by Marlon Madden

The Barbados Estate Agents and Valuers Association (BEAVA) is making a major push towards increasing transparency between real estate industry operators and the public as it seeks to weed out unethical so-called real estate agents.

BEAVA President Arthur Ramsay said he was aware that there were a number of individuals who were making off with people’s money while leaving them without a property, although it was not a problem among BEAVA members.

As such, he said BEAVA was lobbying government to put laws in place that would give the association teeth to better govern and police the sector and so that individuals are easier brought to justice.

“There are a lot of people who register with the Government every year and some that don’t even register with the Government, and they go out there selling people’s property,” he said.

“Sometimes they have no training so they don’t know what the values of the properties are – they may give the person a value that is way below the market or way above the market value.

“Sometimes they go and get into things where they take people’s money as deposits and those are things that are not ethical,” said Ramsay.

He indicated that usually the real estate agent did not come into contact with payments directly from individuals, explaining that prospective property owners “deal with their attorney” when it comes to making payments.

He explained that in the absence of laws to make it mandatory for individuals to be registered with the association, it then became difficult for victims to sometimes locate the so-called real estate agents that have duped them.

“Just like Canada and other parts of the world before you can go and register to become an agent you have to go through practice, you have to go through educational standards and you have to be signed off by a professional body.

“Unfortunately, here we don’t have that. We just go and pay $375 and you could go and practise real estate, which is something that does not happen with any of the other [professions] such as lawyers or engineers – you have to go and study and practise your craft. I think the time has come that people recognise that real estate is a profession and it should be taken seriously and that is what we are pushing for,” he explained.

Ramsay was speaking recently with journalists at the Barbados Yacht Club where he officially introduced a revamped BEAVA, with an upgraded website and new logo.

The new-look organisation now has an online portal that will serve as a single location for the over 135 BEAVA members’ listings, providing a one-stop-shop for anything real estate in Barbados.

It is not clear how much government was foregoing each year or how much in monetary value individuals were losing as a result of scammers in the industry.

However, Ramsay said “at the end of the day it has far-reaching implications” and was off-putting to some prospective property owners who did not fully understand how the industry worked here.

Ramsay reported that Government has so far been amenable to conversations about proposed laws to better govern the industry, suggesting that any framework to be introduced would allow for the suspension of the license of individuals for a certain period of time when they commit an infraction.

He said BEAVA has reached out to its key partners including the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) and the Registry to see how best they could also improve information sharing with agents and valuers.

Ramsay said the revamped organisation would continue to identify opportunities for its real estate agents, valuers, brokers and property managers, and engage them in local, regional and international training opportunities, seminars and conferences so they are kept abreast with international standards.

“We want people to be comfortable to come to Barbados to invest, and for those who live here to have the process be seamless from start to finish,” said Ramsay.

“Ultimately, we want to ensure the best information is out there at all times and that the general public knows what real estate means and how you go about selling your property, purchasing a property, renting your property and having somebody manage it, and that the process is transparent. We also want to create a level playing field for our professionals,” he indicated.

The real estate agent gave the assurance that BEAVA had a code of ethics, pointing out that members had an avenue for recourse once a report was made to the BEAVA board.

He added that at the moment there was a discipline committee that hears matters regarding members and come up with resolutions.

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Drive on to weed out shady real estate elements