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Private Kingdoms

An Island Paradise May Sound Romantic, But Be Real About Your Dreams Before You Buy
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95

(continued from page 2)

A master sleuth often forced to conceal his real-estate interests when exploring an island, Vladi can still find an occasional Caribbean bargain. Little Norman's Cay in the Bahamas, an 85-acre prize selling for $1 million, has several white sandy beaches. The lushly landscaped Calivigni Island near Grenada goes for $1.5 million, while the 259-acre Ginger Island in the British Virgin Islands, with a large lagoon and mountains affording 360-degree views of the sea, is priced at $5 million.

Offering the same tropical climate, yet at one-third the price of Caribbean properties, Panamanian islands are an increasingly popular destination (if buyers can live with political instability). Taborcillo, John Wayne's former 80-acre playland, is now for sale, as well as several islands ideal for tobacco growing, including the $300,000 Isla de Coco, and Platanal at a mere $185,000.

The storybook allure of all these tropical sites is undeniable. They offer exceptional swimming, picturesque terrain, a rich nightlife and are easily accessible to the United States. "The Caribbean is more than just samba, sand and sun; there are also some good buys," says Jeremy Hurst of the Grand Cayman-based R.C. Bodden Realty Company. "No islands in the world can match the untouched beauty of the Caribbean's white powder beaches and turquoise waters. And best of all, on many of these picturesque islands, there's tax-free living." Vladi reminds clients that the tropics, for all their charm, are a haven for drug dealing, are wracked with political turmoil and are a potential economic nightmare.

In the Caribbean, such routine expenses as having a caretaker, desalinating water and repairing a boat average more than $100,000annually, as compared with $10,000 in Canada. Since buying Necker Island (British Virgin Islands) in 1973, Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways, has sunk $20 million into developing the property. "After adding up all the costs, you will find that taking care of a Caribbean island is like running your own country," he laments.

Even if money is no object, the Caribbean has one other essential drawback. Typically, most island buyers can take extended vacations only during the summer. And that is not the time to be in the sunbaked tropics.

Where, then, does the smart money go?

To northern climes, where verdant islands are serene and still financially inviting.

Vladi particularly prefers properties off France's Brittany coast, off Scotland and in Nova Scotia. Though prices are rising there as they are elsewhere around the world, due to heightened demand and dwindling supply (looking to develop new resort destinations, cruise lines and hotel operators are fueling the spurt in the tropics), good buys are still plentiful. Especially in Canada. "Canada is the only place to be," argues broker Bob Douglas. "I don't agree with Vladi about Scotland. It's a foreign place with very dry people. Yet Nova Scotia, with great fishing, deep waters, political stability and friendly natives, is the best buy in the world today."

In Vladi's current catalogue of favored properties, he lists 32 islands in Nova Scotia, including such densely wooded spots as Cow and Calf, Strawberry, Coddles and Spectacle Islands. These relatively untouched isles are easily accessible to Europe or the United States, are blessed with moderate temperatures and, ranging in price from $35,000 to $1.25 million, are far more affordable than tropical sites or similarly sized islands in the United States.

Recalling the recent $150,000 sale of a 100-acre beach-lined retreat in Nova Scotia, Vladi insists the same property could easily have gone for $2 million in Maine. His own island, sitting in the middle of a lake filled with trout and salmon, was purchased for $80,000 in 1989. It offers amenities and tranquility that Vladi says make it a steal. Then there's Mouton, an 800-acre island with a freshwater lake that he sold to a German doctor in 1973 for $500,000; valued today at $3 million, it could sell for $20 million in the tropics.

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