Local realtor marks its 70th anniversary

Bahamas Realty is marking its 70th anniversary this year, celebrating $10bn in property sales over a history so long it predates the birth of its own chief executive.

“Our 70th anniversary marks a milestone in the rich history of Bahamas Realty, a company that has kept pace with the many legislative, policy and market changes and innovations that have transformed the industry,” said Donnie Martinborough, who became its top executive in 2018.

“We evolved from the early days of selling dreams of year-round sunshine and swaying palm trees to winter-weary tourists from England and Europe to satisfying a savvy residential and commercial market ranging from young professionals to large corporate entities, first-home buyers to second home owners and just about everything in between. We also operate within a very strict set of guidelines and rules, thanks to the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), a legislated entity created by its members.”

Founded in 1949 as Bert L Roberts Ltd, Bahamas Realty’s early history was all about sales.

“Back then, the price of an average home was about $14,000,” said Larry Roberts, Bert’s son, who would go on to serve as Bahamas Realty’s chairman until his retirement late last year. He continues to act as consultant, maintaining an office at the company’s offices on East Bay Street near Montagu Bay.

Today, Bahamas Realty handles sales, leasing, appraisals, property management and consulting. Agents and brokers have carved out niche markets by geographical area or type of transaction, and the firm’s luxury sales record has seen it become affiliated with Luxury Real Estate Companies of the World and Leading RE Luxury Portfolio.

Under its NAI franchise, the realtor manages nearly one million square feet of commercial space, including prime office, retail, dining and warehousing. “Bahamas Realty has grown up with the country. In many ways, our history mirrors that of The Bahamas,” said Mr Roberts.

“We have enjoyed prosperous times, survived challenging times, but like the country and the Bahamian people, we never stopped growing our capabilities, building relationships and deepening the trust we earned both locally and globally.”

Mergers and growth helped define Bahamas Realty. In 1978, Bert L Roberts merged with Robin Brownrigg and Gordon Wilde, who had earlier taken over Bernard Sunley & Sons, and were managing the company as Caribbean Management. Combining the companies, one with sales expertise and the other focused on appraisals and finance, created a one-stop shop known as Caribbean Management & Sales.

Three years later, with Mr Martinborough handling commercial sales and leasing, Bahamas Realty became the first in The Bahamas to offer a full range of services that included academically-trained and board-certified appraisers and property managers, as well as sales and leasing agents and brokers. In 2010, the company expanded again by adding new associates from Paradise Sales and Rentals.

Bahamas Realty’s president, Robin Brownrigg, said: “When you consider the conditions in the late 1940s, you appreciate how much we as a company - and how much The Bahamas as a market - have evolved, and what it took to succeed for seven decades.

“Larry’s father opened his office four years after World War II ended, the year NATO was created. The Bahamas seemed a romantic, remote place with a kind of mystique, but it was still a mystery and we in the industry - who were often the first point of contact - had to overcome a natural scepticism by foreigners in a faraway land.”

Unlike marketeers luring prospective buyers to The Bahamas, 90 percent of the clients that agents and brokers interact with now start their search online. In the right location, 1949’s $14,000 home now could easily fetch $1m.

Mr Martinborough added: “Property values fluctuate in The Bahamas as they do elsewhere, but the difference in The Bahamas is that over time, they nearly always appreciate in value. Land is scarce and the islands of The Bahamas are among the most coveted places on earth to live, work and play.”