Business

Living Outside the Box

TCI’s sea, sand, sun and safety entices buyers.

By Kathy Borsuk

2020 feels like a year of boxes. We’ve tried to stay in our “home” box as much as possible. We’ve communicated via our “phone” box or our “computer” box while peering at the boxes that hold our family, friends’ and colleagues’ faces. We’re entertained by looking at our “television” box or “tablet” box. We even worship by singing praises to the “screen” box that broadcasts our church service. And when we do move about, even our vision seems boxed-in by the masks on our faces.

A safe, healthy, uncrowded, “Beautiful by Nature” lifestyle possible in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Now that the Turks & Caicos Islands have reopened to tourism, I can tell from watching people’s faces as they exit the airplane that they realize they have finally burst out of the “COVID-19 life” box and into a wide-open vista of sun, sand, sea and fresh air!

After closing its borders in late March, 2020 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Turks & Caicos Islands reopened on July 22, 2020, requiring all visitors and returning residents to secure a Travel Authorization document via the TCI Assured Portal at www.TurksAndCaicostourism.com. This requires a negative PCR COVID-19 test within five days of traveling and proof of medical insurance. 

At the same time, TCI Government implemented strict protocols on the wearing of masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing, limiting the number of persons in buildings and at social gatherings and nightly curfews. Details were fine-tuned based on the number of active cases of COVID-19 at any given time. As a result of these measures and extensive public testing and aggressive contact tracing, the number of cases of COVID-19 throughout the TCI has been maintained at a very low number. 

TCI Government also introduced the TCI Assured Certification Program to serve as a symbol of compliance with all COVID-19 health protocols. The purpose is to give assurance to both visitors and residents that businesses are compliant with standards set by the Environmental Health Department in collaboration with the TCI Tourist Board, and that workers are trained, protocols are in place and that they are being implemented. Eligible businesses include accommodation providers, public transportation operators, restaurants, spas and the golf course. For more information on TCI’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.gov.tc/moh/coronavirus/.

The doors to the country opened wider when in mid-November 2020, the United Kingdom added TCI back to its Travel Corridor List. This means that persons traveling to the UK from the Turks & Caicos will not have to self-isolate on return. In mid-December 2020, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) downgraded TCI’s COVID-19 risk rating to “Level 2 – Moderate Risk.” 

The TCI lifestyle is attracting more and more people from around the world.

Earlier in the year, the World Travel and Tourism Council awarded TCI the “Safe Travels Stamp.” This denotes that the country’s existing safety protocols align with the WTTC’s core requirements, designed to standardize safe travel. 

Feedback from the steady stream of visitors that have come to TCI over the fall and early winter months of 2020 reflects that they feel protected without feeling like their vacation experience is compromised. Best of all, these early arrivals enjoyed an especially quiet, peaceful atmosphere and careful, cautious, considerate service. TCI quickly became the perfect place to refresh and revive!

By mid-December 2020, occupancy rates in resorts topped 50% and were expected to continue to rise. Stays in private villas—the perfect place for a family or small group to social distance—were booming. The country’s largest resort, Beaches Turks & Caicos, reopened on December 21, 2020, utilizing a “Platinum Protocol of Cleanliness.” These measures include inspecting, cleaning and sanitizing hard surfaces in common areas every 20 minutes, adding auto-dispensing hand sanitizing stations throughout the resort, using hospital-grade disinfectants, electrostatic sprayers for advanced cleaning and air duct sanitization for each room before guests arrive.

Realtors report an astounding volume of inquiries as people around the world—especially luxury buyers—search for a safe haven. Because the Turks & Caicos is a high-end, uncrowded, safe and secure destination, it fits the bill. TCI Government encouraged real estate purchases by implementing a 25% stamp duty relief on purchases closed by December 31, 2020. This meant as much as a $6,000 saving on a $300,000 purchase and a $25,000 saving on a $1 million transaction!

The Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA) third quarter sales figures (based on MLS listings) indicate a strong and fundamentally healthy market, especially when compared to record sales in 2019. Noteworthy is that of $147 million in pending MLS sales, $80 million of these deals are expected to close before the end of the year. This would bring projected annual total sales for 2020 to $273 million—approximately $10 million higher than 2018 year-end sales! Not bad for a year marked by great calamity and uncertainty!

TCI continues to stand as a luxury destination, with the average home price now up to $2,032,666 and the median price $1,100,000. Realtors note that TCI’s out- of-country client base are still purchasing homes at the higher end of the scale. In fact, the Turks & Caicos is a “beacon for luxury buyers seeking an escape,” attracting celebrities such as DJ Khaled, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez. 

On the other hand, during the third quarter of 2020, condominium sales dropped. The average condo sales price went from $931,730 to $469,666, while the median price dropped from $690,000 to $350,000 and total sales dropped from $13,664,000 to $1,300,000. Realtors attribute this to limited resale opportunities, as owners chose to hold on to their investment/vacation condominiums with plans for more personal use this season. Realtors believe that in 2021, the condominium sector sales numbers will become normalized when the Ritz-Carlton is completed and the sales of those units are posted in the MLS system. 

Who can resist the Turks & Caicos Islands’ beautiful beaches?

Land sales also saw a drop in the current marketplace. The average price went from $474,878 to $274,314 and the median price dropped from $237,500 to $85,000 with total sales decreasing from $16,145,859 to $7,406,500. Analysts believe that during this time of pandemic, more land is being purchased by island residents at the lower end of the scale. For instance, land sales in Long Bay continue to be strong—leaving a very limited amount of beachfront and waterfront properties in the active market.

At press time (mid-December 2020) Keller Williams TCI released updated figures covering the period October 2020 to December 14, 2020. They note, “Our market is showing that house sales are similar to the last quarter, but that the average sale price went down from $1,100,000 to $925,000. There were three sales in the range of $300,000 to $599,999; five sales in the range of $600,000 to $999,999; and eight sales over $1 million.” The report adds, “Our condominium/townhouse report looks so much better this quarter, with sixteen sales and an average sale price of $1,280,687. There were six sales over $1 million, totaling $16,391,000 of the $20,491,000 sold. Land sales did marginally better this quarter with total sales of $7,938,500 and an average sale price increase to $317,540. Luxury land showed one sale of beach frontage at $2,500,000. It is getting very difficult to find beachfront land, especially in Providenciales; we have many buyers looking.”

This is a clue as to why the TCI real estate market continues to flourish. There is not an oversupply of inventory, so sellers can expect their asking prices are not unrealistic. There are very few speculators in the market, so properties that are purchased, even land, are soon put to use. This is clear if you take a drive around Providenciales and take note of the multitude of projects currently under construction or renovation. There is no doubt that the construction industry is flourishing!

The Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA)  includes 14 companies and over 100 agents, all highly trained and ready to uphold standards of integrity and good practice. TCREA agents have worked diligently—many from home—to communicate and serve clients and customers throughout the TCI border shutdown and during the current months of pandemic upheaval.

With lots of practice in working with clients via computer and telephone, having virtual meetings, conferences and property showings with customers and clients worldwide is nothing new to TCI realtors. In fact, the variety of technological solutions, including virtual tours, videos, photography, third party expert inspections, effective documentation and diligent agent, broker and legal follow-up has actually made purchasing and selling real estate less complicated than in the pre-COVID era. As more buyers “shop” online, virtual showings can shrink the timeline for purchase, leading to greater sales and reduced days on market.

This year marked a time of transition for many local businesses, and the real estate sector was no different. National Colony Realty, one of the TCI’s oldest real estate companies (founded by Bengt Soderqvist in 1966), joined Keller Williams, the number one international realty agency in the world. Building on a solid foundation of integrity, honesty and results, Keller Williams Turks and Caicos gains a technological edge that is present throughout every step of the experience. Unchanging is the base of clients who have become friends over the years.

ERA Turks & Caicos, another of TCI’s venerable real estate companies, used the pandemic shutdown to merge into the RE/MAX Real Estate Group, a diverse team of expatriates and native Turks & Caicos Islanders, with an excellent reputation of working with referred or repeat clients.

As soon as restrictions and curfews were lifted, developers, contractors and construction workers in the TCI went back to work. Much progress has been made on the newest projects on offer.

The South Bank residential resort and marina sprawls over 30 acres, its borders the captivating 2,000 feet of ironshore just east of the South Bank Marina and 230 feet of beautiful beach on Long Bay. Each of the various neighborhoods offers residences featuring a unique relationship with the water and having their own pools and gardens to create private spaces within an embracing enclave.

At press time in December 2020, the excavation of the central South Bank feature—the 5.4-acre beachfront swimming lagoon—has commenced and will reshape the canvas significantly over the next three months, finishing with the shaping of two lounging islands with intimate beach coves and cabanas.

Surrounding the Lagoon, three Lagoon Villas were showing different stages of completion. Lot 12 is evidencing the iconic butterfly roof with windows scheduled for installation in early January. Lots 4 and 7, each offering beautiful sunset views across the lagoon, are well under way. Along the Long Bay shoreline, there is progress at the Ocean Estate. Shoal Villa 8 is now at roof level and is showing off its impressive serenity pool. A Banks Villa, another Shoal Villa and a Dune Villa are scheduled to commence construction in the first quarter of 2021.

Each South Bank residence features generous kitchen and living/dining areas, handmade for entertaining family and friends. Homeowners and their guests can partake of resort amenities including watersports, tennis, gym, spa, restaurant and bar, along with multiple beach access areas. Also available are in-villa dining and spa treatments, with private chefs and wellness experts. The entire South Bank property is security gated.

Now under construction, 2021 will bring the opening of Grace Bay Resorts’ anticipated new luxury resort Rock House. This cliffside Mediterranean-inspired hideaway—located on a 14-acre oceanfront site on the north coast of Providenciales—includes peaks soaring to 95 feet above sea level. Its signature features are two pools: a breathtaking 100-foot long infinity pool perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and a limestone pool built into the natural stone, surrounded by ancient trees.

Rock House offers guests privacy and space—two things that will be most important to travelers in 2021—through spacious studio suites and single-family homes. The aesthetic at the five-star property will be comfortable luxury, highlighting and protecting the landscape’s natural elements. Glamorous amenities will include a serviced beach club jetty reminiscent of those in Europe; a secluded private beach and a signature cliff-top restaurant. Reports are that Phase 1 is nearly sold-out.

Serenity, luxury, and beauty abound at the Sailrock community on South Caicos. Spread over 770 acres in a naturally preserved environment, the Sailrock Peninsula includes a five-star resort and several private neighborhoods with an array of unique homesites with varying topographies, vegetation and shorelines to accommodate all lifestyles.

To aid and assist the growing number of people who are making the Turks & Caicos Islands their permanent or part-time home, KR Logistics & Services offers complete relocation services. They are well-able to professionally pack, crate, load and ship your belongings anywhere in the world or from anywhere in the world. They also offer extensive consultation services to streamline the entire process of starting a new life in paradise.



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Award-winning Master Photographer Christine Morden, owner of Paradise Photography (myparadisephoto.com), took this photo through the window of a historic building on Salt Cay. She used this unique perspective to provide a creative twist on a beach landscape.

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