Local Business

Changing trends point to more city living

  • Real estate agent Karen Brine loves handing over the keys to first time home buyers (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Karen Brine received the long service award at Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty for 30 years in the business (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Karen Brine received the long service award at Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty for 30 years in the business (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

When Karen Brine started in real estate, three decades ago, most people got married, had a family and bought a house.

Today’s generation is turning everything on its head.

“Millennials are career oriented,” she said. “They want to travel. They don’t necessarily get married. They live together first. Then they will buy their home.”

She feels millennials are happy to get into the market but they are not jumping in with both feet due to the current bank financing climate. With banks now requiring 20 per cent down, it’s harder for young people to save up to buy a home.

But she said banks are trying to be creative.

“The banks are looking for guarantors and what they have as collateral,” she said. “It is a little more trying of a time for people to get into the market.”

She started out in real estate doing vacation rentals at Collier Real Estate. After four years she moved to Jones Waddington to become manager of the rental department.

“It was still a fairly small firm, but much larger than Collier,” she said. “As a rental manager there was one other person with myself.”

She had to balance the books by hand, there were no computers, and find and rent properties.

“It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it,” she said.

What she loves about the business is seeing the expression on a first-time buyer’s face when she hands over the keys.

She did rentals for several years until a colleague convinced her to go 100 per cent into sales.

“Working on commission was a bit of a risk,” she said. “I had a young family at the time and lots of expenses coming online, but I took the risk.”

Then in the 1980s Jones Waddington merged with Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty.

“It was a bigger family,” she said. “We were still a young group and we all had young families. Now my children are 32 and 34 and most of my colleagues have children the same age.”

“I have done vacation rentals, long term rentals, sales, and in the last nine or ten years, I am still doing sales. Now I have joined back in to do vacation rentals. I have gone full circle from where I have started.”

She is now sales agent and vacation consultant at Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty.

Last month, she and Heather Chilvers were recognised for 30 years of service to the company.

Looking forward, Ms Brine feels the next generation coming on are city livers.

“They don’t want to be mowing the grass or painting,” she said. “They are happy to pay the homeowners’ association fees. They are happy to lock the door when they leave and not be responsible for anything. If anything is needed they call their HOA. We will probably see some more city living developments come about in the next five years or less.”

She thinks we might see a lot more unoccupied commercial buildings being turned into residential units.

“When John Swan built Atlantis (a luxury 8-floor condominium development on Parliament Street), everyone was like well who is going to live in there?” she said. “He took the risk, and that paid off well.”

And she thinks more older people may also be interested in downsizing from a house in the suburbs to an apartment in the city.

“As I enter into my 60th year, I am looking to downsize,” she said. “I don’t need the big family home any more. My children are grown up. Unless you have an income to subsidise this property, you are spending lots of money on landscaping and land tax. You don’t need all this.”

“The next developers who come on board will also be more inclined to make city apartment spaces a little bigger. If you are in city living you don’t need a big kitchen, but you may want a bigger bathroom. I think we will see some design elements from what has already happened in city living occur. The market is always evolving.”

She thinks 2019 could have been a better year for sales, although the statistics aren’t fully in yet.

“It certainly won’t compare to any of our years where there was the big developments coming on the market,” she said. “We may see 2020 being a good year. With Belco shares selling we may have another influx of cash in the market, the way we did when the Bank of Bermuda sold in 2004. 2020 will hopefully be a better year than 2019.”