Girish Gupta

HOME

BY COUNTRY

Brazil
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Egypt
Guyana
Iraq
Jordan
Lebanon
Mexico
United Kingdom
Venezuela

BY MEDIUM

Text
Photo
Radio
TV/Video

BY PUBLISHER

Al Jazeera
BBC
BuzzFeed
CBC
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Daily Mail
Datum
Ecologist
Economist Intelligence Unit
Emerging Markets
Financial Times
Foreign Policy
France 24
Fusion
GlobalPost
Guardian
Independent
La Prensa (Panama)
LatinFinance
Mancunion
Monocle
National (Abu Dhabi)
New Internationalist
New Statesman
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR
PBS
PRI
Radio France Internationale
Reuters
RTE
Sky News
Sun
Sunday Times
Telegraph
TIME
Times of London
USA Today
Vice
WLRN

ABOUT

About
CV
Contact (PGP Key)

Twitter
Facebook
LinkedIn
On Cuba's Fledgling Real Estate Industry
Aug. 11, 2013 — Havana, Cuba

Featured on RTÉ World Report



I meet Ray on Havana’s Paseo del Prado, a major thoroughfare in the east of Havana where you can taste the salt in the air that comes off the Florida Straits. The 65-year-old leads me to an apartment in central Havana, through the city’s crumbling and faded streets.

“This next one is lovely,” he says to me, having asked me to keep a few paces behind him lest the police hassle him for dealing with a foreigner. “It has a view of the sea from the balcony and you have all the shops nearby.”

We climb the stairs to the apartment. The transistor radio and other furniture would fit nicely into a museum. “It needs work,” Ray admits, but is a bargain at 20,000 euros.

Ray’s spiel is as practiced as estate agents the world over. But here in Cuba, there is one difference: his work is illegal. For it, he will receive 10 percent of the sale price and perhaps a tip from the buyers, he suggests with a smile in the living room he is showing off.

In November 2011, the buying and selling of property on this Communist island became legal, in one of many cautious reforms enacted by the government of President Raúl Castro to open up the country’s economy.

Ray’s commission makes him a broker and puts him on the wrong side of the law.

“I do this because I make money,” says Ray.

Since his takeover of the presidency in 2006 from 86-year-old brother Fidel, Raúl Castro, himself 82, has cautiously attempted to grow Cuba’s fledgling private sector.

Yet, as with all the reforms in Cuba, the property laws are progressing extremely slowly, offering time for the government to gauge progress and calculate its next move, “without haste,” in Raúl’s words.

But not everyone involved in this industry is as rudimentary in their methods as Ray. Yosuán Crespo runs EspacioCuba from an office in Havana’s more upmarket western district of Vedado.

Up some stairs in his grand building are laminated signs printed just as at any other estate agent in the world, with pictures, details of the property and of course an asking price. Prices range from 30,000 to 300,000 Euros.

Crespo insists that his business, which opened three months after the law came into effect, is not a brokerage and says that he does not receive commission. Rather, he charges clients for photographing their properties as well as preparing and publishing the adverts both at the office and online. His published fees are just a few dollars.

“It’s not legal to work as a broker in Cuba,” the 28-year-old insists to me. “We are not brokers and we not willing to be brokers. We don’t get commission.”

Cuba’s low average wage of some 30 Euros a month means that many simply do not have access to the sums of money required to purchase properties. It is foreigners who are beginning to realize what a huge investment opportunity Cuba’s real estate market represents.

With prices now relatively low, the price of Cuban real estate is likely to rocket in the coming years as the island inevitably opens up to foreigners. Those who do not hold permanent Cuban residence—a requirement to purchase property—must use a Cuban spouse, friend or some other proxy as a front. This carries inherent risk but investors may see it as a worthwhile gamble.

Back in the crumbling apartment, Ray offers assurances that it will be easy to renovate: “You can have anything you want in Cuba if you have money.”

For World Report, this is Girish Gupta in Havana

Filed from
Havana, Cuba






More...

On Cuba's New Relationship with the US
Dec. 21, 2014


How Hugo Chavez helped bring the US and Cuba closer together
Dec. 19, 2014


How Venezuela’s Collapse Helped Thaw Cuban-American Relations
Dec. 18, 2014


Venezuela's role in warming Cuba - US relations
Dec. 17, 2014


Photos from Cuba
Sept. 3, 2013


Cuba's Journey on the Internet: There's a Long March Ahead
Aug. 14, 2013


On Cuba's Fledgling Real Estate Industry
Aug. 11, 2013


As Communist Cuba Reforms, Capitalism Slowly Takes Hold of Its Real Estate Market
Jul. 24, 2013


Cubans line up for the chance to leave
Jan. 14, 2013


Havana scraps exit visas, but most Cubans won't be going abroad
Jan. 14, 2013


Blogger gets whiff of Cuba libre as curbs on leaving island are eased
Jan. 13, 2013


Cubans can leave, but to where and with what?
Nov. 11, 2012


Outrage, disbelief over latest dissident arrests
Nov. 9, 2012


Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez talks US election
Nov. 6, 2012


Cuba cautiously dips toe into capitalism
Jun. 8, 2012








© Girish Gupta