Cubans on the move as new real estate market grows

Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:12am EDT
 
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - At an informal housing market on Havana's historic Paseo del Prado, Renaldo Belen puts the hard sell on a prospective buyer under a tree hung with hand-lettered signs advertising homes for sale.

A house near Boyeros, the avenue to the city's airport, is being offered for the equivalent of $120,000, with all the amenities.

"The house is beautiful, it has four bedrooms, a pool with a bar and a fountain with a lion's head on top. Look," says Belen, pointing to photos on the sign, "water comes out of the lion's mouth."

Pausing for dramatic effect, Belen, one of the many touts, or "runners" working at the market, delivers what he hopes will be the coup de grace.

"This place needs no work. It is of capitalist construction," he says, using a now frequently invoked commendation meaning it was built before Cuba's 1959 revolution and is therefore of superior quality.

Given that "capitalist" has been a dirty word in communist-run Cuba for the last half century, the description perhaps grates on the nerves of Cuban leaders.

But its widespread usage is a sign of the times on the Caribbean island, where President Raul Castro has loosened things up as he tries to modernize the country's economy in the name of preserving the socialist system put in place by his older brother Fidel Castro.

HOME SALES REPLACE SWAPPING   Continued...

 
A woman looks from the balcony of her apartment in a colonial-style house in Havana March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan