View Full Version : Property Prices

06-22-2016, 09:45 AM
We are starting to investigate buying property on Bonaire, but we are curious about the culture on the island regarding asking price vs. selling price. In the states, we can look at Zillow and see data on how housing prices move in a given market, but there appears to be no such data bank on Bonaire. Do houses generally sell at, below or above asking price? Are negotiations common?

Andy Z
06-22-2016, 04:51 PM
Not an expert, but for what it's worth, when we were buying land on Bonaire last year we started negotiations 10% below the asking price and in the end paid around 7% below the asking price. We had very specific requirements and budget so we didn't really have many options and room for negotiations. I guess if we were more flexible on the property we could probably negotiate more or look for a better deal.

06-23-2016, 10:40 AM
I am an expert and the process for purchasing property on Bonaire is similar to the process in the US/Canada and in Europe. The short answer is that the price is ALWAYS negotiable, even if the seller or brokers says it isn't.

You are right that there is no central data bank of home prices on Bonaire like Zillow, where buyers can go to research prices. Sales prices on Bonaire ARE public record, but that information isn't online so you cant just google it for free. There is some research you need to do, and there is some cost involved. There is also no MLS on Bonaire, although most brokers on Bonaire do cooperate with each other.

Since selling prices aren't readily available, sellers can ask whatever price they want to for a property. The seller sets the price whether or not they are using a broker.

Here are some simple rules:
- Do your research on-line. Even though you can't see selling prices, you can see listing prices. If you see five similar houses for the same price (+/- 10%) then that is probably the "market" price. If you see an outlier, then that house either has some really cool features (view, pool, large lot) or a crazy owner.
- Visit 5 or 6 properties before you make any offer on the one you like. After 5 or 6 showings you should have a pretty good idea of what a property in your price range should look like it in terms of location, lot size, house size, and "extras".
- No one pays over asking price on Bonaire, it is not that kind of market.
- Right now Bonaire is a buyers market, and there are more properties for sale than there are buyers.
- The price is always negotiable, even if people say it isn't.
- Don't be afraid to make a low offer, it just might be accepted.
- Don't be afraid you will offend a seller with a low offer, this isn't a popularity contest, it's business deal. The seller wants a buyer, and even if the offer is low, you are a buyer.
- If you make an unreasonably low offer, you might "insult" the seller. If the seller is "insulted" they may not make a counter offer and then you need to decide if you will increase your offer or move on to another property.
- If you "insult" the seller, they can choose not to sell to you, so be careful if you decide to make an unreasonably low offer on a house you really like.
- It is very common that a house will be sold including the furniture, appliances and everything. You want to consider that when you make an offer.
- As far as negotiating goes, it really depends on the property, just like in the US/Canada. If you are looking at a house that has been on the market for a while, or needs work, there is usually more room on the price than there is with a house that is well maintained and is in perfect condition.
- Getting the best price also means being a good negotiator and understanding your seller. If you are dealing with a Dutch person, they come from a trading culture and are very willing to haggle with you on the price, even down to the last $1000 or $2000. in fact, you may have to "walk away" from the negotiations in order the get the best price. Americans and Canadians are often more willing (sometimes too willing) to compromise on the price and often "split the difference", because it is an easy thing to do.
- An average starting offer on a well priced house can be up to 10% less. If you think the house is overpriced, you can always offer even less.
- If you are unfamiliar with the market, it is always a good idea to work with an experienced real estate broker who you can trust. Once you find someone you can trust, it is important to listen to their advice during the process and use that advice as you see fit.
- It is important to remember that a good broker should be your partner and adviser in the buying process. When I am selling a house as the broker, it is true that I get paid by the seller to sell their house, so want to get the seller a good price for their house. On the other hand, i also need to treat the buyer fairly so that they come back to me when they decide to sell the house they just bought and maybe buy a new one. Ultimately the broker wants to arrange a transaction that both the buyer and seller believe was fair. Ideally, the seller is happy and thinks they got a fair price, and the buyer is happy and thinks they got good value for their money, too.

06-23-2016, 11:32 AM
Thank you, Bob. That was very helpful.

06-23-2016, 11:46 AM
You are welcome. If you have any other questions, just let me know.

06-23-2016, 06:16 PM
So I do have another question, Bob. If we are looking at a lot, we need to get a sense of the typical construction costs per square meter (similar quality to the houses in Sabadeco). Could you give an approximate range for the cost of building a home per square meter?

06-24-2016, 11:29 AM
The cost of construction depends on a number things, including the quality of the materials you select to finish you kitchen, floor, bathroom and windows and doors. At the moment construction prices range from about $1300 to $1700 per square meter for very good quality construction and finishes. This price includes doors and windows, floor tiles, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets. You also need to ADD costs for furniture, window coverings, a pool, a garden and the wall around your property.

That said, building a house has its own set of risks, including cost overruns, under capiltalized contractors, material theft, and sub-standard workmanship. If you build, the most important thing is to hire a good contractor and check their references. You should plan to be on site EVERY day during construction in order to end up with the house you want, on the budget you want. If you are not going to be present you need to hire a competent project manager who works only for you to oversee the construction and purchasing of materials.

There are no local licensing or performance bonding requirements on Bonaire for architects, contractors, electricians or plumbers, so it is very much a buyer beware situation. If you call yourself a "contractor" you are one. Contractors and tradesmen are supposed to have business licenses and most due, but there is no testing to get the license to to make sure the contractor knows what they are doing.

At the moment, buying an existing house is cheaper than building one, so if you can find an existing house that you like, that will usually be less costly than building, even if you have to do some renovation work. It is much easier to control renovation costs than it is to control costs on a new project.

I can tell you stories about successful construction projects and about those that ended up going through two or three or four contractors and ended up costing tens of thousands of dollars more than was planned for. If you are going to build, do your homework and watch it closely.

06-24-2016, 11:37 AM
It is also important to find a good architect or designer when you are designing/building your home. How wind and sunlight/shade affects the indoor and outdoor living spaces is much more important than the size of your house. Most people who do not live here end up building houses with much more interior space than they need and not enough outside space. Bonaire is a place where you can live outside most of the time if there is shade and some breeze. You need a home designer who will design for this climate, and give you large, shaded outdoor spaces that take advantage of the wind, and open interior spaces with high ceilings that allows the wind to pass through the house and the heat to escape.

Good Luck!

06-29-2016, 11:51 AM
Great questions and info

11-25-2016, 10:31 PM
#1 - know you budget and research local financing options if necessary. Don't go for anything you can't afford hoping you'll steal it - just a big waste of everyone's time. My wife and are relatively easy to please, ask any real estate broker. In 18 years we have bought 4 homes together in NY, NJ & VT and never spent more than a weekend looking at the homes we first researched "on line" through realtor websites. That is not to say we did not waste 1-2 weekends between the completed purchases eliminating neighborhoods after visiting them in person. It may sound unbelievable, but its true. We always purchased with the attitude that as long as we don't overpay, we can sell it later if it does not work out. We still own 3 out of 4 homes and sold one for a reasonable profit when our needs changed, in a bad market in 2008. We always had very specific requirements and were able to easily eliminate homes that did not fit. We were also never afraid to buy the almost perfect house and renovate it to make the perfect house for us at the time. So here's my rule that has worked so far: In Bonaire there is a 5% transfer tax the Buyer pays, so it's a good starting minimum point of negotiations if everything else is perfect; if the house is everything you want in a home, buy it before someone else does (never happened to me yet); if the house is priced right for the location, size and condition - but it does not WOW you when you see it in person, have your broker help estimate what it will cost to improve the house to WOW you and deduct that amount (not more) from the asking price.

As for Bonaire, we found a home online in August that we were both very interested in seeing. We planned a visit with a local broker and made a day trip from Aruba and saw it along with two comparable homes - it was priced where I want to end up. We went home and thought about what it would cost to make it our perfect Caribbean home, and then made an offer. The seller had the house on the market 2 years. We thought the house needed a pool, new kitchen, some technology upgrades, and minor face lift. As to construction costs - in Bonaire, compared to the US, Labor is cheaper and Materials are expensive. That being said, construction prices are comparable to pricing in larger US metro areas. We took what I believe I will spend on the improvements and the 5% tax off my offer price and stuck with it. We had a good brokers on both sides of the deal, and a difficult Dutch seller. We literally closed earlier today and will arrive tomorrow as new Bonaire home owners.

11-28-2016, 04:16 PM
Would love to know more about where you purchased and what brokers were involved. We had a similar time line. Private message me the info if you care to share.

We have been coming to Bonaire since 2007 for a couple weeks per year. In the spring we decided to make our two week summer vacation a house hunting excursion. I am a REALTOR so buying and selling houses is no big deal. I started researching in the spring and had a list of properties we wanted to see on August 1st. We saw several and then went and saw our favorites a 2nd time. We had a similar experience with the Dutch owner who was unrealistic. Ultimately our settlement occurred at the end of October and we arrived there the next day. While we made an aggressive offer and bought substantially below the list price, the seller did not deliver what we had agreed to. We are still sorting through the details and have escalated it to the Notaris.

We had an agent who was a friend of ours represent us, which with my experience and expertise, added only a little to the equation. The sellers broker/agent seemed helpful on the surface. A couple things everyone should know is buying in Bonaire is different than in the US. One thing is the protections buyers get in the US in regards to disclosure from the seller. While there are most certainly sellers in the US who try to "hide" defects or claim no knowledge, few will go as far as they do in Bonaire. Another thing is the difference in agents/brokers between the US and Bonaire. While there are certainly some dishonest agents in the US, the percentage is low and most abide by the National Association of Realtors ethics. In addition, most states and some cities enforce their own code of conduct and ethics. Again, most agents abide by these as their license is on the line. There are no such protections in Bonaire that I am aware of. The truth is played with fast and loose. Stories change all the time. My best advise is to not trust anyone and be your own best advocate. Be smart and know what you are looking at. When it comes to the inspection, you MUST be there. The scope and quality of an inspection is not what you are likely accustomed to at home.

A word to the wise....if you are replacing your kitchen and are planning on granite counters prepare for delays. We met with the only granite guy on the island on November 2nd and he came out and measured the next week. We begged to have the install done before we return for Xmas. Due to his schedule and the fact that most of his workers go back to South America from December 15th -January 15th our new counters won't be installed until mid-February.

The good news is Bonaire's market seems to finally started to recover. Several of the houses that were on our list, including the #1, sold in the two weeks we were there. Others have been pulled by the seller due to unrealistic expectations.

01-21-2017, 10:44 PM
I have been so busy since the purchase between holidays and family I never replied - sorry. I'm back on Bonaire for a few days to check on progress of our renovations (and get in a couple of dives). Some critical things were done timely - we have a large solar collector functioning and the leaking hot water boiler was replaced. Otherwise, demo was started but not finished before the Christmas break and I am anxious to see the workers back here Monday. Our first conversation will be about "dust protection." These guys would never survive the NY Metro area Home Improvement business.

We went with a quartz composite for kitchen counters in stock on Curacao - as much as I like granite, I do not have time to oversee the layout and cutting of the slabs and did not want to deal with the variation. We have a VERY contemporary kitchen ordered from Brugman. The kitchen is scheduled to ship from Holland the last week of February. If it all happens as promised, great, if not, no one dies. I hope we have this house for the rest of our and our children's lives, so a few weeks or months with the old kitchen won't kill me. "Bonaire time" is like an automatic self winding watch left on your nightstand for a week.

Your comment about closing inspections is a good one. My broker was not very diligent about that, but I was not too concerned because I expected to have problems with almost everything anyway and he sort of knew that. If I had done the walk through we would have had quite a list but we would never have closed. I'm not a double dealer, so as far as I was concerned, contrary to the contract, I took the house "as is" and used the defects I discovered to negotiate some non-monetary concessions post closing. The seller is my Bonaire next door neighbor, so we will likely be dealing with each other for a long time.

I will give you my contact info privately - maybe we can share good and bad experiences without hurting anyones feelings that way.

01-23-2017, 02:45 PM
Don't worry, quartz counters are awesome!