Monday, January 28, 2008

Real Estate in Cuba

There's a spike in value, from shortages and speculation that private property might return in a post-Castro Cuba. (Emigres in Florida and elsewhere are sending cash to relatives to buy houses in anticipation of return -- or to market.) Also, sales of private property are forbidden, but transfers are permitted, so there's a healthy black market in cash-compensated swaps, including bribes to officials to look the other way.

“You have your system and we have ours,” she said, identifying herself only by her first name, Alejandra. “I prefer our system. We don’t have mortgages and so we’re not facing foreclosure like so many of you are.”

Alejandra knows about the foreclosure crisis in the United States because her son lives in Florida and is struggling to make his house payments. “I worry about him,” she said. “If he loses his job, he’ll lose his home.”

Property is sometimes seized in Cuba as well, but by the government, not the bank. Property is taken from those who hop on boats to Florida, although most switch their houses to relatives’ names well before leaving. Those fleeing the island also frequently downgrade their accommodations before going into exile, trading big places for small ones and using the money exchanged on the side to pay for their voyages — the Cuban equivalent of a home equity loan.

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