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The Market State

A Realtor's Reality: Virgin Gorda or Tortola? Which Island is Your Personal Paradise?  –  So, look. You’ve been sailing down in the BVI for ten years now, love the place, can’t bear returning to the snow and ice. It’s time to follow your heart – and perhaps your head – since BVI property is increasingly looking like a good investment as stock markets continue to crumble.  (Sorry, I’m sure you didn’t need reminding yet again whilst on your vacation!) It’s time to buy your dream home in the BVI. Boating around the place, you undoubtedly have your favourite island, not to mention anchorages, restaurants and beaches. But when it comes to living on dry land, which island would suit you best?

Most of the homes we sell tend to be on either Tortola or Virgin Gorda, although Jost Van Dyke, Cooper Island and Anegada occasionally pop up. Why would someone choose Tortola over Virgin Gorda or vice versa? Having lived on both islands for several years, the author feels somewhat qualified to express his opinion, but clearly it’s very much down to personal taste. Here, though, are some of the considerations that are voiced by our home-hunting clients.


Quiet, peaceful, and incredibly beautiful Virgin Gorda is generally seen as perhaps slightly more upmarket and more exclusive than Tortola. This may be because it is home to Little Dix Bay Resort, Biras Creek Resort and the Bitter End Yacht Club, all of which have been attracting the more affluent visitor to the island for many years. To meet the demands of this well-to-do crowd, a number of high-end beachfront vacation villa estates have sprung up over the years. Mahoe Bay, Leverick Bay, Guavaberry Spring Bay, Crook Bay and Nail Bay have all been developed over the past decade or two. A quick look at www.coldwellbankerbvi.com on the sales or vacation rentals pages shows a number of spectacular, beautifully designed homes, finished to the highest of standards. So, whilst Virgin Gorda is much smaller than Tortola, there is probably more choice on Virgin Gorda for the purchasers looking for a completed, high-end home in an exclusive neighborhood, one from which they can truly live the dream and walk to the beach.

Tortola is catching up, however. Belmont Estates in West End has long been the favourite vacation villa spot, with easy access to the gorgeous beaches at Smuggler’s Cove and Long Bay. Hot on its heels, Parker’s Estate at Trunk Bay is on its way to becoming another top holiday home location with its absolutely stunning beach and views of Guana Island, Camanoe and even Virgin Gorda and Anegada in the distance. Little Bay, again with it lovely, secluded beach, is also rapidly becoming quite the exclusive area.

But for those seeking serenity, it’s a tough sell to pull someone away from Virgin Gorda to look at homes on Tortola, particularly if they discovered Virgin Gorda first. Doing battle with busloads of cruise ship passengers throughout the high season – not to mention lorry loads of lawyers and accountants going to and from work each day in Road Town– is probably not top of “The List of Fun Things I Plan To Do When I Retire To The Caribbean.” (Although if Messrs Brown and Obama have their way, the latter problem might be somewhat reduced in the future!) A ferry ride to the big, busy city is something to be endured only when really, really necessary for many second home owners on Virgin Gorda. Higher up the To Do List might be sitting on a shady terrace enjoying the wonderful ocean and island views. Since most of the residential development on Virgin Gorda is on the North and West shorelines, it’s hard not to find a spot where you can enjoy the sun setting behind the islands as the sailboats float by.


But clearly we sell many homes on Tortola as well.  Last month, accepted offers for homes on Tortola alone totaled around $6m (yes, the BVI real estate market is alive and well). There must, therefore, be something that attracts the snowbirds?


“Ah, but Virgin Gorda is sooo hot and dry” we hear the pro – Tortolans cry! I’m sure someone out there would love to back that up with some wonderfully convincing empirical evidence, but for our purposes let's take that as a given. Homes in the hills of Tortola not only provide absolutely stunning island vistas, they also tend to be much cooler and, if positioned correctly, enjoy far more of the tradewind breezes. If you look closely you’ll even see a chimney or two on some of the higher homes! Rarely used, one suspects. Whilst a glorious sunset view just off the beach sounds like the dream location, the practical realities of a sun-cooked home are sometimes less than ideal. In that regard, Tortola offers far more choice with many homes providing lovely southerly vistas or facing east to really catch the breeze.

For many of our clients, Virgin Gorda is also just too quiet. For them, Tortola seems somehow more vibrant and full of life. It certainly offers a far greater variety of bars and restaurants. There are several busy gyms, larger grocery stores, marinas, a very active Sports club, even a multiplex cinema! (well, there will be soon we understand) Not that it applies to the second home owners too much, but there are also a number of very well regarded schools and an excellent Community College. So, all in all, there is seemingly a lot more variety, practically, socially and culturally, on the big island.

So when you decide to run away from it all and move to the BVI, just how remote do you really want to be? How much peace and quiet can you really stand? I don’t recall ever being at a loose end during my years on Virgin Gorda. Far from it, and I loved every moment of it. But living in Tortola, the added convenience is certainly appreciated. Which would you prefer? We’re happy to show you homes on both and let you decide.  

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