Approximately 90 minutes via commercial flight from Miami there is a very special place. Per Forbes and Conde Naste, it is consistently ranked as the world’s most beautiful tropical beach. That beach being Grace Bay Beach, that place being Turks and Caicos. Turks and Caicos is the inception point of the luxury renaissance occurring in the Caribbean, and the man at the very heart of such is Ian Hurdle, Managing Broker of The Agency Turks and Caicos. A serial entrepreneur with an unbridled passion for life, Turks and Caicos, his clientele, and his family. After bringing his dream to life of having a brokerage and seeking out The Agency, within a few short years The Agency Turks and Caicos is one of the top two luxury brokerages in Turks and Caicos.
JB: What are the most important elements in your opinion right now with respect to Providenciales specifically, while also touching upon Grand Turk and overall Turks and Caicos, to the real estate market and your activity in that market?
Ian Hurdle: [Hurricane] Irma effectively shut our market down in the last 4 months of 2017 through the first quarter of 2018; trepidation on the part of investors resulted in very little transactional activity and certainly we had many deals collapse in our Brokerage because of this nervousness. This really hurt our progress as we were not yet one year old as a business. There was a slight uplift as we moved into the new year 2018 as Turks and Caicos was seen globally to recover quicker than the rest of the Caribbean given the quality of our construction, a fact confirmed at the time by a comprehensive KPMG report. As a community we were able to come together and at the very least get all of the major hotels operational in time for peak season. With Irma (category 5) and Maria (category 3) ‘back to back’ in early to mid-September, to be open in time for business for the holiday period was a tremendous effort and so important because as a real estate industry we obviously feed off tourism. Historical visitors to our shores were able to relay through digital media how well we had recovered, and that restored global confidence far more quickly. With the Eastern Caribbean taking so much longer to rebuild, tourists seeking luxury would read online that we were ‘’open for business” and this sent a lot of new clients our way. These new visitors saw first hand that our beach product is comparable if not better than what they had experienced elsewhere in the region. That our luxury properties are not as expensive, and given our proximity to the East Coast we are a considerably shorter flight time than what they were used to. So all of that was the start of a renewed interest in Turks from both a tourist and investment perspective. As a brand in itself, Turks and Caicos is now recognized globally. We get a lot of celebrity activity, and I think a big change is that Instagram is finally being embraced by our community. Celebrity appeal cannot be understated; people want to follow Floyd Mayweather, Justin Bieber, the Kardashians as examples, to where they go on holiday. They want to say they stayed where their idols stayed. So when you look at all of these factors and you mesh with that a ‘cash-rich’ US economy, the result was that we were inundated with inquiries from US citizens looking for places to park their money, be it second or third home. Those same citizens were even more delighted when they saw a quantifiable return on their investment given the demand for the villa vacation model here in Turks and Caicos versus regional.
JB: That being said, what do you anticipate this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday season through Easter versus 2018-2019?
IH: Our success over three years from ‘nothing’ to now number two behind a long established and dominant player that has a considerably larger and more experienced team of agents, with all the support you would expect from Sotheby’s as a global brand, is to simply continue doing what we’ve been doing. Set ourselves apart from the pack with a keen focus on good communication, social media, digital technology, and continue to target a unique audience of high net worth individuals attracted by our brand and culture. If you look at our averages on sale over three years, we’re hitting higher price points than all of our competitors. Where we fall short, as you would expect for any new business, is the volume of transactions given that we operate with a much smaller team and we are starting from scratch from a relationship building and brand introduction perspective. One of my goals is to increase our transactional activity and the way that I’m doing that is to develop and demonstrate our core beliefs and services on the outer Islands where the competition is not so extreme. Grand Turk, Middle Caicos, South Caicos, and North Caicos as examples. We call ourselves The Agency Turks and Caicos, not The Agency Providenciales, and so it’s important for me to be seen as a brokerage that represents the people from all of the islands, not just the ‘tourist’ Island. That’s why I’m taking these steps now in our off season to develop new relationships and in turn, new listings, as we work towards our ultimate goal of becoming the number one brokerage in Turks and Caicos.
JB: All things playing out perfectly, what would you anticipate based on all the activity you’re doing, which is exceptional, aggressive, being very proactive on every possible facet as you always are, and also looking at how Sotheby’s is currently doing, of being at that level of equivalent with them and further surpassing them?
IH: It is going to take time, to expect anything other would be foolish. Given the money that Brokerage is making, the success they are enjoying through long-term relationships nurtured they are not suddenly going to stop all of that and wait for us to catch them...
JB: Well if anything have they become more aggressive because of you?
IH: I was just about to say that. Not just them. Whether our peers will admit it or not we have elevated the industry here in three years and were it not for the afore-mentioned incredible events and circumstances we would be much further along in our progress. Being somebody that no one took seriously when I started (no one here had heard of The Agency), and now being confirmed number two in production by TCREA MLS for year 2018-2019, we’ve obviously proven ourselves in the marketplace. No brokerage here can claim they’ve ‘eaten’ into the market share of Sotheby’s because they’ve controlled at least 50% of the local market for many years. My first target as a new business was to position ourselves as “the best of the rest” which we have now achieved. My partners and I have a clear intent to go further and are driven towards that goal but I am not unrealistic to believe that the other brokerages in the chasing pack will also just sit back and so we know and will continue to plan accordingly to compete on multiple fronts. I don’t know if we’ll ever overtake Sotheby’s as it really is an insurmountable task on paper but I very much like the idea of getting up everyday and giving it a good crack, providing fun competition if you will, because this serves the interests of sellers and buyers. If all brokerages adopt this mindset then ultimately everyone benefits. I talk about Sotheby’s as competition but I really see them as the benchmark. We want to be seen as their direct competition in the eyes of sellers and buyers as this will help us enable our other business goals of shrinking the list to sale time, increase market prices in line with our regional competition, provide better marketing and services, and ultimately make more money. All of those goals will be realized from this endeavor to try and emulate and hopefully overtake however I know better than most what a small and loyal community we have and relationships are engrained and long term. It takes time to break that down and prove your worth and in many cases you simply will never be given the opportunity. Why would people that have enjoyed successful relationships over many years jump ship? We have facets to our company that others don’t, but that’s not an easy thing to establish here given that we are literally a small rock between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. To our long-term advantage we are a much younger team than our immediate competitors, in many cases a decade plus, and where we are able to adapt to all the changes happening globally in our industry. Those agents and brokers senior in years and set in their ways are obviously not so light on their feet and for many retirement is not far away. Recognizing that this is going to open up percentages in the market is where we can cement our position and continue to grow. Like any competitive game the ‘win’ is in the inches gained.