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Furnished? It's up to you

Options in Grand Bahama


If you're a first-time buyer of a house or condo in Grand Bahama, you are probably looking for a furnished place, says Jamie Sarles, owner of James Sarles Realty in Grand Bahama.

Many purchasers prefer to have a turn-key situation when first purchasing in Freeport, says Sarles, "because of the hassles of bringing in furniture, and because the process of setting up a new home can be enough of an ordeal," without the additional worry of buying furniture.

"Many first-time buyers get their feet wet with more modest properties and once they are 100 per cent sold on the island, they upgrade or build to suit their individual needs," says Lanelle Phillips-Cole, district manager for H G Christie Ltd in Freeport.

"Many of the homes we currently have on the market are not clients relocating off the island, but clients relocating to more impressive properties," says Phillips-Cole.

A talented handful
Phillips-Cole says there are talented interior designers on the island who work with both local furniture vendors and merchandise purchased in Ft Lauderdale, FL, where there are many unique stores and design centres.

Shipping is easily organized and in many cases, due to provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (which sets Freeport apart from the rest of The Bahamas), merchandise is imported duty free to qualified licensees of the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

Freeport, a major transshipment point less than 80 miles from Ft Lauderdale, allows for rapid and safe transportation of goods. But there are also opportunities to purchase quality furniture and material locally, says Phillips-Cole.

Most of the the high-end homes and condos sold for resale in Grand Bahama today are furnished. That's because "the cost of transporting furniture off the island after the expense has already been made bringing it to the island, well, that is just not cost-efficient." An exception is personal things such as antiques and heirlooms, which were brought in duty free.

Chic "island style"
The most favoured style today is something called "sophisticated island style," says Phillips-Cole. It is also called "whitewash" by some interior designers.

Victoria Crane, a Bahamian who studied interior design in England, is now much in demand to furnish homes, timeshares and condos for Grand Bahama contractors

"Generally, when I am asked to put together furniture packages, I offer three categories: a whitewash, a pine look and a mahogany category," says Crane.

"Then it would be up to them, where they want to go. Generally, everyone will lean to the whitewash because that is thought to be what island living is all about and also because that is where the commercial price points are."

Whitewash is a style that was developed in the early 1980s in Florida, featuring bamboo or natural coloured wood furniture with big, colourful "hibiscus and parrot" fabrics, as Crane calls them, with light ceramic tile floors.

An evolving clientele
However, tastes are changing. Phillips-Cole says developers are increasingly choosing "quality furniture as individual pieces and not as showroom matched sets.

"Our clientele is evolving and we see it in the quality of homes being built. The buyers" tastes are more sophisticated and their needs are more defined than before," she says. "Style is important and buyers will not deviate from that - unless it is a short-term purchase situation.

"What's most important these days is that knowledgeable real estate agents should be consulted on furnishings if it is a spec home (ie, one built without a specific buyer in mind)."

Crane says contractors and real estate agents are both becoming aware that more emphasis should be put on the furnishings because, "at the end of the day, its often the furnishings that actually sell your property."

When it comes to unfurnished houses - most of them in the million-dollar-plus bracket - people buy first and then go to an interior designer for advice, Crane says.

These buyers tend to lean toward British Colonial-style furniture - heavier pieces with a mahogany look - especially when accented with Indonesian pieces, she says.

"It's sort of a cross," with more and more furnishings imported to The Bahamas from Bali. That style "really suits our climate," she says.

"I look upon myself as a personal shopper for second-home buyers and owners. Owning my own furniture store (for local clientele, not for tourists and residents), I know about shipping restrictions and so on - things that most people are not aware of."

It's a time-consuming business because, first of all, Crane has to get to know her clients, their likes and dislikes. "We discuss what it is they want, we go through the magazines, they give me a budget and I work within that budget."

Who buys homes in Grand Bahama these days? Most are buying a second or a third home, says Sarles. "They are people who could live anywhere in the world they want to but have chosen The Bahamas. We sell to every age bracket and to people from all over the world."

Recent sales have included those to buyers from Australia, North America, South Africa, Israel, India, China, Switzerland, the UK and France. And, at least to begin with, most are looking for a completely furnished home.


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