Let’s assume that you’ve settled on a geographic region and decided whether you’d prefer to build new or find an existing home. How do you manage the particulars of island selection and the sale itself?

The Internet is a great source of information about islands for sale, and all listings should include contact information for the sellers or their agents. However, it can be difficult to know what constitutes a fair or reasonable price for something as unusual and individual as an island. What makes one 5-acre (2-hectare) island worth $3.4 million, while the 10-acre (4-hectare) island next door is listed for $1.2 million? To make things more interesting, unlike traditional real estate where a seller might expect to pay a standard 6 percent commission to an agent, in the world of island sales, the broker’s commission is often tacked on to the sale price for the buyer to absorb, with no clear way to determine the difference between the actual asking price and the broker’s fee.

If you’re shopping for an island in a territory that’s unfamiliar to you, you’d be well-advised to thoroughly research the local market or retain a reputable buyer’s agent to do the legwork on your behalf. If possible, talk to locals on neighboring islands or in nearby towns, ask for recommendations for trustworthy buyer’s agents and real estate agents, and seek out publications that specifically serve the private island market.

Ideally, the agent you select will be experienced at navigating any cultural quirks or legal issues unique to your island’s location. Some countries prevent foreign citizens from owning property but will allow land-lease arrangements. Some fail to keep any sort of Registry of Deeds, making it difficult for you to prove ownership at a later date (and making it possible for unscrupulous brokers to sell the same piece of land to multiple unsuspecting buyers).

You will also want to research (or have your agent research) any pertinent environmental concerns: What impact might new development have on the local wildlife, marine life or ecosystem? Are there restrictions on fishing, boating, construction or other equipment use? What permits are required? Will you and your property be protected from environmental abuses by others?

More questions will undoubtedly arise as you pursue your dream of island ownership, but these guidelines should help you understand the basics of how to buy your own private island.

Originally Published: Feb 28, 2011

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