Turks and Caicos’ vibrant luxury property market

April 14, 2016

The property market in Turks and Caicos is now very strong, with lots of high net worth buyers.

In the third quarter of 2015, the average real estate price in Turks and Caicos surged by 17.2% y-o-y, to US$826,727, based on figures from Sotheby’s International Realty.
By property type:

  • Villa prices rose by 7.8% y-o-y in Q3 2015, to an average of about US$1.4 million.
  • Condominium prices fell by 12.8% y-o-y in Q3 2015, to an average of US$715,124
  • Land prices skyrocketed by almost 84% to US$603,600 in Q3 2015 from a year earlier.

This is a long way from the gloom of the Great Recession.  In 2009 real estate transactions in Turks and Caicos reached an all-time low, with house prices falling by around 18%. But the market recovered quickly the following year.

“The economic recovery has been very good and the real estate market has certainly bounced back, showing significant growth every year since 2009,” said Blair MacPherson of RE/MAX Real Estate Group Turks & Caicos Islands, attributing the strong recovery is attributed to the Islands’ easily accessible location, agreeable climate, miles of beaches, tax-friendly status, private environment, as well as its safety and security as a British Overseas Territory.

The Turks and Caicos Islands take pride in their beautiful beaches, and are completely surrounded by a continuous coral barrier reef, the third largest in the world.

In the world-famous Grace Bay, property prices range from US$300,000 for a studio apartment to more than US$10 million for the finest penthouse, according to Sotheby’s International Realty.

In Leeward, a posh gated community located on the east end of Providenciales, canal lot homes are priced from US$1.5 million to US$5 million, according to RE/MAX Real Estate Group Turks & Caicos.

Turks and Caicos average property prices

Demand continues to surge. The number of real estate transactions climbed 27.6% to 254 properties in the first three quarters of 2015 as compared to the same period last year. During this period the value of property sales was up by almost 50%, at US$210 million.

“Several Caribbean destinations, such as the Turks & Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands, enjoyed a very positive increase in luxury real estate sales in 2015,” said Walter Zephirin, of London-based 7th Heaven Properties.

“We anticipate that this growth will be maintained in 2016, as international property buyers continue to be drawn to the region´s consistent offer of year-round sun, sea, sand, stability and style of living,” Zephirin added.

“If you compare Turks and Caicos to other top comparable islands in the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos is still under-priced and offers tremendous value to foreign investors,” said MacPherson tt

Luxury property developments are plentiful

Turks and Caicos property prices annual change

Here are some prices in the most popular developments:

  • The Amanyara Resort offers 33 different villas on the coast of Northwest Point on the island of Providenciales. The three, four or five-bedroom residences are situated either along the oceanfront, overlooking a tranquil pond or nestled in island vegetation. A four-bedroom villa is currently priced at US$9.5 million.
  • In Parrot Cay Resort, one of the finest and most secluded resort islands in the Caribbean, a four-bedroom beach house is currently offered at US$6.9 million, while villas are priced at an average of US$10 million. Estates are also offered starting at US$9 million up to US$48 million for Oliver’s Cover on Parrot Cay. Moreover, individual parcels of beachfront land are also available starting at a price of about US$5 million.
  • In Blue Cay Estate, located at the gated community of Leeward, Providenciales, five-bedroom beachfront villas are priced between US$4.25 million to US$4.75 million. Four-bedroom canalfront villas are offered for US$2.25 million. The Blue Cay Estate offers 16 four- and five-bedroom residences.
  • At The Dunes, located at the North Shore Beachfront Turtle Cove, Providenciales, five-bedroom single-family homes are for sale for US$4.25 million.
  • At the Residences, in Grace Bay Resorts in Providenciales, the prices of 4-bedroom beachfront villas start at US$3.7 million.
  • Turks and Caicos number of property sales
  • In the Shore Club, on the exclusive Long Bay Beach in Providenciales, luxury six-bedroom villas are offered in the market for US$5.5 million. The Shore Club also offers a total of 38 two- and three-bedroom condominium units for US$1.65 million to US$2.1 million.
  • The Wymara Villas offers five exquisite four and five-bedroom modern villas in Waterfront Turtle Tail, Providenciales.  Four-bedroom waterfront residences are priced at US$3.5 million.
  • The Estates at Grace Bay Club offers 22 private condominium units on Grace Bay Beach. The price of condominiums ranges from US$1.95 million to US$3.75 million.
  • The Regent Palms is a US$95 million resort that features 72 one, two and three-bedroom condominiums with balconies and terraces on Grace Bay Resort. Two-bedroom condos are priced from US$850,000 to US$1.4 million while three-bedroom condos are offered from US$1.6 million.
  • The Gansevoort Turks and Caicos offers a total of 52 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments situated on a sweeping curve of pristine Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales. Two-bedroom apartments are priced at US$1,295,000.

Property demand is surging

During the first nine months of 2015:

  • There were about 56 villas sold, up by 24.4% from a year earlier.
  • There were 85 condominium units sold, up by 34.9% from a year ago.
  • Land sales also increased 25.9% from a year earlier.

Turks and Caicos value property sales

Over the same period, the value of property sales was US$210 million, up by almost 50% from a year earlier.

  • The total value of villas sold rose by 34.1% y-o-y to US$78.4 million.
  • The total value of condominiums sold rose by 17.6% y-o-y to US$60.79 million
  • The value of lots sold increased by 1.3 times to US$64.59 million

Property sales increased 287% by dollar volume from 2009 to 2013, according to Robert Greenwood, the president of the Turks and Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA).

Foreign homebuyers fuel the high-end market

The islands’ population has expanded by 58.2% from 2001 to 2012. Foreigners without family connection to the islands now comprise a majority of the adult population: 57.5% of the population aged 18 and older are “Non-Turks and Caicos Islanders". 

Foreigners particularly outnumber locals in Providenciales and North Caicos, according to the 2013 Turks and Caicos Business Guide.

Among the advantages the Turks and Caicos Islands have over its regional neighbors are minimal flight times from major US cities and Canada; low density physical infrastructure; no traffic jams; low crime rate; and the use of US money, says Kathryn Brown, former president of the TREA.

The completion of Providenciales International Airport expansion, and the opening of two new private air terminals for private jet flights, whose number ranks third in the Caribbean, are likely to further perk up demand.

Property market highly accessible to foreigners

There are no restrictions on foreign property ownership, and no requirements to develop land within a certain period of time. Undeveloped land can be held indefinitely for future use or investment.

Furthermore, after payment of a one-time stamp duty charge payable to the Turks and Caicos Government on the purchase of property, the buyer is no longer burdened by taxes.

There are no income taxes on revenue from property; no capital gains tax on property transfers; no estate or inheritance taxes; and no corporate taxes or exchange controls. Indirect taxation only comes in the form of customs duties, stamp duty on certain transactions, and departure tax, according to Sotheby’s International Realty.

As a British territory, the Turks and Caicos Islands’ political environment and legal system is considered more stable than other Caribbean neighbors. Another attractive factor is that Turks and Caicos uses the United States dollar.

Remarkable growth of the Islands’ rental market

Rental yields - i.e., returns on investment from rentals - are hard to pin down, given that most rental property is short-term and subject to unpredictable vacancy rates. According to Conch Development’s Blog, up to 10% rental yields are to be expected at 95% occupancy. According to PropertyWorld.com, one can expect a rental yield of 6% or more for rental properties in the country. However, neither source is at all reliable.

Wide variety of mortgages

Turks and Caicos house purchase loans

A wide array of mortgage options is available to home buyers. They can acquire financing through banks, trust companies, and private funds from investors.

The primary lenders are RBC, Scotiabank and CIBC First Caribbean, all Canadian banks doing business in the Turks and Caicos. Trust companies take investor money and lend them out as mortgages. These loans generally go up to 50% of the value of the property. The third option is usually facilitated by law firms on the islands who hold their clients’ money to invest.

According to the Financial Services Commission, the amount of loans extended to borrowers for property purchase, which makes up around 85% of total personal loans, increased slightly by 0.4% y-o-y to US$415.59 million in the first quarter of 2015.

Banks in Turks and Caicos follow United States interest rates, ranging from 0.4% to 2% for deposits to 4.5%-6.5% for secured lending and 9%-17% for unsecured lending, according to the Financial Services Commission.

Tourism-based economy

Turks and Caicos visitor arrivals

Tourism is the bedrock of the economy. Almost half of Turks and Caicos’ gross domestic product (GDP) is generated by the hotel and restaurant sector.

Rapid economic growth blessed the Turks and Caicos Islands from the 1990s until 2006, with growing investment inflows, visitor numbers, employment, and revenues. Growth peaked at 13% in 1995, and averaged 8% after that.

However after the 2008 financial crisis the country’s economy went into decline. The islands were also hit by hurricanes Hannah and Ike, which devastated the capital, Grand Turk, and smaller islands. Many hotels and resorts slashed their room rates from 30% up to 50% to attract guests. Tourism developments ground to a halt. GDP fell by 18.49% in 2009 followed by a further decline of 2.33% in 2010, according to the Turks and Caicos Islands Development Strategy 2013-2017.

At the same time a commission of inquiry set by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office found widespread “political amorality.” The Foreign Office partially suspended Turks and Caicos’ constitution, dissolved the government and the House of Assembly, and imposed direct rule in August 2009.

Turks and Caicos gdp growth

Home rule was restored in November 2012 and a new parliament was elected.

Tourism grew strongly in 2014,  and the economy expanded by 4.6%.  Stay-over visitors increased 24% to 360,653 people in 2014 from a year earlier, according to the Turks and Caicos Strategic Policy and Planning Department . More than 80% of the stay-over visitors were from the United States.

Tourism growth is largely concentrated in the island of Providenciales, famous for the beautiful 12-mile Grace Bay Beach. It caters to a total of over 360,000 stay-over visitors each year while the Grand Turk Cruise Center, the country’s first cruise port, has hosted more than 700,000 tourists every year since its opening in 2007.

Stop over non-resident visitors are projected to grow from 354,000 in 2011 to over 413,000 by 2017.

The country has been reaching out to the South American travel market – particularly Brazil – while exploring opportunities to attract Asian luxury travelers. The country recently received "Approved Destination Status" from the Chinese government.

Cruise passengers also increased 25% y-o-y to 971,838 people in 2014. However, during the first half of 2015, the number of cruise passengers fell slightly by 2.45% to 465,853 people from the same period last year.

In July 2014, Turks and Caicos received its first-ever sovereign credit rating from Standard & Poor’s (S&P). The country received a rating of BBB+/Stable/A-2, which reflects its vibrant economy and net general government asset position.

Well-developed construction sector

Residential construction activity continues to rise. In 2014, dwelling permits issued rose 24.2% from a year earlier, according to the Turks and Caicos Strategic Policy and Planning Department.  Issued permits for apartments increased five times in 2014 compared to the previous year.

In terms of value, dwelling permits issued more than doubled, while apartment permits more than quadrupled in 2014 from the previous year.

While commercial work dried up during the crisis, high-end single-family home construction has grown in the succeeding years, keeping many local firms afloat. New commercial projects in the pipeline will represent a big boost to the construction sector, according to Steve Thompson, managing director of Projetech, a long-established local firm.

TURKS AND CAICOS CONSTRUCTION COSTS

DEVELOPMENT COST (US$/sq. ft.)
Residential high quality 250-410
Residential medium quality 140-230
Residential modest quality 110-180
Hotels/condos five star urban 280-460
Hotels/condos five star low-rise 300-490
Hotels/condos three star economy 160-260
Source: BCQS International 2013/2014 Market Trend Report

Turks and Caicos has one of the region’s highest construction costs, according to BCQS International, as annual exposure to tropical storms and other weather conditions have necessitated high-quality building codes. Turks and Caicos now meets or even exceeds the standards of Florida.

David Hartshorn, principal of Projetech, explains that although higher than in neighboring countries, construction costs in Turks and Caicos are commensurate to the quality of the buildings and the workforce.

Background; a hidden gem in the Caribbean

The 40-island archipelago is divided into two main island groups. The first group is the Turks Islands, comprised of the Grand Turk (the country’s historic capital), the Salt Cay and other adjacent cays. The other group includes the world-famous Providenciales (where 23,769 of the islands´ total population of 31,500 live), South Caicos, East Caicos, Middle or Grand Caicos, North Caicos, West Caicos, and several other private islands like the Pine Cay, the Ambergris Cay and the Parrot Cay. A British overseas territory, the Turks and Caicos Islands are located off the West Indies, approximately 575 miles southeast of Miami and 30 miles south of the Bahamas.

Grand Turk. Home to the Grand Turk Cruise Center, the historic island of Grand Turk is the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Although it lags behind the progressive island of Providenciales in terms of tourism, population growth, and economy, the capital island still has so much to offer. In 2012, there were 677,000 visitors to Grand Turk via the Grand Turk Cruise, and the number is expected to reach 1 million tourist visits by 2014-2017. The island is also the seat of the national government and the Financial Services Commission.

Grand Turk’s slower population growth compared to Providenciales means more properties in prime locations are still available for development. It is also home to the country’s most historic sites and other notable events such as the Grand Turk Carnival in July and the Grand Turk Summer Jam in summer.

Providenciales. Although only the third largest island in Turks and Caicos, the island of Providenciales is the most populous, with nearly 24,000 residents (a majority foreigners). It is the main entry point to the Turks and Caicos islands as it houses the country’s largest international airport.

The island is home to the 12-mile beach of Grace Bay, consistently rated one of the world´s best beaches by Trip Advisor, Conde Nast, and The Times.

North Caicos. The seat of the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the 19th century, the North Caicos is the second largest of the 9 inhabited islands of the Turks and Caicos. It is known for its lush green lands and abundant wildlife, thus, the island is more commonly known as the “Garden Island” and the “bread basket of Turks and Caicos.” Most of the agricultural supply of the archipelago is produced inthe 41-sq. mile island.

North Caicos has benefited from the high tourist arrivals to nearby Providenciales, which is accessible via daily ferry service. Most vacation homes on North Caicos are in the Whitby area, home to white sandy beaches. Several luxury property developments are underway.

Middle Caicos. The 48-sq. mile Middle Caicos (also known as the Grand Caicos) is the largest island in Turks and Caicos, but one of the least populated. It was the home of the indigenous Lucayan Indians, the original inhabitants.

Visitors go to Middle Caicos to enjoy an array of water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, bone fishing, and sailboat racing. It also features the Conch Bar Caves, the largest above ground cave system in all of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos archipelago. Middle Caicos still remains undeveloped with only a few guest houses and villas for rent. Regular ferries travel to North Caicos, which connects to Middle Caicos via a causeway.

South Caicos. Popular for its rich marine life, avian species, diving and rich history, this is the fishing capital of Turks and Caicos Islands. A Fisherman’s Day was introduced locally in honor of the contributions of the local fishermen to the economy of the South Caicos.

South Caicos also hosts one of the most anticipated annual events in the country, the Big South Regatta, every May in commemoration of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in South Caicos in 1966.

The newest development for vacation homes is Sailrock, located in the Peninsula Passage.

Salt Cay. As its name implies, Salt Cay, the smallest inhabited island in Turks and Caicos, used to be home to the country’s bustling salt production industry. The salt industry’s rich history includes providing salt to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War and aiding Canadian and American fishing fleets with preserving their catches. Buildings constructed during the island’s glory days remain, along with the salinas from which salt was harvested. The Salt Cay became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 along with other historic sites in the island including the White House, the Historic District, and the District Commissioner’s House.

Salt Cay also offers one of the best scuba diving and whale watching spots in the world especially during the months of January and April which are the migration seasons for humpback whales passing through the Columbus Pass. Another popular activity is bird watching, as migratory birds like blue heron and pink flamingos stop at the island to rest during migration.

Other private islands. The other smaller cays including the Parrot CayPine Cay, and the Ambergris Cay are home to the most luxurious resorts and residential homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Parrot Cay island resort hosts the vacation homes of stars like Bruce Willis, Christie Brinkley and Keith Richards. The private residential island of Ambergris Cay in southeastern Caicos is home to the Turks & Caicos Sporting Club. The club received two impressive awards in 2009 – the “Best Private Island of the Year” and the “Best Development of the Year” – both from Caribbean World Magazine. Pine Cay houses the Meridian Club, also a luxury property development.

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