‘For sale’ signs in Cuba: Residents can take advantage of new housing rules

Hundreds of handwritten signs stuck on door-ways and in windows announce “se vende” or “for sale” in provincial cities and towns across Cuba as the island’s nascent housing market begins to bloom, Reuters reports.

Buyers walk the streets looking at homes the whereabouts of which were passed along by word-of-mouth as sellers outside of Havana have limited access to the Internet or other means to advertise their sales.

There are hovels and there are splendid little places tucked between crumbling buildings. There are two-storey homes in need of repair and a few in immaculate condition. Some places go for the equivalent of a few thousand dollars, others for much more.

Buying and selling homes was banned for decades in Cuba. The best one could do was trade dwellings in what Cubans call a “permuta” and expand or decrease the size of where you lived by a single room.

That all changed when the ban was lifted in November, along with much of the previous paperwork and bureaucratic tangles, though Cubans can still own just one home and vacation place and non-resident foreigners are excluded from the market.

The measure appears to be the most popular yet as President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, works to reform the Soviet-style economy and gradually lifts some of the more onerous restrictions on people’s daily lives.

Trading one’s home was a nightmarish process that could take months and even years under the old system, and often required bribes and under-the-table payments. The new system requires a simple notary and payment through the bank and appears to be working relatively well, according to more than a dozen people selling their homes from one end of the island to the other.

Most sellers have become used to strangers on the prowl for a home. They are a hospitable lot, welcoming the passerby to come in for a look.

“I’m asking $55,000. The house has three rooms, two bathrooms, a big back yard, kitchen, dining room and living room, right near the centre of town,” said Jose Ramirez in the city of Ciego de Avila, in central Cuba.

On a tour of 100 kilometres to the east to check out the market in the city of Camaguey, one place catches the eye on Virgin Street. The neighbourhood needs a plaster and paint job and the road needs paving, but the half-block-long, five bedroom single-storey house, freshly painted and with new tile floors, is splendid. The family wants $35,000.

“Most of the houses sold are [being bought] with the help of family abroad, if not it wouldn’t be possible because their value is going up a lot now,” said Roberto Sosa, pointing out most residents make only the equivalent of $20 or $30 per month.

For the original report go to http://www.theprovince.com/sale+signs+Cuba/5998536/story.html#ixzz1jav0ZoqX

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