Established in 2016 by charismatic founder and director Ian Hurdle, The Agency Turks and Caicos is a premier real estate firm dealing exclusively in luxury real estate in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The company has over 60 other offices in the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Their tagline, “No Assholes!”, describes the exuberant energy and creative vision of the company very clearly. The Agency utilizes the influence and reach of social and digital media to market and sell real estate, encompassing its philosophy of “Do more with less.”
How It Started: Opportunities and Hurdles:
Leaving England in the year 1993, at 18 years of age, to help his parents fulfill their dream of building spec homes in the Cayman Islands was Ian’s first foray into understanding how real estate worked. They built two homes as a family, which were then sold at a profit over the next five years. He shares, “I did it all, from pouring concrete to tying rebar to laying blocks. During our time in Cayman, we kept on hearing about Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands being the next big golden nugget of opportunity from a real estate investment and development perspective in the Caribbean, and so, after a two-week due diligence trip, we made the decision to move there in June of 1998. We built a major home in the luxury development of Leeward before I formed my own landscaping company and focused my energies on design and installation, managing a workforce of over 150 employees at its peak.” This was his life until the recession effectively killed the business and forced Ian to diversify into property management. It was in the early weeks of being a property manager that he would find himself referring their rental guests to local realtors, and those same guests would come back to him after a tour and say that they had a very disappointing experience and that they wished Ian was their realtor.
Due to his “Belonger” status by marriage to Tracey, a native of the Islands, Ian was able to take his license with the Turks and Caicos real estate association and serve his apprenticeship under Regency, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. He spent the next five years not only learning the trade but also identifying where he could carve out a market niche for himself when the time came to run his brokerage firm. The story of how he secured The Agency Franchise is a tale of hard work but, in a nutshell, “It involved an introduction in July of 2016 and a journey to Beverly Hills, where I was given the opportunity to pitch for what would be the brand’s first international franchise. I was trading under The Agency Turks and Caicos as of October 1st, 2016.”
Decoding the Basics of Luxury Real Estate Brokerage: Challenges and Inspirations:
Selling real estate in the islands is very different from selling real estate in the US or Canada. For example, very little of the lead generation is a result of a locally captured audience. In many cases, Ian goes back and forth by email, messages, and phone calls for months before a customer can visit the island and physically look at the product with him. In that time, relationships are built, and so when the time comes for the tour, the focus is on curating an experience that ensures that all those months of work do not go to waste. From assisting with transportation and accommodation to organizing dining and excursions, it’s not just about the need to sell a home, rather it’s about selling a lifestyle, “For a customer to relocate or buy a second home, they have to be really comfortable, not just with the Island but with you as their realtor,” says Ian. “That takes work and trust.”
The challenge that Ian faces locally is a lack of inventory specific to beachfront land. Everyone wants to buy what does not exist, and it drives the prices up on what is available. Beyond that, not all customers have patience for island processes, be it government administration or just service at a bar. The client struggles with “island time” as a result of their on-demand lifestyle. Sometimes Ian does everything right as a realtor, but the client decides not to buy the property due to circumstances and experiences beyond his control. Locally, the inability to fully transact in cryptocurrency is also a barrier to growth. Ian believes that greater acceptance of cryptocurrency will increase sales volume and the associated stamp duty (a one-time property tax payable to the government). It will benefit not just the industry but also the country. Ian hopes, “I would like to see a work permit allowance for each brokerage to hire international realtors. Currently, you can only work as a real estate agent in the Turks and Caicos if you are born in the Island or have Belonger status. This limits the skill set, and while I want to see people from the island grow and succeed, I believe they would be better served, and our industry as a whole, if we could hire experts who could then become mentors.”
Leading from the Front: Style, Qualities & Traits of a Leader:
Ian shares, “I lead by example. I am very active on Instagram @caribb.ian and I tell my story daily via blog format on the feed and via real-time videos on my stories. My team, customers, and future customers see not only how hard I work but also my knowledge and passion for the industry and the product I am selling. My team and customers need to buy into me first to buy into what I am selling.” Real estate is a gutty industry where people fail far more often than they succeed. Luck, hard work, and perseverance made Ian capable of facing these challenges. The ability to accept that failure is an important part of the process and not let the failures bring you to your knees is an important attribute in real estate. Ian says, “You have to grind daily with many of the key tasks for success being repetitive, so you have to have a strong and creative mindset to stop stagnation and keep things fresh in your process.”
Real estate, if done right, is boring, and consistency in the daily processes is laborious, but that is where the lead generation comes from. Ian shares, “Don’t get high with the highs and low with the lows. Failure is an important key to success. Put yourself out there. You have to be your own brand within the brand in order to be successful. Not everyone is going to like you, but that shouldn’t stop you from being the best version of yourself. Success brings respect, but it also brings jealousy and hate. Rise above.”
Ian has been in the industry for a long time, but he still gets excited when he meets new people. The place is a magnet for different cultures, and he always finds it fascinating to learn where someone has come from and why they are interested in Turks and Caicos. Most people that can afford real estate on the islands have their own incredible stories to tell of how they got to be successful. From finding beachfront land on the outer Islands to rambling, exploring and jumping on a boat to navigate an Island by wheel or by foot to find a diamond in the rough for a customer is one of life’s greatest joys for Ian. He says, “The experience of selling real estate becomes an adventure, collaborating with and sharing your journey with like-minded top producers. As The Agency has expanded over the last 5 years, this has given me the opportunity to meet people that are running their franchises in different markets. Given our shared experiences, this has resulted in many fulfilling friendships.”
Beyond the Sealine: Innovation & the Future of The Agency:
While the rest of the real estate association was a little slow to catch on, the evolution of online marketing has been a huge boon for The Agency’s business. He explains, “We can reach a global audience at a fraction of the cost now versus historically expensive and inexpensive print marketing campaigns.” Not that it didn’t exist 10 years ago, but Ian feels that people are all just far more skilled and knowledgeable as to how best to utilize the different social media apps along with 3D virtual tours and E-Blasts. He considers himself a content creator first and a realtor second because it is the quality of content that he creates that drives the lead generation and ultimately his success as a realtor.
There are some issues in the industry that Ian believes should be addressed. “Customer service,” declares Ian. “We are still a service industry, and not everyone in this industry remembers that. We should be curating experiences for our customers because even if they don’t buy, they will refer you to someone who will.”
With the looming threat of a global recession and rising inflation in the United States, their primary feeder market for acquisition, business in Turks and Caicos is likely to suffer. Buyers are already backing out of deals because they are concerned about what is happening, and this trend may continue into 2023. Nonetheless, he believes the high-end real estate market will be less affected than the low-end. However, Ian says, “I do strongly believe in our brand as a hotspot tourist destination, and I do expect us to ride the wave better than most. I think we will see a softening, but I do believe activity will remain high compared to the upward curve we were on before the pandemic. The slowdown that other major markets are seeing is thankfully not evident yet, but I am forecasting stabilization over the next 12 months after an incredible two years of record activity in our market.”
Ian is excited about the future and signs off with this note: “Paint the Caribbean Red!” gleams Ian. “The goal is to open as many Agency offices on as many Islands as possible in the region over the next 15 to 20 years whilst cementing our position here in the Turks and Caicos as the Island’s number one luxury real estate brokerage.”