Getting to Know

Commitment: Nothing Compares

The journey to build Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty.
By Davidson Edens Louis ~ Illustrations Courtesy Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty

The bravest souls who manage to impact our lives, contribute to human endeavors, and make serious social advancements have one thing in common. They are committed.

Commitment turns implausible dreams to attainable realities, it breaks barriers, and softens the most daunting fears. Commitment by no means is an easy task! It is an unshakable dedication, and staying committed is one of the most demanding challenges a person may face. It is also one of the most rewarding.

I have always had a great curiosity and appreciation for the concept of motivation. In university, I was obsessed with it. I have watched documentaries and films and read memoirs while searching for the reasons that propel some of the world’s most successful people to the top. What links these great minds together? They are all utterly committed to their goal. They live and breathe it, almost as if there was no alternative outcome other than what they set out to achieve. 

Far from the classroom, I discovered three real-life case studies right in front of me. For market leaders Joe Zahm, Nina Siegenthaler, and Richard Sankar, their commitment to the Turks & Caicos Islands and their careers is decades deep. 

Leading Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty (TCSIR), they are musician, island mom, and dog-dad, but also experts who are committed to remaining pioneers in the Turks & Caicos real estate industry. From record-breaking sales in dollar values to extensive involvement in the development of the community, it echoes in everything they do. Being at the infancy of my career, I am astonished by their combined achievements and contributions.

Who is Joe Zahm?

Joe Zahm, at 33 years old, when the band Everyman was being formed; Nina Siegenthaler, at 5 years old, in Sapodilla Bay; and Richard Sankar at 31 years old.

My 56-minute interview with Joe was a series of stories, quotes, and chunks of music lyrics all pieced together in a captivating, poetic manner. The ex-lawyer and ski enthusiast (once known as the “ski-attorney”) is one of the most electrifying individuals I have worked with. Yet Joe’s story is as affectionate and full of energy as he is. Joe is also an artiste: guitarist, singer, writer, and father of three.

Beside the Joe Zahm who has led the industry with over $4 billion brokered in real estate sales, there is someone who takes interest in his art and community endeavors. Joe came to the Turks & Caicos in 1989 at the age of 29. “From 22ºF below zero in the Colorado Rockies to 82ºF in Providenciales in nine hours,” he recalls. He traded in his ski boots for a pair of loafers and embarked on what has become a lifelong passion and career. 

In late 1998, Joe along with our current Minister of Tourism, Environment, Heritage, Maritime, Gaming, and Disaster Management Josephine Connolly, formed Connolly Zahm Properties (CZP), a real estate brokerage and consulting firm specializing in luxury beachfront developments. By then, Joe had years of real estate experience in the Turks & Caicos Islands, including development, management, and sales. He pioneered, witnessed, and aided the drastic leaps the TCI has made as a destination and helped build the foundation on which the nation now stands. He brought the first professional computer software from Colorado, along with various operating procedures, while at the same time writing the popular song “Beautiful By Nature” with his band Everyman.

Now working with the top luxury resorts and developers, Joe gains tremendous satisfaction in seeing how far TCI has progressed in over 30 years. Joe adds, “I couldn’t be more proud of the Turks & Caicos people, who have stepped up to lead and support what is now a premier global real estate and tourism brand.”

Joe described his journey in the Islands to be a marathon that requires dedication, patience, and persistence. “My energy follows the keen level of inspiration and interest that Turks & Caicos continually provides. The resilience of the country and its people give me the inspiration to carry on.”

Who is Nina Siegenthaler?

Nina has achieved over $1.5 billion in individual real estate sales, she is one of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Top 100 Agents Worldwide, and she continues to be the number one producer in dollar sales volume in Turks & Caicos for many years running. But that’s not all of the story. 

Nina’s love affair with the Turks & Caicos started when she was just five years old. “It warms my heart just thinking about it,” she says with great tenderness in her voice. Anchored in Sapodilla Bay, Nina first discovered the country on a family sailing holiday from the Bahamas in 1981. Her father decided to go on a bike ride and returned to the boat saying, “We’re going to build a house on Providenciales!” He had bought a piece of land in Thompson’s Cove on the spot after bumping into then-developer Walt Thompson. Struck by the island’s raw charm, the decision to move to the Turks & Caicos Islands was unified. By 1985, the family left the Bahamas and constructed a new home and life on Providenciales.

Nina left the Islands in 1987 at the age of 11 to pursue her education, but her longing to return home remained strong. In fact, Nina’s mother gifted her a subscription to Times of the Islands while she was away at boarding school and college in the early 1990s to make her feel more connected to home in the TCI. She earned a BA in Art from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania before moving to New York City. The tragedy of the 9/11 attack revealed that it was time to return “home,” a place where she would feel safe.

Back in the Turks & Caicos, Nina reunited with her friend Richard Sankar, who came into her life when he originally listed her parent’s house. “It was meant to be,” she said. “A chilling sensation washed over me, starting from the back of my neck down to my feet. I had goosebumps all over! The ambiguous power of destiny or fate differs from person to person. For me, it was rather clear—I am a strong believer of ‘what-is-to-be-will-be’.” Richard referred her to Joe at Connolly Zahm Properties where she began her auspicious career in real estate. Nina was made partner when Connolly Zahm Properties merged with Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty.

Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty Board of Directors: Joe Zahm, President/Broker; Nina Siegenthaler, Vice President; and Richard Sankar, Director/Broker.

Who is Richard Sankar?

Richard is a man with an omnipresent charisma and endless love. Richard is “dad” to four loving, docile, and totally unperturbed potcake dogs. He is a soft spoken and calculated leader. His voice is warm and empathetic. Brought up from a humble beginning in Trinidad & Tobago, Richard never ceases to push himself. From the debut of his career at age 16 at the Bank of Nova Scotia to record-breaking real estate sales, Richard proves the proverb, “From humble beginnings come great things.” 

Like Nina, Richard’s contribution in the local real estate market is significant. In 1997, when he moved to the Turks & Caicos Islands, he quickly became the top- producing agent at Prestigious Properties for more than a decade. A founding member of the Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA) and a local philanthropist, Richard is heavily involved in improving the local industry and the lives of young people. 

“What keeps you going?” I leaned in and asked. There was a slight pause. I couldn’t help picture in my head a young Richard: eager, disciplined, and very much structured from an early age. Not much has changed—his office is all-white, perfectly organized, and not a speck of dust on the desk. His Caribbean mother would have been proud. “Empowerment for the local people,” Richard answered, which brought me back into the room. 

Great leaders build amazing communities because they have a vision. They do so in a variety of ways and over an extended period of time. They shape and unify individuals by sharing their experiences and knowledge. Richard devotes a large portion of his career to mentoring and education. In the words of Antoine Saint-Exupéry, “If you want to build a ship . . . teach the men to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

What are we at TCSIR?

Individually, Joe, Nina, and Richard show tremendous resilience and commitment. Together, they have created a premier luxury real estate brokerage firm in Turks & Caicos with a profound track record and significant foothold in all market segments, particularly new development and trophy properties. The Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty (TCSIR) originally formed in 1990 was revived in 2013 by the trio who came together with a single vision:  To make a difference by serving clients and community with passion and integrity.

The distinguished corner Venture House on Grace Bay Road is a mere emblem of the labor involved in building TCSIR over the years. “Nothing happens without waiting. The seed in the ground does not become a tree overnight. It goes through seasons, nurturing, watering, pruning before it bears fruit,” said Ngina Otiende. Much of this is true for TCSIR. 

For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most significant disruptions the Islands have ever faced. In late March 2020, our world and everything in it came to a screeching halt as TCI closed its borders to tourists and visitors through the end of July. Resorts, restaurants, airports, and businesses closed and near-to-completion real estate deals were either canceled or deferred. Such crucial times beg to be innovative.

TCSIR had to think creatively and adapt. They responded to this crisis with various technologies. The introduction and continuance of the brand’s state-of-the-art Matterport 3D technology (originally introduced to TCI real estate in 2018), simple narrated FaceTime tours, videos, signature high caliber photography, regular virtual internal team meetings, participation in industry Zoom conferences, and virtual showings proved to be working. Third-party expert inspections, effective documentation, quality communication, and diligent agents also helped in giving clients confidence in buying in TCI. As a result, Joe Zahm explains, “Clients felt more connected with our network, team, and community than ever. Virtual buying became a ‘thing.’”

He adds, “There is light at the end of the tunnel. Unlike the aftermath of the financial crisis of September 2009, where we had weak fundamentals and luxury buyers disappeared, the opposite has occurred here. Buyers, interested in luxury assets remained in the game and continued to shop and purchase real estate.”

These innovative ways to connect clients to Turks & Caicos worked. There was a 137% increase in video viewership on the Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty YouTube channel and increased activity with third-party web site partners like the New York Times and Mansion Global. This subsequently marked an astonishing year with significant sales including Bajacu listed at $18.8 million, Dream Big Villa at $5.75 million, Cerulean at $4.8 million, and the sale of a Leeward beach parcel at $8.5 million. This proved a demonstration of a resilient country and its real estate industry.

Howard Shultz said, “When you are surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” TCSIR has seen tremendous results in 2022, closing its final quarter responsible for 61% of market share sales for listings over $1 million and 60% of the market for residential sales over $3 million. TCSIR and its team, now 28-strong, have long been responsible for some of the country’s most significant sales, including many on Parrot Cay, rock legend Prince’s island estate, and most recently, the Forbes Road property on Grace Bay Beach. But the journey doesn’t stop there.

This beautiful parcel of land on Grace Bay Beach, sold for $20 million, was just one of TCSIR’s “Significant Sales” for 2022.

It has always been in the fabric of Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty to give back to the local community. Throughout the years, TCSIR has significantly contributed to many charities and non-profit organizations in need of a helping hand. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” John F. Kennedy said and it is true. It is in giving that we receive and it is by giving, we help to leverage social disparity.

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, our “Beautiful by Nature” Islands are at risk of being hit by hurricanes. When Category Five Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, TCI stayed strong with the unquestionable backing of the private sector. Joe, Nina, Richard, and other industry leaders collectively joined hands. TCSIR partnered with Do-It-Center to provide much needed building assistance to residents who were hardest hit. It was imperative to aid in rebuilding lives in the community in which everyone lives.

It isn’t only in critical times that Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty runs to the rescue; also through education, mentorship, and fundraising through art. TCSIR has been a proud sponsor of Food for Thought since its beginning in 2016. Food for Thought is a non-profit dedicated to ending the unacceptable number of children going to school without having eaten breakfast. Joe enthusiastically supports the annual Art Auction Fundraiser held by the Edward Gartland Youth Center. Nina continues her diligent work with United Way Turks & Caicos, focusing on education, crime prevention, and youth development, along with hurricane restoration and COVID-19 relief. Richard’s advocacy and determination to empower locals shines through mentorship and working to offer equal opportunities.

There’s something important I gathered while talking with Joe, Nina, and Richard. There is an indisputable trust between the three of them. Maybe committing isn’t enough! Maybe the marathon Joe mentioned earlier is in fact a relay race. The journey to success is one that requires a series of devoted team members. After all, where would we be without those who nudged us in moments of self-doubt? Henry Ford said, “When everyone is moving forward together, success takes care of itself.” Self-commitment is only half of the equation. So, this is about everyone who has contributed, small or big, to get Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty where it is today. If we can see further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Graduate, writer, and artist Davidson Edens Louis joined Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty as the marketing coordinator, where he hopes to use his creativity to share the unparalleled works of TCSIR.

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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.

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