Hilly and volcanic, the closely clustered British Virgin Islands offer the best of the Caribbean lifestyle surrounded by crystal waters and white-sand beaches. Cooled by year-round trade winds, they are also one of the best yachting arenas in the world and host the renowned Spring Regatta each April.
The typical buyer, since Richard Branson bought Necker Island in 1979, and the world found BVI, has historically been American, in their 50’s, successful, conservative, and wanting a place to escape, according to Chris Smith, of Coldwell Banker. Until a couple of years ago, 80% of the buyers were American, but now that percent is 60%, with Europeans and Canadians making up the rest. ‘Our average holiday-home customer is a sailing couple who own a boat and have been holidaying in the BVIs for ten years,’ he said.
As reported by ThisMoney, ‘It’s a slow-growing market compared with other areas of the Caribbean. Accessible by small carrier (or private plane) from other island destinations, including Antigua and Puerto Rico, the BVIs have sought to avoid the mistakes – and the now-cooling inflated property prices of Barbados and Antigua.
‘Purposefully building a runway too short for any plane with more than 72 seats curtailed package tourism, while making foreigners (or Non-Belongers) apply for a licence to buy property, prevented speculation. This Non-Belonger Landholding Licence or NBLHL, takes six to 18 months to obtain and entitles you to spend six months of the year on the islands.
‘Additionally, if you sell your property and your buyer is a Non-Belonger, you must advertise it in the local press for four weeks so that locals (Belongers) have the opportunity to buy on the same terms and conditions.’
Smith said that prices have increased stedily at around 7%/year. He continued, ‘Because it’s the third wealthiest territory in the Caribbean – 65% of its income comes from financial services – there’s a feeling that everyone is doing well, it’s a nice place to live: no poverty, negligible unemployment and low crime. The combination of English law (the British overseas territory became autonomous in 1967) and the U.S. dollar – seen as the safe currency in the Caribbean – is appealing. The bulk of expats are based in the capital Road Town on Tortola – where 23,000 of the BVI’s 28,000-strong population are located.’
Long-term rentals are a better bet than vacation rentals, because there’s a big expat workforce in financial services – 550 offshore companies are registered in the BVIs – taking advantage of the low taxation (income tax capped at 20%, nominal property taxation, no capital gains tax or inheritance tax). The average purchase in the British Virgin Islands is a home on the beach or with sea views that costs between $1m and $2m (£ 595,000 to £ 1.19m).
Virgin Gorda is more expensive than Tortola, more associated with luxury resorts and holiday homes. It’s seasonal, has fewer amenities and residents. There is some property available on the outer islands, which aren’t as developed.
The BVI real estate owners are cosmopolitan, not British, or American, but a mix who come to the islands for lifestyle, not to make money in a real estate investment. If this sounds like what you want from property in the Caribbean, contact any of the agents in our Coldwell Banker office.