How to Buy Your Own Island

Nearly everyone dreams of owning their own private island, but for most it seems like nothing more than fantasy. The truth is that there is an entire island …

Nearly everyone dreams of owning their own private island, but for most it seems like nothing more than fantasy. The truth is that there is an entire island real estate market and the recession has opened many doors to paradise. For example, those looking for a short-term commitment may want to try renting Watch Island off the coast of New York for $4,000 a month, which includes a Victorian home that accommodates 20. Those who are looking for a construction opportunity may want to look at Isla Gatun on Lake Gatun, Panama, which is selling for $30,000. Big spenders will want to take a look at James Island off the coast of British Columbia, which is selling for a cool $75 million and includes an entire Old West-style town and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course for amusement. For more on this continue reading the following article from TheStreet.

Private islands weren’t much of a refuge during the recession, but the island real estate market is starting to look a bit more serene.  

Back in 2009, private islands were lingering on the market with scarcely a buyer in sight. The price of an oasis on the water was dropping 50% from original listings. Today, prices for developed private islands are still lofty, but there are a few other ways to get your foot on the sand that aren’t quite so costly.

We thumbed through the listings and found 10 examples of private islands available to those with either the time or inclination. While some are as glitzy and palatial as real estate daydreamers might imagine, others may leave potential buyers wondering how they’re going to get a work crew out there or what it’s going to take to kill the swarms of flies buzzing around their potential paradise:  

Watch Island
Location: St. Lawrence Seaway off New York State
Price: $4,000 a week/rent  

If you don’t have the cash to buy your own island right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t try one on for size. This three-acre island is one of the seaway’s 1,000 Islands between New York and Canada and has a 6,500-square-foot, 1901-vintage Victorian home on its shores. The home has 10 bedrooms with room for 20 people, four bathrooms, a living room with a fireplace and piano, a dining room with windows overlooking the seaway, satellite television and Internet access. It’s as private as an island gets, but close enough to civilization to just jaunt back if the novelty wears off.  

Isla Gatun
Location: Lake Gatun, Panama
Price: $30,000  

If you want a private island for minimal investment, this is how you have to do it. Located on one of the largest manmade lakes in the world, this 0.75-acre patch looks like a desolate opening in the middle of the jungle, but it’s fairly close to the mainland and minutes away from nearby towns, marinas and restaurants. The house that once occupied it was torn down, leaving only the septic tank and a toilet on the island’s high point. Construction will be a must, but mobile phone coverage and electric supply right near the coast should help you get started. Did we mention your neighbors will include monkeys, parrots and toucans? It’s not much to start with, but it’s yours.  

McGibbon Island
Location: St. John River near Fredericton, New Brunswick
Price: $34,000  

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No palm trees, chaise lounges or lime-laden bottles of tepid Mexican beer here, friend. This 6.25-acre island is filled with grass, low trees and nothing. There are great views of the rolling hills and campground on the mainland, but if you want to stay here for any lengthy amount of time you’re going to have to tack the price of a cabin onto that total. Oh, and that cabin might have to be a houseboat, as the island doesn’t allow for any permanent homes because of spring flooding. When you’re looking in the discount bin for private islands, sometimes you have to take the one that floods every eight months or so.  

Pigeon Island
Location: The Caribbean, just off of Nicaragua
Price: $69,000  

Now this is a bit more like the island dream: a gorgeous spot on the Caribbean on a rocky hill surrounded by lush vegetation, sea turtles, tropical birds and some of the best fishing in the world. By the way, you’re getting only one of five 7.2-acre plots. Oh, and you’ll still be responsible for building your own home and installing your own water, septic and electric systems. And you’d be sharing the natural marina with your neighbors. If your idea of island paradise is a homeowners association where no one can hear you scream, this is a great deal.  

Long Caye Island
Location: The Caribbean, just off of Belize
Price: $95,000  

If you’re going to have to share your island, you may as well have everything set up for you. This is only a quarter-acre parcel on Long Caye, but it comes with a modern home that sleeps eight in one queen and six single bunks. Kitchen equipment, a stereo, coffee maker, ceiling fans and tools for building maintenance are included, as are slightly more important amenities such as a propane-powered hot water heater, water purification unit and a power system. It also includes a 1989 four-cylinder Honda Accord as an island car for trips to the mainland. It’s not "private" in the grand sense of the word, but it’s far enough from the neighbors to feel that way and still close enough to diving spots at Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye to feel a world away.  

Sweet Island
Location: Stuart Lake, British Columbia
Price: $130,000  

Canada can be a pretty sweet deal for private islands, mostly because of the cold and the lack of palm trees and sandy beaches. This island, however, sits in the middle of a lake teeming with rainbow trout, lake trout and sturgeon. There’s already an old house on the island with all the necessary amenities, but the words "in disrepair" suggest that some construction may be a sound idea. The three-acre, lofty island would be all yours and just a quick trip away to the tourist town of Fort St. James on the shoreline.  

Birch Island
Location: Moosehead Lake in Greenvile, Maine
Price: $550,000  

Even in the cooler climates, private islands get costlier when they have a U.S. ZIP code. This six-acre island, however, was developed in 1968 and includes a main home as well as guest cabins, boat house, dock, canoe and two motorboats. The log cabin-style big house features a stone wood-burning fireplace, hardwood floors and panoramic lake and mountain views. It’s also been on the market a while, and has had its price dropped by $100,000 since last summer.  

E. Sister Rock Island
Location: Marathon, Fla., in the Florida Keys
Price: $12 million  

If you want anything resembling true paradise, you have to spend like someone getting away from it all. This 5,000-square-foot house is surrounded by white sand and coral reef and has a 360-degree beachfront. Built in 1980 as a family vacation home, the estate’s wrap-around porch measures 2,700 square feet, with 19 sliding glass doors for access. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home comes with a one-bed, one-bath guest house and a private dock with 21-foot boat included. If hesitant homebuyers don’t want to dive right in and snorkel the private reef immediately, they can dip a toe and rent the place for $5,000 a week.  

140 Wallacks Drive
Location: Stamford, Conn., on Long Island Sound
Price: $15.4 million  

It’s tough to own a private island when you still have to commute into the city for work each day. Built in 1909, the 11-bedroom, 14,000-square-foot home sits on a 3.5-acre island and includes a guest cottage, staff quarters and working greenhouse. It also contains a library, beautifully sculpted grounds and a private dock just in case the Metro-North is running late and you have to boat it in to Manhattan. This island may help buyers feel like they’re getting away from it all, but shoppers may think the "it all" of Stamford’s financial district and Manhattan commuters are just a bit close for comfort. The island was listed at $18.9 million last year but dropped its price when no Connecticut castaways appeared on its shores.

James Island
Location: The Gulf Islands off British Columbia
Price: $75 million  

If you’re going to try to live like Richard Branson, Johnny Depp or Dr. Evil, you may as well spend like them. This 780-acre isle includes sandy beaches, a marina, an airstrip and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course among its finer attributes. There’s also a 5,000-square-foot main house, six guest cottages and what is easily the best toy a rich boomer ever gave himself: an entire Old West town with a store, library, kitchens and a gym. The island was the property and brainchild of cellphone pioneer and Clearwire founder Craig McCaw, whose guests on the island included Bill Gates and Quincy Jones.  

This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.


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