By Quentin Fottrell
Hollywood royalty like Leonardo diCaprio, real blue-bloods and even the Aga Khan, the Muslim spiritual leader and noted philanthropist, have all purchased islands to get away from the prying eyes of the public. “The Wall Street Journal” reports Friday that wealthy buyers are flocking to little-known archipelagos for rest-and-relaxation. But what about the rest of us clock-watchers? Buying an island could be within reach even if you don’t have a couple of million bucks to spare.
Pay Dirt would like to help you achieve your wildest dreams, or at least temporarily explore them. We spoke to Chris Krolow, CEO of real estate company Private Islands of Toronto, Canada, who currently has the exclusive on marketing actor’s Nicholas Cage’s former island in the Bahamas. He says 80% of his clientele is American. “The people who buy these projects get excited about the challenges of developing an island,” he says. “But we’ve also sold islands to teachers.”
Here are some considerations before handing over a down-payment:
Think about an island-buying syndicate
Krolow is seeing a lot more shared island ownership and says it makes more sense if you’re not spending all your time there, but there will be more maintenance issues to negotiate. A typical cost of a full-time caretaker in the Bahamas is around $50,000 a year, so it can make sense to share expenses. Also, you may pay several million for a beachfront home in the Hamptons. Why not an island? And think about the sounds of forks dropping when you name-drop your private island at your next dinner party.
Beware of the Greek red tape
The Greek government is embarking on a $30 billion fire sale of public assets, but be warned of a lot of bureaucratic red tape. This EU has urged the Greece to sell off billions of dollars worth of commercial real estate. “Most of the islands there are not privately owned,” Krolow says. “The islands are beautiful but many are not worth the trouble.” However, he will soon be selling one privately-owned Greek island there that does not have red tape as most building permissions are already in place.
Venture North For Bigger Bargains
Islands in northern climes can be had for a fraction of those in tropical waters – if don’t mind packing a cashmere sweater. Canada’s Georgian Bay is just a few hours north of Toronto. Krolow says there are hundreds of small islands there purchased by Torontonians for weekend getaways. “We have around 80 islands in this area that the owners are interested in selling, but we don’t advertize them online,” he adds. An island in Nova Scotia can sell for less than $100,000, though it has fog issues for frequent flyers.
Dip Your Big Toe In: Rent Before Buying
An interesting nugget from Friday’s WSJ story: Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson owns Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. He uses this as a very high-end rental. Think about buyer’s remorse when you buy a three-bedroom house in the suburbs and imagine what that would be like if you spent millions on a private island that took half-a-day to get to. “Rent something for a week close by,” Krolow says. “You want to make sure you’re comfortable with the locals and the vice-versa.”