Buying your own private island in Australia is cheaper than you might think – but there’s a reason it’s not for everyone.
It may seem like an idyllic lifestyle, but not very many people can handle living on an island full-time.
Richard Vanhoff, a Queensland-based real estate agent who specializes in island sales, says around 60 to 70 percent of people who own islands in Australia only live on them part-time.
“I think it’s important to do that. The islands will send you troppo,” he told news.com.au.
Mr Vanhoff, who lived on Hamilton Island for 18 years, said island fever is a real thing, something that can affect anyone – even the “captains of industry” and other successful businessmen who are the main buyers of islands in Australia.
Mr Vanhoff said most people who bought islands had been extremely successful in their business careers and were “looking for the next reward”.
The solitude of island life can be touching for people, but Mr Vanhoff said there are lots of people passing by in boats so it’s possible to make friends when people want to socialize.
“They’re generally like-minded people and people who come by in ships and every island has a radio,” he said.
Mr Vanhoff said it was up to the owners whether they wanted to respond to messages on the radio and invite people to their islands. Some visitors are welcome, especially if they offer to bring supplies from the mainland.
“Buying an island brings a lot of new friends,” said Mr. Vanhoff.
How much does it cost to buy an island?
Australians interested in island living generally have to be prepared to shell out upwards of $1 million to buy their own piece of paradise – which isn’t that expensive considering the average house price in Sydney is now that amount exceeds.
But it’s the other associated costs that buyers need to keep in mind.
“You have to own your own boat and a lot of islands now have runways and that often helps [with access]’ said Mr Vanhoff.
He said most of the islands are easy to get to by plane, but some aren’t. However, new generation aircraft designed to land on beaches make access easier.
He said his daughter Aleksia is part of a new generation of island visitors who are spending weekends flying to private islands, some of which were previously only accessible by boat.
“You land the plane on the beach and enjoy the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle, sleeping in a tent under the plane’s wing,” he said.
With acres of land to tend, living on an island comes with a lot of maintenance too. Fortunately, there is no shortage of workers willing to work as janitors.
“If you’re looking for a caretaker for an island, all you have to do is whisper it and you’re inundated,” said Mr. Vanhoff.
“There are so many good people out there who love the island life and it’s a prestigious job and certainly a keen interest on the janitorial or maintenance side.”
Some islands operate as holiday destinations and may require owners to have knowledge of operating and repairing boats for use by guests.
As an example, Mr Vanhoff said Sweers Island, which is currently selling for $3.95 million, would be suitable for a group of friends who enjoy fishing.
You would need to have experience in mechanics as there were eight separate boat engines to service.
“You have to have driving and fishing experience to understand what lines you need to entertain guests, and you also have to be a bit of a restaurateur because you have to feed them,” he said.
“So it takes a group with a mixed interest in mechanics and food to rule the island.”
Bargain Island for just $385,000
However, not every island is expensive.
Goat Island on the Richmond River between Evans Heads and Ballina in NSW recently sold for just $385,000, although Mr Vanhoff said it was unusual for an island to be so cheap.
“It went very quickly to a Queensland family that improved livability and livability,” he said.
Mr Vanhoff said the family bought a barge and boat for easier access and converted a packing shed on the property into a home.
Another reason it was so cheap was that the lease only lasted six years.
Mr Vanhoff said private islands in Australia are mainly sold as long-term leases because those with condominiums – which could be sold like land on the mainland – are quite rare and expensive.
Many islands used as resorts generally have “perpetual leases” of around 100 years.
It is more common for ordinary owners to buy on a “fixed term lease” for around 20 to 25 years. These leases can be renewed with the government, or the owner can sell or abandon them.
“Once you get used to the idea of leasehold, it’s as good as owning it. In Canberra, all lots are leasehold – but they don’t have a waterfront unless you’re near Lake Burley Griffin,” he said.
Now back on the mainland, Mr. Vanhoff is considering retiring to an island.
“Someone told me you must have one of the best jobs in the world. It’s the best job in the world to be honest,” he said.