Island Real Estate
April 5, 2005 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Do people really buy islands? If so, how are the "owned" islands governed?

The news occasionally has blurbs about some random person buying an island, and I was wondering just how common this is.

A google search reveals that there islands for sale..but I wanted some more information.

Do you really need to be a multi-millionaire or are there places you can "get" for the price of a nice sized house? (100k?)

And once you buy the island, how is it governed? Do you pay taxes to a parent country? Can you get thrown in jail for violations of that country's penal code?
posted by tozturk to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
 
As a rule, it doesn't magically become a soverign nation any more than if you had bought up all the property on your block. The advantage of an island is that your "block" is surrounded by water and landing on any part of it would be considered tresspassing on private property. Visits by the police would likely require some sort of warrant, depending on the country.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2005


You can certainly buy a man-made island and they are very popular, it seems, as they keep making more. These islands are part of the United Arab Emirates. As 4easypayments says, no special laws etc.
posted by cushie at 1:56 PM on April 5, 2005


An island is generally a piece of land as part of an overall group that is ruled by a particular country. As a result, your island will probably be covered by all applicable rules in terms of taxes that you have to pay to the parent country (depending on whose coastal waters you're in) and you can indeed get thrown into jail for violating the country's penal code.

If you're island is more than 50 miles away from the nearest other piece of land from the parent country, you could have a case for secession (while not technically an island, you might want to look up Sealand for more info on how one guy seceeded).

You can indeed get an island for the price of a nice sized house. I haven't checked lately but I remember that about 10 years ago, you could buy an island in the French polynesian islands for about $250k. I know there are islands also available in the US (Ebay real estate has some)
posted by TNLNYC at 2:01 PM on April 5, 2005


your "block" is surrounded by water and landing on any part of it would be considered tresspassing on private property.
That depends on what country your island is in. In Chile, for instance, all land within 100m of the high tide marked is by law considered public, so you couldn't restrict access to it. Don't know about the rest of the world, but I assume other more socialistic places have similar regulations.
posted by signal at 2:07 PM on April 5, 2005


Also see Sealand, which is probably the "best case" scenario for someone trying to make their own country out of a spot of land surrounded by water. It didn't really go so well. I don't think any other country formally recognizes the place, which seems to be the most important thing. I mean, even if you had some piece of paper that says you're a country, it doesn't keep other countries from just coming over with helicopters and doing whatever they please. But, I suppose that goes without saying.
posted by odinsdream at 2:19 PM on April 5, 2005


A somewhat-related question. Other than cost, what's stopping people from creating their own islands in international waters and starting their own nations?
posted by hootch at 2:42 PM on April 5, 2005


The recognition of other nations stops you. Without it, you're nothing. It's like saying "from now on, cheese shall be my money".
posted by bonaldi at 2:58 PM on April 5, 2005


The goingson with the Republic of Minerva are fascinating.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 3:29 PM on April 5, 2005


Private are available in the Caribbean, but you usually need millions upon millions of dollars to purchase them. These ones in The Bahamas can get pretty isolated, but you would still have to follow Bahamian Laws, although I doubt many people would be checking up on you.
posted by helvetica at 3:52 PM on April 5, 2005


In Chile, for instance, all land within 100m of the high tide marked is by law considered public, so you couldn't restrict access to it. Don't know about the rest of the world, but I assume other more socialistic places have similar regulations.

It's called coastal zone management, and many nations define the coastal zone (usually defined as 100m from the shoreline) as public property by law, including Sweden and Denmark. In my my own country, the coastal zone is protected purely by policy, ie. not really.
posted by gentle at 4:13 PM on April 5, 2005


what's stopping people from creating their own islands in international waters and starting their own nations?

As mentioned in the Sealand article linked above, international law requires the permission of the nearest neighbouring country before building an artificial island, and as all existing islands are claimed by some country, there's no longer any legal way to create your own nation.
posted by cillit bang at 4:31 PM on April 5, 2005


I have a friend whose father bought an island off the coast of Maine in the 1950's. It's about a hundred acres. As far as neighbors, things were pretty peaceful until the CEO of Wheelabrator bought the next island over and installed a heliport.

And no, it is not its own country. It is part of some town in Maine.
posted by alms at 5:31 PM on April 5, 2005


I was vacationing in Belize recently, and met some interesting people who are working on buying up small islands of the coast of Belize, Guatemala and other central american countries, and thenm turning the land over to trust which ensures that the islands are never developed in any way.

They said that Guatemala is the cheapest place in c.a. to buy an island (they don't have a lot of sea shore per se, but they do have lots of small islets). The going rate for anything that's large enough to not be carried away in next year's storm season is $1 million for a 70 year lease, and another $1 million for a perpetual lease. But nobody really believes in the idea of a perpetual lease out there, since the governmental stability is shaky even at best times.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:25 PM on April 5, 2005


Niihau Island, in Hawaii is an interesting case.
posted by ruelle at 8:17 AM on April 6, 2005


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