The pandemic has flattened Fiji’s real estate industry, with the Reserve Bank reporting that commercial bank lending to real estate had plummeted 31.3% (or F$24million) for the year ending March 2021. Similarly, lending to building and construction fell 11.5% in the same period. But how are things faring at the prestige end of the market?
Susan Pritchard established her practice, My Island Home, three years ago after more than ten years with other agencies. She works across all price points, with high-end listings concentrated on Denarau, Naisoso and Maui Bay amongst other locations.
It’s a buyer’s market, Pritchard says, and many of those buyers are local businesspeople or people based overseas who have strong family and ancestral ties to Fiji. Sellers include homeowners who have been away from Fiji for a few years and don’t envisage travel returning to the ease of pre-COVID times, and who don’t want to keep up the costly business of maintaining properties in absentia. Others have outgrown their properties as their children have grown up, while others have bene forced to sell as global economies have constricted.
Baron Bruno and his wife Bren took over the Professionals Fiji agency on Denarau just a week before Fiji’s borders closed due to the pandemic. The agency specialises in high-end properties including lifestyle businesses and private islands. Bruno says they’ve seen an exodus of sellers, particular older owners who have “grave concerns” about Fiji’s health care sector, but also want to be closer to family and draw on their pension in their home countries.
On the rental front, prices have dropped dramatically, particularly in Nadi where many businesses have shuttered due to border closures, Pritchard says. “Executive Apartments, those that used to rent out for $2.5 to $3000 [per month] have dropped to $1500. Denarau, it’s like the same thing has also happened there. But that’s typical of the Denarau market, you know, it goes up and down.”
At this end of the market, an impediment that realtors consistently hear about is the requirement that non-resident landholders build within two years of acquiring vacant land. The penalty for failing to do so is large, 10% of the sale price, and is levied at the time of sale.
Pritchard says there are practical challenges to meeting this requirement. “[It’s] very hard to build in Fiji. There are some good builders out there; it’s about getting the right one. At the moment it’s material, accessing the materials and especially if the materials have to be brought in.”
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