More than 30 years of CIREBA, Cayman’s only real estate association

The nine volunteer members of the CIREBA board are: President Jeannette Totten, Secretary Debi Bergstrom, Director Sheena Conolly,Treasurer Tony Catalanotto, Director Jeremy Hurst, Director Quatro Hatch, Vice President Michael Day, Director Brian Wight and Director Dale Crighton.

Founded in 1987, the nonprofit Cayman Islands’ Real Estate Brokers’ Association annually oversees nearly three-quarters of all local realty transactions, listing at any given time an average of 1,500 properties valued around $1.6 billion.

Comprising 34 companies and approximately 180 agents, CIREBA seeks “to facilitate fair, straightforward and trouble-free property transactions,” according to its website,

The real estate industry is the fourth pillar of Cayman’s economy – behind financial services, tourism and construction – and plays a significant role in the islands’ gross domestic product, according to the Economics and Statistics Office, which reported first-half 2017 transactions worth $481.4 million.

The group is a central source of licensing and information, detailed professional and ethical standards, and mandatory training – complemented with ongoing examinations – on agency law, contract law, anti-money-laundering, compliance, due diligence, business ethics and industry operations.

The organization is governed by a volunteer board – nine members currently – and funded by royalties on every CIREBA transaction. The group’s website is complemented with social media and a print magazine showcasing available properties.

On the occasion of its 30th birthday, CIREBA reflected on some other 1987 events:

  • Cayman had 508 registered banks, most of the world’s largest.
  • Legislators passed the Merchant Shipping Law and the Labour Law
  • Cayman Airways launched twice weekly service to Atlanta and Tampa
  • Eastern Airlines began daily service to Cayman
  • The Cayman Islands debuted at the Pan American Games in Indiana
  • The Cayman Islands Hospital added a nursery wing
  • The Hyatt Hotel opened
  • The Harquail Theatre opened.

As offshore financial markets rapidly expanded, local realtors saw the growing potential, spurring them to launch an association prescribing unified standards of practice. The new association developed the Multiple Listing System to share property rolls, benefitting everyone: Buyers could consult with a single agent, who had access to all records, while agents could cooperate or co-broke with other companies.

The association also established a set of commission rates, standardizing fee structures and creating a level playing field.

The MLS system, based on a similar North American network, was the first of its kind in the Caribbean, creating a universally accessible inventory of members’ commercial and residential properties and records, allowing agents – working in a standardized, transparent and detailed format – quickly to locate any listings suiting a purchaser’s requirements.

CIREBA has sometimes been accused of charging excessive fees. Research indicates, however, that North American, Caribbean and Latin American rates are similar, if not greater than, Cayman’s sliding commission structure based on the value of the property, particularly given the cost of conducting business locally.

Jeanette Totten, CIREBA president, thanked the organization’s founders: “As we proudly look back at 30-plus years of accomplishments, hard work and success within CIREBA and the Cayman Islands real-estate industry, I would like to congratulate each of the individuals who had the foresight to start CIREBA.

“Today we can proudly say that, thanks to hard work, dedication and passion for the industry, CIREBA has strong ethical, well-trained and thriving members, of which we are very proud. I am honored to be president of CIREBA.”

CIREBA’s stability and best practices are among the best in the region. The Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas have borrowed CIREBA principles and guidance when setting up their own real-estate associations and listings systems.

CIREBA annually donates to a range of local charities including $100,000 to benefit Cayman’s new Hospice Care building.

To learn more about the CIREBA, visit