LEAF CAY, Bahamas, June 14, 2007 -- Have you ever wanted to own a little piece of paradise?
Well here's your chance.
A 15-acre private island on the edge of the Bahamas goes on the auction block in two weeks. Bids start at $12 million.
The island has white sand beaches, two homes -- one for you and one for your staff -- a dock, tons of food and living supplies and your own private runway.
"It's not for everybody, but it's a real good place to get away, completely relax," said businessman Jack N. Halcomb who has owned the island for roughly 20 years.
So who plans to buy the island? Maybe a developer looking to build a boutique resort or just a rich individual.
"We have exposed this particular property … around the world, primarily targeting celebs and sports figures and super-wealthy business personalities," said Louis "Benny" Fisher, chairman of Fisher Auction Co. "It's obviously for the individual who has everything and then some."
Inquires have come from as far away as Ireland, Spain and China. Even royalty from Dubai has expressed interest, although they belong to a small group of shoppers.
"We haven't been deluged because let's face it not everyone is of the economic status that they can afford a place like this," said Fisher.
The island has been marketed to celebrities including lovebirds Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and Hollywood legends Sean Connery and Steven Spielberg.
(Click here to learn more about celebrity-owned islands.)
But Fisher notes that just because he has reached out to these stars, it doesn't mean they are interested or that he'll know if they make a bid.
"Most of these people deal through their agents or their accountants," he said. "Many times, I don't know the name of the buyer until closing."
Halcomb bought the island in 1986 for $650,000 and said he has made $25 million worth of improvements to the property since he first moved in and ran his business sometimes from the Bahamas.
He sold electronic surveillance equipment to the military and law enforcement agencies, and initially ran the company in Florida before moving the business to his island. In 1992 he sold the company, Audio Intelligence Devices, to Westinghouse. Halcomb now lives on a Kentucky ranch and has a Florida business financing aircraft, and said it is now time to sell his piece of paradise.
"I'm 79 and I had trouble with skin cancer," Halcomb said. "The doctors ordered me to get out of the sun. … They said: get rid of the island or make funeral arrangements."
A Nice Neighborhood
Leaf Cay is part of the Exumas, an archipelago that stretches out for more than 100 miles. It sits about 85 miles south of Nassau, 260 miles from Miami and about 140 miles from the coast of Cuba.
And it has some very famous neighbors. Nearby islands are owned by Johnny Depp, Nicholas Cage, David Copperfield and Eddie Murphy.
But don't expect to see them or anyone else during a trip to this sunny patch of land, it's called a private island for a reason.
Halcomb said that in his two decades on the island he never had unwanted visitors.
"It's isolated. Nobody gives you any trouble," he said. "You could stand on the beach naked for a week and nobody would ever see you."
It's also one of the few islands that is not leased by the government of the Bahamas. Leaf Cay is one of 17 of the roughly 800 inhabitable islands in the region that has its own title, according to Fisher.
A Survivalist's Dream
Those considering a bid on Halcomb's property should know you'll never have to worry about the lights going off at Leaf Key.
Thanks to a seven-mile undersea cable, it is one of the few islands tied into the Bahamas power grid. There are also six backup generators and two dozen solar panels.
Need drinking water?
Underground cisterns capture and store up to 145,000 gallons of rain water. If that fails, a desalinization plant was installed seven years ago that can turn 5,000 gallons of seawater into drinking water each day.
If building repairs are needed the island has its own wood and metal shops, seven electric golf carts, a fork lift, tractor and more building supplies than can easily be counted. Think tires, fuel pumps, cables, batteries, nuts, bolts and screws, which should come in handy because "the nearest hardware store is 50 miles away -- by boat," Halcomb said.
When a Florida hardware chain went bankrupt, Halcomb spotted a way to get needed supplies to the island and purchased an entire store at auction.
"I just bought everything, lock, stock, barrel and shipped to the island," he said.
And plenty of those items remain -- there are even four spare refrigerators -- still in the box.
He also stocked up on food with a freezer building that holds 4,000 pounds of frozen food. Halcomb said that between canned and frozen supplies he typically had enough food to last him two to three years.
His stash includes everything from beans to olives to salad dressing. And just in case that is not enough, jar after jar holds seeds to plant your own food.
"I always felt that the potential of something happening in the United States … terrorism or severe storms or hurricanes, that [the island] would be a good place to be away from it," Halcomb said.
And he should be safe on his own. Halcomb has "more gun permits than any other person in the Bahamas."
He has five.
"They don't easily issue you permits for one gun," Halcomb said. "If you know the right people you can get them."
A Hot Market
Selling private islands is "a very, very niche industry" according to Chris Krolow, CEO of Private Islands Inc., a Toronto company that markets such properties.
Although that's changing, he said in the past four or five years the market has exploded as the Internet has raised awareness of islands in more remote locations.
"Leaf Cay is quite a deal -- at the starting price," Krolow said, primarily because it is completely developed. It's also a good location with relative closeness to Florida and even New York, plus the on-island landing strip makes it "extremely accessable."
Other islands -- that were undeveloped -- have sold for more than this island's $12 million starting bid, he noted.
But Krolow warns that the island might not sell at the June 28 auction because not enough people have learned of it during the short advertising period.
Want to enter a bid?
First you need to leave a $1 million deposit to show that you are serious.
The sale will be an all cash transaction, so forget about financing any part of the deal.You will also have to pay a 10 percent buyer's premium which includes a 3 percent cut for your real estate broker and a commission for Fisher Auction.
Other costs? The annual property taxes for individuals are capped at $35,000. Corporations would have to pay significantly more. Upon closing, the buyer would have to pay a one-time conveyance tax of 10 percent of the sale price.
The property is being sold "as is" in the current condition. All furniture, fixtures and equipment are included.
The furniture and decorations could use some updating, but how much time are you really going to spend inside anyway?
The island has actually been for sale for more than two years, but was not aggressively marketed until now. The original asking price was $17.5 million, but it's been lowered to a $12 million starting bid for this month's sale.
"I hope I can get more than that," he said. "If I can get my investment back -- $25 million -- I'll be happy."