Want to buy your own private island? It's not impossible

Bummed out by stratospheric house prices? Bored with your existing collection of boys toys? Need some privacy to clone velociraptors? Perhaps it's time to think about about a bit of land girt by sea.

You can pick up some islands for less than the price of an inner-city Sydney one-bedder and if that's still out of your budget you can always rope in some friends and buy as a syndicate.

Here's a step-by-step guide to arranging the ultimate getaway.

1) Check out your options online

Finding an island available for purchase used to involve a tremendous amount of legwork. Nowadays, it's as easy as clicking on sites such as Australian Islands, Private Islands Online or Vladi Private Islands

But Wayne Bunz of CBRE Hotels, whose higher profile sales include Dunk, Daydream and Lindeman Islands, warns there are a few practicalities to consider before falling in love with some far-flung tropical paradise.

People associate islands with celebrities but the typical buyer is a successful corporate type.

Wayne Bunz

"Think seriously about what will be involved in commuting to your island," he says. "While owning property in the Bahamas or Fiji might seem an appealingly exotic option, unless you're prepared to spend a lot of time travelling you're better off staying in Australia. There are islands for sale all around this country but those off the coast of Queensland are by far the most popular. Ideally, you want an island located in the vicinity of an airport on the mainland that has a helipad, airstrip or at least somewhere a large boat can dock."

2) Do your sums

First the good news. While top-shelf Caribbean real estate will set you back tens of millions of dollars, and some private islands top the US$100 million ($134m) mark, you can buy an Australian island for as little as $850,000.

Even better, modern technology means it's now feasible for you to run your business empire (or at least telecommute into your McJob) Richard Branson style.

Now the bad news. If you pay less than a million you're not likely to get an island that comes equipped with aircraft-landing facilities, a house to live in, mains power and a septic system. If you want to construct any of those things, you can expect to pay around four times as much for them as you would on the mainland.


Furthermore, you'll have to get permission from the relevant authorities to put up anything more substantial than a tent, which could prove to be a very unrelaxing process. (Nicolas Cage reportedly sold his island in the Bahamas after plans to build a luxury home on it were blocked due to concerns construction would negatively impact the native North Bahamian rock iguanas.)

Plus, given the small pool of potential buyers, it can take an eternity to sell islands, meaning banks will only lend you a small fraction of the purchase price.

3) Consider an artificial island

Turns out it's not just rising superpowers that can conjure islands out of a clear blue sea; even average citizens can purchase a giant block of Styrofoam encased in concrete and, given the necessary planning authority approvals, anchor it to the seabed in a prime location. It might sound ridiculous but those in the industry believe it could be the Next Big Thing.

"There are now companies that make artificial islands and businessmen have been buying them and mooring them off the coast of China for some time," notes Richard Vanhoff of Private Islands. "Unfortunately, the ones around now resemble a house floating in the middle of dirty moat but I suspect the quality will improve and they will become more popular."

4) Don't miss the boat

Across the globe, island prices halved following the GFC and local prices were further depressed after Cyclone Yasi hit in 2011. There are still plenty of bargains around but the market is starting to heat up.

"As the economy in the US and Europe has picked up the post-GFC, stigma around conspicuous consumption has lessened. High-net-worth individuals are now comfortable about buying islands and showing them off like a badge of honour," says Vanhoff.

"As is the case with the mainland property market, there's growing interest from Chinese buyers," says Bunz. "Asian buyers are particularly keen on islands near the Great Barrier Reef."

5) Watch Cast Away

The best thing about having your own island is also the worst thing – there's nobody and nothing else around. Vanhoff, who sold Great Keppel Island, notes, "People associate islands with celebrities but the typical buyer is a successful corporate type. They value their privacy and don't want to have to interact with anyone during their downtime, aside from any friends and family members they've chosen to invite to their slice of paradise."

"Living on an island sounds romantic but the reality is that only a particular type of person is suited to doing it for any length of time," warns Bunz. "The novelty soon wears off and most people are climbing the walls after three or four days."