Bermuda shorts and moccasins without socks, Mauricio Garcia shows the appearance of the perfect tourist in Old Havana. However it is 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 migrants have returned from the 2013 migration reform, 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 made this change in 2016: "The decision (to return, ed) is due to the fact that you are allowed to do business and, instead of going around the world, it is better to be here, on your land", says the 39, 41-year-old man, owner of a private restaurant (paladar), "Draquesitos", appreciated tourists who land from the cruise ship terminal nearby.
In addition to the migration reform, Mauricio benefited from the 2011 law, which allowed only Cubans to buy and sell real estate. Previously, they could only exchange each other.
With 45,000 sales in 2012, 88,000 in 2013 and 100,000 in 2014, the Cuban market then flew, before declining slightly compared to 2015, according to Carlos Garcia Pleyan, Catalan sociologist and planner who has been living in Cuba for 50 years.
However, it remains "very active", says the industry specialist, Armando Portela, interviewed by the magazine Cuba Geographic, based in Miami, and "overcomes the many obstacles, such as bad access to technology, the lack of public information (.. .) and financial instruments, legislative delay ".
– "Another Cuba" –
On the verge of celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2019, the beautiful Havana, with colorful houses and a picturesque charm 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, compared with 20,000 currently. The sign of the crumbling atmosphere, the hurricane Irma, in September 2017, destroyed 30,000 in one night.
Meanwhile, returning Cubans buy and renovate buildings to make restaurants or tourist homes.
This is exactly what Maykel Galindo, 35, did. After living 16 years in Belgium, he collected his savings and borrowed in his country of adoption, to acquire a ruined house of 150 square meters in the historic district of Havana.
With the help of his family, he restructured it and divided it into rooms for rent.
"I discovered that there is another Cuba in Cuba, created in a certain way by the private sector," notes this training translator. And "I, as a Cuban, I found that this part of Cuba corresponded to me".
Remember that when they bought the house in 2015 "the prices were ridiculously low" … and he 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 one million, in residential areas such as Kholy, Miramar or Vedado.
Sellers? Generally, large homeowners who need money, for example, to leave the country or start a business.
Buyers? Often Cubans return home or have a family abroad, others want to start their own business. The law prohibits foreigners from buying in Cuba, but those who are married to a Cuban (e) can circumvent the ban.
Advertisements go through the Internet, through small real estate agencies or directly on the road. 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, must face difficult times, "with the arrest in the private sector" caused by the new government regulations and by the shrinking of the US embargo by Donald Trump, which "hindered tourism and tourism, investor interest in the real estate market ", says Carlos Garcia Pleyan.
"But in the long run, the potential is enormous and will start to rise," he says, believing that the Cuban real estate sector could finally open up to foreign capital too … with the risk of increasing investment. price.