Bermuda and moccasins without socks, Mauricio Garcia displays the look of the perfect tourist in Old Havana. He is nevertheless Cuban and his return to the country, after 16 years in Spain, stimulates the local economy and the real estate market.
Like him, 40,000 Cuban emigrants have returned since the migration reform of 2013, which facilitates this approach.
On the socialist island, they were criticized as "gusanos" (worms) when they left, now they are beautifully called "mariposas" (butterflies) because their finances allow them to invest.
Mauricio operated this moult in 2016: "The decision (to return, ed) is due to the fact that you are allowed to do business and, instead of strolling around the world, it's better to be here, on your land, "says the 41-year-old man, owner of a private restaurant (paladar)," Draquesitos ", prized tourists landing from the terminal of cruise ships near there.
In addition to migration reform, Mauricio benefited from the 2011 law, which allowed only Cubans the purchase and sale of real estate. Previously, they could only exchange.
With 45,000 sales in 2012, 88,000 in 2013 and 100,000 in 2014, the Cuban market then flew, before declining slightly from 2015, according to Carlos Garcia Pleyan, a Catalan sociologist and urban planner living in Cuba for 50 years.
However, he remains "very active", says the specialist in the sector, Armando Portela, interviewed by the magazine Cuba Geografica, based in Miami, and "overcomes the many obstacles, such as poor access to technology, the lack of public information (… ) and financial tools, legislative delay ".
– "Another Cuba" –
On the verge of celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2019, the beautiful Havana, with colorful houses and picturesque charm as frozen in time, suffers from a deficit estimated at 700,000 homes.
The government of the new president Miguel Diaz-Canel is trying to fill it by aiming for the annual construction of 50,000 homes, against 20,000 currently. Sign of the dilapidated environment, Hurricane Irma, in September 2017, destroyed 30,000 in one night.
Meanwhile, returning Cubans buy and renovate buildings to make restaurants or tourist homes.
That's exactly what Maykel Galindo, 35, did. After living 16 years in Belgium, he collected his savings and borrowed in his adopted country, to acquire a house in ruins of 150 square meters of the historic district of Havana.
With the help of his family, he renovated it and divided it into rooms for rent.
"I discovered that inside Cuba exists another Cuba, created in a certain way by the private sector", notes this translator of formation. And "I, like Cuban, I found that this part of Cuba corresponded to me."
He remembers that when buying the house in 2015 "prices were ridiculously low" … and calculates that since then, they have been multiplied by eight.
– "Huge potential" –
Current rates range from $ 5,000, for small apartments in outlying areas, to a million, in residential areas like Kholy, Miramar or Vedado.
Sellers? Generally, owners of large houses needing money for example to leave the country or start a business.
The buyers? Often Cubans returning home or having family abroad, others wanting to start their own business. The law prohibits foreigners from buying in Cuba, but those married with a Cuban (e) can circumvent the ban.
Ads go through the internet, through small real estate agencies or directly on the street. With, among the most sought after, houses built before the 1959 Revolution and presented as "capitalist constructions", a guarantee of quality according to the sellers.
The real estate market, however, faces tough times, "with the stoppage in the private sector" caused by new regulations from the government and the tightening of the US embargo by Donald Trump, which "has hampered tourism and tourism. investors' interest in the real estate market, "says Carlos Garcia Pleyan.
"But in the long run, the potential is huge and will start to rise," he says, believing that the Cuban real estate sector could eventually also open to foreign capital … at the risk of fueling the surge in investment. price.