Industry expert Scarlett Steer outlines her best advice for prospective real estate buyers

While not impervious to worldwide surges and slumps, BVI real estate has proven to be a creature of surprising resilience. Underwritten by a flourishing financial services industry and thriving tourism trade, the territory remains a global offshore epicentre and magnet to the mega-wealthy.

Add to that extraordinary natural beauty, year-round sunshine, temperate seas and the ensuing excellent quality of life, the BVI is hard to beat. When it comes to investment, no list of considerations is ever going to be exhaustive, but the following few basics are a solid place to start.

1. A Genuine Guide

The realtor you choose will set the tone for your entire experience. Do your research and take your time. Finding your forever home is a journey. Choose a knowledgeable and candid companion with whom to relish the ride.

2. A Trusted Advisor

The BVI benefits from a well-established legal system based on English common law. While this offers a familiar framework for investors, the approval process for expatriate ownership can seem formidable. Reporting to the relevant BVI government bodies needs to be done in just the right way. It is crucial to have skilled, local legal representation to effectively navigate the process.

3. Location, location, location

No two British Virgin Islands or neighbourhoods are the same. Learn the communities, understand their immediate surroundings, ask about existing homeowner associations (some are more exacting than others) and ask questions about covenants and conventions. Setting your intentions and being clear on your priorities is essential to finding what and where fits.

4. To Build or Not to Build?

That is the question. Starting from scratch on foreign soil can be downright terrifying, but it isn’t as intimidating as it seems. The BVI is home to a plethora of skilled construction professionals who can comfortably make your dream a reality. If you’re looking at land, pay careful attention to topography and existing utilities. The lay of the land and any existing infrastructure will have a substantial impact on your per-square-foot build price.

5. Public vs Private

The BVI benefits from 10 months of favourable weather which also means a 10-month rental season – good news for buyers seeking a return on their investment. If you are looking for a strong rental home with wide-range appeal, then access is especially important. Ask about rental history and numbers – the market has recovered sufficiently post-Irma and pandemic for there to be some real statistics to share. Don’t let any realtor tell you otherwise.

6. Turnkey vs some TLC

If you are looking at investing in a completed home, then it’s worth keeping in mind that most houses in the BVI are much loved, owner-built with a few years (possibly decades) under their belts. Very few are truly turnkey. A handful of luxury resorts offer developer-built speculative homes, but these are in the minority.

7. Access is King

Consider access – to the house itself as well as to the various amenities and of course, to the water. “Steps from the beach” sells and if you are in search of a money-maker, it doesn’t get more attractive to prospective guests than that. In terms of the actual home, ask about the access road and who is responsible for its upkeep. BVI roads can leave something to be desired and unless you’re in search of a sanctuary well off the beaten path, a hair-raising hill or potholed track can be a serious deterrent to visitors.

8. Existing Infrastructure

Existing underground utilities are a first-prize win. They add considerably to a property’s aesthetic appeal and allow for uninterrupted views. They are also protected from inclement weather. The BVI neighbourhoods with belowground efficacies were the first to bounce back in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma purely because of the minimal damage they sustained.

9. Maintenance & Management

Buying property is not a simple, standalone investment. Once the dream is acquired it needs to be appropriately cared for. Insurance, property management, preventative and routine maintenance and safeguarding against storms all involve ongoing costs that are seldom considered early in the home selection process. Falling in love is easy, but committing to what you can realistically conserve, not so much. Use both your heart and your head.

10. Incorporating the Elements

The success of many a luxury tropical home lies in its ability to seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor living. The ideal location both incorporates and protects against the elements. Breeze is essential, but December gusts that blow the dinner napkins into an uncomfortably cold pool are undesirable to all. And while most will want a space to soak up the sun, the shade is truly your friend and its importance cannot be underestimated.