Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Luxury sales will endure, says Sotheby’s Jamaica

Published:Saturday | October 9, 2021 | 12:09 AM
Julia Dixon, realtor and primary shareholder in the Sotheby’s Jamaica realty firm.
Julia Dixon, realtor and primary shareholder in the Sotheby’s Jamaica realty firm.

Whether boom or bust, luxury will always sell, says upscale realty brand Sotheby’s at the formal launch of the brand’s operations in Jamaican on Friday. The Sotheby’s Jamaica franchise will start with five realtors, led by shareholder Julian Dixon...

Whether boom or bust, luxury will always sell, says upscale realty brand Sotheby’s at the formal launch of the brand’s operations in Jamaican on Friday.

The Sotheby’s Jamaica franchise will start with five realtors, led by shareholder Julian Dixon. The other shareholders are members of the Melville family, as representatives of investment company Diverze.

“After our launch, we will focus on recruitment to select only the best to represent the brand,” Dixon said in an interview with the Financial Gleaner interview, explaining that the existing agents were head-hunted. “The women named were hand-picked and they will be the face of the brand,” she said.

Sotheby’s, which operates in more than 70 countries, with Jamaica being the latest, prides itself on selling luxury for the rich and exclusivity for the wealthy. Apart from the realtors own list of local clients, Sotheby’s network will funnel high-end buyers to real estate listings in Jamaica.

“Sotheby’s International is one of the old realtor firms and I know they can pivot in any real estate weather,” said Dixon when asked about whether luxury can survive a crash.

Jamaica Sotheby’s International Realty was registered in July this year, becoming one of more that 230 entities approved to conduct realty services in Jamaica, according to listings on the Realtors Association of Jamaica website.

The company is entering the market during a real estate boom amid an economic recession. Real estate prices are rising and so too the value added to the economy by the construction sector.

Dixon issued a challenge, signalling that her operation intends to go aggressively after business.

REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY

“Jamaica believes it is seeing a boom in the real estate industry, but they will not know what a boom is until Sotheby’s International Realty hits the market,” she said.

Shareholder Daniel Melville said that regardless of whether the economy is on the upswing or downswing, the wealthy tend to maintain their wealth. And those that do, see real estate as a safe investment. And they often want to acquire assets overseas.

“They have options, but they often choose Jamaica,” said Melville, recalling celebrities from the 1950s onwards making the island their home. “Jamaica has always had a luxury lifestyle.”

Sotheby’s Jamaica will operate from a single location at the Super Valu mall in Kingston, but intends to add new locations “at a later date,” Melville said.

Shares in the local franchise are held by holding company Reside Realty, whose shareholders include real estate agent Julian Dixon at 51 per cent, and Diverze Properties Limited with 49 per cent, Company Office records show.

Three directors hold board positions including Dixon, along with businessmen Daniel Melville, Alexander Melville and Marc Melville. The Melvilles, through Diverze, are also affiliated with Tropical Battery and Chukka Adventures.

Philip White, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty, indicated in a release on the launch that the Jamaican real estate market has historically appreciated year after year, and has garnered interest from buyers in North America, Europe and most recently the Middle East, motivated by the island’s many opportunities and its tourism sector.

“Jamaica offers a diverse luxury lifestyle which appeals to a wide variety of buyers,” said White in the release. “In recent years, closed transactions have seen steady growth and new construction is booming on the island.”

Sotheby’s International already operates realty services in the Caribbean countries of The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Saint Barthelemy, Turks & Caicos Islands, Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St Martin, St Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago.

Jamaica’s construction sector, which includes real estate, grew 18 per cent in the June, far outpacing the 12.9 per cent growth experienced in the similar period in 2020. Most other sectors of the economy are recovering from 2020 lows, induced by the pandemic, but real estate never faltered.

Prices are rising, including for new luxury developments, some of which are testing new highs for an already bullish market. These developments bode well for Sotheby’s entrance.

Founded in 1976, the Sotheby’s International Realty network was designed to connect independent real estate companies to prestigious clientèle, according to the company’s website. In 2004, however, it started operating a franchising system.

Sotheby’s parent company, Realogy Holding, is itself a real estate franchising entity. Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the upscale auction house, which was established in 1744.

business@gleanerjm.com