One of the best aspects of real estate ownership in the Turks and Caicos is that there is no income tax, no property tax, and no capital gains tax. See
Taxes in the Turks and Caicos for an overview of government taxes that investors may incur.
Planning Control is Poor
The process of managing development and overall planning control in the Turks and Caicos is poor. A development manual, building code, and zoning maps exist, yet are routinely ignored, and there’s typically a lack of real enforcement by the Government.
Buyers should not have any expectation of zoning consistency or continuity of development, regardless of what current structures exist, or what zoning or development manual status an area is assigned. Traditionally residential and zoned residential areas may experience situations where a single property is approved for an inconsistent high density commercial structure, or is clear cut and heavily quarried, and surrounding property owners have little recourse. There is typically no justification for the approvals.
Providenciales isn’t the only island in the Turks and Caicos. World-famous
Grace Bay Beach, and the other spectacular
beaches on Providenciales tempt visitors from around the globe, yet it’s a great idea to visit some of our lesser-known islands before committing to a real estate purchase. See
Islands of the Turks and Caicos.
North Caicos, Middle Caicos, South Caicos, Grand Turk, and Salt Cay all have properties for sale both inland and beachfront, as do the private islands of Parrot Cay, Pine Cay, and Ambergris Cay.
Villas and homes on the beautiful Bight Beach on Providenciales.
Government stamp duty is a tax that is imposed on the sale of properties over the value of $25,000. On Providenciales, the stamp duty ranges from 6.5%-10%, depending on the value of the property. On Grand Turk, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, and Salt Cay, the tax is 5-6.5%.
Real estate agent’s fees range between 6-10% (set by the local real estate association), and are paid by the seller of the property.
The Turks and Caicos does not have any restrictions on foreign ownership on real estate. However, it’s important to understand what expectations foreign property owners will have in regards to residency, voting rights, and restrictions on employment and business ownership. See
Citizenship and Residency, and
Starting a Business.
Consider Roads and Driving Conditions
Roads, traffic, and driving conditions are likely to get progressively worse in the Turks and Caicos, especially on the island of Providenciales. Inadequate care is being invested into planning and developing how road systems will evolve. It’s important to consider that broader regions and neighborhoods that are accessed through single or limited routes, of which there are many in the Turks and Caicos, will possibly have ongoing traffic issues, especially at certain times of the day.
The attention that the Turks and Caicos Government pays to roads is quite limited, and the selection of which roads to repair or pave, when it occurs, may often be political rather than practical.
Construction of a rock jetty at Leeward on Providenciales.
The Turks and Caicos, generally speaking, hasn’t seen significant coastal change due to storms, sea level change, and erosion, and most of the coastal change that has occurred is often restricted to a few specific areas, such as a few spots on
Leeward Beach on Providenciales. Coastal change is natural, and the shallow channels, sand bars, and coastal systems are part of what makes the waters and beaches of the Turks and Caicos so spectacular. However, it’s a good idea to consider how such change may impact the value of your prospective property.
The sandy cays and coastal areas between Leeward on Providenciales and
Sandy Point on North Caicos have historically been the most impacted by erosion and coastal change, which has been ongoing for the recorded history of the islands. This is exemplified by the late 1700s Fort Saint George, which once stood on
Fort George Cay. All of the original defenses have long since been claimed by the ocean, and cannons can still be seen in the shallow water where the fort was. The private island of
Pine Cay is a good example of development in such environments, as structures are set back from the ocean, and changing beaches, sand bars, and coasts don’t have direct and immediate impacts.
One consideration is that accreted land is typically considered Crown Land (controlled by the government) regardless of what land it may front, and if it was part of a parcel sometime in the past.
The Turks and Caicos isn’t as Extensive as Most People May Think
The Sailrock luxury real estate project on South Caicos.
Simply: there isn’t as much usable land in the Turks and Caicos as many may initially think. On maps and satellite images, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, and East Caicos look extensive, yet a majority of what appears to be vegetation and dry ground consists of mangroves, saline wetlands, and transitional zones that are submerged on abnormally high tides.
Regardless of how large they may appear, the main Caicos Islands all only have about a two mile (3.2km) band of solid ground, which tends to follow the edge of the underwater plateau that supports our archipelago. The flats and wetlands on the interior
Caicos Banks side of the island chain are barely above sea level.
The Turks Islands are comparatively tiny, and Grand Turk and Salt Cay, which collectively make up the vast majority of solid ground in the Turks Islands group, collectively have a land mass of less than 10 square miles (26 square km).
Be Aware of Planning Disasters, and Future Potential Change
Beach erosion at a home at Leeward Beach on Providenciales.
It’s difficult for anyone to deny that Providenciales has experienced poor and rampant development, and many parts of the island haven’t evolved very well. Purchasing property in some regions in the Turks and Caicos experiencing mixed use can be dangerous, as planning officials in the Turks and Caicos have made claims that current uses of land in areas, regardless of what the land was initially zoned for, and regardless of if current use are legal or not, can redefine zoning. Such misconceptions can be pursued through the court system, yet it requires constant vigilance to prevent errant development.
Regions on Providenciales that have loosely-defined transitions between residential and commercial or industrial use should especially be viewed with caution, including but not limited to, parts of
Cooper Jack Bay, and the
Search for Restrictive Agreements
Before buying any property, it’s highly advisable to check for restrictive agreements and charges (liens). The Turks and Caicos uses a Torrens land registry systems, in which the government maintains a register of land and property holdings. The Land Registry Department, which has offices on Providenciales and Grand Turk.
Possible restrictions on titles may include charges (liens) and restrictions on sale, restrictive agreements on building height, involvement in homeowners associations (HOAs), and duty for maintenance of features, such as a canal.
Have Your Prospective Land Surveyed
It’s a really good idea to have a competent surveyor confirm the location of boundaries and property pins. It’s unfortunately all too common for property marker pins in the Turks and Caicos to not be in their correct place. This may be caused by poor surveying, inadvertent movement of pins due to construction, erosion, and road works, or intentional fraud.
Concrete pumps at a luxury villa construction site.
There are many considerations with purchasing an existing structure vs. vacant land and then building. Foremost is stamp duty. Stamp duty is calculated as a percentage of the total value of a property, including all structures, so you may be paying extra taxes on structural features that you don’t want.
Building your residence also allows you to oversee the details, which can help prevent future high maintenance and
hurricane and storm damage costs.
Buying Real Estate Direct from Owner
It’s not necessary to involve a real estate agent when purchasing real estate in the Turks and Caicos. It’s possible to directly contact prospective sellers, and then have a local lawyer oversee and handle the relatively simple conveyance process.
If your prospective property isn’t listed with a real estate agent, the owner may still consider an offer. If you have the block and parcel number of a property, for a $25 fee the Land Registry Department is able to provide ownership information.
Energy and utility costs in the Turks and Caicos are among the highest in the world, and as technology marches on, it makes increasingly good sense to at least plan for alternative energy installations. For an overview of cost, regulations, and efficacy, see
Solar and Alternative Energy.
Illegal Tourism and Commercial Use of Surrounding Areas
Another consideration that prospective real estate investors and homeowners should examine is how the lack of law enforcement and regulation enforcement may impact a property, and the roads, sidewalks, beach accesses, and verges near a property. Many infractions may initially appear to be minor, yet they can have real impacts.
There are many examples. At
Sapodilla Bay Beach, beach vendors and water sports companies have effectively set up illegal and permanent stalls on the narrow beach fronting some villas, play loud music to the discomfort of others, and sell alcohol without required licenses. Several government departments, whose purview is to police such areas, refuse to meaningfully act.
Another example is misuse of pedestrian sidewalks and public parking areas, where commercial vehicles are chronically parked or businesses are operated, and which leads to congestion, noise, and litter. Yet another case is the mooring or abandonment of commercial ocean vessels in canals and waterways, where it can be extremely difficult to compel any action for removal of vessels.
Have Structures Assayed and Inspected
Villas and homes at Long Bay on Providenciales.
If you’re considering the purchase of an existing structure, you’ll want to have it assayed and inspected for structural and engineering issues. The Turks and Caicos does have a robust building code that parallels that of Miami Dade County in Florida, yet corners have often been cut in local construction, and some older structures predate the building code.
Many buildings in the Turks and Caicos, due to being built incorrectly and/or from lack of maintenance, have serious integrity issues, including problems such as rebar corrosion in walls, termite damage, rot, roof and foundation issues, pool leaks and failures, and electrical wiring and grounding problems. Repairs and refurbishment can be very costly.
Perspective Residence? Consider Staying in the Area
If you’re considering the purchase of and or an existing residence for either short or long term stays in the Turks and Caicos, if possible, it makes sense to spend a few weeks in the neighborhood. Chances are that you’ll be able to find a short term rental property not far from your prospective purchase. Many environmental detriments may come to light that you’d not otherwise notice, including noise pollution from events such as the Fish Fry in the
Bight, or traffic, driving, and road considerations for areas such as
Beach Access Considerations
Resorts and condos on Grace Bay Beach in the Turks and Caicos.
Another possible issue to keep in mind are beach accesses. All beaches in the Turks and Caicos to the high water point are public and free to use. In some areas and neighborhoods in the Turks and Caicos, beach access paths parking areas and that are commonly used may actually be on or traverse private land, and such routes may become blocked off at some time in the future. You’ll want know where established and official beach accesses actually are.
In some cases, there are designated accesses that have never been cleared or developed, which can be either a good or bad feature for your prospective area, depending on several factors.