Most people might think owning an island is beyond their means, but they may be surprised to find out just how affordable it actually is. Not Necker – but other islands!
In fact, you don’t have to be a millionaire to buy your own island, as there are some private islands on the market for as little as R322, 686. For that price you shouldn’t expect a villa and sandy beaches in the South Pacific, but something smaller and less glamorous. Perhaps a rocky plot of land surrounded by a lake, but you could still boast to your friends and relations that you own an island… and it would be cheaper than almost any ramshackle holiday house you could pick up in South Africa.
Size (and location) obviously makes all the difference when it comes to island shopping, but buying a decent little island could be in the same price range as a dream home for a middle-class family.
At this point you might ask yourself, ‘Why would I want to buy an island?’
Well, for some people it may simply be ‘because I can’, but more importantly, it’s an investment in land that, if you buy shrewdly, could realise a more sizable return than an investment in local property, not to mention some major tax incentives. An island also offers the chance to live or holiday in peace and seclusion, and it’s a great show-stopper to drop into dinner party conversation.
“We were at our island in the Caribbean last June – yes, the June that was the wettest in Cape Town’s history, that one – and you’d never guess who moored their yacht at our dock? C’mon, at least one guess…”
However, probably the most important reason of all for buying an island is the fact that it could come with the option of providing you and your family a second passport, along with citizenship to the island’s country of ownership. If you do business internationally then a second passport will not only speed up your movement through countries (enabling you to take advantage of business opportunities as soon as they arise), but it could also be a life-saver if you need to leave a country fast in the event that internal conflicts flare up. Your family can also live and study internationally if you want them to experience all that the world has to offer.
One South African bought himself a Greek island for R34-million at auction in 2013, and if your purse stretches to those lengths and you are seeking to broaden your property portfolio, you can find privately-owned, purchasable islands available in most parts of the world that have a coastline or interior lakes. Coastlines are exotic, but islands located on interior lakes might offer a greater sense of security, easier access to the mainland, and less cause for concern over global warning swamping your investment in your lifetime.
If you have R22.5-million to hand you could buy the 22-acre development island property recently advertised in the Caribbean, just off Antigua’s mainland. This property would allow you to take up the citizenship-by-investment programme offered by the Antigua and Barbuda government, in conjunction with Henley Partners (www.henleyglobal.com), the global leaders in residence and citizenship planning, who have offices in South Africa.
“The Antigua and Barbuda passport is a very good travel document for international individuals. It lets you travel to approximately 130 countries in the world, including Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and Europe without challenging visa requirements,” says Andrew Taylor, Vice Chairman of Henley Partners.
“Full citizenship with a passport is granted to the applicant and their family, and there are no restrictions whatsoever on their citizenship – they can even vote in the local elections, subject to meeting the standard voter registration criteria. Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the Commonwealth, which entitles Antigua and Barbuda citizens to certain privileges in the UK and other Commonwealth countries,” adds Taylor.
The same citizenship benefits would apply if you were to purchase a recently advertised prestigious island in Portugal. The 840-acre island is located in the middle of the Tagus River, just 6km from Lisbon and its international airport, and on the market for $25, 000, 000 (but you can make your cheque out for, oh, let’s say, R268-mill). For the same price you could probably buy 10 incredible properties in the best suburbs around South Africa (plus a holiday home in Plett), but the benefit of the Tagus paradise is that it would give you instant access to Europe and a world of visa-free travel through the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Programme, which came into force in October 2012.
“The Golden Residence programmes provides an opportunity for foreign investors from outside the EU to acquire a residence permit through investment in Portugal and all the applicant must do is make and maintain a qualifying investment for a minimum period of five years, attested by a signed declaration,” says Taylor.
Many other citizenship programmes require either a non-refundable donation or an investment in a government bond, so the real estate option is much more appealing for high net worth individuals.
Now that we’ve established that private islands are available and more affordable than you realised, the next step is to choose from a wide variety of sizes, styles, locations and price points. In fact, it’s not much different from buying a house. When buying a home you look at the foundations, check for rising damp and scout for signs of termites, and buying an island has a similar check list, just swap termites for army ants (depending on your location).
However, there is also a broad range of topographical, climatic and legal issues to consider in island shopping. Are you are close enough to the mainland for medical care in the case of emergencies? Is there a suitable space to build your helipad? If your personal and business commitments make your island paradise a holiday locale rather than a full time home, you may need to consider having a caretaker or manager to keep an eye on things while you’re away. This could either be a full-time island manager, or simply a local fisherman paid to keep an eye out on your island on his way to work. You will also need to consider investing in some form of power generation and a water desalination plant, and bear in mind that building costs are massive on an island due to transporting the materials. However, if you build the right house on the right island then when it comes to selling it you can name your price, and be quite likely to get it!
Location, location, location is equally relevant. If your island is a 15-hour flight each way (plus taxi, train and canoe ride to reach it) it’s not going to be great for a spur-of-the-moment weekend getaway. However, it could be perfect for a permanent residence or for a month-long annual family holiday.
Let the buyer beware: private islands in politically stable areas and in countries where a safe legal system and reliable judiciary is in place are the best option for obvious reasons. In addition, if you’re going this route you should avoid online ads and consult instead a reputable company who specialises in such real estate investments.
“Absolute ownership of your island is essential, and anyone buying a private island must make sure they get all the documentation in their name from the property register or registry of deeds, as only such ownership is insurable and will afford you the potential to earn profit through possible appreciation of the property,” adds Taylor, whose company have assisted numerous clients in the successful acquisition of their own private island paradise.
Your island paradise could well evolve into a dream retirement ‘home’… and wouldn’t that be a more adventurous way to sail off into the sunset to enjoy your golden years?
- Simon Lewis is the account director at Irvine Bartlett
How to buy your own island