The great unknowns

The Turks and Caicos are the Caribbean's best-kept secret - and very affordable, says Cheryl Markosky
Click to follow
The Independent Online

If the producers of the life-changing programme No Turning Back are eager to recruit candidates for their next series, all they need do is strike off for the Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies. Take Simon Rutherford, for instance. The 44-year-old former medical photographer from Dorset is building a waterfront house for himself and his veterinarian wife, Heather, on one of the smallest of the group's eight islands, paradoxically named Grand Turk. After paying $150,000 (£80,000)for the plot of land earlier this year and another $200,000 (£107,000) to build a house, the couple will end up with a very affordable Caribbean home.

If the producers of the life-changing programme No Turning Back are eager to recruit candidates for their next series, all they need do is strike off for the Turks and Caicos Islands in the British West Indies. Take Simon Rutherford, for instance. The 44-year-old former medical photographer from Dorset is building a waterfront house for himself and his veterinarian wife, Heather, on one of the smallest of the group's eight islands, paradoxically named Grand Turk. After paying $150,000 (£80,000)for the plot of land earlier this year and another $200,000 (£107,000) to build a house, the couple will end up with a very affordable Caribbean home.

Moving to the quiet isle with its white sandy beaches and clear blue seas means a better lifestyle for the Rutherfords. Simon suffered a work-related accident seven years ago and his health was not good while living in the UK. "I met my wife at the airport a few months ago, when she came out for a visit, and she burst into tears when she saw me," explains Rutherford. "I have lost 50lb and for the first time in years I wasn't walking with a stick. She said: 'I have got my husband back.' "

It is easy to see why he recovered so rapidly, when life revolves around scuba diving in some of the best diving spots in the world, eating fresh fish bought directly from fishermen, and swimming in bathtub-temperature seas. Now he is reinventing himself as an underwater photographer and his wife will work for the government, putting her animal-management skills to use, controlling the wild donkeys and horses that roam free on Grand Turk.

Very few British buyers know about the possibilities in this stable and undeveloped British Overseas Territory. Prices are at least 25 per cent lower than on neighbouring islands, and development has really just taken off. "When I was researching where we wanted to live and contacted the Foreign Office to find out more about the Turks and Caicos, it sent me stuff about Turkey," says Rutherford.

Misunderstandings about this "forgotten" spot are not new. Nigel Sadler, who runs the excellent national museum on Grand Turk, points out a flag dating from the early 1900s that displays the union flag and the supposed symbol of the islands, once known for salt mining. Unfortunately, the piles of salt were misinterpreted back in London and turned into igloos.

Today, tourism is the main industry on the Turks and Caicos. Tapping into this boom, Prestigious Properties is launching 24 studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at the new beachside scheme Cacique Royale, at prices a third less than on the main island, Providenciales (a 30-minute hop away by small plane), starting from $153,760.

A clever notion - the "lock out" - means you can buy an apartment and a studio side by side with interconnecting double-locked doors and separate entrances. These "flexi villas" can be used in a variety of ways. You could use one and rent the other, or use both when you have family to stay.

Until 40 years ago, Providenciales was a fishing village, says Washington Misick, chief executive of Alexandra Resort and Villas, a sister company to Prestigious Properties, currently marketing the Pavilions, on Grace Bay. Development has come to the Turks and Caicos fairly late on, with the earliest second homes for foreigners built by the DuPonts and Roosevelts in the late Sixties," says Misick.

Prices at the five-star Pavilions, which will have 174 condominiums over four buildings, two pools, spa and fitness centre, beauty salon, tennis courts and watersports centre, are most affordable, starting at only $185,000 (£99,000) for a studio and going up to $670,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. This is because Misick's company bought the land at the concessionary price of $1 million under the Government's land policy, while its real value is thought to be about $10 million. "We are passing the saving onto the buyers," says Misick, a former chief minister - the equivalent to our prime minister - of the Islands.

The interiors of the roomy apartments - a studio is roughly the size of a large one-bedroom apartment in the UK - are well kitted out with Indonesian wooden furniture specially designed by Misick's company. The buildings have been staggered, so everyone gets a sea view from generous ground-floor terraces or upper balconies.

You can place your property in the rentals pool, while still using it a certain number of weeks yourself. Annual lettings are predicted by Millennium Management, which looks after rentals at the Pavilions, to generate about 5 to 8 per cent of the purchase price. There is a shortage of holiday homes on the island, so this should be a good source of income. Compared with the neighbouring beachside developments, the luxurious proportions and interiors are similar, but the prices differ. UK developer the WD King Group and Intrawest Playground's Veranda scheme are selling one-bedroom apartments, starting at $500,000, ranging up to four-bed family homes at $3.5m. And 80 per cent have already sold, before the ground has been broken.

ISLAND FACTFILE

THE ISLANDS

The Turks and Caicos - dubbed "Beautiful by Nature" by the Tourist Board - are made up of two island groups in the Atlantic Ocean, 30 miles south-east of the Bahamas and 100 miles north-west of the Dominican Republic. Of the eight main islands, only East Caicos is deserted. The others are West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, South Caicos and Grand Turk.

BUYING PROPERTY

There are no restrictions on buying property in the Turks and Caicos. An alien purchaser's licence is not required and you can re-sell at any time. Stamp duty of 9.75 per cent of the purchase price is payable. Legal fees are about 1 per cent.

GETTING THERE

There are weekly direct flights from the UK by British Airways from London Heathrow to Providenciales, touching down at Nassau en route. The flight takes about 10 hours. The island is 75-minutes away from Miami.

CLIMATE

Average temperatures are 28C, with September the hottest month. Average rainfall is 30 inches and the rainiest month is October.

FINANCES

The cost of living is not cheap, as almost everything is imported. There is no income tax in the Turks and Caicos.

The Pavilions through Premier Resorts 020-8940 9406; Veranda, Erna Low Property 020-7590 1624; Cacique Royale, Prestigious Properties 649 946 4379.

Comments