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Think you have to be rich and famous to own a private island? It may sound like a fantasy reserved for the elite, but you’d be surprised how accessible it can be. For less than the cost of a house, you could own a plot of land in the middle of the sea – and it’s remarkably simple to find one, too. But getting to your island paradise may be a different story, however.
If you’ve ever dreamed of buying a private island, now might be the time to take the plunge.
Ask one thousand people why they bought their islands, and you might get one thousand and one reasons. But chances are, one of these top three reasons will resonate with you:
A city on the mainland is accessible to almost anybody. But a private island is an exclusive place, especially when it’s surrounded on all sides by water. If you’re feeling cramped in your neighbourhood, you can find lots of space on your own island.
One allure of owning a private island is the blank canvas on which you can build your dream house. As long as you get the right permits from the local government, you can transform your island into the grand vision you see in your mind’s eye. Whether you want a new place to live or a go-to vacation spot, you can create it on your own private island.
Empty islands tend to be hit-or-miss investments. But if you’re willing to develop your island, you could turn it into a money-generating asset.
Take Richard Branson’s Necker Island for instance. Paying just US$180,000 for the island in the late 1970s, Branson developed it into an ultra-exclusive luxury resort. Today, a single week on Necker Island costs somewhere in the range of US$27,000 – and that’s just for a room.
The easiest way to find an island for sale is by looking online. On a private island website, you can organize listings by region, price and other criteria. Here are some popular websites:
Though you can find countless islands online, many listings aren’t distributed publicly. To conduct a deeper search, consider contacting a realtor who specializes in private islands.
Private islands sound expensive, and indeed, many of them are. Just ask celebrities like Johnny Depp, who shelled out US$3.6 million for Little Halls Pond Cay in the Bahamas’ Exuma district. Or Eddie Murphy, who paid US$15 million for his own slice of heaven.
Those are astronomical sums of money. But the truth is, not all private islands are unobtainable by mere mortals. For a private island, you could pay anywhere from millions of dollars all the way down to a few tens of thousands.
Islands are surprisingly affordable. In fact, many islands cost less than a house.
Decades ago, it was nearly impossible to find a cheap island. But the Internet has changed everything.
Nowadays, it takes just three steps to find an island that fits your budget.
1. Find a private island website.
2. Navigate to the website’s catalog of islands.
3. Use the advanced search feature to filter and sort listings by price.
Just like that, you’ll find dozens of affordable islands that could soon be yours. Remember you can also use a realtor who specializes in selling islands since some are not listed online.
For most things in life, you get what you pay for – and islands are no exception.
If your budget is $500,000, you’re likely limited to islands in Canada, the northern United States or some places in the Caribbean like Nicaragua or Belize. You’ll also find gems in beautiful places like French Polynesia, for example, for under $500,000. In other Caribbean spots like the Bahamas, you could be looking at spending upwards of $1 million.
Prices vary wildly, so look carefully through listings to find one that suits your budget.
There’s no “perfect” place to buy an island. Rather, the right region depends on your tastes. If you want a tropical paradise, you might buy an island in the Caribbean or the Maldives. If you want a tranquil escape close to a lake, you might look into islands in Canada or the northern United States.
That said, some regions are popular for private island enthusiasts. These include:
When you’re starting your island hunt, budget will be one of your biggest considerations. Once you have a figure in mind, head to a private island website and use filters to show islands within your budget. Equally important is your island’s location. Consider the weather of the region, which country’s jurisdiction it’s under and how easy it is to travel there.
Here are a few other factors to consider when looking at islands:
Do you dream of starting your own island country? Unfortunately, that’s a difficult undertaking. Virtually every island in the world falls under the jurisdiction of a government.
In the US, Canada or Britain, you may be able to run a somewhat autonomous island “nation”. But it’s unlikely these countries will allow you to secede.
Consider if you’re ready for the complications of purchasing and building on an island. Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for:
When it comes to paying for your island, there’s a simple rule of thumb: bring cash.
Unlike traditional housing, which you can usually obtain a mortgage for, you’ll likely have to pay upfront for your island. Banks typically don’t offer loans for islands because they can’t easily appraise them, but you could check with an online lender who may be more lenient. If you’re lucky enough to get a mortgage, it might only cover a small part of your island’s cost – which still means a hefty cash down payment.
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