HAVANA (AP) — In some ways, Yosuan Crespo‘s real estate office resembles any you might find in New York, London or Tokyo. There are slick posters of hot properties hanging from the ceiling, a steady stream of hopeful buyers and sellers and a constant clack of computer keys.
But Crespo‘s headquarters in central Havana’s trendy Vedado neighborhood is actually somebody else’s breezy front porch. The computer’s only connection to the Internet is a creaky dial-up link, and Crespo is careful to say he’s not operating as a broker, since the job is still technically illegal.
A baffling, sometimes bizarre real estate market has emerged in the year and a half since President Raul Castro legalized private home sales on this Communist-run island for the first time in five decades.
While trade in homes is now legal, the people who bring buyers together with sellers are not. The government has yet to make good on promises to legitimize brokers, most of whom still operate in the shadows.
It’s a story that has been typical of Castro’s economic reforms, which often have left little space for the sort of middlemen and other services that help markets work.