Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

For sale

80 percent of the houses for sale are in Havana. Other cities do not have a meeting-point for sellers and buyers, like Havana’s Prado. They display for sale signs on their houses, like here in Cienfuegos.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Wheeling and dealing

On a Saturday morning potential buyers, sellers and intermediaries gather at the corner of the Prado and Colon in Havana to hash out deals.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Sign of the times

People display their offers with self-designed handwritten cardboard signs. Buying property with state salaries is an almost impossible task. People need to have a lot of money to buy a house. Foreigners officially cannot buy houses, but many have done so by putting in the name of a Cuban.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Cashing in

Milagro Socaraz Arazora, who lives with her two children and mother in Havana Vieja, wants to sell her house for 40,000 CUC (€34,000) and buy a cheaper house for around 15,000 CUC on the outskirts of Havana. With the money that is left, she wants to travel abroad to try and start an import-export business.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Affordable housing

Alamar, about 15 kilometers from central Havana, is a district where housing is cheaper. Often people sell their more expensive house in the center as a means to make money. Before 2012, Cubans could only swap their houses. The value that was set in the early years of the Revolution applied, so the contracts were worth less than $100. If sold, the referential value set by the government applies.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Deal or no deal?

Jorge (name changed) works as a permutero, a broker. He actively roams the streets for houses on sale. He cannot afford to work with a licence, as government taxes are too high. If he manages to broker a house swap, he gets a fee from both parties. If he brokers a sale, he gets 5 percent of the asking price.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Free living space

Usufructos are rooms/spaces donated by the government where people can live for free. As there are no ownership rights, they cannot be sold officially. However, the owner wants to charge 7,000 CUC from potential buyers. An entry will be made in the addresses register, but no sales contract will be signed at the notary.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

Trying to make ends meet

Mario Díaz is 79 and one of the oldest brokers at the Prado. He needs the money, as he cannot live off the state pension. The last house he sold was last September. The one before in November 2017.

Cubans carve out their own real estate in Havana

A quick getaway?

Although houses were sold clandestinely before 2012, the legalization of the housing market has the effect that more people sell their houses and move. The actual prices do not correspond with the referential value and most of the market and its players rely on verbal agreements.

Cubans have created an entire system of informal tricks around the sale of real-estate. Through non-verbal agreements houses in Cuba are sold for much higher prices in cash. Sanne Derks reports from Havana.