Place: Private Islands
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor& Publisher of Sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guest, Chris Krolow, CEO and founder of Private Islands Inc.
Chris is here today to share his knowledge and expertise pertaining to the world of private islands.
Good day Chris and thanks for participating in our interview.
Could you tell our readers something about Private Islands Inc and how it all started?
Hi Norm, thank you for your interest in Private Islands Inc.
I think the origin of the company was really inspired by two of my previous business ventures, a Canadian tour agency and an internet company, as well as my own very happy experience with renting a private island.
I had started a web development company during the internet boom in the mid-1990's, and things really took off: I became a typical stressed-out exec working 70-hour weeks with no real downtime. A friend of mine had rented a little island in Georgian Bay, Ontario, and suggested I try it- and it was a life-changing experience. All of a sudden I was completely cut off from the office, with no internet or cell phone access, and it was just me and my dog enjoying the beautiful wilderness. I knew then that I had a real passion for encouraging others to experience what a private island can do for you, and luckily, there was also a vacuum in the market that needed to be filled.
Islands are unique in luxury real estate because in most regions, local interest is minimal, and most often it will be an international or non-regional buyer who would be interested in the property. When I started the company in 1999, there was no effective way for brokers to directly reach potential international clients, and the industry was fractured and divided by location. Our high-traffic catalogue website, Private Islands Online, revolutionized the business and became the most successful medium for uniting island buyers and sellers.
Virtually every specialist broker in the industry is a part of our network, and I've met and worked with many of them personally. We've since branched out into other areas including a popular online magazine, a proprietary virtual brokerage system with broad real estate applications, and we're putting the finishing touches on a full-service international brokerage located in Nassau, Bahamas.
Why would anyone want to purchase a private island that may be very isolated and difficult to reach? And as a follow up, how popular is island buying?
There are a few types of island buyers, and the kind that would have an interest in a very remote property tends to be highly individualistic and in my experience, this has included celebrities or others with significant privacy concerns.
On the other hand, my own island is a two-hour drive from my home here in Toronto, and many properties are located a short distance from cities or resort towns so there are all kinds of convenient options available.
As the purchase process becomes simpler and less intimidating, island ownership is becoming very popular. Especially now that some smaller islands cost less than an urban home, and that the many famous island owners are giving the industry great PR.
Where are these private islands located and could you give us a brief description of some of the least expensive as well as some of the most expensive islands that are for sale today?
Sure, private islands are available in virtually every country with foreign access to real estate- and of course, with islands. The Caribbean, the Philippines and North American are well-known island areas, but there are surprising regions, too. With EU membership, islands in many Baltic states have become available, and you'll also find islands open for purchase in unique and diverse areas such as Uganda, Chile and Micronesia.
Some of the more economical islands are located in areas like Nova Scotia and BC here in Canada, and for tropical islands, the Philippines has some great inexpensive properties available on a leasehold basis.
These islands will usually be relatively remote, and probably small and undeveloped. Located in Stuart Lake in Northern BC, Bereck Island is a one-acre property perfect for a little cottage- and about the price of a luxury car at CAD $65K. Go up to the price of a one-bedroom condo in Toronto, and for US $225K you can own Paradise Cay in Nicaragua, complete with palm trees and white beaches.
Private islands become more expensive when they are heavily developed or located in desirable areas like the Bahamas, which is a very established market and home to the islands of many Hollywood stars.
Areas like the Seychelles or Maldives where these properties are popular for luxury resorts are at a premium, as well. The US $35M Hog Cay in the Bahamas is a sprawling 681 acres, and comes fully developed with a full airstrip, a swimming pool, and a luxury home with staff quarters. Another of our most expensive properties is the Lollik pair of islands in the USVI. Totalling more than 600 acres, these completely untouched islands are available for US $45M.
What should one look out for when contemplating the purchase of a private island and how easy or difficult is it to purchase an island?
First off, it's very important to establish what you want the island for, and what kind of effort you want to put into it. If you're very self-sufficient and just want a small vacation home in the USA, you'd do well to pick up an inexpensive lake property and develop it yourself.
Things to consider in this case are ensuring that the island is accessible during the times of the year you want to use it, finding transportation and mainland boat dockage, and keeping in mind that development costs will usually run 30% or so above that on the mainland.
If money is no object and you have very little time, a fully-developed island is probably the way to go. For some of our very busy clients, convenience and accessibility are key factors and things like an airstrip are non-negotiable.
The main difference between island and mainland property purchase is that it can be time consuming to view islands- aside from the extra research needed to figure out what the development and environmental restrictions are (if any), it proceeds normally. And like with any other real estate, if you're buying internationally, you will need a knowledgeable lawyer.
If you had to name five of the most romantic islands you have ever encountered, which ones would you choose?
I think pretty much any private island vacation can be an inherently romantic experience, but if I had to choose:
*** Isla de sa Ferradura in Spain is spectacularly beautiful, very close to Ibiza, and the large white hacienda comes with full staff and is the creation of the finest decorators in Europe. Although at that
time it was on hiatus from rental, I stopped by while on a business trip to Europe and in person, it is like a fantasy come to life.
*** The wonderful North Island in Seychelles makes you feel completely isolated from the world, and the striking rock formations create a secluded feel on the many white beaches.
*** With an authentic fairy-tale castle dating back to the 11th century, the Irish isle of Waterford is one of the most romantic historical properties in Europe.
*** An ideal location for a wedding, engagement proposal, or just a luxurious getaway with your loved one, the designer Peter Nygard's self-named island in the Bahamas is a favourite of haunt of many celebrities.
*** Lastly, my own island in Northern Ontario. It may not have sandy beaches or palm trees, but islands are deeply personal and to me, it's the most romantic place on earth.
Is it possible to rent any of these islands for a week-end wedding celebration? If possible, would this island come with staff and how easy or difficult would it be to arrange for catering? How expensive would it be to rent an island for a few days?
Absolutely, and an island is the most special place for a wedding that I can imagine. Many of the rental properties we offer come with full staff and have specific packages for weddings and other large groups, and full facilities for catering. Prices vary, but this full service will start at around US $30K-$40K on many islands.
How popular is your Internet Site where you list the various properties you have for sale?
Private Islands Online has approximately 450 active island listings, more than 200 rental islands, and is the largest concentrated resource for information on every aspect of island sales, purchase and living. If someone is interested in private islands, they'll wind up on our site- we receive about 3.5 million unique visitors a year, and approximately 50 million page views.
Our company has been featured in every major publication from Forbes to the New York Times, as well as hundreds of smaller outlets from across the globe. Together with the other aspects of our business, our website has been a large part of making Private Islands Inc. the definitive company in our real estate niche.
What was the most expensive island you have been involved with and why was it so expensive to purchase?
The most expensive island sale that we've worked on was a US $20M island in the Caribbean, a large and undeveloped property in an excellent location.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
To add one thing, I always emphasize that the ultra-wealthy may buy luxury properties for tens of millions, but I love that we've dealt with many middle-class families buying an island for vacations, family reunions, and to eventually pass down to their children.
And not only are some rental islands very economical, but there are many publicly-accessible islands located in national parks. It was my own experience on an island that changed my life, and I think it's something that everyone should be able to enjoy.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.