Buying your own private island in Australia is cheaper than you might think, but there’s one reason it’s not for everyone.
It may seem like an idyllic lifestyle, but not many people can handle living on an island full time.
Richard Vanhoff, a Queensland-based broker who specializes in island sales, says that about 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. Islands will send you troppo,” he told news.com.au.
Mr Vanhoff, who has lived on Hamilton Island for 18 years, said island fever is real, 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 were extremely successful in their business careers and were “looking for that next reward”.
The lonely nature of island life can affect people, but Mr Vanhoff said that many people passed by in boats, so it was possible to make friends if people wanted to be social.
“It’s generally like-minded people and people passing in ships, and every island has a radio,” he said.
Mr Vanhoff says it is up to the owners whether they want 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.
“If you buy an island, you get a lot of new friends,” says Vanhoff.
How much does it cost to buy an island?
For Australians interested in island living, they generally have to be willing to pay upwards of $1 million to buy their own slice of paradise – which isn’t that expensive as the average house price in Sydney now exceeds that amount.
But it’s the other associated costs that buyers should pay attention to.
“You have to have your own boat and many islands now have airstrips, and that often helps [with access]Vanhoff says.
He said most of the islands were easily accessible if you had a plane, but some were not. However, the new generation of aircraft designed to land on beaches make access easier.
He said his daughter Aleksia was part of a new generation of island visitors, who spent weekends flying to private islands, some of which were previously only accessible by boat.
“You land the plane on the beach and enjoy a Robinson Crusoe lifestyle, sleeping in a tent under the wing of the plane,” he said.
With many acres of land to take care of, living on an island also involves a lot of maintenance. Fortunately, there is no shortage of workers eager to work as caregivers.
“If you’re looking for an island manager, all you have to do is whisper it, and you’ll be swamped,” said Mr Vanhoff.
“There are so many good people who love the island life and it is a prestigious job and certainly a lot of interest in the care or maintenance.”
Some islands are managed as vacation destinations and may require owners to have some knowledge of operating and repairing boats for guests to use.
As an example, Mr. Vanhoff said that Sweers Island, which is currently selling for $3.95 million, is suitable for a group of friends who enjoy fishing.
They should have experience in mechanics as there were eight separate boat engines to service.
“You have to have experience driving and fishing to understand what lines you need to host guests and you also have to be a bit of a restaurateur because you have to feed them,” he said.
“So you need a group with versatile interests in mechanics and food to run the island.”
Bargain Island for just $385,000
However, not every island is expensive.
Located on the Richmond River, between Evans Heads and Ballina in NSW, Goat Island recently sold for just $385,000, although Mr Vanhoff said it was unusual for an island to be this cheap.
“It went very quickly to a family from Queensland who improved livability and habitability,” he said.
Mr Vanhoff said the family bought a barge and a boat to facilitate access and converted a warehouse on the property into a home.
Another reason it was so cheap was because there were only six years left.
Mr Vanhoff said private islands in Australia are usually sold as long-term leases because those with private lands – which can be sold as land-based properties – were quite rare and expensive.
Many islands used as resorts generally have a “perpetual leasehold” of about 100 years.
It is more common for common owners to buy with a “term lease” for about 20 to 25 years. These leases can be extended with the government, or the owner can sell or relinquish them.
“Once you get used to the idea of leasehold, it’s as good as ownership. In Canberra, all properties are sold on leasehold, but they don’t have a waterfront unless you’re near Lake Burley Griffin,” he said.
While Mr. Vanhoff now lives on the mainland again, he considers retiring on an island.
“Someone said to me, ‘You must have one of the best jobs in the world. To be honest, it’s the best job in the world,” he said.