Why the BVI?
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) comprises of approximately sixty stunning islands, islets and cays located circa sixty miles east of Puerto Rico. This British Overseas Territory, with its outstanding natural beauty, professional service providers and English common law traditions is proving itself to be a highly desirable location for those seeking a safe haven or those wanting to substitute cold winter climates for warmer destinations. The property market in the BVI has been seeing an increase in demand as many investors are more motivated than ever to own alternative homes in jurisdictions with smaller populations and with stricter and proven approaches to dealing with natural disasters and global events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BVI’s Resilience
The BVI has had to demonstrate a high level of resilience over the past few years. In September of 2017, the island nation was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which together caused over US$3.6 billion dollars in damage to both property and infrastructure. Homeowners and residents not discouraged by the havoc caused by the hurricanes rebuilt their properties in such a way to better withstand storms of this magnitude in the future. Other real estate owners, those who were either unable or unwilling to rebuild their properties, decided to list their damaged properties, giving rise to an influx of investors keen to purchase damaged properties, at a fraction of the market price, to rebuild them to their own specifications.
The “New World Normal”
The COVID-19 pandemic has created another spike in demand for property in the BVI. With many countries around the world re-emerging from curfews and pandemic lockdowns, the new reality has prompted many who were already familiar with the BVI as a destination, intrigued with its offering and quality of life and comfortable with its sense of safety, to look to the BVI to invest into new pastures.
In 2020 alone, there was a total of 252 real estate transactions with a value in excess of US$91 million dollars. Whilst the market remained robust during the onset of the pandemic with 75 sales from January to March 2020, the last quarter of 2020 showed increased sales with 101 properties sold between October and December. Residential sales over US$1,000,000 in value also saw a 70 per cent increase from 2019 (year over year). 
Many foreign investors braved the travel restrictions and endured strict quarantine regulations to come to the BVI, in order to view their dream property and sign the sale documents. There were others, who simply viewed properties virtually without even visiting the island, to buy the property of their choice, especially once they were comfortable with the quality of the property they were investing in. Some property developers have also seen repeat buyer activity due to the client’s familiarity with the BVI, the irresistible characteristics of the offering and their positive experiences with the efficiency of the purchase experience.
Bright outlook for 2021
The outlook for the remaining quarters of 2021 looks promising. The year started off with an increase in activity and the trend shows that it will likely continue to be a busy year for the BVI property market. The BVI Government’s extension of the stamp duty exemption on property purchases by locals also continues to contribute to the positive increase in local property purchases and sales. Hon. Vincent Wheatley, Minister for Natural Resources & Labour, commenting on the initiative, has stated: “It is very good to see belongers taking advantage of this opportunity of economic empowerment through land ownership. My Government is committed to continually assisting and stimulating its people in these globally challenging times and we encourage belongers residing in the BVI and those in the diaspora to continue to seize the opportunity to own BVI before the exemption period expires on 31 December 2021.”
As with other economies around the world, which continue to push through to economic recovery, the BVI is no exception. The BVI Government recently announced a number of new initiatives including a “Work-in-Paradise Programme” and an “Invest and Stay Program” in the hopes of providing an enticing impetus to persons wishing to move to the BVI for an extended period of time. We would be happy to provide you with more information on these initiatives.
We would also be happy to introduce you to our network of highly motivated and friendly BVI property developers and realtors who can help to facilitate your purchase. Some of these realtors and property developers who can assist with purchasing property in the BVI are listed below:
Contact Ayana Hull, Head of the Private Wealth and Regulatory team in the BVI office of Harneys for more information and for any legal guidance or assistance you may need with purchasing a property in the BVI.