From Greece to the Caribbean: How to Buy a Private Island
Life + Money

From Greece to the Caribbean: How to Buy a Private Island

REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

As the Greek debt drama plays out, it looks like the country may be forced to sell some of its most valuable assets to pay down its overwhelming debt. High on anyone’s list of desirable Greek assets are its beautiful, sun-drenched islands. But the truth is there are hundreds of islands for sale around the world at any given time. What we really want to know is how could we buy our very own island and what would we have to do to get it?

What can I expect to spend?

While you can find islands for under $1 million—there’s one in Maine for $55,000—it helps to be a millionaire or billionaire. Rumor has it that Larry Ellison bought 98 percent of Lanai, the sixth-largest island in Hawaii, for a cool $500 million. And most likely you will have to pay in cash, since banks can be a bit persnickety about financing -- islands can be pretty difficult to appraise!

Related: The 10 Best Islands in the World

In Europe, you can expect to shell out anywhere from a few million euros to more than 100 million. Then there are the property taxes, which have been known to sink many an owner or motivate them to sell. The price of your island will depend on the little things, like whether you need running water, electricity, maybe a dock. Many islands for sale are not exactly habitable or ready for development, so take preparation and building costs into account.

What are the obstacles?

No island is an island, especially when you consider the bureaucracy that stands between you and your new digs. As The Wall Street Journal reported, in Greece the red tape for island ownership can be formidable. In addition to stubborn goat herders and goats, there are background checks to make sure you don’t pose a threat to national security, not to mention the restrictions on private seaplanes. Our advice? Start rowing…

How can I look at islands that are for sale?

We have determined that it is far easier to look at islands online than it is to visit or purchase one. Chris Krolow, CEO of Private Islands Inc. and the host of Island Hunters, boasts listings for more than 600 islands. (His own paradise, Deep Water Island, is in Ontario’s Georgian Bay.)  Vladi Private Islands contains about 250 listings as well. Island properties can be found on, as well as the more luxurious HG Christie Ltd. You also can check out the cheapest islands in Greece, thanks to Business Insider. Still, there are ultra-exclusive listings that can’t be viewed online and can only be arranged through a broker.

Island Cartoons

How do I get to my island?

Transportation to your island paradise can be tricky. What’s the point of owning an island if you can’t get there? Depending on where your island is, you might have to take a combination of jets, sea planes,  helicopters or yachts to your own island from the nearest mainland. You’ll want to check and make sure you have deep water access for your yacht before parking it there.

Will I be in good company? Who else owns an island?

Richard Branson’s Necker Island is in the British Virgin Islands—and you can rent it, if you’re not quite ready to buy. Larry Page’s Eustatia Island is not too far away. David Copperfield owns more than one—Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay, a private resort in the Bahamas. Tyler Perry, Johnny Depp, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have neighboring isles in the archipelago.

Once I own it, is it really ALL mine?

That depends. There are two types of islands: ones you can buy (freehold) and ones you buy the rights to own for a set amount of time (leasehold). Freehold islands represent the majority of islands for sale, and can usually be found in North America, Europe, and the Caribbean. They tend to cost more than their leasehold counterparts in Asia and the South Pacific, where government restrictions may apply. If you do get a leasehold, you can expect it to last for up to 99 years.