Private Isle

MAXIM’s guide to buying an island of one’s own…

If owning a private island isn’t on your bucket list, it should be — because it may be a more attainable goal than you think. That’s the takeaway from our investigation into the trend of adding an island to your portfolio and joining the lofty likes of Leo DiCaprio (Belize), Mel Gibson (Fiji) and Johnny Depp (Bahamas) in looking down on the landlocked, who will never enjoy 360° views. To help you make it happen, we consulted one of the world’s top experts, Alexander Kraft, the dashing chairman and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty France–Monaco, who says private islands can be great long-term investments if you shop wisely.

“Clients are often surprised at how many different choices, and price points, exist for private islands,” Kraft tells MAXIM. “While untouched islands in remote parts of the world can cost as little as US$300,000, fully developed islands with high-end amenities in sought-after hot spots can run into the tens of millions of dollars. For obvious reasons, remote, undeveloped islands in the South Sea, Scandinavia or Canada cost much less than, for example, a fully developed island in France, the U.S. or the Caribbean,” he says, the latter referring to the world’s most desirable locations for oasis hunters. Of course, the US$300,000 end of the market isn’t where the real action is, but it’s nice to know it exists.

Most private islands, but by no means all tropical paradises, are acquired by “UHNW [Ultra High Net Worth] clients who already tend to own several trophy homes,” Kraft notes. “A private island is often viewed as the ne plus ultra: the rarest and thus most exclusive piece of real estate one can possibly own. We usually have several dozen on our books around the world, and probably sell around a dozen in any given year. It is a true niche market, with a very limited supply and demand.”

For a truly top-tier island, be prepared to pay between US$2 million and US$10 million, Kraft says, though there are many that cost much more than that. On the high end, for example (at the time of writing), Sotheby’s International Realty has a 26-acre island in Florida — essentially a private Florida key — listed at US$95 million, which includes docking privileges at the Ocean Reef Club, an exclusive club in Key Largo with an airstrip for private jets. The perfect private island, according to Kraft, is one that is truly private, with no public access, yet is still relatively close to a major airport; is fully developed with existing living structures and amenities (like a pool and tennis court); is comparatively easy to maintain; is self-sufficient, with its own electricity, water, infrastructure, and food supplies; and is in a stable environment and political climate, with consistently
decent weather.

For US$4.5 million, Sotheby’s International Realty has one off the south coast of Brittany, in France, that ticks all the boxes, though the modest stone house that sits on it might not be quite what you’re picturing in terms of a 007-worthy getaway. In fact, most private islands do not have mansions on them, though one notable exception is Shelter Island Estate, a private 22-acre escape on a lake in northwestern Montana with an impressive 32,000-square-foot granite estate perched upon it, listed at US$13.9 million. It qualifies as the state’s largest private residence, complete with a wine cellar, indoor shooting range and a heated boat slip served by a dedicated rail system. That property, and many others in its class, can be found on the website of Private Islands Inc., which has more than 500 private islands listed for sale. The company’s CEO, Chris Krolow, who owns one of the world’s most exclusive private islands in Belize and also publishes Private Islands magazine, tells us, “We see buyers of all different income levels, from all over the world,” though they typically fall into one of three categories: developers looking for a flagship property to turn into a posh resort; buyers who know they want a private island but haven’t decided where or what sort; and buyers who already own waterfront property in a certain area and are looking to upgrade to an island for more privacy.

Indeed, those who are interested in owning a private island are often in search of “a world all their own,” says Madison Hildebrand of Malibu-based realtor Pacific Union International (PUI), which is currently offering Motu Moie, a 20-acre private island in French Polynesia, priced at US$9.5 million. For high-profile and celebrity clients, of which Malibu has more than its share, the fact that such places are virtually paparazzi-proof is an added draw. Several PUI clients own islands, and Hildebrand notes that they get requests for such properties “more often than one would think.”

Finally, private islands play nicely into the trend of going green. “This especially appeals to clients who want to feel connected with nature and who are interested in being a part of and protecting an island’s ecosystem,” Hildebrand notes. And even if saving the planet isn’t on your agenda, as Kraft says, “Who doesn’t dream of getting away from it all and literally being the king on his own island — without stress, traffic, or neighbours?” ■


Shany Grace

Amy Rebecca