Second homes: Turks & Caicos touts pristine paradise for a price

Despite a surge in development, the Turks & Caicos archipelago remains one of the largest pristine expanses in the Caribbean. Only eight of its 40 islands are inhabited, and several are reserved for single resorts, leaving most of the British Crown colony in its wild state. Development is controlled, with no fractionals or timeshares, and prices are steep.

The archipelago is just 75 minutes from Miami, with non-stop flights from several cities, including New York. Its attributes include aquamarine waters perfect for sailing and diving, endless beaches and celebrity residents, such as actor Bruce Willis and Rolling Stone Keith Richards.

A big incentive is the one-time sales tax: After a payment of 6% to 9% of the home value, there are no property taxes, ever. "Our market is 75% Americans, and until 2009, we've enjoyed the highest growth in the Caribbean for many years," says broker Joe Zahm of Connolly Zahm Properties, who also wrote the popular Turks & Caicos song Beautiful by Nature.

The main island is Providenciales, or Provo, which is by far the most developed. The densest second-home neighborhood is Grace Bay, with 12 miles of beaches and gorgeous waters teeming with marine life. The colony's most expensive residential development, Amanyara, part of Asia's Aman resort group, lies on Provo's more undeveloped west coast. Homes begin at a staggering $11 million (amanresorts.com).

Foreigners also buy into developments on private islands such as Parrot Cay, Ambergris Cay (tcsportingclub.com) and Dellis Cay. Most lie about 10-25 minutes away by air from Provo; some have boat transfers available. There is nothing on these satellite islands for under seven figures, and most homes are $2 million to $9 million.

A look at three Turks & Caicos neighborhoods

•Grace Bay, Providenciales:"It all starts with Grace Bay," says broker Joe Zahm. The cosmopolitan beachfront area contains numerous condo developments, just a handful of homes, plus restaurants, retail and office space, several resorts and a golf course. Grace Bay has the most reasonably priced vacation property of any desirable area, with studios from $300,000 and many condos in the mid-six figures.

•Parrot Cay:This private island resort with a luxury yoga-centric hotel is where Keith Richards, Bruce Willis and designer Donna Karan have villas, and it put Turks & Caicos on the second-home map — despite land that begins at more than $2 million an acre. "Parrot Cay has had the A-list celebrities from the beginning and still does. Everyone had been there," Zahm says. The only options are large lavish homes (from more than $9 million) and large lots (parrotcay.como.bz).

•Dellis Cay:"Dellis Cay has the most international buzz right now," Zahm says. "The whole island is being developed and managed by Mandarin Oriental hotels. It has been the strongest seller for the past 24 months." Still in presale (opens late 2010), Dellis Cay is not for the bargain hunter: One-bedroom apartments begin at $1.7 million and homes at more than $6 million (delliscay.com).

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