Private Islands on Sale for Less Than a House

·Associate Travel Editor

For $82,000 you could buy the house on the left in Ocean Park, Wash., or you could buy the island on the right in British Columbia, Canada. (Left photo: Zillow/Right photo: Private Islands Online)

Perhaps you read our recent story from a couple who bought their own island for $15,000 10 years ago and turned it into a successful resort and fantasized about having an exotic beach all to yourself as well. Or maybe you simply thought, “How much does a private island cost, exactly?” 

Run a few searches on Private Islands Online, and you can learn a lot about whether you’ll want to indulge that fantasy. The online marketplace, established in 1999, lists islands for sale around the world, and while many are definitely in the Richard Branson-only range, we found four private islands available for less than $100,000 and another eight private islands on sale for less than $200,000 in North America, Europe, and Central America. That’s no impulse buy, but it’s roughly the median sales price of a house in the U.S. ($178,000).

Of course, when buying an island, there are strings attached that your average suburban home doesn’t have, such as the boat you’ll need to reach that island, regulations for development such as electricity or dredging, and mosquitoes — oh, the mosquitoes. But if you want to put in the time and money or if you have the right friends to chip in with you, the dream may be within reach. Especially if you’re able to rent out the property while you’re not there.

Private Islands Online CEO Chris Krolow told Yahoo Travel that the site gets about 100 new private listings a year, and the best bargains from our search were mostly in the northeastern U.S. and Canada. Islands in that region also tend to be freehold, which means you’ll be buying the island outright. For leasehold islands, which tend to be in Asia or the South Pacific, you’ll be buying a long-term lease of 30 to 99 years, and they often come with more developmental restrictions. Of course, Asian and South Pacific islands tend to have better year-round weather than North America, so there are pros and cons both ways.

Since the cheapest islands are completely or mostly undeveloped, you’ll want to do your homework on each region’s rules and calculate how much it will cost to make additions such as a cottage or dock. Not to mention you’ll need a boat for that dock.

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The asking price for this island in Ontario, Canada is just under $100,000. (Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online)

“Permits are a really important thing to consider,” said Krolow, who’s also the host of Island Hunters on HGTV. “Make sure you can legally build whatever you have envisioned for your undeveloped island before making the purchase.

“Environmental laws differ from region to region. For example, Greek islands require a lot of permits to build, and islands in Ontario can’t be built on if they’re less than an acre in size. Building on an island from the ground up can be costly.”

Related:  How Visiting a Remote Island Helped Me Connect to the World After Losing My Mom

Another challenge to consider before you buy: You’ll need to have lots of cash, because banks typically don’t lend money for island purchases. And appraising the true worth of an island will be impossible in many cases. Bottom line: If you don’t love it, don’t buy it.

Of course, you’re not going to consider giving up the city life for the life of Robinson Crusoe based off a few pixilated photos. Private Islands Online will put you in contact with either the island’s owner or an agent to exchange more information and set up a visit.

Here are the cheapest private islands for sale right now (this list excludes parcels, which only buy you part of the island, because who wants to share.):

Chandler Island: Wohoa Bay, Maine

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $39,999
Size: 1 acre
Developed, freehold

If you want a starter island, this is the one for you at the cost of a new BMW. While the island is listed at 1 acre, it’s just half an acre during high tide, so we’ll go ahead and use the real estate term “cozy” to describe it. This can be a cool weekend retreat if you already live in the Northeast: It’s 70 miles southeast of Bangor, Maine, and 230 boat miles northeast of Boston.

While the island is listed as developed, all we see in the pictures is a tiny, gazebolike structure surrounded by lots of shrubbery. So bring your tools, and build yourself a tiny home, like this guy did.

Inishbigger Island: County Galway, Ireland

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $92,861
Size: 13 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

If you’ve ever wanted your own Irish island with a castle, you can at least get half of that for less than $100,000. You’ll be getting an ample chunk of land to build a small, DIY castle, and it’s a quick road trip from the mainland of western Ireland: The listing says it’s 200 meters from the mainland, near the town of Carna. 

Little Island: Ontario, Canada

Asking price: $99,897
Size: 0.5 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

Attention, fishing enthusiasts: This island’s listing says it was a popular live-work outpost for commercial fishermen (the remains of their homes are still here). So you won’t need a seafood restaurant to eat well here. The listing also says that the island is more like 2 acres in size, despite what the deed says. It’s 3½ miles from Manitoulin Island, which gets daily ferry service from the Ontario mainland. 

Sweet Island: Stuart Lake, British Columbia, Canada

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $82,900 (negotiable)
Size: 3.3 acres
Developed, freehold

You’ll have some landscaping to do if you buy this island: It looks to be swallowed by pine and aspen trees, though the listing does say there’s half an acre cleared for a garden, and there’s a solid foundation to rebuild the dilapidated home. It’s got a good location going for it, on Stuart Lake in British Columbia, with abundant fishing and boating available.

Leader Island: Jeddore Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada

Asking price: $163,908
Size: 11 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

The acreage and location of this island, which includes a cove, are both strong selling points. It’s just a quarter-mile off the mainland in Nova Scotia and 30 minutes north of the Halifax airport. Says the listing of Jeddore Harbour: “Food, liquor, building supplies and bowling are a mere 10 minutes drive away.” And what else does an island owner need, really?

American Island: Stuart Lake, British Columbia, Canada

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $169,727
Size: 8 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

Like Sweet Island, this is also in Stuart Lake, though it’s more than double the size, with more than 3,000 feet of shoreline. Either you have to love trees or you have to get rid of some, because they thoroughly blanket the island. 

Fisherman’s Point Island: Lake Saint Clair, Mich.

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $175,000
Size: 2 acres
Developed, freehold

While this Michigan island near the Canadian border is on the smaller side, it does come with a cottage, which the owner says has electricity and a new roof, windows, door, septic system, and siding. So even during the winter, you could live comfortably here, and ice fishing is said to be popular in these parts.

Lark Caye, Belize

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $175,000
Size: 2.2 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

A Caribbean island for less than $200,000? Now we’re talking. Unlike the previous islands on this list, you won’t need a heavy jacket to hang out in this neck of the woods during the winter months. The beach here looks appealing in the photos, the listing promises good snorkeling and fishing, and the island is in a tourist-friendly location near the village of Placencia. 

Mannions Island: West Cork, Ireland

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $185,722
Size: 4 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

Located in Dunmanus Bay, this island has the benefit of being less than 200 meters from the Irish mainland, and it’s also close to Durrus Village. The listing says there’s a small, sheltered cove to the east of the island. 

Related: Living Abroad: A Nomad’s Guide to Home-Loose Living

Jones Island: Argyle, Nova Scotia, Canada

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $189,124
Size: 54 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

There’s reason to be skeptical of this listing: It says the 54 acres actually cover three interconnected islands, and it’s dependent on the seller providing a good title to the entire land. So you’ll want to do your homework. But if the owner checks out, this is one hefty chunk of grassy real estate. With a high elevation and little tree interference, you’re promised a 360 degree view of the ocean and surrounding islands. 

Staff Island: Upper Lough Erne, Ireland

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $193,227
Size: 10.25 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

Here’s a healthy chunk of untouched Irish island that’s said to be near Knockninny Quay and its tourist attractions. While it looks very wooded in the photos, the owner says it has enough “open space between trees to make a stroll around the island a very pleasant experience.” 

Deer Bay French River Island: Ontario, Canada

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Photo: Courtesy of Private Islands Online

Asking price: $193,489
Size: 2 acres
Undeveloped, freehold

It’s snug at 2 acres, but the island seller is promising diversity on this quartz-and-mica island in a bay near French River: white pine and cedar trees, blueberry bushes, and flowers. It’s five minutes from the mainland and has access to underwater electricity, though you’ll need a permit to get it on your island.

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