Sunday, October 25, 2015

Having a Garage in Havana

Having a Garage in Havana / Ivan Garcia
Posted on October 24, 2015

Ivan Garcia, 2 October 2015 — While waiting for the intermittent autumn
drizzle to stop, Cecilio, a housing-swap* broker in Havana, watches the
re-broadcast on a local sports channel of a bio about Chicago Bulls
player Michael Jordan on his 42-inch flat screen TV.

He glances at his watch from time to time and peers out the shutters to
see if the rain has stopped. "I'm waiting for a client who wants to sell
a two-bedroom apartment with a garage. We have a four o'clock
appointment to look at it, but the rail will cause a delay," he says,

Cecilio has been engaged in buying and selling homes for 23 years. "This
business works if you are serious and businesslike. And you can earn
good money. When it was illegal I looked for one or two thousand dollars
for every sale. Now less, but I have enough clients to never stop. The
sale of homes in Havana is an irregular market. There are fat times and
thin times," he confesses.

According to this master of swaps, "people are not stupid. They ask a
price for an apartment as if it were in New York. But if the house is in
El Vedado, Mirarmar, Fontanar, Sevillana or Casino Deportivo and has a
garage, the sale is a sure thing," and says, puffing on a menthol cigarette.

"A house with a garage in ordinary condition will sell for no less than
$50,000 dollars. And an apartment in a building with a parking lot
around $30,000." says Cecilio.

Why does a garage raise prices so much in a real estate transaction? I
ask a specialist at the Housing Institute in the 10 de Octobre district.

"For years, in Havana, there has been a marked lack of garages for cars.
Dormitory-cities ahve been built, like Alamar, Mulgoba or San Agustin,
without garages or parking spaces. Vehicle owners have had to make do.
So you see improvised garages in public spaces or in doorways. Having a
garage in Cuba is worth 30 CUC a month (around $27 US), simply for the
idea of renting it to store cars. If it is used for a snackbar, bar or
other business, the earnings can be higher," says the specialist.

Herminda, a talkative and amiable old woman lives in a large house a
stone's throw from Monaco, the commercial area between the Havana
neighborhoods of Sevillano and Casino Deportive. And for 5 CUC a day she
rents her garage to a private entreprenuer who sells bread and pastries.

"That's 150 chavitos (convertible pesos) a month. Fifteen times what the
government pays me for my pension. With this money I'm not a burden on
my children. I can go to the theater and every now and then eat in a
private restaurant," she says laughing while petting the ears of her
restless dachshund.

Three years ago Lourdes took advantage of the boom in 3-D cinemas and on
returning from a visit to Miami brought a more than 70-inch TV and
professional audio equipment.

With two dozen black leather armchairs, fifty pairs of polaroid glasses
and air conditioning to keep the room at 62 degrees fahrenheit, she
reconverted the ramshackle garage filled with household junk into a 3-D

"But those people (the regime) banned it. I had invested more than
$8,000 and I still haven't recovered the money. Then the cinema went
underground. I charge 2 CUC a person. And sell a cup of popcorn and a
soft drink for 1 CUC," says Lourdes.

If you walk around Havana you'll see hundreds of garages transformed
into small private businesses. From snackbars, bars, candy stores,
barber shops, beauty salons, photo or video studios or even artisan
shops where the trader, discreetly, whispers to you that he or she sells
fashionable clothes under the table and perfumes at bargain prices.

Eleonora and Carlos Manuel, a couple living in Nueva Vedado, jokingly
say they should ask for an offer on their garage.

"Thanks to the garage we could set up a photo or video studio for
quinces (girls' 15th birthday celebrations) or weddings. The garage is
what lets us give ourselves a few luxuries, like staying in a hotel two
weeks a year in an all-inclusive package in Varadero," they point out.

Yosvany lives in a two-bedroom apartment, facing Cordoba Park, in La
Vibora neighborhood. He is selling it for 30,000 CUC (about $27,000).
"Several buyers have told me to the price is too high. But I tell them
my apartment has a large private underground garage."

If you have patience, says Cecilio, the housing-swap broker, "You can
sell with no problems: the apartment can be restored and improved, but
the garage is insurance money they exceeds the $24 a month that the
State pays a worker.

Following the broker's advice, Yosvany prefers to wait for a better
offer. If there is one thing a Cuban knows how to do it is to wait.

Photo: Roofed Garage in a house near Avenida de Acosta, in Lawton, 10 de
Octubre district in Havana. Built in 1945, it is in excellent condition.
Like many in Cuba, it is fully gated and among other amenities has a
24-hour water supply. It was on sale for 35,000 thousand. Photo taken
from Havana Keys, real estate agency specializing in the buying, selling
and renting in Havana.

*Translator's note: Until recently it was illegal to buy and sell
housing in Cuba and transactions had to be arranged as trades, which
gave people a chance to trade up or down according to their needs and

Source: Having a Garage in Havana / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba -

No comments:

Post a Comment