How (And Why) to Buy Turks and Caicos Real Estate Right Now
The pandemic has put a new emphasis on where we actually live — on the home itself and its physical location. And, if and when this happens, again — where we would be willing to spend months stuck inside our homes. For broker Robert Greenwood and Walter Gardiner Jr, that’s meant a new wave of calls from potential buyers looking to relocate from crowded metropolitan locales to the Turks and Caicos lifestyle — in search of natural beauty and, more importantly, increased seclusion in the age of social distancing.
Turks and Caicos had been seeing surging real estate sales in the months leading up to the pandemic, and Greenwood and Gardiner say interest remains significant.
So what is the current real estate situation? And how does one buy a home in Turks and Caicos right? Caribbean Journal Invest talked to Greenwood, Director and Senior Broker at Regency-Christie’s International Real Estate and Walter Gardiner Jr. Director/Broker, to learn more.
What’s the current situation in Turks and Caicos?
In short, we’ve fared very well, with extremely low infection and transmission rate — in fact, some of the lowest in the Caribbean.
A great deal of this success is due to the timely actions taken by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government and Governor’s office, both working hand in hand for the benefit of the islands and its citizens.
High levels of communication from TCIG and the Governor’s office have served to inform the general public in real-time, with real data, therefore avoiding any confusion.
The directions they’ve provided have been clear, to the point and based on the facts. Again, serving to maintain confidence in the direction we were being steered.
The first step was to close the international airport, Something that was done promptly and stopped the importation of the virus by those who had it and didn’t even know it. Much like a castle with a mote, you pull up the drawbridge, and you’re secured from dangers that might come from outside.
Soon after, TCIG implemented a brief curfew to prepare for a stay-at-home directive which ended on May 4th, something we all felt was the best decision, based on the facts at hand. This was not a total lockdown and provided considerable freedom within a controlled environment.
Our grocery stores remained fully stocked with shipping routes uninterrupted, fuel, pharmacies, medical facilities all deemed essential businesses, again fully stocked. All of which we could travel to for supplies or assistance if and when needed. All taking a great deal of strategic planning and must say everyone involved, be they in public or private sectors did an exemplary job.
One of the questions I did keep hearing was about our medical facilities, which was fair, given the circumstances. We have two fully operational, state-of-the-art hospitals in the TCI. One on Providenciales, and one in Grand Turk, both accessible to all of our islands. They are well-staffed and have protocols and necessary equipment in place as it relates to Covid-19. Which now includes PCR analyzer; MIC qPCR Cycler- 4 Channel Unit thatcan perform 48 tests per batch, each batch can then be analyzed in the fast time of 25 minutes. This is the “Gold Standard” in testing equipment and has served to make us as a country extremely self-sufficient.
One very important and somewhat unique factor that realates to the Turks and Caicos Islands is the relationship with the United Kingdom as an Overseas Territory. This relationship has provided the TCI with an abundance of support, such as access a myriad of supplementary services that include, but is not limited to, financial assistance, testing equipment and kits, logistical support and highly qualified personnel. The team that arrived in the TCI is a ‘Specialized Assistance Team’ from the United Kingdom consisting of around 20 professionals and is a multi-disciplinary, multi-department effort with skill sets that include: doctors, medical planners, logisticians, security specialists and planners.
What’s the impact of COVID on real estate?
As is relates to the economy, it’s still too early to understand the potential impact. Needless to say, that with the world as interconnected as it is, it will take time to see how each Country does with their issues before judgement can be made on the TCI. However, we in the real estate sector are seeing a definite trend throughout the Caribbean Region, where investors are looking for a safe-haven far removed from a big city and highly congested lifestyles.
To incentivize such investors, the Turks & Caicos Islands Government approved and implemented a package of benefits that will assist and serve as a direct economic stimulus for all the Islands in the Turks and Caicos. This stimulus package is planned to flatten the curve of the economic impact on our residents.
The three points from the Government Stimulus Package as it relates to the real estate industry are as follows:
1) 50% reduction in Stamp Duty across all islands for a three-month period
2) Waived Custom Duties on construction material for a three-month period
3) 50% reduction in planning fees for a three-month period
Note: Further review and update of this initial stimulus package will be made at or around June 1st, 2020
2) Why is Turks and Caicos a desirable place to buy real estate?
There are so many reasons. It’s a Beautiful destination. There’s low population density. We have a stable government and we’re a British Overseas Territory. There are no income, property or capital gains taxes. We’re in close proximity to the United States, with direct airlift from most US hubs. We’re English-speaking; we use the U.S. dollar. That’s along with solid medical facilities and reputable professional service companies in industries like construction and architecture. And we’re on British Law.
Is that even more true right now?
It is true more now than ever before. The Turks and Caicos Islands have long been a desirable location for so many in the United States, Canada and Europe. And for the many reasons we’ve already covered. However, the world has experienced a traumatic event that many from our demographic could not escape. With them living in highly populated areas and big cities which are those most negatively effected, in-fact, escalating the spread of Covid-19 through the mere fact that they are living on top of each other. Which is the nature of big city life, and its attraction through the excitement and the hustle and bustle is creates. Unfortunately, things have changed with many of our clients now looking for a second home destination where they can ride out such events in the future.
Can I buy a home in TCI right now?
Simply put, yes!
We have continued to carry out work remotely, and transactions are continuing. As 90 percent of our clients are outside of the TCI, we are entirely accustomed to the concept of remote working. We have had remote access to our legal work for many years, so we are able to carry out most work. Attorney’s offices officially reopened on May 11, after which our ability to deal with all client matters has been fully restored. We continue to have closings, and relevant government departments are fully reopen.
As for the actual process of viewing real estate, we are fully equipped with all of the latest technologies that allow for remote showings and viewings. From the Matterport 3D Tours to live and in person showings through various video conference applications. We can also arrange client-attorney meetings through Zoom to establish an initial relationship, then onto a one on one dialogue for added privacy and security. This allows purchasers to get into the market know whilst the Governments incentives on Stamp Duties, waived Customs Duties and Planing Fees remain in place.
5) How would I actually buy real estate? What’s the market like?
Now is the best time to buy, with great selections of properties to chose from land, homes, condos in various locations and in different islands. Stamp duty reduction, lower planning fees and reduction in import duties provide great savings. New developments such as the Ritz-Carlton, Sailrock and Turquoise Banks to choose from.
Where in TCI should I buy a home?
It depends on what you’re looking for .
Grace Bay is the world’s best beach if you want a condo. Leeward, Long bay, Turtle Tail, Chalk Sound if want a private villa in a luxurious neighborhood.
And then there are Parrot Cay and Ambergris Cay if you want private-island luxury.
And Sailrock in South Caicos If you want luxury but still want to experience the community.
What about residency?
I am frequently asked by purchasers of TCI real estate about residency status in the islands that can be acquired.
In the current circumstances, that has become an even more important question, as purchasers consider coming to and remaining in the TCI during any potential self-isolation period in their home country.
Speaking generally, there are two types of status that may be acquired.
The first and easiest is a homeowner’s permit, which allows applicants to come and go as they wish, and are valid for five years. They are renewable. The permit can be applied for after a purchase of a home (house or condo) valued over $300,000.00. An application is submitted to the TCI government (immigration department) providing evidence of the purchase. An applicant may include their spouse and children under 18 on the permit by way of endorsement. Applicants must demonstrate the absence of criminal record and sufficient financial resources (income or assets) to be able to reside in the Islands without having to work. Homeowner’s permits do not permit the applicants to work in TCI. Costs are $1500 for government fee and applicants can expect legal fees in the $2 – $4,000 range depending on complexity and number of endorsees.
The second type of status for which an applicant can quality with the purchase of real estate over $1 million is a Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC). As the name implies, PRCs grant the applicant (and spouse) the right to reside for life. Children under 18 may be endorsed and they will have the right to reside until their 18th birthday. Costs are more substantial – a one time government fee of $25,000.00 plus $1500 for endorsement of spouse and $500 per child. Legal fees will range from $7,500 to $25,000. It is worth noting that permanent residence status can lead to TCI (British Overseas Territory) Citizenship, if the applicant maintains certain residence criteria. This can be particularly valuable to those ultimately seeking a British passport.
The combination of the safety and tranquility of the islands. together with the unrestricted right of foreigners to purchase property and to thereby obtain the right to reside here opens up an ideal safe haven that is also a great investment and close to the US and Canada, and accessible to the world.
Is this a place I can live full time? How are the schools? How is the infrastructure?
Schools are great, most high schools operate with an International Curriculum, giving parents the option to send their children the country of their choice for college. Infrastructure is excellent, including telecommunications, roads, supermarkets.
The healthy, unpolluted environment remains a constant for the development of an exceptional lifestyle experience.
Is social distancing the new luxury? How can i achieve that in TCI?
We have very few COVID-19 cases in the TCI and as reported by TCIG. Social distancing and other best practices have become an increased routine. That being said, the islands’ low population and the focus on Luxury Tourism vs Mass Tourism contributes to increased low density. In other words, Turks and Caicos social distances by nature.
And if someone wanted to minimize social interaction to an even higher level, they can purchase a home on one of our less-developed islands or a private-island property such as Point House on Parrot Cay.
The world has changed and made destinations like TCI more desirable. Do you see that trend continuing?
Yes, the world has changed, yet some things have remained constant.What has not changed is our stunning environment; our world-class beaches, our exquisite scuba-diving and unparalleled water sports, our crystal clear, turquoise blue ocean, first-class dining, and of course our warm and friendly people.
What has certainly changed is the increased demand for destinations such as the Turks and Caicos Islands, and we feel strongly that this trend will strengthen over the short term, and continue over the long-term.
What would you say to those considering moving to the Caribbean right now. Why should they choose TCI?
Without sounding arrogant, I’m not sure I need to say anything to anyone considering the Caribbean for a second home, or even a primary residence. Recent events have highlighted the myriad of reasons why our region is a compelling choice for both health and wealth preservation.
Specifically TCI offers many unique advantages that can be explained in a personal consultation. We are one of the newest destinations in the region, and boast an extremely beautiful and luxurious lifestyle, fast becoming the top choice for the discerning traveller and investor.
We are quick and easy to get to, we are low crime, low density, and most importantly, we are an extremely healthy environment.
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