the development of gated communities across T&T. No longer making it to the news anymore, the idea of gates closing off access roads after hours to residential communities has become the norm. More so , making a “Community” a “Gated Community” seems to immediately increase its appeal for homeownership and a sense of security, not to mention, its value in the eyes of home hunters.

This thinking is now institutionalized  in T&T with appraisers and bankers all chiming in as to the value of gated communities being higher that that of “normal communities”. But what makes this so? I visited with a friend of mine recently, a home in the Maracas Valley that was well within a Gated Community. The directions to the home included the normal trini directions, “look out for the bus shed, if you see that, you’ve gone too far!” But to my interest, the directions also included a new type of information, access info. You see, even if you got the directions right but didn’t have the code to get pass the security gates, your no closer to the house than a complete stranger.

Seems, the times have certainly come that if you  don’t live there and weren’t invited, its safe to say, your not welcomed. Who’s to say this strategy is wrong tho? The times we live in, makes decisions like this sometimes necessary. Tho it does take away from the feeling of what Trinidad used to be, before all these social changes started to take place.

There were some interesting aspects that I had not considered to Gated Community life, not hailing from one myself, some of these ideas were a great solution to the problems that I face in my community too. One of these was the idea that the entire community was divided into sections, with a certain number of homes in each section. The section would then have a section leader and these leaders would all confer in the general maintenance of the area. Gardening, Grooming even painting and remodeling/ repurposing of the home would have to be agreed to in some form with the committee.

This can be an interesting solution to recurring problems that all communities face these can include inconsiderate visitor parking, Loud music and disturbances late at night, Garbage Collection, Security patrols and other operational challenges can also be addressed as a community as opposed to in an ad hoc manner by individual owners. However, I could not help but think of the loss of the individual in this process. The point of being an owner comes with some sense of ownership and that includes being able to do as you like with your own property. But that’s just me.

Semantics aside, I passed the question by, Adrian De Souza of Golden Key Real Estate, to find out how the Gated Community concept has impacted the appeal of buyers on the market, this were his thoughts…

“Over the last 12 years I have definitely seen a greater demand for gated communities over the traditional types.  Initially, gated communities were perceived to offer a much more secure environment, but over time people have come to realize that gated communities definitely do not guarantee their safety because what “gated” means ranges from a automated barricade at the entrance of the development to a compound with guards on site assisted by hi-tech surveillance equipment and electrified perimeter fences.  The monthly cost to each homeowner associated with the latter “gated” concept could easily range around $2,000.00 and as such will negatively affect the ability of a would be homeowner to qualify for the mortgage while maintaining that level of monthly maintenance fees.  As a result some homeowners specify they do not want a “gated” community to avoid such fees.  They are in a minority though as the crime level of the country still ensures gated communities will be perceived as having a real increase in the value of traditional   residential communities.”

Adrian De Souza, Golden Key Real Estate

 
 

What’s the right time to leave the nest?

The question of home ownership is important, but there is also the question of personal space and the need some times to rent before you buy. Young adults particularly will be motivated to move out of the family home for reasons of personal space and privacy, and the independence that comes with deciding what color you really want your living room to be painted in.

For some families tho, this can be less of an organic development and has to be nurtured into existence. What do I mean? Well, simply put, sometimes parents may have to decide when its time to push their loved ones from the nest to start their own journey. Now this is different from family to family, as it is from culture to culture. In North America, the legacy of the Draft and Military service has embedded the idea that, at 18 a kid becomes an adult and therefore, should get their own place. Studies, Personal financial development and more are all tied to young persons starting off on their own at the earliest point and this plays a large part of the decision making process in that culture.

In Trinidad however, we are a bit different in the approach. Our young adults are less pressured upon by parents and “the system” and more so by social pressures. Its cool to wake up just in time for a Sunday lunch after sleeping of Satruday nights party that ended at 3am, but less cool to not have the privacy needed to invite friends or that special person over for a dinner date or movie night.

So, we do have a bit of a different dynamic to deal with, but then again, kinda the same……..

Getting into the idea of renting your own place maybe a great social step, but it also helps the financial and independent steps as well. Your money management becomes more mature when you have to consider buying groceries over snacks, and allotting rent in your budget, as opposed to living at home and maybe contributing to the house with a cartoon of milk in the fridge.

As soon as your employed in T&T and have a steady income of more than three to six months, your in good shape to apply for a credit card, and soon after, your going to be wanting your first car, all necessary tools in saddling the social benefits of having your own space, but also necessary in building your credit line and money management skills.

Ultimately, when you get to the point of being too old for “the talk” after bringing your significant other home for “the after-party at your place”  maybe its time to consider moving out on your own, that can be at 18 or 30, just remember to do it with the right reasons in mind, or you might end up back home, wondering where did all the good times go?

 

 

Golden Key Real Estate Joins the Real Spaces Family!

 

Well known Real Estate Agency Golden Key Real Estate is now a part of the Real Spaces Family. Specializing in affordable and attractive properties , the niche of this agency is in the East of Trinidad.

I met with Adrian De Souza of Golden Key some time ago, at the First Citizens Sponsored Mortgage Promotion held at Trinicity Mall’s Atrium, we exchanged information then. They are an active member of the industry and had been asked by First Citizens to speak at the same event, after my short presentation, describing the Real Spaces program to mall visitors, we spoke about working together. After some time, it’s finally here!The deal was struck at their well appointed offices at Emerald Plaza in St Augustine. The decor was so striking that I thought, I’d love if they would decorate my home office, If i ever get my renovation done!

Golden Key is a great addition to Real Spaces and we are very happy to welcome them on board as a number of our viewers and visitors to this site, are all asking about properties in the East and Central, well within the working range of Golden Key. Look out for more properties in the East and Central area and look out for more listings from the Real Spaces team and our featured agencies.

 

Renovation vs Hell….Hmmm, Tough choice Chap. #2

Chapter 2

So, you know your in renovation mode when the sound of power tools gets you happy and not irritated. This is of course, because that sound means work is progressing fine, a good beginning for the blog today.

 

It’s only the second day of my two bath renovation at my home and it’s starting to take the shape I expected. The workmen were here on time today and lucky so, I had scheduled a meeting with a new real estate agency that wants to come on board the Real Spaces family and didn’t want to miss the time. So,I welcomed the men in and left for the meeting, along the way I though I would  get the supplies needed for today, after the initial demo is done and all the old tile is removed.

Drama #2

The meeting went well and then I was off to hunt for material. This is when the days’ drama started. As is stated by Murphy when he developed his witty “Laws” “What can go wrong will go wrong, at the worst possible time”. Enter a strike at the TCL cement factory causing a nationwide shortage, just when the workmen decide that the job absolutely needs, a bag of cement, not ten, not five, ….one. This I thought, should not be a problem as its just the one bag I needed.  The closest hardware store I could find after my meeting in St Augustine, was in Tunapuna, braving the traffic I got to a hardware along the main road, I think it was a drive by or drive up or some other arbitrary name.

They did actually have the one bag of cement that I needed, only problem was they were not going to sell it to me “unless I buy other things in the hardware”, now I did need some other stuff, I’m sure the workmen needed stuff they forgot to mention till the very last minute, but the thought of being commanded to buy other stuff or not get the cement, was not a cool feeling. So, I called the workmen anyway and sure enough, they needed more stuff, not much tho, two lengths of white pine straight edges for plastering the walls, and a box of concrete nails, two inch, please. To my further surprise, the clerk calmly let me down by saying, “sorry, thats not enough, to sell you the bag of cement” ….really? I decided instead of getting into a buying frenzy to “win” a bag of cement, that I would still have to pay for, I left.

I then did the only thing I could think of, I called to Roopnarine’s where I bought all the tiles and asked for Janelle, a short spritey sales person that helped me along the way in buying all the tiles, grout, thinset, edges, moulding and more when I needed it, maybe she could help me get the one bag of cement?  I got her on the phone, announced it was me, and then immediately promised her lunch if she helped me, …….no cement.

Defeated, the final call went to the workmen, ” Fellas, no cement to be had”, hmmm they thought it over and then suggested, “well the only other thing that can be used was a product from Harricrete called, “Plastermix”. I got all pumped up again, rushed him off the phone and called back Janelle. The offer of lunch still stood, I envisioned the trip to Roopnarine’s in Chaguanas going so well, nice weather, no traffic, …….no plastermix. Dammit!

Then a stroke of genius came over me, grabbing up my trusty BB, I typed in Harricrete, and believe it or not, the number was there on the google search engine thing! I called with a long shot and asked if they sold retail at the factory, “Yes we do, but where are you now” by this time I was approaching Piarco, heading to Baghwansing’s “Oh, she said, well you can come if you’d like” instructions to get to the factory were really easy as its just following the road east of St Helena’s Junction for about ten minutes.

A bit of a country view surrounded me just minutes after the St Helena’s Junction, then two or three turns later in I was turning at the sign that said, Harricrete. Nice.

Pallets of good stuff for all those that need cement for plastering

The security, receptionists, storeroom manager, even the forklift operator who brought the order were all super friendly and helpful, I was in and out of the factory in no more time than I would have been at a large hardware store and the trip did’nt seem to be a bad alternative to buying out a store in Tunapuna just to get a bag of cement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One tip tho, Apparently, the one bag of cement translates to four bags of Plastermix, and at fifty pounds each bag, its seems to be a lot of material for my two modest bathrooms, and at $50 or so for each bag I think its great deal .On my way back out of St Helena’s, I got the other stuff and arrived at the house a hero.

The workmen seemed to have the second bath under control as it apparently had tiles that were less stuck on, the workmen seemed to have found a rhythm and the work was moving at a pace.

Poor guy had to cool his hands off, drill was too hot to handle.

At least a half inch of plastering between the tile and the wall, is that normal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the time of writing this I still have a way to go till the end of work today, but supplies crisis averted and work moving along, at least the second day of demo is going a little better than the first, now if only I could get a handle on the dust problem!

Look out for chapter 3 on this continuing saga!

 

Renovation vs Hell….Hmmm, Tough choice Chap. #1

Chapter one. Demo Day 

As both a home owner and a blogger on this site, I hold the unique position of being able to write about the benefits of particular designs and styles over another; while at the same time mull over its cost to install and the durability of the selection (how long the installed item will last till it needs to be repaired or replaced).

What we as young homeowners were never told tho, was to consider the hassle of having the work done in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong, It’s not like I expect to have the work done without, …….well, having the work done. I appreciate that the install in some cases will also include the demo of the existing work in place. But you see, these are just words to some of us, “demo” “remodel” and the classic Trini renovator phrase “Change up”.

The fact is, a major part of the renovation includes the effective removal, or “demo” of the existing work. This can be a simple cabinet that’s bolted to a wall in a bedoom that’s been there since your grandmother moved in, or it can be a lot more. Case in point….

I’ve been working on my own home renovation for sometime now and have finally gotten to the two bathrooms of my modest home. Both shared baths, (No en suite at my place) the decision had to be made to do them both at the same time and loose use of the rooms altogether for a few days, or go one by one and juggle the schedule of the workmen till it’s completed. well, after waiting this long to get to the bathrooms, I decided to go all out and have them both competed together.

Drama #1

Getting the material was a somewhat relaxing experience, partly because Real Spaces takes me into a lot of home stores across T&T, but also partly because I’m not really fussy, and selecting the tile to replace the old one in my 35 year old baths, was as easy as pointing to the one that looks reasonably priced and of a comfortable quality and design. Can I also add that the two baths are going to be tiled in the same pattern and trim, just because I really don’t want to be fussy.

Wall tile to be used, 6 cases of 10x 13.

 

Thinking that the tricky part was over, I consulted with the tileman and a date was set for the “demo” stage of the work. “No, problem” he said; “We will strip off all the old tile in a day and take two days after to tile up the both rooms.” Two days and the major work is over? Then it’s just the basic plumbing, to change the single sink into a double, and change the toilet, then we’re done!

Wall moulding, to be placed at eye height to break up the monotony of the tile pattern.

Little did I know that the devil lives in the details of renovation too! The day has arrived and the tilemen arrive for work, a little late, but hey, It’s Trinidad! Gear in hand, BOSCH Drill with all the tips and everything. After a short breakfast break, they pull their masks on and get to work. Within minutes the first sign of the unforeseen appears. Apparently the tile is stuck on with more than a few milimeters of thin set. This is a 35 year old home, and the tile has been along for the ride every day of those years. So, the men surmise, the tile would have been installed with cement and not thinset all those years ago, by the industrious lads that built the place.

The look of 35 year old cement laid tiles being removed, not a pretty sight.

 

Unlike today, where everything is designed to fail in 5 years to 10 years, (cus your gonna wanna re-decorate anyway) the tile was designed to stay on till the end of the Mya Calendar. Tho given when I’m actually writing this blog, it just might have! Sooo, I’m hours into my “demo” phase, and already cringing in fear of delays in the project because of the unforeseen circumstances, not to mention, that the house will be without a “throne” for the duration of the demo and retile work….Great!

As I type, the guys are on their third or fourth break between exclamations of how this is the hardest tile removal they have ever done, sounds like they’re gearing up for a price increase to me. But, that’s to be revealed in the later chapters of this exciting, no -washroom period of my life. I hope my brother’s offer of crashing at his place still stands.

This is just chapter one on this saga and i’ve been taking pics along the way for your entertainment / edification. As its going, we will all be having an interesting read at the end of this multipart blog.

End of Renovation vs. Hell, Chapter one. Demo Day

 

 

 

 

Current CNC3 Season Ends, More filming in the works!

As you may know (or maybe not), the current season of our beloved series has come to an end on CNC3…… for now. The past ten weeks have been great, and, I met a lot of interesting people and filmed a lot of great properties along the way. The season was great for more than those reasons too, a new station was used for the series, now in its third year, and we attracted a lot of new viewers. We also launched our Real Spaces Financing Program, this is kinda a big deal for me as I’ve been working on this project for some time and having stores elect to have the program included into their in-store marketing was a big step in making the Real Spaces name, more than just a television series.

Over the years, the series has actually helped a lot of persons in the various areas that it was designed to. Each week, we get emails and phone calls enquiring about properties featured on the series, and even more about those that are found my internet browsers, looking for information on properties to make their new home, or as we say, “their next Real Space”.

This is a personal growth experience for me as well. As the producer of the series I faced many challenges in getting this show to air, and in all, as much as four or five years have gone into this project in one way or another. Good thing tho, I think the time spent making the Real Spaces idea into a real working platform for sales and marketing of local real estate has been to the benefit of all who may have browsed the site, watched the series, followed up with a call to the mortgage officers or real estate agents, or had their properties filmed and featured.

Not least of all, me, I have certainly benefited from the experience of making the series a continued success at the end of this, its fourth season (some years have had two seasons). I’ve learned about the demand for properties in Trinidad and Tobago and the price range and locations most targeted etc. etc. (trade secret BTW) but what I think i learned the most, was how many people through their conversations with me during their queries about properties, have expressed their dream of home ownership.

In case you didn’t know, a lot of Trinibagonians are seeking their slice of our version of the dream. The dream of homeownership……… some may have not have ventured the thought, but having the system in place to have a viewer call and be put in direct contact with an actual mortgage specialist is a step that many have never even thought would happen. This for me, is one of the best parts of this project. I think if many years from now the series ends (hopefully many many years from now) and we had assisted in placing families into homes across T&T, even in our little, way it would have been worth it.

Until the next season begins, or the next incarnation of the Real Spaces brand appears, Thanks for browsing, reading, watching, using and hopefully liking, Real Spaces.

 

 

 

Real Spaces to consider requests to shoot Tobago and Barbados Properties

Now into our fourth season, Real Spaces is being asked to start featuring properties in Tobago and other caribbean islands as well. These can include Grenada and Barbados for our international viewers and website visitors. This is great news that the interaction on the site is working to the point that the type of properties will be determined, at least in some part, by the viewership.

The logistics are currently being sorted out and hopefully soon we will be adding properties to the line up from different caribbean destinations. Rentals, sales, and maybe even tourist accommodation.

Stay tuned for the official update.

Real Spaces on location at D Rite Stuff

Recently, Our main Sponsors First Citizens approached us to produce a segment on their new Pre-Approval Mortgage Certificate. Normally, we try to make these segments both informative while offering some imagery or location that is in keeping with the them of the series. As our customers tend to be renters seeking homes for sale, or new homeowners seeking decoration tips on this new place, this imagery can sometimes be in the direction of decor, construction or renovation themes. So, for this tip we turned to our friends at D Rite Stuff.

With branches in West Mall, Ellerslie Mall, Grand Bazzar and Long Circular Mall, D Rite Stuff is known in the West and upper Port of Spain as “The Brand” in home supplies. However, according to store manager, Bryan, “We are trying to gain some visibility with customers in the East, Central and other parts of the Country and not just for those customers that hail from the North- West”.

No suprise then that we were given a warm welcome to the LCM branch one evening after closing, to shoot our brand new tip with our favorite rep of FC, Pasea of their Movietowne branch. Like any true star, Pasea just needs one name.

The shoot was great and the tip was well worth pulling out all the gear it takes to shoot on location! (which can be a lot) Now, customers of FC can be Pre approved for their mortgage loan and take an actual certificate to the agents, showing that they are indeed approved for the property range they are shopping in. A great way to get the ball rolling much faster as an individual on a house shopping exercise.

Great job to Pasea and her husband that is always quietly present and supporting her on all video shoots, not to mention to Bryan and his sister, who were more than happy to help out!

Real Spaces saying thanks guys for another great shoot!