Turks & Caicos Market Report Year in Review 2020 by Turks & Caicos Sotheby's International Realty

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2020 Turks & Caicos Real Estate Market Closes Like A Champ.

As a Hamptons real estate agent said in early summer, “life plans changed in a weekend”, and while that may be an overstatement for this market, it is clear that buyers (and most existing TCI property owners) have put their umbrellas in the sand with a clear intention: They really want to be here!

The 2020 TCI real estate market performed better than we ever could have hoped for in the context of COVID–19, a four-month country-wide shutdown and stringent travel requirements. And I guess our task in this space is to seek to answer the question, as set forth by the great David Byrne of Talking Heads: “Well, how did we get here?!”

Let’s start abroad: After the stock market cratered, it began to recover quickly and it became clear this was not a rerun of the 2008 financial crisis. Soon thereafter, we witnessed affluent buyers starting to move on luxury vacation property from Vail to Aspen, and from the Hamptons to South Florida. COVID–19 was triggering the opposite of the financial crash of September 2008, in that luxury real estate was highly desired by those looking for easy-to-access, safe-haven retreats away from urban areas and primary homes. With airports and resorts closed, and most commercial planes not flying, the luxury market was, quite urgently, seeking out real estate!

In TCI, initially, we were not so lucky, as our borders were completely closed from March 24 until July 22. We did however start to (virtually) close Q1 pipeline business and built a bit of momentum via the private jet class just prior to, and after, the airport closures. Q2, (led by the sale of a couple of a trophy properties and several new development villa sales) was also assisted by welcomed stimulus from the TCI Government with a concession halving stamp duty for the second quarter. This helped us close sales during this torturous time for our hotel, resort and villa rental partners grappling with the border’s closures. And this is really the first time in our history that our real estate industry has not been so directly tethered to tourism flow.

After a steady Q3, usually our slowest quarter, Q4 started strong and ended with a flourish, bringing the market to within 15% of last year in gross sales volume ($339M vs. circa $290M) and ahead of 2018 which was a strong year in its own right. Our market has passed yet another stress test with flying colors, as buyers flocked to quality and new development based on ever-present fundamentals of great quality product and ease of access and use. As my partner Nina Siegenthaler simplified in a recent Zoom meeting: “People really want to be here!” Indeed, and now we are experiencing what the Hamptons and Vail Valley and other luxury vacation markets have, with similar buyers seeking a warm weather luxury, safe-haven destination.

We have also witnessed buyer motivations come into clear focus: They want quality, the ease-of-use and access and security, and are less motivated by rental income opting for personal use and long-term capital appreciation. As a Hamptons real estate agent said in early summer, “life plans changed in a weekend,” and while that may be an overstatement for this market, it is clear that buyers (and most existing TCI property owners) have put their umbrellas in the sand with a clear intention: They really want to be here!

In closing, it is wonderful to see old and new friends coming back to the island enjoying our Beautiful By Nature experience. So far, we are doing well with our COVID protocols and travelers are getting used to testing and the authorization process for arrival. In this sense, as our friend and colleague Mark Durliat, CEO of Grace Bay Resorts, recently stated, we have created a bit of an “island bubble” that feels just right for the times. We must of course remain vigilant, but with light at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccinations (TCI is already administering our first supply), consistent testing and stringent protocols, we envision a positive and hopeful 2021.

We wish you all much health and happiness in the New Year 2021, and many thanks to our team, partners, colleagues, clients and fellow community members by doing what we always do and rising to the occasion.

Link to Full Report

Turks & Caicos Sotheby's International Realty

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Joe Zahm
@TCI_RealEstate
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