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The private island is more than just a status symbol for the Richard Bransons and Larry Pages of the world, it is the ultimate retreat from the stresses and demands of today’s 9-5 rat race. Surprisingly, owning your own tropical island paradise isn’t reserved for dot com moguls and skinny heiresses– prices start in the low six figures. From there, the sky (and the ocean) is the limit. Start saving now, Cravers– and continue reading below on how you can buy your own little piece of paradise…

The Money

Purchasing a private island is not unlike buying any other piece of real estate– and there are plenty of websites which list only island-related properties. Private Islands Online is just one of them, but this site offers a complete list of price ranges for the moguls and middle managers alike. Would you believe that some of these islands go for as little as $200 thousand? And we aren’t talking about some sort of cannibal-filled hellhole, either. Consider Paradise Cay, off the coast of Nicaragua for sale at $225K. This 2.5 acre island is accessible by speedboat via river or sea, and is about 60 miles north of a town called Bluefields. Two and a half acres in Chicago would cost literally millions. This sunny paradise goes for under a quarter mil.

There are a few things you need to do when sorting out the funds for a private island:

  • Get pre-approval for the projected purchase price. This makes you a competetive bidder instead of a window shopper. You won’t be taken as seriously otherwise.
  • Before you apply for that pre-approval, clean up your credit. Get rid of credit rating liabilities you may have such as a big potential debt ratio on unused credit cards and contest any blemish on your credit report.
  • Negotiate terms–many island purchases require between a modest 10 percent and outrageous 50 percent down.
  • Investigate the company you are purchasing from. Ask your lender about the reputation of the company you are about to deal with and get a real estate lawyer involved who understands the issues.

Your expenses for buying a private island will also include paying appraisal fees, property taxes, docking fees for boats, and any development needed to make the island livable. You may need to pay for wells, construction or repair of a boat dock, installation of generators and fuel, and supplies to make the first month’s stay comfortable.

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(all photos courtesy of Ahmed Zahid)

The Island

Any serious real estate purchase requires a look at the property. What’s the condition of the island? Is it developed? In a pristine natural state? Somewhere in between? No seller will take you seriously unless you are prepared to come out and take a look, so even if you haven’t gotten your travel budget sorted out, tell the agent you’d like to arrange a viewing as soon as it’s convenient for both of you. Ask some important questions before you take the trip and you could save yourself some serious headaches:

  • What is the property’s history of tropical storms, natural disasters, or other problems?
  • Is the property near any military test ranges for aircraft, missiles, Navy ships, or other vehicles?
  • Is the island on a flight path for private or commercial aircraft?
  • How far away is the nearest airport? Hospital? Helipad?
  • What is the water situation on the island itself? Will I need to dig wells?
  • Who lives nearby?
  • Is the property subject to mining, oil drilling, or other mineral rights issues? What about the waterway adjacent to the property?
  • Are there tribal or indigenous claims to any part of the island or its natural resources?

Asking these questions will give you an excellent idea of whether or not you still want to fly all the way out to have a look. If buying the property means becoming embroiled in some local struggle over rights and natural resources, or if your island is right next door to the Navy’s missile test firing range, you know you’ll be taking a pass. For those that get acceptable answers to your quesiotns, do some additional homework on the lifestyle in the area you’re buying in. EscapeArtist.com has a wide range of articles on just about every getaway known to man–a good starting place for research on the area you might soon be calling your home or home away from home.

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The Lifestyle

Island life isn’t for everyone. If you’ve got a strong independent streak, can deal with problems and unforseen issues and still keep your head glued on straight, a private island could be for you. Being handy with a toolkit helps, and so does knowing your own limitations. Private islands are often a long way from the nearest hospital, so if you don’t have your own medical staff, being on good physical condition is definitely part of the game plan.

  • Fully developed islands are more expensive, but require less personal time and energy on your part.
  • A partially-developed island with the necessities is a good mid-priced option, but prepare to use your handyman skills
  • An island in its natural state will take a lot of time and development to make livable unless you want to play out your Gilligan’s Island fantasies.
  • If you are not a loner, don’t sequester yourself on a secluded island. You’ll go bonkers.

If you are tempted to buy an island, but aren’t sure you can handle it, the best thing you can do is to rent a private island and give that experience a chance to sink in. Renting is the closest you can get to ownership without actually taking the plunge, and there are many reputable agencies offering gorgeous getaways. Virgin Airlines owner Richard Branson’s Necker Island starts about about $33,000 per night and comes with a staff member for every guest. The Spanish Isla de sa Ferradur has salons, a spa, Turkish bath, and other amenities; your’re not exactly forced to rough it under these conditions. UnusualVillaRentals.com is a great place to begin searching for your own private island getaway rental property. Rent or buy? Try it on for size and see.

Your private island paradise awaits. Scrape up some petty cash, make a few arrangements, and you’re well on your way to a whole new adventure. Just be sure to invite us out for a nice weekend after you’ve taken our advice.

(For more great articles and reviews on how to live like the ultimate playboy, subscribe to the GearCrave RSS feed and check back here for up to 8 articles per weekday. Also, be sure to check out Ahmed Zahid’s flickr stream for breathtaking photos of the Maldives, where we would love to own our private island!)