New Development

To Buy or Build: That is the Question

neehuisBy Anthony Taylor

The great thing about this question is that there is no right or wrong answer. However, there is no simple answer either. It’s all a matter of personal choice and circumstance. What suits one person may not suit another, or even the same person a few years down the line. With so many variables and an even greater number of possible scenarios, it is perhaps best to examine the pros and cons of each and the most common things to consider when asking oneself this question.

Turks & Caicos Dream Home

Home or Investment?

csoundThe first thing to decide is why you are choosing to own property in the Turks & Caicos. Is it as a home or as an investment? If it’s the latter, how often and for how long will you stay each year, and how much of a return are you looking for from your property? According to Karen Biker, owner of Turks & Caicos Realty, “In this scenario buying an existing property, such as a managed condominium, probably makes more sense. For a start there is no hassle factor and although you’ll pay a higher initial price due to stamp duty and the developer’s mark-up, your new investment can start to yield a return almost immediately via rental income.”

“Owning a condo also brings with it a certain amount of peace of mind. You know that while you are away your investment is in good hands and being looked after by the management company,” adds Biker.

sandsTaking this route will also eliminate the problem of finding an ideal location. The Islands are growing at an incredible rate, driven by a booming global economy, especially in nearby North America, which has created a bustling real estate market. “Already on Provo, beachfront property is hard to come by without having to pay a huge price,” says Bengt Soderquist, of Provident Ltd, Providenciales’ original developer, “and waterfront and ridge-top are following in the same direction.” With seven existing condominium developments and five more soon to begin construction, there is no shortage of available units. Unsurprisingly, all of constthe condominium developments are on the prized Grace Bay Beach, touted by Conde Naste Traveller as one of the best beaches in the world, virtually guaranteeing a constant stream of rentals, which will only increase as the Turks & Caicos matures as a high-end destination.


gtewyHowever, for some, owning their own home on a largely yet-to-be-discovered Caribbean island is a dream that is worth paying for. If you fall into this category the good news, according to Russell Alwell of Construction Advisory Services, is that this can be an affordable way to achieve your dream. “There is still some very good value in older housing stock. If a property has been in the rental pool for a while, then the chances are it may need a cash injection in terms of some maintenance, but nothing major. Not everybody wants to endure the hassle of building or is prepared to wait a year or so while a house is designed and built.” The key here is to shop around and bide your time.

woodIf you’re lucky enough to find the property you want and intend to rent it out as an investment (as opposed to using it as a permanent home), there are many good property management companies in the Islands. If your realtor doesn’t have such a service (and most do) then they can put you in touch with somebody who does.


For many though, the opportunity to design and build their own idea of a perfect home is too much to resist. “There are plenty of people to whom the whole process of designing and building is a joy and a challenge that they are more than happy to undertake,” says Soderquist. This sentiment is echoed by David Hartshorn of Projetech, a local construction management company. “We are finding that for many of our clients, the desire to have their home built exactly to their specifications is the deciding factor–rental income and capital appreciation are not always their prime considerations. Some people are buying existing properties in desirable locations and carrying out extensive retro-fits or even tearing down the existing structure and starting again. This is a trend we expect to grow.””What people should be aware of,” warns Hartshorn, “is poolthat construction costs are necessarily higher here (than on the mainland) as freight and duty costs must be added to imported materials. Even the truck delivering materials and the concrete mixer on site cost more to buy and operate here in the Islands.”The building process is not a quick one. Even after architectural drawings have been finalised there are the planning permission stages to go through. “It takes at least a year,” is the common response to the question of time scale from realtors, architects and construction companies.


michelBeing sure of what it is you want from owning a property and doing your homework first, are things that Cecilia Rothermel, a real estate agent at Prestigious Properties, urges. “Unfortunately, some people spend some time here, think they can build a house on the cheap and end up getting their fingers burnt,” she says. “Whatever you do, don’t listen to bar talk or gossip from so-called people ‘in the know.’ Go to a professional, they can help guide you in buying or building your own home within your budget and help avoid some of the pitfalls.”In the end, the decision to buy or build is as individual as each person’s idea of the perfect house. There are pros and cons to each. The trick is to decide what will work for you and meet your needs, now and in the future.

Purchasing Property In Paradise

It’s Easier Than You Think
By Kathy Borsuk

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve considered turning sun-drenched daydreams into reality by purchasing property in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Whether your plans involve a vacation hideaway with lucrative rental income, a full-time island lifestyle, a commercial investment or mere land speculation, it’s strongly recommended that your first step be to seek out a local real estate agent.

Property in ParadiseCharles Manuel, president of the newly formed Turks & Caicos Islands Real Estate Association and manager of RE/MAX Turks & Caicos Ltd., stresses the importance of working with an agent who is familiar with the country, “Not only are local agents knowledgeable as to the property available that can best suit your needs, but they are aware of relative values and can advise as to where the best investments lie. Reputable agents are bound by a code of ethics to represent a client to the best of their ability and with undivided loyalty.” Besides streamlining the purchase process, your agent can initiate introductions to a reliable group of “others” with whom you may work, including lawyers, mortgage lenders, architects, contractors, builders and interior designers.

Whether it’s a hilltop home lot, seaside villa, or promising tract of undeveloped land that piques your interest, purchasing real estate in the Turks & Caicos is relatively straightforward. However, as you would do elsewhere, hiring a lawyer to represent you throughout the process is a wise decision. Paul Dempsey, of the long-established TCI firm Dempsey & Company, says, “If you’re buying real estate in the Islands, it’s fairly certain that you’re making a major investment. An attorney experienced in this country’s specific procedures can ensure that everything’s done in your best interests to protect that investment.”

The Legalities
Although there are no restrictions on ownership and a person of any nationality may purchase and hold land, some purchasers choose to use a Turks & Caicos offshore vehicle to hold real estate. By creating a division between your personal assets and company assets (the property), you are effectively building in a layer of confidentiality and protection. Paul Dempsey explains, “Many of our clients hold property in a TCI Ordinary Company, the shares of which are then placed in a TCI Trust for asset protection purposes. A primary objective is to protect their assets from the heady lawsuit environment we see in the United States and elsewhere. The structure also allows control of inheritance dispersals. It may have tax benefits, as well, depending on the country in which they reside.” Of course, in the Turks & Caicos, you pay no income tax, no capital gains tax on profits realized at time of sale, and no inheritance tax when the property is passed on.

Although agreeing on a price is one activity that is rarely a “laid-back” affair, even in the Islands, once the price has been negotiated, a Purchase and Sale Agreement will be prepared, usually by the seller’s attorney. This document describes the property, defines price and terms, and lists any other conditions particular to the transaction. At this time, you put down a deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price) which is held in escrow by the realtor or the seller’s attorney until closing. A date for closing will be set, usually within 30 days.

A British Registered Land system organizes land ownership in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Each plot is identified and numbered, with details of ownership, title, acreage, mortgages and other interests in the property recorded in the public Register at the Land Registry office. Inspection of this record by your lawyer effectively takes the place of a traditional title search.

He or she will ensure, first of all, that the seller actually owns absolute freehold title to the land. According to Paul Dempsey, “We occasionally see situations involving ‘generational property’ in which land ownership is being claimed by more than one family member.” Examination of the Register will also reveal any easements, cautions, liens or mortgage charges registered against the property. Your attorney will liaise with the Planning Department and various licensing agencies to make sure that you will be able to build what you intend on your land (especially when a business or development is concerned) and/or that any dwellings already in place comply with local regulations.

On closing, Transfer Forms are completed by buyer and seller. Here, original signatures are required and the signing must be witnessed by a Notary (if signed abroad) or a Justice of the Peace in the Turks & Caicos (a good excuse for a trip to the Islands). The transfer document will be handed over to you or your attorney when you pay the remainder of the purchase price.

Original Land Certificates if issued must accompany the signed transfer forms and be lodged by your attorney with the Registrar of Lands, Alice Williams, who amends the Register for the property. Deposits and proceeds from sale are normally held in trust until the transfer is registered and the title clears. Because registered absolute title is effectively guaranteed by the Crown, title insurance is unnecessary.

In cases where a mortgage has been assumed, the title of land is transferred but a Charge of Mortgage shows in the Register as an encumbrance against the title. The company or person to whom the money is owed must apply to remove the charge when the entire payment is made.

A stroll along Providenciales’ lovely north shore reveals an ever-growing cadre of beachfront buildings. Most are condominium developments which are managed as resort properties, netting owners consistent rental incomes as well as a personal haven when sun, sea and sand beckon. Generally, condominium developments in the Turks & Caicos Islands have the same basic characteristics as elsewhere and are typically bought and sold as described above.

Condominium purchasers become members of their development’s owner’s association, which is known as the Strata Corporation. The TCI Strata Title Registration Ordinance regulates a condominium owner’s rights by providing for freehold ownership, with rights of access to your unit and with the right to use and enjoy the common areas and facilities.

Paying for Paradise
One of the many attractions that draws potential purchasers to the Islands’ turquoise-encircled shores is the total lack of annual property taxes. However, as buyer, you will be responsible for paying a stamp duty (transfer tax) within 30 days of closing. Waived for sales under $25,000, the one-time fee for sales between $25,000 and $75,000 is 6.5% on Providenciales (2% on other Islands); for sales above $75,000, the tax is 9.75% on Providenciales (3% on other Islands). The purchase price is usually accepted as the assessed value although government authorities are entitled to carry out their own appraisal if the price seems unreasonably low. There is also a stamp duty of 1% of the sums secured by a mortgage.

Mortgage financing is readily available within the Islands, either through established local banks or private equity lenders. In fact, unless you are pledging security of property or other assets in your home country, it is almost imperative that you secure financing within the TCI. As explained by Glenda Hallam-Lane, Tele-Consultant at the TCI’s newest bank, CIBC Bahamas Ltd., “Most North American lenders will not take foreign property as security against a loan. They believe it would be difficult to enforce the covenants of a mortgage in another country as there are cross-jurisdictional issues to consider.” Claire Robinson, Mortgage Specialist at Barclays Bank PLC, adds that most overseas banks are unfamiliar with TCI-specific banking and confidentiality rules and regulations and would require a local liaison anyway, adding time and expense to your approval process. As far as putting up collateral in your home jurisdiction instead of using your TCI property as security, she says, “It makes more sense to get your investment here to work for you, right from the start.”

Each local bank is a subsidiary of a well-established Canadian or U.K.-based bank. All offer mortgage lending programs for the ever-growing market of overseas borrowers. Required down payments range from 25 to 50% of the purchase price, although Scotiabank’s Retail Banking Manager John Minthorn says they have a new program in which a 10% down payment is acceptable, with the customer paying to insure the other 15%. Stamp duty fees can typically be added to the purchase price.

Terms range from 5 to 25 year amortization, with Barclays offering a 15 year amortization payable in 10 years via a balloon payment at the end. Rates are generally higher than the cost of funds in your home jurisdiction, but are linked to a standard indicator such as the New York prime lending rate. Local banks primarily deal with variable rate mortgages, although a fixed rate (in the short term) mortgage can be found. Repayment may be expected on a “regular reducing” basis where your monthly payment covers the interest and a portion of the capital borrowed, although banks will offer varying repayment schedules to suit individual circumstances.

The advantages of working with local banks include a competitive interest rate, rapid approval in many cases and the benefit of an international network of experience and resources. You can also make use of in-house services such as local checking, savings and credit card accounts. Claire Robinson adds, “Because Barclays is a leading financier of many of the major condominium developments on Providenciales, we work closely with the developers and can rapidly make assessments for our clients who are borrowing money to purchase one of these units.”

Instead of the traditional bank route, you may wish to consider financing from a private mortgage lender, especially when time is of the essence. According to Don Jensen, general manager of Temple Mortgage Fund Ltd., “We are primarily concerned with the value of the equity in a purchase and less concerned with the income and credit history of the borrower. A bank focuses on the borrower’s ability to service the loan. If a purchaser has a 35% or larger down payment and we are satisfied with the appraised value of the property, we can provide a fast turn-around on approval and funding.” Keith Burant, managing director of Meridian Mortgage Fund Ltd., agrees, adding, “We require a minimum 50% down payment, but if I am satisfied with the appraised value of the property, you should be able to secure financing before your vacation is over. You’re looking at our loan committee.”

Non-bank lenders typically do not require life insurance on the purchaser (assigned to the benefit of the mortgage holder), as do some banks. This can become a prohibitive expense, especially for older borrowers. Equity lenders also provide a fixed interest rate for the term of the loan and do not charge interest penalties for early prepayment of part or all of a loan. They also tend to be quite flexible when it comes to loan amortization. Again, the cost of funds will be greater than you would expect at home, and will depend on the lender, the quality of the borrower, the loan to value ratio and the quality and stage of completeness of the property.

All lenders require the following information as a bare minimum:
* A completed application form, personal net worth statement, verifying income, assets and liabilities, and credit reference letters.
* A current property appraisal prepared by a qualified appraiser.
* If the loan is for construction, a detailed budget, preferably prepared by a qualified quantity surveyor.
* If an income property, a rental history and copies of leases or lease projections.
* An insurance binder letter naming the lender as a loss payee.
* If the borrowing will be in a TCI Company’s name, a copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association, together with a Certificate of Incorporation. You will likely have to provide details on the beneficial owner of the company and include a personal guaranty.

Finally, you will also find that some vendors and developers will finance short term balances of sale. Again, your local lawyer can assist you in assembling necessary documentation, explaining the terms and repayment requirements and working with the mortgage lender’s attorney to ensure the transaction proceeds smoothly.

A Couple of Caveats:
*When purchasing a condominium property that is not yet constructed or is partially built, it is not uncommon for the developer to require progress payments (which are not held in trust, but fund construction) as the project reaches certain stages. Since the individual titles for this type of property can’t be obtained until the project reaches substantial completion, the lender has nothing to register against. This means that purchasers wanting to borrow funds will not receive any advances until the project is finished. If you are purchasing on this basis and require a mortgage, you will need to work out a payment plan you can manage with the developer or find alternate interim financing. This may involve putting up existing property at home as security until the project is completed.

*Construction financing is usually harder to obtain because of the associated risks. Typically, projects come in over budget and the lenders are aware of this. This may mean a more conservative lending amount or no loan at all because the lender knows that the likelihood of having to increase the size of the loan is great. If you are building a house, make sure you are using a reputable contractor. Look at previous contracts to see if they have satisfied customers.

And that’s it! Once your purchase has been signed, sealed and delivered, all that’s left is packing your bags (don’t forget the sunscreen), leaving your cares behind, and enjoying your newfound sojourn in paradise!

The Grand Design

From The Architect’s Perspective
By Kathy Borsuk

When I blithely set off to write a story on “design in the Islands from an architect’s perspective,” I had no idea what I would encounter. As it was, I met with a diversity of opinions and body of information as varied and fascinating as the building styles you see in the Turks & Caicos today.

St. Louis ResidenceA Question of Style
To begin with, I wondered what these trained professionals–artists with buildings as their medium–thought about the potpourri of styles that currently defines the Islands’ development, especially on burgeoning Providenciales. Most strident in the belief that there needs to be a common architectural “language” employed is Simon Wood, of Simon Wood Associates. As he explains, “It is the culture of the people that gives a place its human identity or style. The most prominent manifestation of this is its architecture, which can return or preserve a ‘sense of place.'”

While Wood does not believe in design control or regulations, which stifle creativity, he opines that the traditional architecture of Grand Turk and Salt Cay, “provides the perfect and only sensible unifying precedent for the development of Provo to follow.” Heavily influenced by the salt traders from Bermuda, with a strong Barbadian flavor lent by the warm climate, Turks Islands designs encompass large covered verandahs and windows oriented to catch the cool tradewinds. Materials often included timbers from old boats which led to interesting and unique detailing, with balconies sporting decorative brackets, balustrades and fretwork. Heavily gabled roofs, quoining, keystones, cornice moldings and storm shutters are all part of this history-based architectural language. Inside the buildings, open passageways and adjoining halls with large interior doors or open louvered wall panels allowed cooling breezes to flow through the buildings.

This strong functionality, is, in Wood’s opinion, “of paramount importance in setting the framework for design. The whimsical detailing and interiors then become the expression of individualism.” Wood’s many prominent projects support his stance, including the Provo Golf Course clubhouse, Point Grace resort, Misick & Stanbrook office building, Ports of Call/Comfort Suites complex and Tropicana Plaza.

Michel ResidenceRolf Rothermel, of Rothermel Cooke Smith, also supports a look into the past when planning the future. “You have to start somewhere . . . it’s never too late,” he says, emphasizing the need for a handbook outlining the local vernacular for such elements as roofs, windows, gates, eaves, stone walls, etc. However, Rothermel veers away from a preconceived idea of how a building should look, preferring a specific approach to each challenge. This philosophy can be seen in the firm’s varied designs for the strongly Bermudian-influenced National Insurance Building and the more modernistic Providenciales International Air Terminal, which reflects echoes of West Indies influence through the use of louvered panels, a “wave” ceiling and coral stone wall render.

Other architects agree with Wood in bemoaning the lack of planned town centers in Providenciales. Rod Daugherty, of R. A. Daugherty & Associates, says that future development should evolve around clustered “settlements,” which can lend a sense of place, and that long-term planners should make provisions for bike paths, walking trails and even mass transit ways to avoid the traffic congestion that looms ahead.

Jeff Lee, of OBM Ltd., feels that tried-and-true historical solutions can work their magic, as evidenced by one of his favorite (and most difficult) projects, the Simons House in Grand Turk. He went through several concept designs before ending up with a 250-year old solution of placing the bedrooms downstairs and “everything just snapped into place.” However, Jeff feels that the “historical trail is not really there” in Provo and that architects must focus on economic solutions integrated into modern concepts.

Others echo this view. Of note is that the indigenous people of the Caicos Islands do not relate to the Bermudian architecture of the Turks Islands. And, in fact, the Islands’ Colonial slave-based heritage evokes negative memories.

The Investment Value Of Real Estate in the Turks & Caicos

Fact, Not Fiction
By Anthony Taylor

It seems wherever you turn these days, somebody is more than happy to offer advice as to where you should invest your hard-earned money. Mutual funds, IRAs and, of course, stocks, the darling of the Internet age, compete for attention in just about every media opportunity possible. Couple this with the advent of the Internet, a booming global economy and the financially successful Baby Boomer generation and you have perhaps the wealthiest period in the history of mankind.

So where should you invest your money? Alas, I don’t have a crystal ball, but in the frenzy over “tech stocks” etc., it seems good old bricks and mortar have been overlooked. Why not combine reaping the fruits of your labour (you know, miles of white sand caressed by turquoise waters and a cold beer to hand) with the opportunity to invest in what is undoubtedly a growth market?

If that has got you thinking then you probably have a number of questions you want answered, such as: What’s the best form of investment in the Turks & Caicos, a condominium, home or land? How much investment capital will I have to spend? What kind of return can I expect? What does the future hold? How safe would my investment be?

Turks & Caicos Real EstateSteadier than stocks
Up one minute, down the next is the way of the stock market and while the gains can be high, so can the losses. Not so with real estate, according to C. Washington Misick, former chief minister of the Turks & Caicos and now owner of the Islands’ largest real estate company, Prestigious Properties. “At the tail end of the recession in 1991, land and house values were flat, but since then–due in part to a booming U.S. economy–we have experienced eight consecutive years of tremendous growth,” says Misick. “Nowhere has this been more evident than on Grace Bay which, as late as 1991, saw land prices at around $350,000 per acre. They are now going for well past $1,000,000 per acre.”

Unlike the stock market which is prone to almost whimsical fluctuations, many see the Turks & Caicos as a much safer, steadier investment. Bengt Soderquist from Provident Ltd., Providenciales’ original developer, sees the TCI catering to a world market: “This makes us less prone to the effects of a recession in one part of the world. More and more European tourists and investors are coming to the Islands and so even if the North American economy (which has traditionally driven things here) goes flat, ours won’t. The growth curve will be flatter but much longer,” he says.

Chalk SoundWhile Misick doesn’t see the rate of land appreciation of the last four to five years continuing for long, he also doesn’t envisage a no-growth situation. “As pressure for residential property builds, so will the growth in new areas of the Islands, away from Grace Bay and beach frontage. There are still plenty of beautiful areas with a lot of remaining growth potential, especially on the south side of Providenciales,” he says.

What kind of investment?
The obvious three key choices are condominium, house or land. Which one, or combination of the three, will depend on personal circumstances and goals, but whatever you are in the market for, there is no shortage of choice. “However, remember whichever you choose, the single most influential factor in determining value and future returns is location,” says Charles Manuel, Manager of RE/MAX Turks & Caicos Ltd. “The first place to ‘go’ in any island destination is beachfront, closely followed by oceanfront and then ocean view properties. Once these are gone you start to get rapid price appreciation, which we are already seeing.”

Manuel cites the Turtle Cove area as a prime example, with prices rising from around $200,000 per acre three years ago to over $385,000 for 0.9 of an acre today–an excellent return in anybody’s book. This kind of increase in value can make buying and building an attractive proposition, although it’s worth bearing in mind that on Providenciales at least, the choicest spots have already been taken.

Despite this, Karen Biker, owner of Turks & Caicos Realty, also sees at least another 10 years of growth continuing as the infrastructure of the Islands develops. “Leeward has made a marked improvement recently and as new infrastructure, in terms of better roads, power and water supply, reaches areas like Long Bay, these too will take off and show significant increases in value over today’s prices.”

This can make buying land and building your own home an extremely attractive proposition. Even if doing so as an investment is not a primary goal, knowing that your money will be appreciating as “bricks and mortar” (more realistically, concrete) in a stable and much sought-after destination, offers more peace of mind than the stock market and is more tangible than any mutual fund.

For those with a more long term view, there are still more “Provos-to-come” within the Turks & Caicos Islands, according to several realtors. North Caicos is already attracting significant interest amongst investors, but the price of land is nowhere near that of Providenciales, according to Ralph Wilckie of Sun Realty, while Manuel feels that further down the line Grand Turk, with its beautiful but limited beachfront availability, will also make a resurgence.

The Sands condominium resortFor destinations such as the TCI and areas like Grace Bay Beach, condominiums represent the most popular type of development as they provide an excellent investment vehicle for the largest number of people, from developers to unit owners. With this in mind it’s hardly surprising that there are already seven existing condominium developments on Grace Bay with a further five in various stages of planning and development.

One of the oldest is Ocean Club, while its sister site, Ocean Club West, just a mile away, is one of the newest. Cathy Lewis, sales manager for Ocean Club West, reports that both interest and sales in the resort have been high. “We had a great initial response from our existing owners at Ocean Club with six of them buying new units at Ocean Club West. This then followed on with tremendous sales to the public.”

According to Lewis, many Ocean Club owners have bought condos for personal use, “but those that are doing so as an investment can expect a return of around 7% a year by renting, while the unit itself is appreciating by around 5% a year,” she says. These returns are standard across most of the developments.

An added benefit of buying into a condominium development is that unlike building your own property, some developers offer reductions on the cost of purchasing a unit if you buy in the pre-construction phase. The sales prices on completed units always rise, meaning savings made at this stage can increase the return for the early-bird investor. One development enjoying excellent pre-construction sales is The Grandview on Grace Bay. Charles Manuel, who has been marketing this latest development, is expecting to break ground in July, 2000, with the project being sold out shortly after that. He believes that as a rule, most condominiums–at a cost of around $300 per square foot–offer value for money, but cautions that real estate should not be viewed as a short term investment because of high initial transaction costs.

As any serious investor will tell you, having a balanced portfolio is key to maximising your assets while protecting them from fluctuations. Owning a well-chosen piece of real estate can prove to be a valuable and secure part of any portfolio, while at the same time providing you with a means to enjoy your money–remember those miles of white sand and that cold beer?

Leave a Reply


What's Inside The Latest Edition?

On the Cover

South Caicos was once a major exporter of salt harvested from its extensive salinas. Award-winning Master and Craftsman Photographer James Roy of Paradise Photography ( created this vertical composition by assembling a series of six images captured by a high-definition drone which was a half a mile away from his position.

Our Sponsors

  • Fortis
  • Sothebys
  • Turks & Tequila
  • Shore Club
  • Turks and Caicos Real Estate
  • H2O Life Style Resort
  • South Bank
  • Turks & Caicos Banking Co.
  • Projetech
  • Turks and Caicos Tourism
  • Jewels in Paradise
  • TIC
  • Do It Center
  • Landscape
KR LogisticsSWA
jsjohnsonDempsey and Company
Hugh ONeillTwa Marcela Wolf
Parkway Pest SolutionsJohn Redmond
Misick & Stanbrook Caicos Express Air
Island Escapes TCILandfall
Great Bone Fishing Race for the Conch


Lost your password?