Business

Hot, Hot, Hot!

TCI’s real estate market is on fire.

By Kathy Borsuk

TCI’s pristine, uncrowded beaches are but one reason that people with the means are seeking to purchase an island hideaway here in record numbers.

There’s no doubt summer has arrived in the Turks & Caicos Islands. The somewhat-cooler days, low humidity and slanted sunshine of winter and spring have given way to bright, hot days bookended by lusciously pastel early mornings and long, tawny evenings. It’s prime time for watersports in the warm turquoise sea and basking on the beach with a cool drink.

Also hot? The TCI real estate market! Property sales at all price points are ablaze as world-weary buyers seek safety and solace in this quiet island nation.

Besides the much-heralded natural beauty of the Turks & Caicos Islands’ sparkling seas and sugary beaches, the country has yet to be as densely populated as many of her Caribbean sisters. Because serious development of resorts and villas didn’t start until the turn of the millennium, the TCI—and especially the out islands —can still boast plenty of space for sprawling out. At the same time, infrastructure from electricity to telecommunications, airports to roads, is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the 21st century. 

As a British Overseas Territory, the TCI benefits from a well-established land registry, stable political framework, tax-free status, and more recently, the benefit of receiving COVID-19 vaccines more quickly and in greater number than many other warm-weather destinations. At the same time, a cautious and thoughtful government response to the pandemic (see “Paradise Waiting” in this issue) has allowed the country to reopen safely when many other vacation havens are still struggling.

The Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA) is a group of 15 independent real estate agencies who work together under a managed Multiple Listing System (MLS) accessed at www.tcrea.com. The industry compiles and reports detailed statistics and the most recent are staggering. At the close of the first quarter of 2021, the TCI real estate market made history with nearly $128 million in closed transactions—up 60% over the same period last year, just prior to the pandemic and the country’s four-month border closing in late March 2020. As reported by TCREA in April 2021, there were also over $463 million in pending and conditional transactions, not including another potential $100 million in new development sales. Whew! What is going on?

The first point is that ultra-luxury and luxury buyers are flocking to TCI as a preferred destination. This is evidenced in an average sale price (residential and commercial market) of nearly $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2021, a 63% increase! For single family homes, the average price increased 38.5%, with a list to sell ratio of 92%. For condominiums, the average price jumped 31% with a list to sell ratio of 93%. Residential and commercial land average prices jumped 72%, as buyers searched for vacant land—especially rare beachfront and waterfront—on which to build. Currently, realtors report villa price ranges from $2.5 million up to the $30 million level. Condominium prices are also rising with luxury condos approaching and surpassing $1,000 per square foot.

It’s clear that people with the means want to find a safe, exclusive hideaway and TCI fits the bill. According to Ivor Stanbrook, managing director of Windward Development, the pandemic and successful reopening of the country has introduced the market to a new group of investors who may not have otherwise known about the Turks & Caicos. They are finding a wider choice of properties and better value here than in traditional Caribbean markets like the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, along with a sense of space and proximity to nature. Also flourishing is the villa rental market, as an increasing number of families choose to vacation in a private home or villa, rather than a resort property. At the same time, owners are using their properties for longer periods of time, as the ability to work and learn from home becomes easier and more accepted. Both factors are clearly driving the booming real estate market in TCI.

While undeveloped beachfront properties in Providenciales are nearly non-existent, you can still find oceanside vacant land on the out islands of North, South and Middle Caicos, Grand Turk and Salt Cay. Inland on Providenciales, the neighborhoods of Long Bay, Long Bay Hills, Turtle Tail and Cooper Jack offer new villa construction and land for a dream home. The longer-established areas such as Chalk Sound, Turtle Cove, Thompson Cove, Discovery Bay, The Bight and Leeward are already in the phase of tearing down and rebuilding or renovating older structures, with new construction tucked in between.

This Amanyara resort villa, tucked away on Providenciales’ northwestern shore, is an example of the lovely, exclusive properties available.

Amanyara (in the North West Point area of Providenciales), Parrot Cay and Pine Cay, Ambergris Cay and West Caicos are all exclusive areas somewhat separated from the mainstream. They are punctuated with celebrities, high-end villas and ultra-upscale amenities.

A recent interview by well-known US television personality Star Jones with TCI Deputy Governor Anya Williams, Minister of Tourism Josephine Connolly and local lawyer Tremmaine Harvey, reinforced what many of the world’s working women (and men) are declaring. They all enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of working from home during the pandemic! As this trend continues, TCI’s stable power grid, maintained by Canadian-based Fortis TCI Ltd., and excellent telecommunications service provided by Digicel and FLOW, become tremendous advantages.

While commercial air service expands as the US and global airlines loosen restrictions and travelers grow in confidence, the TCI’s private airports have seen a massive influx of private jets. This supports industry trends noting a 50% increase in “new to private” travel since the pandemic began. This reflects the desire to avoid exposure to the virus and well as more schedule flexibility for travelers.

According to Joe Zahm, president of Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty, buyers are coming from traditional hubs as well as the New York City tri-state area and Ontario, Canada, along with a broader geographic base including California, Texas, and the Midwest and Southeast US. He says, “We’re also seeing ‘vacation relocation’ from harder to access places such as Hawaii, Costa Rica and the southern Caribbean.”

Other advantages to a TCI lifestyle include 350 average days of sunshine, modern hospitals and health care practitioners, full service banks and temporary and permanent residence status available to qualified investors. There is a homeowner’s permit, valid for five years and allowing recipients and their family members to come and go as they wish (without the right to work). Purchasers of any home or condominium valued over $300,000 can apply. With a real estate purchase over $1 million, investors can apply for a Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC), granting the applicant and spouse the right to reside in TCI for life. Children can be endorsed until they are 18 years old. The cost is a one-time government fee of $25,000, plus $1,500 for spouse and $500 per child, along with legal fees. PRC status can lead to TCI (British Overseas Territory Citizenship) and, potentially, a British passport. Note that foreigners also have the unrestricted right to purchase property, and there are no real estate taxes. 

If you are planning to build or renovate, there are many long established and well qualified local architects, builders, contractors and tradesmen for any type of project you can dream up. There is a quality skill pool from which to draw and the work force comprises 50% of the population. 

Besides a record number of established homes, condominiums and land transactions in progress, the TCI has many new projects under development that will strongly affect sales now and in the future. A quick read-through of the expansive lists of features and amenities supports the ever-growing demand for a second home or vacation property in this country. Buyers will lack for nothing and are sure to find a property to suit any taste and style.

Perhaps the most prominent, at 12 stories, is the long-awaited Ritz-Carlton Residences due to open this summer. This five-star property spans nearly 700 feet of prime Grace Bay beachfront over 10.5 acres. According to Walter Gardiner Jr., Director of Sales & Marketing for the project, “It’s extremely gratifying to watch this dream become a reality . . . The combination of having one of the world’s best resort brands on the world’s best beach will solidify the position of the Turks & Caicos Islands as the premier vacation and investment destination in the Caribbean.” The resort features a luxury hotel, 60 residences, and world-class amenities managed by renowned Ritz-Carlton, with service tailored to individual desires—with “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Oceanview residences are over 90% sold.

South Bank is a new residential resort and marina community on the south side of Providenciales. Each neighborhood and lot offers a unique relationship with the water, designed to court boating enthusiasts and watersports lovers. Covering 31 acres with 230 feet of stunning beachfront along Long Bay Beach and 2,000 feet of picturesque ironshore, South Bank has planned 90 units ranging from six-bedroom villas to one-bedroom condominiums and townhouses with boat docks.

Surrounding the fully excavated lagoon, six Lagoon Villas are progressing and showing different stages of completion, with all 18 Lagoon Villas starting works. The Boathouses have an impressive 42% sold or reserved status with construction slated to start on August 1, 2021. In the Ocean Estate area, two villas are well underway, with over half a dozen in early construction phases. This community is now over 60% sold or reserved.

The Beach Enclave brand was designed to combine a home environment with the services and amenities of a condominium. These dream vacation homes combined low density and floor plans that seamlessly blend indoor with outdoor living spaces, with modern décor and fun amenities. Launched on Provo’s North Shore in 2014, the brand now spans five phases of development in three locations. 

To appeal to a broader market of home buyers, Beach Enclave developers introduced The Club at Beach Enclave Long Bay now with eight private Beach Houses and a boutique condominium with just 24 hotel rooms, The Club Residences. At the heart of The Club will be a rooftop Wellness Spa, featuring elevated views of the ocean backdrop, sunrises and sunsets. By the pool and beach, will be a chic lounge as well as a casual, barefoot beach bar. Other amenities include lighted tennis courts, a fitness center, a yoga center, a kids’ club and in-house watersports. Construction is slated to begin in December 2021.

Developers have also cleared ground for Phase 2 of Beach Enclave North Shore. It features 10 exclusive two to four-bedroom luxury beach and oceanview houses. Only one beach house and four oceanview houses remain available. Along with a dramatic limestone design feature, this project will include an elevated oceanfront club lounge, decks with water and fire features, an upgraded fitness center and yoga deck, a lighted tennis court, kids club and a unique garden teeming with fruit trees.

The Strand is the TCI’s newest residential resort community overlooking the sapphire waters of Cooper Jack Bay. This property features dramatic vistas with an array of custom oceanfront residences, all with access to shared community amenities. Currently in the early development phase, visitors can now explore the site via paths and multiple viewing areas. Infrastructure works are underway and construction is anticipated to soon start. Interestingly, The Strand developers are looking to partner with a leader in solar home integration; it could be the first such community in the Caribbean.

The developers of Latitude 22 broke ground in late May for Karaya Blue. This private residential development features six luxury villas, each on a private half acre estate bursting with tropical foliage and minutes from the Long Bay beachfront. It will also include a fully integrated solar electrical system to be at the forefront of sustainable development in TCI. 

Sailrock is an evolving development on the country’s fishing capital of South Caicos. The project won the “Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Island Resort” at the 2020 World Travel Awards. Sailrock Resort opened its doors in January 2017 as the only five-star resort on South Caicos, bringing a new level of luxury to the quiet island, without disturbing its peaceful rhythms. Sailrock includes 33 suites and villas spread over 52 hilltop and oceanfront acres. Residences are supported by the Great House, a central hub housing a lounge, oceanview deck and upscale restaurant and bar. Investors looking for a Caribbean home-away-from-home will find it in the Private Peninsula Villas neighboring 770-acre enclave.

Recently resurrected for development is the Royal Reef Resort at Sandy Point, North Caicos. This condominium/hotel resort is located on 19 acres of beachfront land with over 500 feet of beachfront, and will comprise 139 residential units and a 90-room hotel building and spa on completion.

Realtors agree—NOW is the time to secure your safe haven in paradise, as prices continue to rise and the properties available become more scarce. They note that many real estate offices offer the latest technology for virtual showings. Looking to the future, the Turks & Caicos Islands continue to strengthen and move to the next level as a global luxury and tourism brand.

 



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Marta Morton, owner/operator of Harbour Club Villas & Marina (www.harbourclubvillas.com) did a careful photographic study of a family of Bahama woodstar hummingbirds that made their home on the property. Here, the two chicks appear ready to burst out of their tiny nest. See article on page 46.

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