THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS IS GAINING FORCE on the Cuban market and in private initiative. The recent legalization of property sales among private individuals, the Cuban population’s need for housing, and the availability of real estate are the main causes behind the rapid emergence of the Cuban real estate market.
Today, the main setting for the mediation of supply and demand in real estate is online classifieds. These are the spaces where one can actually assess this market. However, a new scenario of authorities in this business is now looming. Cuba’s Official Gazette published an article on Sept. 26, 2013 referring to “agents for the swapping and buying and selling of homes,” authorizing the work of what are known as real estate agents in other parts of the world.
Charged with “managing and coordinating the realization of swaps, and the buying and selling of homes at the request of clients,” real estate agents, unlike the great majority of authorized private jobs, can benefit in their activities from a certain level of professional training. That is why law graduates, given their legal expertise, as well as construction industry professionals, have a lot of potential as agents for home swaps and sales.
These real estate agents and the supply and demand of homes have quickly merged on the Internet to generate, in many cases, actual real estate agencies whose main showcase and space for activity is the Internet, although with the singularities of Cuban connectivity. Point2Cuba, Vendo Casas en Cuba, La Habana Inmobiliaria and even Cubísima, among others, are examples of real estate businesses with websites. All of these enterprises on the Web, like the classifieds sites, make it possible to learn about price, location and other features of the real estate on sale. However, unlike the online classifieds, these sites’ specialization in the real estate market allows them to offer services that focus on the industry, and thus to build their own business models.
Price estimates, intermediates, certification of the technical and structural state of buildings, and the processing of home- buying paperwork are the main services identified, although they are not the only ones.
Many of these sites, such as Detrás de la Fachada, use publicity as an element in their business model. They provide, generally for free, the possibility of publishing ads for people who are buying or selling their homes, along with information about related legal paperwork. Another feature, also related to advertising, is that of highlighting or promoting, mostly upon payment, certain ads. Cubísima and Espacio Cuba are examples of that.
Others, such as The Cuban Houses, Point2Cuba, and others, have intermediation and paperwork processing as business elements. In this case, payment may depend on the service provided or on a percentage, sometimes as much as 10 percent of the total transaction.
Property value estimates, photos of the home, and certification of its structural soundness are also highly-valued services. Carried out by experts, these services make it possible for those who pay for them to have the opinion of a third party as a reference for interested homebuyers. Cubísima and Habana Casas are two of the websites that offer some of these services.
As a general rule, these Cuban real estate enterprises cover real estate offers from most of the country’s regions. However, as is the case with the national real estate market, Havana real estate dominates the market. Likewise, these agencies focus on domestic buyers, but given the legal alternative that foreigners who are permanent residents can buy housing in the country, some of these websites have become internationalized as well.
The virtual nature of these websites also has not prevented a number of them from having physical offices, where different real estate services are offered. In fact, some of them have offices or are registered as businesses in other countries. In addition, to support and establish the quality of their services, many of these business have personnel that include jurists, business science experts, civil engineers and architects.
In almost every case, home sales are at the center of these businesses, but some have now ventured out and diversified within the real estate industry. Managing rentals, and to a lesser extent, technical consulting for home construction, repair and restoration are other alternatives that are being offered. These real estate agencies on the Web still have a long way to go. The first step is gaining the credibility—based on the quality and effectiveness of their services—that will enable them to take the kind of center stage in home sales now occupied by online ads. Becoming points of reference for the Cuban real estate market should be their main objective