As the coronavirus pandemic has devastated countries around the world, it has upended nearly every aspect of life for everyone, including for those most insulated by money. Even the niche, ultrarich world of island commerce has been turned on its head.
"This has been the busiest two months I've had in 22 years of selling islands," Chris Krolow, the chief executive of Private Islands Inc., said in July. The pace has not slowed since then, he said. The only time he has ever had anywhere near this quantity of inquiries was shortly after the disastrous Fyre Festival on Great Exuma, in the Bahamas, in 2017. Mr. Krolow said he was swamped, for some reason, with questions from "kids hoping to start their own country."
Before the pandemic, an island was typically a vanity purchase that a wealthy client — usually male — would pursue sometime after retirement, brokers said. The island bug would usually strike a few years after the novelty of other luxury purchases had worn thin.
"You have your yacht, your jet — now you want your island," said John Christie, the president of Christie's International Real Estate, a firm based in the Bahamas.
The island brokers knew how to cater to these clients. They sought a place to feel like a "boss from sea to sea," Mr. Christie said, a little kingdom with no authority except their own. Deals could be sweetened by allusions to billionaire or celebrity neighbors.