An Island of peace, freedom and prosperity in a Sea of tyranny – Residency in Sark.
Swen Lorenz from Undervalued Shares is launching a fascinating project that I am very glad to introduce to my audience.
The island of Sark, between England and France, is on a quest to double its population from less than 400 people to 800. On top of peace, tranquility and traditional values, Sark offers one of the best fiscal regimes worldwide, and potentially the best in Western Europe.
No personal income tax, no capital gains taxes, no inheritance tax, no VAT.
Sark is a fantastic residency option for:
- Those who want to live in peace away from government interference.
- People who love nature want to integrate in a community of respectable and respectful people.
- Online entrepreneurs, international consultants, and investors who want time to develop their businesses, while not sacrificing good banking and internet infrastructure.
- Young families who want to live in a peaceful, safe, and traditional environment.
- A combination of the above.
You can do two things to find out more.
1. Check out Swen’s page on the Sark Society programme here.
2. Watch the webinar in which Swen and I discuss Sark, the culture, nature, residency scheme, taxes, real estate, guns, and much more!
This is what I strive to do at The Wandering Investor
In spite of all the terrible things happening in the world, there are still great opportunities if you know where to look.
Do subscribe to my Youtube channel. This is my first “real” video but I will sporadically produce more content.
If you have any question whatsoever on Sark, feel free to get in touch with Swen or me.
To a World of Opportunities,
The Wandering Investor
If you want to discuss your internationalization and diversification plans, book a consulting session or send me an email.
Transcript of “Residency in Sark – 0% income tax in Europe”
LADISLAS MAURICE: Hello, everyone. Ladislas Maurice from thewanderinginvestor.com. I’m here with Swen Lorenz from Undervalued-Shares.com. And we’re here to discuss a fascinating project that Swen is launching. In case you don’t know Swen, he owns Undervalued-Shares.com. So it’s a really interesting subscription service. It’s only $49 a year, and he sends 10 full reports on a given stock which he thinks is interesting. And these reports are really in-depth, typically 40, 50 pages long. So it means that $5 per well-researched stock tip is really good value for money. Personally, I’m a subscriber. I typically buy two to three of Swen’s stock tips per year, depending on my own investment objectives, and it’s worked out very well, like the ROI on that $49-subscription is very, very high. So Swen, thank you. I owe you quite a few beers next time we meet in person. (laughs)
SWEN LORENZ: Excellent. I’m looking forward to that. (laughs)
LADISLAS MAURICE: So tell us about the big project that you’re launching.
SWEN LORENZ: So hi, everyone. I’m Swen, and I’ve just launched a project that went viral all of a sudden around the world. And it’s the world media knocking on my door right now. So I live in a very small jurisdiction. And first of all, it’s a very interesting jurisdiction for the kind of people that you are and, I guess, your readers are. And it’s also suffering from a peculiar problem, it has too few people, which is very unusual because, nowadays, it’s always the opposite. So I went out last week and launched a campaign to find 500 new residents, which would more than double our population. And that story really captured the imagination of, yeah, the world almost by now. I mean, I’m getting inquiries right now from all over the world, and I’ve had hundreds of emails come in.
And the jurisdiction that I’m talking about is the island of Sark, which is part of the British Commonwealth. It’s a small island in the English Channel. We currently only have 390 residents, roughly. And we are governed by a hereditary head of state, the Seigneur of Sark, who, by virtue of owning a certain estate here on the island, is our feudal lord. But we also have a parliament. So we’re completely self-governing. And we are self-governing under a contract that was signed, with the royal family of England, for perpetuity. This has been the case since 1565. So the island has been self-governing for 400 years and counting.
And we are a jurisdiction that is famous for not having cars, and being somewhat old-fashioned in its day-to-day life. I mean, not having cars means everyone walks and cycles, or you can also take horses here. We’re also quite famous for our tax regime. And we’re a little bit of an oddity, we were sort of forgotten by history, and now we’re looking for 500 people because the Seigneur has asked our population should go up to 800 to 1,000. And that’s the campaign I’ve started with the backing of the Seigneur.
Taxes in Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Fascinating. So I mean, you know my audience likes the topic of taxes, or really dislikes taxes. (laughs) Can you tell us about the about the tax regime in Sark?
SWEN LORENZ: So we do have taxes, (laughs) but our tax system is very friendly. First of all, our tax return is one page. And it takes me about, I would say, 60 seconds every year to fill it out. And on that one page, you can opt for a system whereby you do not have to declare your income or your assets, that is possible. So by definition, as an individual, you don’t even need to do accounting if you don’t want to, you just basically you live a life that is free from bureaucracy, and your taxes is then, essentially in somewhat simplified terms, based on the size of the property that you live in. So it’s somewhat progressive, and the bigger the property you live in, the more taxes you pay. But overall, the tax rate here is very, very friendly indeed. And it’s one of several reasons why to consider Sark. It’s not the only one.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow. So essentially, you can be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, or pounds, or euros, and you don’t pay capital gains taxes, you don’t really pay income taxes, just depending on the size of the home which you live.
SWEN LORENZ: Correct. So Sark has no income tax, no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax, no sales tax, VAT doesn’t exist. And I mean, to give you a concrete example, so I live in a house with about 2,000 square foot of residential of living space. So that’s 200 square meters, roughly, about 1,000 square meters of garden, and I pay, every year, about £4,000, and that covers everything.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: So with that, I’m done. And if I lived in a small apartment, which is available here as well, I would say a one-bedroom apartment, you would probably pay between £1,000 to £1,500, and that sorts out your tax bill for the entire year.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow, this is really fascinating, because it’s, I can’t really think of any jurisdictions anymore in Western Europe, which is probably one of the most high-tax places on Earth, where you can find such tax rates. That’s quite the competitive advantage.
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah.
How to obtain residency in Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: So how do you get residency in Sark? So if some subscribers want to move to Sark and take advantage of those tax rates, and have the lifestyle there, how would they go about it?
SWEN LORENZ: So there’s an important deadline to keep in mind right now, which is related to Brexit. So for a start, anyone who’s British or Irish can move here, no questions asked. And that’s sort of unlimited, they can move here next year or in five years. Anyone who has a citizenship from the European Union, or the EEA, or Switzerland, which is roughly 500 million people all together, they can move here with a very simple process, until the end of 2020. And if they move here before the end of 2020, then they just simply have to register. Takes, I’d say, five minutes. And then you get a status that allows you to stay for five years. And then, after five years, you become a permanent resident, you can even get citizenship of the Channel Islands. We’re part of the Crown Dependency of the Channel Islands.
And everyone else or EU citizens, after that deadline, they need to get either a work permit, so you need to have a job, or you need to apply for an entrepreneur visa, which usually means you have to create a company of which you are the majority owner and you need to employ two locals. Then you get an entrepreneur’s visa. Or, you can also get an investor visa, that requires at least £2 million in investment into local equities and bonds. So there are several routes to get in. But right now, for a lot of people, it’s still very easy, but that’s going to change.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Fascinating. And how does one, because getting residency is one thing and maintaining residency can be another one. Some countries can be quite strict in terms of residency requirements, to maintain it and be able to renew it. What’s the minimum amount of time that one must spend in Sark to maintain the residency status?
SWEN LORENZ: Maybe for context to answer this question, I need to add one more aspect which also ties in with the taxes, and then it comes together to a coherent picture that, I think, your readers will find more easy to understand. So much as the taxes are quite low in Sark, it also means that you get only a very basic package in terms of government services. So we have a parliament of which every member of parliament is a volunteer. We don’t have career politicians. Pretty much everything here on the island is taken care through volunteering or part-time jobs that people do on the side. We have a constable, so there’s law and order. We also even have a prison. It’s the world’s smallest prison. (laughs) But no one will give you unemployment benefits, and you have to take care of your own healthcare. So it’s a very minimalist package, and you’re then responsible for yourself.
But as a consequence of that, we also don’t have a government bureaucracy in the sense that people are used to. There are no bureaucrats here who would administer the kind of administrative state and, you know, I mean, almost surveillance state that you nowadays find everywhere else. And most of the laws on Sark were written a long time ago, which is why they, yeah, I mean, they certainly appear unusual. And mostly, they’re quite friendly, I have to say. And when it comes to residency, so you become liable for the property tax if a dwelling is available to you on Sark. That’s the official wording for that. As a matter of practicality, I suggest everyone spends at least 90 days here and create some substance.
We live in this world where OECD rules and all sorts of other oversight. I think it’s very important to show some substance in the place that you live in. And it’s also important for the community here, because one of the reasons why I’m trying to find residents is because we simply have too few people here who go to the supermarket, who use the shops, who employ local tradespeople. We have a lot of empty properties, they need doing up. So Sark isn’t looking for anyone who just wants to get a registration. Sark is really looking for people who say, “This is a lifestyle option that I really like. It’s an island that 60,000 tourists a year visit, because it’s been a tourist destination for decades, and it’s a wonderful place to visit. And I want to spend some time there and spend some of my life physically being on the island.”
So getting residency, technically speaking, is very easy, you can just rent a place, it’s as easy as that. You don’t need to purchase anything. You can also purchase a property if you want to, but renting is enough. And then as I said, please, spend at least 90 days here and create some substance, create some local ties, maybe support a charity, start your own little mini project and make it count in a way that is just simply more than just a tax registration.
LADISLAS MAURICE: For sure. No, I completely understand. And like you say, the world is changing so fast, and governments are so starved for revenues, that just hoping to get some paper residency and get away with it, these things just don’t work anymore. You need to do something, or you need to create substance, because maybe it’ll work for one year and then, two years later, it just won’t work anymore and you’ll find yourself in a ridiculous situation. So if you do something, do it properly, follow the rules, get your substance, and be an actual resident for a few months of the year. It makes complete sense.
SWEN LORENZ: I absolutely second that. And I would add to it that one of the beautiful sort of side benefits and bonus points of Sark is that, as I mentioned, we are a part of the Channel Islands, which is a Crown Dependency that it consists of three different independent entities. So Guernsey is one part of the Channel Islands, Jersey is one part, and then Sark, all three of which are self-governing. And if you spent five years here and you make the Channel Islands your home, you can also apply for citizenship, which is I always describe it in somewhat simplified terms, it’s as good as a British passport but better, because, for example, if Britain ever was so starved for government revenue that Britain introduces a global tax on its citizens, then that wouldn’t apply to the Channel Islands.
But for all practical purposes, the Channel Islands passport is as good as British, not the least because there is a common travel area, so there are no borders between the UK and the Channel Islands. And after five years, you can get naturalized, and that’s a major point. But you cannot do this if you just rent a post box somewhere, that’s not working anywhere in the world anymore. And then you really need to have some substance here.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Yeah, very true. And in the countries where it did work, quickly, people found out about it and it stopped working. And then people went there, paid a bunch of money, etc., got these leases. And then, eventually, after two, three years, they got burned and then just wasted a whole bunch of time and money. So especially now people can track everything, whether we like it or not. I certainly don’t, but that’s the unfortunate reality. So it means that we just have to abide by these rules. And governments are becoming increasingly mean when they catch people trying to cut corners.
SWEN LORENZ: Yes.
Access to Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: So you’re saying that the island is well connected to the mainland UK. So how do you get there? Flights, boats? I hear it’s very close to France as well. So can you get to France easily?
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah. So in some ways, we’re remote, in other ways, we’re absolutely not remote. So my personal record was to get from my doorstep to London Victoria station in three hours and five minutes.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: That was a personal record that I don’t think I’ll ever beat again. Everything lined up nicely. So the most important thing for people to know is that just as Sark doesn’t have cars, we also don’t have an airport. We rely on the neighboring Island of Guernsey for our air connections. Guernsey has 60,000 residents, to put this in perspective. And we have a several-times-a-day ferry connection to Guernsey, which right now is 45 minutes, but that will be cut down to 30 minutes once the new boat has arrived, the new boat is stuck in France because of Corona right now, (laughs) sadly. So it’s really just a short hop over to Guernsey, then you take a taxi to the airport, it’s 15 minutes. And then it’s a 35-minute flight to London.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Easy.
SWEN LORENZ: So the Channel Islands, culturally, economically, and politically, they’re completely orientated towards the United Kingdom. It’s somewhat funny, when you look at it on the map, there’s the old saying that the Channel Islands are fragments of France that fell off into the sea and got washed ashore in Britain. (laughs) Something like that. I think Victor Hugo said that. And I can actually see France from my window.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Oh, wow.
SWEN LORENZ: So it’s extraordinary to think that we are so close to France, but outside of summer, when there is a ferry going from Sark to Jersey, and then to France, we have almost no connection whatsoever to that side of the Channel. Everything is orientated towards the UK.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Interesting.
SWEN LORENZ: And that means that if you are from the British mainland, then you will find relatively good flight connections from Guernsey to Bristol, Manchester, I think, Edinburgh. I don’t know them all off the top of my head, but Guernsey is pretty well-connected. And we usually have five flights a day to London, Gatwick.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Nice.
SWEN LORENZ: And these are not propeller-like planes, these are like proper planes with, I don’t know, 110 passengers or something like that.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: And then you basically have to connect from London to where you’re going.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: The practical aspect is that if you think you can travel from Sark to, say, Austria, or Germany, or Italy every week to do business there, I know people who travel a lot from here, it’s feasible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I travel a lot, I get everywhere, but I’d say people who may have business or family in Britain, or Ireland, they will find it very easy. Everyone who has to go a lot to other places will have to take into account there is an extra leg to that journey. There’s no way around it.
Community life on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. Yeah, I mean, ultimately, a great political system like this and attractive tax rates come with some drawbacks that people have to have to accept. And can you tell me about the community? Because I mean, this is fascinating, 390 residents, a little island and in-between France and the UK, like how are the people? Is it easy to make friends? Like what’s the community life? Do people, for example, go to church? Does everyone go to church together on Sundays? Are there like, I don’t know, it’s a completely different world for me. Can you explain?
SWEN LORENZ: Yes. So I mean, as context, I moved from London (laughs) to Sark.
LADISLAS MAURICE: (laughs)
SWEN LORENZ: It was a little bit of a change. What I absolutely love about Sark is that everyone says hi in the street, everyone says hello to everyone else in the street. And you kind of know almost everyone else. I mean, not quite absolutely everyone, but it’s a community where you don’t need to lock your door. If you forgot your wallet at home, you can just say, “I’ll come back tomorrow and pay. It’s not a problem.” Everything is very informal and efficient. And that is also very much, ultimately, a result of the unique legislation that Sark has. For example, Sark has no employment law. And the jurisdiction just gives responsibility to the individual and says, apply common sense and sort it out between consenting adults, basically. And in a way, that has filtered down to– we have a community here where things are very pleasant, everyone knows everyone else, and you can get help, and everyone’s very relaxed.
And yes, you can, of course, make friends very easy. We have, I mean, two pubs on the island that are important. We actually have a fair number of bars and restaurants, mostly for the tourist season. But there are two pubs that are like the central social hubs. And if you want to make friends, go to the pub, and you will, very quickly, find yourself in conversations with people, and you’ll make new friends. It’s just it’s up to your initiative, you have to create it yourself. There are plenty of social groups. There’s a yoga group, we have two churches. There is a fishing group, pottery classes. There’s a lot more going on than you would expect. (laughs)
LADISLAS MAURICE: Nice.
SWEN LORENZ: And I just had a young couple, friends of mine, move here last year, who, they’re late thirties, internet entrepreneurs, they were amazed how quickly they got to know everyone, how welcomed and embraced they were, and how pleasant life is in such an old-fashioned community. It’s like an English village in the 19th century, all the bad modern stuff has not really taken hold here. I mean, some of it has. But we are in a very lucky position. And all the more now that the world has gone slightly crazy. I think we’re extraordinarily, I’d say, everyone who lives here is probably, right now, quite delighted to be in this space and not anywhere else.
LADISLAS MAURICE: I can understand this. I mean, this sounds like true little paradise right now, being able to live in nice Anglo-Saxon culture from decades back. Actually do you lock your door? Do you lock your front door?
SWEN LORENZ: I do because I have business documents at home from other people, not because I’m worried, but because I want to be able to tell my business contacts that actually, it’s all safe. But honestly, there’s just no need for that.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow. And how are relationships between people? So if you have, I don’t know, chickens and a few roosters, and they make noise, will the neighbor come and get angry and complain to the city council that you’re waking up everyone early in the morning, or? How do people sort out issues?
SWEN LORENZ: I think on Sark, you still have very much these old British mottos of live and let live and fair play.
LADISLAS MAURICE: That’s great.
SWEN LORENZ: And I have never had any major issues with anyone. If something isn’t to your liking, you just approach that person and you have a conversation. And I think, more to your point, maybe, because we’re all so close to each other, I think everyone tries, pretty much everyone, you know, there are always exceptions, but I think people try to make an effort to, as always, say, don’t be a dick, just behave like a nice human being. And if someone had an issue with you, then have a chat with them.
To give you an example, after I launched my campaign, one longstanding resident approached me in the street, because she had spotted something on my website that she found, first of all, was wrong, and, secondly, upset her. And I had a chat with her. And I said, “I recognize this could be read in two ways, and I’ll be very happy to amend it.” And I went home, I amended it, sent her an email, and then you’re done. I think that’s how the world should be, like, talk to people and be a reasonable person, and then everyone will get along just fine.
LADISLAS MAURICE: I mean, this is truly amazing. Because a lot of the countries that have little to no taxes, you don’t necessarily have a lot of freedom. You go to the Middle East, you can easily get residency in a few of those countries. But freedom is not at the core of their DNA. And what Sark has to offer, or when I think about it, is like a libertarian’s paradise, in many respects. People are respectful to each other. There is little government intervention. You’re expected to rely on yourself, you’re not expected to rely on any government services. And you just live your own life in a respectful way with the community around you. This is really a unique proposition nowadays. Unfortunately, it’s become a unique proposition.
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah. I mean, you called it a libertarian paradise, which I don’t disagree with. How I always like to describe it is, it’s Britain like in the 19th century. And I once read a wonderful book, I just can’t remember now what it was, but it basically described how, as an English man in the 19th century, you could basically go about your life without ever encountering the government.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: Like, you did pay your taxes once a year, and everyone had rules, but there was a strong societal standard that people adhered to. Maybe I’m romanticizing these old days now to too much of an extent, but I think it’s just, Britain, how it used to be in the olden days. And I mean, that’s why I think especially British and Irish people will absolutely love Sark because it will be like at home but with more sunshine (laughs) and a dash of French culture, like a lot of houses here have French names, the cuisine is a bit more French influenced because we’re so close to them. I hope that, one day, I get a gang of residents together through my program and we buy a boat together and get regular cheese deliveries from France.
LADISLAS MAURICE: (laughs)
SWEN LORENZ: I’m not joking. This is the sort of stuff that I would love to have more active co-residents here with whom we can do all of these things. And yeah, then it combines the best of many worlds. And it’s not even– I mean, first of all, it’s not a Middle Eastern place. It’s not even a Mediterranean place. This is just Northern European British culture, by and large.
Raising children on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Really interesting. And so tell me, it sounds like a great place to raise children, to have children. Are there schools? Are there other children for young families who would potentially be considering to move to Sark?
SWEN LORENZ: Yes, there is a school on the island. It teaches kids up to the age of 13. And then after the age of 13, you either have to send them to Guernsey, the neighboring island, or to boarding school in the UK. For young children, I personally think it’s paradise. I grew up in the countryside in a small village with three and a half thousand people, but still, Germany in the 1980s, no crime, no issues of any kind. Sark, to a certain extent, does take me back to my childhood. And if I had children, I would say that, at least during the, I don’t know, first 10 years or whatever, it’s probably an amazing place, because they can just run around, there’s lots of nature, it’s a very green place. It’s very underdeveloped. So even though it’s a small island, most of it is green and it’s just basic nature.
LADISLAS MAURICE: That’s amazing.
SWEN LORENZ: Lots of animals. The other day, I had a bat fly into my house. (laughs) I had to get the bat out. You walk home at night, you stumble across hedgehogs. And it’s just a beautiful place. You can go fishing as a kid. Obviously, there are lots of beaches, you can go snorkeling, if you brave the English Channel here, the water is not that warm. So I would say great place for children. But you just need to, obviously, also make all the logistics work. And like with everything, everything has upsides and downsides. I would, in any case, recommend to families and people who are planning families to check it out. It’s a viable option.
LADISLAS MAURICE: I mean, I can’t think of many places, nowadays in Europe, where you can just let your children loose the whole day. All day Saturday, just saying, “Be back home for dinner.”
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah, you could do that here.
Homeschooling on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: That’s fantastic. And there are no regulations with regards to homeschooling, so people can just choose to do homeschooling? Like online?
SWEN LORENZ: Interesting question. That one I would have to check. I know of people on Guernsey who are now starting homeschooling. So I assume it works, but I haven’t checked that particular part of the law yet.
Internet speed on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, cool. Interesting. Because you’re mentioning online entrepreneurs, I mean, you work online most of the day as well. And the internet connection, you never have issues, you can do everything you need to.
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah. I think Sark is an online entrepreneur’s dream. It’s the single best thing that could happen to anyone who wants to run an online business, as I do myself. I don’t think it gets any better than that. And the internet connection is always the first thing people ask me about. (laughs) And I have to say I’m somewhere between unnerved and amused about it. (laughs) Because I mean, so the Channel Islands are not a third world country, to put it mildly. It’s one of the richest places on earth. And Guernsey is a major financial center. More than half of the corporate bonds in Europe are issued through Guernsey, where we’ve got a major financial services industry. And Sark flies on the coattails of Guernsey when it comes to certain things. One of them is the internet connectivity.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: So right now, you can get up to 100 megabits per second.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: We have 4G, which works just fine. There are some local peculiarities that you need to be aware of. If you need superfast internet, then I recommend– there’s some houses where that works better than others.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: And as a local, you know all of these things. If you come here and you just move into any house and you’re counting on having 100-megabit connection, you’re probably not going to have it. So there’s some knowhow required in many ways. But I mean, to answer your question, or to go back to your original question, for online entrepreneurs, it couldn’t be better. If you run it as a sole trader, you don’t even have to keep accounts.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: So you can literally just run your Stripe account, or PayPal, or whatever you use for your payments, and that’s your accounting. And that’s the end of the story, and you don’t have to pay taxes, there’s no VAT. And, very importantly, Stripe, nowadays, which is a very well-known credit card processing platform, they nowadays allow customers to reside in the Channel Islands. If you went back five years ago, that was a problem. And nowadays, Stripe and PayPal and all of them, they basically all offer Guernsey in their list of jurisdictions.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Fantastic.
SWEN LORENZ: And for these financial aspects, Sark is part of Guernsey, and we just basically ride on their coattails, as I said.
LADISLAS MAURICE: So access to world class banking and financial services as well.
SWEN LORENZ: No problem. I mean, we’ve got like, we’ve even got foreign banks in Guernsey. Like I walked past Julius Baer, this Swiss private bank the other day.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Perfect.
SWEN LORENZ: It’s all there. I mean, there’s virtually nothing we don’t have. I mean, so people who think that we’re like (laughs) bereft of anything, couldn’t be more mistaken. If it doesn’t exist on Sark, or if you can’t get it shipped to Sark, you have to go to Guernsey, which, as I said, is 30 minutes once the fast ferry has arrived.
Cost of living on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, cool. And what about the cost of living? Like, when you go to your local bar, your local pub, how much do you pay for a pint?
SWEN LORENZ: So my yardstick is, and I mean, these are all anecdotal figures, I have to admit, but my yardstick is what is a pint of Guinness, because I like my Guinness.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: And in Notting Hill, where I used to live in London, my pint of Guinness is now £6.50. And here, it’s £3.20.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: So that is cheaper. One has to say it really depends on what you’re looking at. So in the supermarket, you do have to pay more than others. Oh, yeah, I sent you the list from the supermarket, which you’re just showing now. So some random products are less expensive than in London, like that bottle of wine that I picked up. And I think it’s got to do with our alcohol tax, which is pretty low. So that’s cheaper than in London. Most things are more expensive. I would say, probably rule of thumb, it’s 50% more expensive than the UK mainland, because of the shipping. And then you’ve got factors such as electricity is among the most expensive in the world. There’s no arguing about that. Electricity is expensive. And everyone on Sark switches off the light when they leave the room. People who move here, don’t do it in the first month, and then they get the electricity bill and (laughs) they do it from the second month onward.
But on the other hand, for example, water is extremely cheap. I mean, most people here have their own borehole.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Nice.
SWEN LORENZ: I share a borehole with my neighbors. And we have extraordinarily good water quality, I test it regularly. And I use quite a lot of water because I take a bath pretty much every single day, and I barely get up to £10 in water every month.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. Wow. Okay. Wow, that’s impressive. So yeah, so I mean, food is more expensive, electricity is more expensive. But ultimately, you get that back in terms of quality of life and taxes.
SWEN LORENZ: Oh, yeah. I mean, through the taxes, it pays for itself. And then you probably will have some lifestyle changes here. I mean, for example, my friend, Claudine, who is on a video on my website, talking about her experience of moving to Sark, she was asked by myself, actually, in that interview, what are the key downsides for her. And she’s said, she can’t wear her high heels because we basically have unpaved roads here, and high heels are of no use whatsoever. So her cost for buying high heels have also decreased dramatically. Depends on how you manage your life, there are a lot of factors, too. We have got a good number of restaurants here you can go out a lot. But it’s actually not that expensive either compared to, for example, London.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: And it depends a bit what you make it.
The real estate market on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay. And can you can you elaborate as well on, because my audience is typically very interested in international real estate. Can you elaborate on the real estate market in Sark?
SWEN LORENZ: Yes. So we have a lot of empty properties here right now. Probably about 150 properties are standing empty, which gives you an idea. And the prices have gone down by probably 40% to 50% since 2008. So whereas everywhere else, it’s gone up in value, for us, it’s basically gone down in value. It’s a slightly complex system, we’ve got leaseholds, we’ve got freeholds. I would say a good rule of thumb is that you can buy a leasehold, like a two or three-bedroom house with a nice garden and a long leasehold for probably somewhere between £350,000 and £500,000, which is like London zone three, a suburb in London.
You can also rent something. Rentals start at probably about £600 a month. But you wouldn’t get much for that. I would say for a nice apartment, it’s £1,000 to maybe £1,200 a month.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay.
SWEN LORENZ: And then you’re set and you’ve got a very nice base in Sark.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Can you elaborate on the leasehold system? So what happens once the like 50-year lease expires?
SWEN LORENZ: So it’s the same system as in the UK. So large parts of London are actually only owned through leaseholds. A lease means that you own it for a certain number of years and then it reverts back to the holder of the so-called freehold. So it’s a system where you need to work with a different formula for evaluating the property. It has all sorts of complexities to it. For example, many leaseholds have an option to renew. We are now getting a land reform here, probably in October, the law will change for the first time since 1607.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: And it will allow, among other things, for the leaseholders to approach the freeholders and purchase the freehold off them. And there are formulas for that as well. It’s a voluntary negotiation, so you can’t force them.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Good.
SWEN LORENZ: But that basically means that every property here needs to be looked at in its own rights, because every property really has some quirk to it. And that makes it a bit difficult to speak of market prices. Also, because of the lack of transactions, we’ve had very few transactions in the last couple of years. The empty properties have just been piling up, basically. But that’s something that I write a lot about in my manual that I give to the people who choose to join my program. And that’s something where I can give a lot of background, and there’s local help available for that as well.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, fantastic. So am I wrong by reaching the conclusion that Sark is fantastic for people who, one, just want to get away from it all, want to just live in peace? And two, for people who want to live in a different political system? So though it’s not a libertarian system, there are many elements where one has a lot more freedom than in other jurisdictions, and also people who are happy to live under the regime of a Seigneur, royalists, for example, may really like living in Sark. Also, it’s quite good for, like you said, online entrepreneurs, great taxes, access to all the banking that you need. Same thing for consultants, full-time investors, you could be a day trader and live in Sark, and really be laser-focused. So I think, personally as a full-time investor, like a lot of online entrepreneurs and consultants and full-time investors would probably say that having to live three months on a little remote island is too much, and that they would be missing out on life. But I feel that being forced to stay three months a year in complete peace, on a little island, far removed from all the noise is exactly what you need to be able to build your investment thesis, to really build your business into being laser-focused on whatever it is you’re busy building. Is this–
SWEN LORENZ: I think you’ve just delivered the perfect sales pitch for Sark, and you’ve just answered all of (laughs) your own question. To add to that, my friends, Andy and Claudine, who run an online business from here, they’ve become more successful than ever for exactly the reason you said, you focus on your business. And I mean, always keep in mind this is a tourist island, and people come here to enjoy their holidays. We have a fantastic life here. You can go running, fishing, sailing, diving, whatever you want to do, basically. You’re basically living the life that other people dream of. And to spend three months a year, at least, in that kind of environment is anything but hardship. (laughs)
LADISLAS MAURICE: It’s not.
SWEN LORENZ: And then on top of it, you become very successful in your business because you’ve got time to focus and you are under a system that makes you more successful because it brings out the best in you because of that unique setup that it offers.
LADISLAS MAURICE: That’s really great. And then for people who have young families, it’s also the perfect environment, where you run your own business, no noise, the kids are out there running with the chickens, and the roosters, and the dog, and they come back for dinner. It’s a very interesting product, if I can put it that way. It’s unlike any other program I can think of internationally. It’s very unique. There aren’t many spots, because there are, what, 400 people now, and the island doesn’t want to get to more than, what, a thousand people?
SWEN LORENZ: A thousand people would be pushing it already, probably 800, 900 is the right number. And I mean, it is such a small number that I spoke to the Seigneur the other day, who’s enthusiastic about the fact that there’s more interest in the island now. And he’s even offered that everyone that I bring to the island, he’d be happy to meet and give them a tour of the house, and give them a bit of an induction into the island. Where else in the world can you go and meet your head of state? It’s absolutely unique. There’s no other place like it.
LADISLAS MAURICE: No, typically, heads of state are just busy trying to rob you. (laughs)
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah. And I mean, he’s also a busy man, but since there are fewer problems here, and since he does want to have more people on the island, there’s a unique opportunity for people to speak to the man who is at the top of the government as head of state.
LADISLAS MAURICE: But from my perspective, I mean this program has a lot of potential. It was just clearly under-marketed for years. But I, especially with the way things are turning out, and all the fiscal problems, all the monetary issues, all the government regulations, more and more people are looking for just this, just being able to live in peace, reduce their fiscal burden, and just live their own lives without too much government intervention. So now that you’re marketing it, and that you’re talking about Sark to the wider world, I’m pretty sure people will move to Sark pretty quickly, and that you’ll have your first inhabitants rushing in.
SWEN LORENZ: Definitely. So I mean, since I came out with this a week ago, I already had 25 people sign up to the relocation service that I offer, which I do as a sort of a social enterprise. I charge money for it but, frankly, I charge way too little for it, at least right now. But I wanted to get it off to a good start. And I’m currently busy working with basically 2,000 people, some of whom are probably going to buy properties site unseen right now, because they’re having issues traveling but they want to get a piece of Sark as insurance and for their future, and to then eventually come here. There will definitely be more people moving here. Two people have just signed their rental contracts as well.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Good.
SWEN LORENZ: And I mean, I’ve been absolutely inundated with requests. And I think this is going to continue for a bit longer. I’ve just given an interview to Business Insider as well. It’s just working its way around the world. That said, I think it’s important to also state that the island is not going to fill up overnight. I think 99% of all people who look at such an opportunity will never do anything, they just want to dream about it and check it out. And then there’s also a certain process of moving jurisdiction is not that easy. You need planning. Ideally, you should look at properties. Maybe you should visit first, spend a holiday here, rent a house for months, try it out. I mean, there’s so many ways how to go about it.
I would say, over the next two to three years, Sark is going to change. I think next year, we will probably already see some significant changes. We’ll probably also see an influx of people before the December 31 deadline, because I mean, frankly, the biggest group I’m speaking to right now is people on the continent who want to get away from the European Union, because the Channel Islands are not part of the European Union. Never were. (laughs) And so there’s definitely something happening now, but there’s also no reason to panic or to do any kneejerk reactions. Take your time, evaluate it, check it out, visit, wonderful tourist place, we’ve got nice hotels, bed and breakfast, service providers, go kayaking, get to know Sark, and then make a decision.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Can you elaborate on your Sark services and the relocation package that you offer and where people can find more information?
SWEN LORENZ: Yeah. So what I’ve launched is I like to describe it as a bit of a club. As someone just joked, it’s Swen’s Friends on Sark. I’ve given it the name Sark Society. We played around with all sorts of names. So I’ve noticed two things that always come up when people think about Sark. One is they worry about will I be by myself? Am I going to be alone and bored on this little island? And I’m a natural networker, I organize a lot of social events and big events as well. And I always bring people together. So I said, why don’t I put myself at the center of a group of people who want to make a nice life on Sark, and we help each other and support each other in this endeavor.
And the other thing that always comes to the fore is that Sark is actually quite complex if you don’t know where to begin. Because much as we are very old-fashioned here, it also means that there are very few websites where you get up-to-date, coherent and complete information. There is a website of the government, and people should go there. There’s even a section about moving to Sark, that gives a bit of an outline. But I always noticed that people have 1,001 questions, and they cannot find answers. And I just thought the only way I can possibly manage such a problem and make it a success is if I put all of the information together in a folder, which is now currently 250 pages, will probably be quite a bit more because I’m still adding to it.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: I think it’s the best complete Compendium about all things Sark anyone has ever compiled. And it’s basically an instruction manual. It’s not legal or financial advice, because I’m not licensed to give that. But I’m a chronicler, I collect all the information that’s out there and I put it together. So I’ve created the offer right now that, for £1,000, you get membership in my club, which, first of all, gets you the manual, which I think will answer, it will take you 95% to 98% of the way. And then, as part of the offer, I basically put myself out there for my members. I will pick up the phone and literally put my boots on and find out information that they require, which is the part that’s slightly scary, which is why eventually we’ll have to raise prices, because that service is just way too cheap right now.
So I mean, there’s just like with all the empty properties, whoever comes first gets the best deal for those, which is why some people are currently keen to even buy literally over the telephone based on my advice. And it’s the same with my membership as well, the price will rise once this gains more momentum, because I will not be able to manage that much. And I also just want to get it up to a market rate where it’s more of a viable consulting enterprise, even though it’s still also a time-limited service, once the island is full, and there will be people moving here without my help as well, which is entirely possible, then my job is done. And then I will just go about enjoying Sark again, without being involved in this project.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Cool.
SWEN LORENZ: And then I’ll have my social group here, and we can share a boat and do things, it’s going to be amazing.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Fantastic. And what’s the link to the information to the package?
SWEN LORENZ: It’s Sark-Society.com.
Gun ownership on Sark
LADISLAS MAURICE: Okay, cool. Fantastic. And one last question before we end this conversation, that’s for my American audience. Because when I talk about different countries, there’s a question that comes up often, is what about gun ownership? Can people own guns in Sark?
SWEN LORENZ: There’s a funny story. So if you own one of the 40 original properties, then you are actually legally required to keep two loaded guns in your house to defend the island.
LADISLAS MAURICE: (laughs)
SWEN LORENZ: And that goes back to, the reason for our independence is so Sark was unoccupied by anyone. And then the British Royal Family basically said, “We need this place as a defense outpost against the French.” And they asked 40 people from Jersey to occupy the island on behalf of the Crown, and they would get free land for that, which is the 40 original properties. But in exchange for the right to self-govern and to get a piece of land, they had to defend the island. So they are legally obliged to own two loaded guns and keep them in their house.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Amazing.
SWEN LORENZ: There is legislation for gun ownership, you need to pass the test and you need to be knowledgeable and have a clean track record. I don’t know all the details off the top of my head, but yeah, people have guns, and I would say probably a lot of people have guns.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Wow.
SWEN LORENZ: Message to the French, like, be careful. (laughs)
LADISLAS MAURICE: (laughs) Fantastic. So little taxes, freedom, good banking services, no crime, healthy environment, lovely nature, and gun ownership is allowed. This is really fantastic. It’s everything I want to hear. (laughs)
SWEN LORENZ: (laughs) Yeah. A slight downer for the Americans, they need to come here on a visa. They need to probably get an entrepreneur’s or an investor visa. They have it’s slightly harder, but it’s probably worth the extra effort.
LADISLAS MAURICE: Yeah, totally. (laughs) Great, fantastic. So, Swen gave all the information in terms of where to find his package. Do subscribe to Undervalued-Shares.com as well. You don’t have to pay the $49, there’s a free newsletter. I think your conversion rate is ridiculously high. It’s, what, 75% of people end up converting to the–
SWEN LORENZ: It’s 65% who read the free newsletter end up subscribing in the end, yeah.
LADISLAS MAURICE: So beware, if you subscribe, there’s a two-thirds chance you’ll end up paying for it. So if you don’t want to spend $49, just don’t subscribe at all because Swen will upsell you, and then you’ll keep subscribing every year, but happily so. And also feel free to join the private list at thewanderinginvestor.com. I travel around the world and discuss various investment opportunities and residency opportunities, etc. Great. Swen, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.
SWEN LORENZ: Thanks. This was great fun. Love talking to you, Ladislas, and hope to see you for a beer sometime soon. (laughs)
LADISLAS MAURICE: Sounds good. Take care.
SWEN LORENZ: Take care. Bye.