“I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I first stepped ashore from the motor launch. The sand was pristine, not even a footprint. I walked around that whole island and couldn’t believe what I saw….that first walk was one of the big moments of my life,” said Marlon Brando, discussing his private island Teti’arao French Polynesia.
Ownership of private islands has been a luxurious hobby of the high and mighty. Diana Ross had an island near Tahiti; Mel Gibson owns one in Fiji. The Disney family’s is in the San Juan chain, off Washington State. John Wayne possesses Taborcillo, his island off the coast of Panama. Nicolas Cage and Johnny Depp each have their private isles in the Bahamas. And news has it that Leonardo DiCaprio is all set to open his private eco-resort in Blackadore Caye, a 104-acre island off the coast of Belize.
Used appropriately, these expressions of personal nationhood could well be turned into ‘working-vacations’ – in Richard Branson style who recently invited the world’s most influential to his private Necker Island in the Caribbean to discuss and find solutions to the global environment changes.
The dictionary describes an ‘island’ as ‘land surrounded by water’. No island lover would ever allow such a commonplace description to describe his piece of paradise. Owning a deserted island is the dream of many. There is little else that offers the refreshing, rejuvenating and satisfying exhilaration attained by the privacy of being surrounded by water, wind, sand, and often not much besides lizards for company.
“The island market is very similar to that of oil paintings,” says Farhad Vladi of the international brokerage Vladi Private Islands in Hamburg, Germany. “You only have a few quality islands which come to the market sporadically.” And like oil paintings, the market now allows for serious buyers of all price ranges. He says the 30 islands he sells each year can go as high as the millions, but also as low as $100,000.
While the most popular and most expensive islands are considered to be in the Caribbean or the South Pacific, many islands in northern Europe, Scandinavia and the Canadian wilderness of Nova Scotia and British Columbia have been in the spotlight recently.
Available at different price-points, today one can choose the right island for almost the same amount as a good sprawling house on the mainland. And in a slowing housing market, it could be an alternative real estate investment. In addition, since there are only a certain number of islands existing in the world, the opportunity of price appreciation remains high.
Owning an Island
High-end luxury islands come complete with fully functioning dwellings, utilities and docks, ready for immediate use by their lucky new owners who can enjoy privacy and semi-seclusion with the comforting knowledge of being in easy access to the best of everything.
Then there are other islands in remote regions that are undeveloped and hence usually less expensive. Available in pristine natural conditions, such locations allow owners to give their own unique touch to their water-bound abodes. However, each region and property poses distinctive challenges, and such individual developments are often time-intensive and potentially expensive endeavours till the island actually becomes liveable.
Knowing what to Purchase
Choosing the right area and committing to an island requires certain homework. Since it entails the possession of a landform, the conditions of surrounding regions are assessed such as the political conditions, and the government regulations in the area. Islands are prone to natural disasters such as tidal waves and hurricanes and hence keeping a tab on the natural weather conditions is imperative.
Also, like the owners of sprawling châteaux in Europe, island-owners too incur expenses in maintaining their seaside homes in habitable conditions. In its guide for potential buyers Toronto-based Web site Private Islands Online says: “If you’re not there all the time, you’ll need to factor in the cost of caretakers and regular maintenance. Water, electricity and communication can also be costly. There’s no municipality in charge, so if services have not already been established, it’s up to you to choose a method that’s the most cost efficient and one with the lowest impact on the environment.”