Features

A Time to Reflect

The lockdown brought to light TCI’s many positive qualities.

By Bernadette Hunt, Broker/Owner Turks & Caicos Property

Like many successful businesspeople, I spent much time working, travelling and socializing. Sometimes I was so busy, I didn’t always appreciate my surroundings or lifestyle. TCI’s strict lockdown and country closure to control the Coronavirus pandemic was an opportunity for me, like many others, to have time to reflect, enjoy life at a slower pace, and count our many blessings, especially the chance to live in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

My son Tim and I were blessed in early December 2019 to have received an invitation from a friend to visit Verbier, Switzerland and spend New Year’s with her and her family. We jumped so quickly at it we bought tickets that morning before having our breakfast. We had earlier in the year visited with her at her residence in France for Tim’s birthday in August. We found that the natural beauty of both countries had such a profound effect on us that we wanted to go back again this summer to both jurisdictions.

This image by Gary James of Provo Pictures shows the beauty and privacy of Turks & Caicos beaches.

On our return to the Turks & Caicos in early January 2020, I read about the Coronavirus online and felt that this was something that I believed would affect my travel for the rest of the year. I had plans to go to Miami and attend a real estate conference in Las Vegas, but something influenced me to cancel those plans and adjust my thought process to being on-island for an unusually extended period for me. I had also planned to return to my homeland—Ireland—and hope to make that trip later this year.

I am one of those Irish people who, when I catch a cold, I get it really bad. Given that January to May is high season for my real estate business, I didn’t want any interruptions to my business by getting sick so I decided to simply avoid airline travel for a few months. At that time in January I never imagined that in two month’s time we, along with the rest of our friends and TCI residents, would be under lockdown as of March 27. I thought—as many of us—that this would be a two to three week break and then we would go back to work.

 I looked at the first three weeks as a gift, a complete break from work and a time to “be” and do small, normal, routine things like make breakfast, lunch and dinner and enjoy our lovely home. Believe it or not, I and many people like me who work full time never really do spend significant time in our homes. With curfews in place we exercised in the mornings and evenings and got to see people on our streets walking who we don’t normally see. Weirdly enough, we can’t chat because of social distancing!

Here in the Turks & Caicos, we have been blessed with a very strong governor in Nigel Dakin and the amazing Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson as our premier. Together with agencies like government departments of Immigration, Police, Health and Customs they managed this pandemic so well that the number of residents contracting the virus is the lowest in the Caribbean, with only one death.

The food stores that remained open were managed without incident and shelves were and are still fully stocked. For visitors who decided to stay in the Turks & Caicos and wait out lockdown, when some of them really needed to get back home once the lockdown was extended into May, our governor, government and the private air centers assisted with charters back to Europe, Canada and the US.

As of May 4, many of the restrictions imposed on us have been lifted and we can now go to the beach—all while observing social distancing, of course. On June 5, real estate property showings were allowed, with strict operating protocols issued by the Ministry of Health. On July 6 we expect full reopening of the local economy under established protocols. The country’s international and regional borders are set to reopen on July 22, and all are eager to welcome the first visitors back.Recent online commentary regarding the difficulty of social distancing in airports and the talk of instituting “health passports” have given me reason to pause.  As I consider these issues and the comments made by Warren Buffet as he sold his entire holdings in airline stocks, I wonder if global travel will ever return to what we were used to? Hopping off one flight and connecting easily to another flight? I currently have friends who came to visit for two weeks in March and when lockdown was approaching, they chose to stay here—one continues with her university studies online in my apartment.

Just since the beginning of May, I and other TCI brokers have seen an increase in enquiries for real estate in the Turks & Caicos Islands—not just from our closest countries in North America, but also Europe. Transactions are also happening and some at very significant price points. I believe people know that the ease and flexibility to travel that we have all enjoyed in the past will not return, but one thing so many us have learned is that life doesn’t stop. School and university doesn’t stop for students and selling real estate didn’t stop for us brokers in the Turks & Caicos.

What has happened is that we have all learned to adjust to the changes. What I and many potential buyers have learned is that Turks & Caicos doesn’t have to be a place you just visit for a week or two here and there and then you run back to your office. As so many of you are now working from home, I am sure you have realized that this allows you to work from anywhere in the world that has high speed Internet access.

The Turks & Caicos Islands are a place where you can spend a significant amount of time once you go through what may be the tedious exercise of dealing with airports.  So many of my clients who have purchased here have said to me, “Bernadette, we have been to every country in the Caribbean and this is the first one that ‘spoke to us’ and that is why we are buying.”

The Turks & Caicos has a natural beauty second to none and an infrastructure that is as advanced as the mainland. From my perspective, I feel that travel for the next few years will not be as smooth as it once was and so outside of the Turks & Caicos I believe I have found my happy places. I know many of my friends and clients who own here can’t wait for the borders to open to come back and settle into their condos and villas.

Villa Aquazure at Leeward is a perfect second home.

I would encourage everyone who wants to improve the quality of your life by having a second home, whether it is a 500 square-foot studio in one of our beachfront resorts or a large villa on the beach (like Mandalay), to contact me to discuss purchasing a property in the Turks & Caicos Islands. There is no better time to research properties, given that many villas and condo buildings are now vacant—allowing us easy access to take you on a walk-through on a live video. This is helping my many clients narrow their list of properties to purchase before they even return to the island again.

If you are contemplating purchasing a property to make the “Beautiful by Nature” Turks & Caicos Islands your temporary or permanent home, I would be delighted to help with your decision-making process. Without a doubt I believe the Turks & Caicos will be THE happy place for you and your family in times of uncertainty.

 

Please visit our website at TurksAndCaicosProperty.com to view all our property listings and learn more about purchasing real estate in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

See our ad on page 5 opposite Table of Contents.



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Photographer Marta Morton was enjoying another spectacular sunset when she spotted this lovely scene—a picture-perfect clump of Old Man Cacti and the pastel colours of what she later learned were crepuscular rays (see page 18). For more of Marta’s images, turn the pages of this issue and visit www.harbourclubvillas.com.

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