Safety concerns raised by the pandemic have sent private islands to the top of UHNWs’
shopping lists, writes Catherine Moye
Before the pandemic struck, as Knight Frank’s March 2020 Wealth Report showed, the real estate trend among UHNWs was for investing in wellness. Now Covid-19 has made the highest-rollers’ thoughts travel far beyond spa treatments, towards the isolated allure of desert island life.
Take Little Pipe Cay in the Bahamas. Along with incredible seascapes and pristine sandy beaches, it boasts a nine-bedroom mansion, several hundred feet of dock frontage and a large staff and operations ‘village’ spread over its lush 68 acres.
‘This is one of the most special properties that I’ve been involved with,’ says Edward de Mallet Morgan, a London-based partner at Knight Frank. He is marketing the island for $85 million, and since the crisis more of the ultra-rich have wanted to view it.
‘This is a very low-volume market,’ he adds. ‘When you’re talking about property in the $50-70 million-plus range, it’s about approaching clients to see if they might be interested.’
Yet the pandemic has enhanced awareness of those places where people can spend time with their families that are safe.
‘We have a number of clients from Asia who are looking at private islands,’ says de Mallet Morgan. ‘They mostly lead stressful lives in polluted cities with a lot of heavy industry, and where they’re not sure where their food comes from. Increasingly, they seek the opposite of that.’
Acquiring a private island is not all barefoot chic, however. Unless you are buying one that’s plug-in-and-play ready, the considerations are manifold. A decent dock or a landing pontoon for a seaplane is crucial. It needs electricity and network connectivity. Maintenance and supplies are other factors. Most owners house engineers and managers on their island.
‘A well-run private island is like a military operation,’ notes de Mallet Morgan. ‘It also demands a certain amount of environmental responsibility because you’re nurturing a landscape for future generations. It’s not something you take on lightly.’
But it is increasingly something that UHNWs are looking to take on. Especially post-Covid-19, as Jacques Menahem, the Papeete-based owner of French Polynesia Sotheby’s International Realty, has found. His agency has several private islands on the market, some with permission to develop boutique hotels.
‘I used to get around two enquiries a day, but now I’m getting around ten from the USA, UK, France, Dubai and Italy,’ he says.
Farhad Vladi of Vladi Private Islands (vladi-private-islands.de) has a range of European islands for sale, especially in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, where a scenic island of around 1,100 acres has an asking price of €45 million.
Or there’s Santa Maria Island in Sicily, which comes with a mansion and olive groves, for €17 million. Escaping to an unsullied corner of planet earth has always been romantic. Whoever would have thought a virus would make it wise as well.
This piece first appeared in issue 74 of Spear’s magazine. Click here to buy and subscribe