Tue | Jan 15, 2019

REB buys New Kingston building

Published:Friday | November 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The newly acquired headquarters of the Real Estate Board and Commission of Strata Corporations. Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

The Real Estate Board (REB) has bought a two-storey building in New Kingston, which Chief Executive Officer Sandra Watson says gives the agency added space for its expanding portfolio.

REB has already moved into its new home, a 15,000-square-foot building located at 24 Trafalgar Road in proximity to the British High Commission. REB was formerly based at 1 Surbiton Road, but has outgrown the space there, Watson said.

The agency polices both the commercial and residential real estate markets, as well as the brokers, dealers and land developers, whom it not only license but must now police to ensure adherence to anti-money laundering rules under the Proceeds of Crime Act - a provision that took effect in April 2014.

Four years ago, under reform of the strata corporation sector, REB began to share operating space with the newly created Commission of Strata Corporations, for which Watson is also CEO and secretary to the board.

Most recently, REB was given the additional responsibility for licensing and registration of timeshare developments, a sector that is associated moreso with the vacation or tourism market.

REB will retain possession of the Surbiton Road property, which it leases from the Commissioner of Lands. It is refurbished as a training centre for REB staff, the CEO said, a project that includes adding access points for the disabled.

The Financial Gleaner under-stands that REB paid about $190 million for the Trafalgar Road property, which was previously owned by the Mahfoods through a company called Corporate Enterprise Limited.

The shareholders of Corporate Enterprise were named as Joan and Derrick Mahfood, Susan Mahfood, Linden Mahfood, Debbie Issa, and DLM Investments Limited, which is domiciled at 14 Belmont Road in Kingston, according to Companies Office of Jamaica records.

Watson, although declining to confirm the investment in the property and the source of financing, said that all capital improvements have to be funded and sourced by the Board itself as the agency is largely self-funding and receives only a contribution towards salary from central government.

Recurrent or operating costs for the Board, she said, are in the region of $70 million annually, funded mainly through fees from registering real estate brokers and developers, and other services.

The fees listed on the agency's website range from $1,000 to $150,000.

Each year, "a little" of the proceeds from fees has to be set aside for the agency's capital projects.

"Never in our history have we received anything for capital (expenditure). We were given responsibility for POCA without a dollar," Watson said.

The same holds true for its timeshare mandate. However, Watson acknowledged that there is as yet no formal timeshare market to police.

The legislation to facilitate it was passed in the Lower House in October, but the bill must also be passed by the Senate before it is enacted into law. That is expected by early next year.

Training, the CEO said, was increasingly a bigger part of the REB's mandate as more developers were being found to be in breach, especially in the area of overbuilding, which creates stress on infrastructure such as sewage.

The scope of the problem was exposed "at the back end" through the work of the strata commission with complexes that are struggling to meet high maintenance costs. A strata is a complex or building whose individual unit owners share some common space and expenses.

"In our corporate planning, we sought the advice of the industry and we were told that more training is needed, both for the industry and the public," Watson said.

She said that the REB would charge for training sessions to cover the cost of overheads and lecturers' fees.