If you’re looking for something more than a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, there’s always an island to consider. Private islands can bring to mind faraway regions such as the Mediterranean or South Pacific, but the reality is some are in places in the United States that might come as a surprise, for example, off the coast of Connecticut, near downtown Charleston, South Carolina, in Wisconsin, Georgia, Montana, West Virginia, Illinois and western Minnesota.
“A huge privacy gate and oversized shrubs aren’t enough for deep-pocketed buyers who truly value privacy,” said Erik Gunther, realtor.com’s senior editor. “They’d rather be surrounded by water on all sides and disconnect entirely from the mainland. So why not buy an entire private island?”
Gunther said there are islands for sale in the United States, spanning “from the quiet coast of Washington state down to the sun-kissed Florida Keys. Anyone can buy them too, if they have the dough and a desire to disconnect.”
A simple keyword search of “island” on real estate websites will show private islands for sale.
For example, Potato Island, just off the coast of Connecticut in Long Island Sound’s Thimble Island chain, is a 1.1-acre property on the market for $4.9 million. In addition to the island, the buyer will own a 3,871-square-foot Cape Cod-style home that was built in 1912 and fully renovated in 1998, a heated swimming pool and deep-water dock.
It’s understandable that listing agent John Campbell, of Page Taft Real Estate in Madison, Connecticut, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, would want to eliminate notions that life on this man-made island would be similar to the life of a castaway on a tropical island.
“It’s funny, when you’re selling an island, it’s imperative that you dispel all those preconceived notions about isolation,” he said. “It isn’t Gilligan’s Island, but every time someone thinks of an island they immediately conjure up visions of the professor and Mary Ann on the island. When you’re selling something like this, the key to real estate is being able to handle rejection and what may be people’s incorrect perception.”
In fact, Potato Island resembles a mini resort. “I mean you’ve got a heated gunite pool, spectacular garden, wrap-around porch, annex, a spectacularly renovated home, public water and a generator,” Campbell said.
This is the misunderstood world he lives in and endeavors to correct. For example, Campbell wants prospective buyers to know that municipal services are provided to Potato Island homeowners.
“They enjoy all the services available to waterfront homes,” said Campbell. “They’ve got their trash picked up, pool cleaned, septic system pumped. Basically, they’ve got all the services that you’ve got for a waterfront home except maybe for pizza delivery. These owners actually get to the grocery store faster than I could on the mainland. It’s a two-minute boat ride in. When you explain that to people, they kind of look at you like, ‘oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize that.’ But yeah, the trash guys come and pick up their trash, the lawn guys come, the pool guys come.”
Campbell takes pride in knowing the future owners will receive a special perk.
“Part of our offering is not only the island itself, which is a mini oasis, but we also offer a place to park your car and dock your boat,” he said. “And I think that’s important, because that kind of eliminates the inconvenient objection.”
Now that Campbell has become quite familiar with the island, having had it on the market for a year, he doesn’t think it should be that tough of a sale.
“I’ve spent a decent amount of time out there, and you enjoy these 360-degree views that are always changing,” he said, adding that it’s “complete sensory overload.”
Large windows take full advantage of coastal views. Upstairs are four bedrooms, including the master suite, which features north- and south-facing porches. A wraparound porch offers scenic views of the islands, the sea and the lush gardens. Watching the lights twinkling on shore in the evening is fascinating.
Campbell said, “If you look at the island like you would the face of a clock, you can sit somewhere on it for each minute and have a completely different view of the sound, the island, the shoreline. To me, it’s peace and tranquility.”
The main attraction to a waterfront or island buyer is always privacy, Campbell said, adding that aside from aesthetics and location, “privacy ranks at the top of most of your waterfront home buyers’ wish lists. They don’t want their neighbors close enough to watch them shower.”
There is something to be said about an island lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of an urban area.
“On the island, the only uninvited guests or visitors you’ve got are some beautiful birds and maybe a school of fish every once and awhile,” said Campbell. “As far as traffic is concerned, maybe a passing boat. What’s interesting, too, is another attribute that Potato Island has that some of the other islands don’t have is it only has one residence on it, unlike Governor Island which is on the other side of Potato Island. It has several residences on it. So the owner of Potato Island has complete privacy, and by the way, complete control of their environment.”
Campbell said it’s obvious the new owners would only receive visitors they choose to invite. “You basically don’t have the traffic,” he said. “You don’t have all those annoyances that you have on land. Your neighbors aren’t close by. So you’re pretty much to a degree in control of your environment. I call it the difference between isolation and insulation. You’re not isolated but you’re insulated from all those little annoyances that distract you from a relaxing atmosphere.”
However, there is the confidence that you could get in your boat and be on shore in two minutes. “And I’m not talking a high-speed boat,” said Campbell. He said the ferry captains also “never, ever” miss an opportunity to give guests information on the Thimble islands on there way out.
The Potato Island residents often visit Governor Island dwellers. “They get together for barbecues, cocktails,” Campbell said. “It’s like a neighborhood, but it’s interesting. You’ll know when you’re neighbors are coming because they can’t just walk across the street.”
Campbell figures two types of people would be ideal Potato Island buyers. “One is a high-energy, hard-charging individual who’s looking for a private spot to unwind or entertain a small group of friends unencumbered,” he said. “On the other hand, I really see an artist or writer looking for a space that provides inspiration and creativity. The two most recent interested parties in Potato Island were artists. So it’s not all the high net-worth people, but some people looking for creativity and space where they can get some inspiration.”