In this episode, Carlos talks with Ryan Knowles, CEO of Maison Bahamas. Ryan is frequently cited as one of the leading realtors in The Bahamas, having sold well over $150 million of real estate in the past few years. With a focus on luxury and new development properties, Ryan has garnered an excellent reputation in the industry and counts successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, and developers as some of his top clients. Among his most recent sales are a $16 million beachfront mansion on Paradise Island which holds the record for the highest price per square foot ever achieved in Ocean Club Estates, and a penthouse condo at the Ocean Club Residences & Marina which sold for just under $7 million. In early 2021, during a global pandemic, he sold the trophy penthouse at Thirty-Six Paradise Island, shattering the price record for the building by nearly 30%.
Video full transcription
Carlos: Today I have a very special guy on the show. His name is Ryan Knowles, and he’s the director and owner of a luxury broker in Bahamas.Tell us a little bit more about you and what brought you into the industry.
Ryan: My journey in real estate has been really interesting. I started in real estate when I was 19 years old. I just actually dropped out of college. So I went off to school and thought I was going to get a degree and maybe moved to a big city like New York or Los Angeles and worked for a big corporation. But everyone’s journey is different. I realized that college and school wasn’t for me. I preferred to be in the real world, working, and learning from the people who do it best.
I came back home and was working in a hotel and just by chance ran into a real estate broker who happened to be one of the very top real estate brokers in the Bahamas. And he took a liking to me. We kind of hit it off and by the end of the conversation, he was offering me a job to work for him. So that’s why I got my start at 19.
I worked for him for 3 years as his assistant, eventually got my own real estate license, at 22 or so, and worked my way up into the industry. I think in some ways I had it a little bit easier than other people because I was working for him. I learned everything from him, and I had a great head start as far as knowing how to deal with clients, learning about the market, and getting that big break into the high-end part of the market, which is what he specialized in.
And so when I started my first year of sales, I sold around 15 million in my first year, which was pretty good at the time. Eventually, I left that company and went to work for a bigger company here in Nassau, which was Christie’s of the Bahamas. I was there for 7 years and top producer for 5 years and then kind of wanted a different challenge.
I’d been selling real estate for about ten years by that point, and going through the motions a bit, realized I want to do my own thing. I really want to branch out, maybe create my own team, and eventually have my own brokerage.
So in 2019, I left Christie’s to form my own team, which went well, but also the timing wasn’t the best because we went right into COVID. COVID happened in early 2020, which totally shut down our country, and obviously affected our market quite a bit. Ironically, it ended up being a boost in the end because a lot of people from big cities like New York and Toronto, and other places left those cities because they wanted to get out of the city and be on a beautiful island. They can go on the boat, they can walk on the beach, even though it’s still COVID.So it actually ended up helping us quite a bit, but it took a few months for that to actually catch on.
During that time, I just built my business up, building my team through 2020 and going into 2021, and then sort of midway through 2021, I decided with a partner that I was going to start my own brokerage. We linked up with Forbes Global Properties, which I’m sure you’re aware of, which is an amazing network powered by Forbes, and we launched January of this year, January 1st.
Carlos: What do you do to get more business in your market to stand out from the competitors? How did you handle that through the pandemic?
Ryan: For us, everything that we did when we started the new company, Maison, was we wanted to be different. We wanted to make sure that there was a clear difference between what we were doing and what everyone else was doing. We wanted to add some flair and some flavor and a little bit of sizzle to real estate marketing. I spent a lot of time in Miami, New York. Learning from what some of the great agents and great brokers there do, whether that’s video marketing that’s at a super high level and very creative and just showing off different aspects of the property. Obviously, our affiliation with Forbes is also a differentiator because no one else has that affiliation.
For all of our listings, especially our high-end listings, we can get articles in Forbes, and we get promotion through Forbes, where we get our listings on the website. So from a seller’s perspective, if we’re working with the seller, there’s a lot more that we can offer them than the average agent can offer them.
The website with you guys has been great. We’ve gotten so many reviews from other agents, buyers, and sellers who just love the website. They love the way it looks, they love how easy it is to use. And then, of course, we’re getting actual leads from the website. That helped quite a bit for a new company that’s super important, that the website doesn’t just look good, it’s actually generating business for us already.
Carlos: You invested in yourself, you invested in your brand, and you made sure that you had a solid representation of your business for anybody that’s looking in your market to allow you to stand out as well with your processes and your team.
Ryan: I would come over to Miami and I would hit you up and I would say, hey, let’s meet. But it took us months of conversations with you. And then once we signed up, after months of development to build out the website, we really took our time. We didn’t want to rush it at all. And the same thing went for all of our marketing, our logo or branding, and all of that. We could have launched earlier or sooner, but we knew that we only had one chance to really make a strong impression and make sure we nailed the marketing. And I think, for the most part, we did do, but I think so far, we’re on the right track.
Carlos: What are the main challenges of your market and how do you see moving forward in the next few years?
Ryan: We definitely saw the effects of COVID in our market. Initially, as I said, things shut down completely. There was basically no travel or very limited travel to the island, only basically emergency travel was allowed for the first couple of months or so and then after that, once things opened up, there was like a flood of people who came. So New York City in particular was huge for us. We had dozens and dozens of people. And remember, we’re on a small island. So for us, if we have 100 people come, it makes a big impact act in the market. If we have 100 buyers come in one month or 100 renters, it makes a huge impact.
We had dozens of people coming to the island looking for properties, specifically looking for properties where they had beach access or waterfront access. So you can either walk on the beach or go on the boat. If you’re stuck in a city, no restaurants are open. You can’t go out to eat. You can’t go to see a show. It was kind of dreadful for a while, and I had a lot of friends who were living there, and they were dying to get out. So those who were fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy or rent a place here, loved it. They loved the freedom they got. It’s very accessible. We’re only two and a half hours away from New York. Direct flights. A lot of them have the ability to fly privately, which is even more convenient.
Relatively speaking, especially two years ago when this all happened, you could get a great place on the beach for a million dollars, which for someone coming from a city like New York or LA, or even Miami, that’s a great price, that’s a great value.
I think from that perspective as well, it helped because they’re coming in, they’re getting exactly what they want as far as having a place where they can spread out, they can enjoy time with their family, they can still work because you’ve got great Internet connectivity and you can still work from home, and you’re not having to spend crazy money. You’re actually getting a pretty good deal on beachfront, in a lot of cases, beachfront real estate now, since then, because there were so many people that came, the market, and the pricing has gone up tremendously because most of the supply was purchased.
A lot of that supply that had been on the market for a while or that was coming onto the market was bought up in 2020, the ending of 2020, the end part of 2020, all of 2021, and then even into 2022, there was still a lot, a lot of demand. And so now our market is in a place where it’s a seller’s market still. Pricing is still very high. We’re starting to see a little bit of urgency. I would say slow down a bit. byers take a little bit more time to make a purchasing decision, but they’re still wanting to come. And there are a lot of exciting new projects that are coming on stream, a lot of great condos, condominiums, and some new developments both in Nassau and in the other islands and it’s still a great time to vibe to me. We’re only at the beginning of an amazing real estate cycle for the Bahamas.
Carlos: How do you, as a business owner and as a real estate broker there, foresee the near future for your market?
Ryan: Our luxury market had an incredible run the past two years. There was so much demand coming in from mostly North America, folks coming out of big cities looking for places to rent or buy in the Bahamas. For a number of reasons, our proximity was one of the biggest ones. We’re the closest point south of the US. So 30 minutes from Miami, 2 hours from New York, 3 hours from Toronto, and a direct flight.
The other great thing about the Bahamas is obviously the weather. We’re one-to-one with the US dollar, which is very good for a currency. And our market, the high end of the market is still, relatively speaking, a bargain for people coming from places like New York or Miami, where you might be paying $2,000 a foot, $3,000 foot in New York could be as much as five or 6000 a foot for the top end of the market. Here, you’re only paying about 1000 a foot for a luxury condo.
So there’s great value for money, great accessibility, proximity, and you still have all the services and all the amenities and great restaurants. But you’re in the Bahamas with great weather and amazing beaches and all the things that come with being on an island.
Carlos: What are those key projects that you think are going to be the best options when we’re looking at the Bahamas now?
Ryan: We’re really just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to our luxury condo product. Historically, there haven’t been that many new buildings built because for a number of reasons, one of which was that the government wanted to preserve the scale of the island for the most part. But recently that’s beginning to change.
I think we’ve realized that as we grow as a city, especially in Nassau, we have to change. And that means bigger buildings, a little bit more density to be able to attract and accommodate all the people that we want to bring to the island. So there are a number of beautiful, beautiful new projects that are coming on stream. One of them that’s just about to be completed is called Goldwin, which is a luxury condo hotel. Half the building is a hotel and the other half is condos. So that’s 150 units that range in price from half a million all the way up to about $5 million for the penthouse on a beautiful beach, ten minutes from the airport, very close to Bahamar, which is a great resort with a casino. And this building will have all the amenities.
The other great thing is if you buy for any purchase above $750,000 in the Bahamas, you can qualify for what’s called permanent residency. You can actually become a resident and be domiciled in the Bahamas. So that’s great for folks who are looking to become a resident. There are a lot of great tax benefits that come along with that.
Carlos: For those who are starting on the industry or starting to create a real estate business, what are the best practices that you would recommend?
Ryan: Something that helped me was having a mentor. And that could be one person or a team of people. If you can learn from someone who has the experience, who’s doing the kind of business that you want to do, who has a track record, who’s been successful in the industry, that’s invaluable. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from a book or a training program. If you can shadow and really just soak up all of the knowledge and experience that a top agent has, that’s going to propel you so far because these agents have gone through almost anything you can go through as a real estate agent so they know what to avoid, what kind of clients you should look for, how to structure your day, how to market yourself. They know the importance of integrity, honesty, and be punctual. Although become second nature after a while, but for someone who’s new, they just don’t know.
Carlos: For any agents that may want to know more from you or where to find you, where can they find you, how can they reach out?
Ryan: You can find me on Instagram. Everyone’s on Instagram these days. So it’s at Ryan Knowles Best. So it’s my first name, last name, and then the word best. You can find me on Facebook. You can find me on my website, MaisonBahamas.com. You can call me on my cell phone right now.
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The Pipeline is a conversational podcast hosted by Carlos Concepción, Chief Sales Officer at www.tremgroup.com, a real estate business accelerator platform that combines the power of innovative technology, proven marketing strategies, and experts working alongside.
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