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Private Islands: The Ultimate Status Symbol

(This article appears courtesy of Spear’s Magazine)

Buck IslandAs a member of the global elite, you may be accustomed to private planes, superyachts and mansions on the French Riviera, but what really counts as a status symbol in 2014?

How about your own private island – complete with magnificent scenery and minus the stresses and strains of modern life?

The idea of owning your own tranquil slice of paradise is not a new one; indeed the likes of Hollywood icon Marlon Brando and Greek shipping billionaire Aristotle Onassis were flaunting the concept to the masses more than half a century ago.

But advances in technology and infrastructure have allowed the private island business to flourish and experience unprecedented traffic in subsequent decades. Once the exclusive mainstay of billionaires, millionaires all over the globe are now purchasing modestly proportioned islands in Scandinavia, Canada and Central America, as well as the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

As Farhad Vladi, President of Vladi Private Islands, puts it: “Technology is so advanced. Today you have solar energy, wind generation, septic tanks and small formats for sewage. You have cellular phones so you don’t always need a cable.

“You can buy prefab homes that come on a palette and that can be transported by helicopter to the island. So things can be done much faster than before and that is a big help in the island industry.”

A private island broker for over forty years, Vladi knows his industry inside out. On his company’s website and others such as Private Islands Online, prospective owners can browse through hundreds of exclusive island getaways available for sale or rent.

Once you’re serious about purchasing, you are then guided through a tangled web of permits and approvals that separates you from your tropical island dream by Vladi or one of his contemporaries. In Greece, for example, you need an impressive 32 in total, while the UK by comparison, is “the easiest place in the world to buy an island”, according to Vladi.

But what is it that makes HNWs and UHNWs want to create their very own Robinson Crusoe-style retreat, far removed from civilisation? Admittedly, it’s a slightly rhetorical question. “You have the feeling that you control what you see,” says Vladi.

“You don’t have neighbours you dislike, you don’t have traffic and smog; I think that is what people have in mind.”

“Also, you feel that you will be much closer with your family; people don’t walk with iPods on the island – they try to go out and discover and talk so people are much closer,” he explains. “Because the nature animates and I think that’s very important.”

UK born Christopher Boswell, a Dubai-based real estate broker and CEO of the Vincitore Group, also has a number of private islands on his group’s portfolio. These include a 3.9 acre private island in the Caribbean as well as a private island In Venice, worth an estimated 29.5 million, with the majority of his clients interested in these freeholds as a business proposition rather than for personal use.

“It’s an opportunity for individuals,” Boswell explains. “If something comes up that hasn’t been for sale for a lengthy period of time and you can now own it and you’ve got that kind of liquidity, then it’s a good investment.”

With European economies struggling, previously inaccessible assets are now being sold off to the highest bidder in hard hit countries like Italy and Greece, something that Boswell has used to his advantage.

So how do you choose your ideal island hideaway? “First of all I ask people, ‘What is your budget, when do you have holidays and what are your geographical preferences?'” says industry veteran Vladi. “So then I get the first feeling about which direction I should send him in.”

Whether you prefer palm trees or spruce trees, Vladi, Boswell and their cohorts will help you find the right location. Only in the age of the internet, could window shopping for islands become a reality, with websites that offer detailed information and photographs of hundreds of freehold properties across the globe.

Of course in the case of celebrities, many prefer to rent a chosen island paradise owing to security and privacy issues. Vladi tells me a story about a ‘lawyer’ who inquired about renting Fregate Island in the Seychelles. When, as standard practice, Vladi called up to check how the visit was going, he was told by the island manager that everyone was perfectly happy – but that there was a slight ‘misunderstanding’. That lawyer? None other than a Mr Bill Gates.

Read on to discover some of the most impressive private islands currently on the market.