LAMMA Island, traditional home of local fishermen and laid-back expats, hit the real estate big time last week when its first $12 million house went on the market. Contrary to the popular belief that you could buy the island for $12 million, veteran Lamma resident Nigel Stevens is confident he will get that amount for his 2,800-square-feet Mediterranean-style property. Boasting six bedrooms, several balconies, two large kitchens, a guest house and garden picnic grounds among other attributes, the house was originally two units merged by Mr Stevens, 54, and his wife Sam. ''The price may be a bit high for Lamma . . . but there is really little like this on the island,'' said Mr Stevens, who has lived in Hong Kong for 47 years and is organising the sale himself. ''This could be a good investment. The way Lamma has grown, I expect we'll see high rises here some day.'' The asking price is a record for Lamma, according to property agents, with the previous best no more than $10 million. Flats usually sell at an average of $1.4 million per floor. For your $12 million, buyers could choose between a top-end studio flat at Repulse Bay, a modest apartment on the Peak, or even a lavish 2,500-square-feet unit at Hong Kong's South Horizons development - which overlooks Lamma Island. Mr and Mrs Stevens originally moved into one of the houses in Po Wah Yuen village in 1984. When, two years later, the next door unit went on the market, they also bought that and merged the two properties. ''We've entertained parties of 50 people easily here,'' Mr Stevens said. ''With musicians, of course.'' Mr Stevens grew up in Hong Kong after his family fled the Japanese occupation of Shanghai during World War II. His father worked in insurance on marine vessels and Mr Stevens joined the business after university in England. He long ago sold the family business and retired to a Lamma life of leisure. In true colonial style, he plans to sail off into the sunset. But he will do so in his own boat, the 20-metre yacht Mandalay, which was once Hong Kong's largest sailing vessel. The couple has already purchased a home in New Zealand and plan to sail there with five-year-old son Patrick in October. ''I never thought we'd be leaving Lamma,'' said Mrs Stevens, who came to Hong Kong in 1976 for a holiday and stayed. ''People always wondered how we could live on Lamma, which they thought was 'on the fringe'. But I don't think I could have stayed here so long without Lamma.'' She has fond memories of a sleepy island with fewer than 50 foreign residents, all on a first name basis. ''Lamma used to be so peaceful - I definitely have mixed feelings about leaving, but it's time to go,'' she said.