Buying a Private Island as an Investment? Think Again!

A tell-tale sign of exuberance during the 90’s was the ownership of a private island. Since the recession, folks have wised up about showing off their exemplary wealth or fancy taste and scaled back. But, maybe a private island could provide an excellent investment opportunity in this market. The reality is though, that the costs of maintaining it, along with the initial cost are likely too high to make it anything more than an expensive piece of vacation property.

Day Dreaming and the Costs of Owning an Island

Buying a Private IslandI admit. I’ve done it before. And I still have dreams of owning a private island. Mine wouldn’t be tropical and full of palm trees and sand. I much more imagine myself with a small castle in the Thousand Islands region, with a boat garage, small garden, wooded area and the piece and tranquility of living on an island. Not to mention I’d feel like a king. What a great way to start a micronation!

What I always forget though is the immense cost of owning an island. I will go on websites like, which is the premier resource for research and price trends. I will scour the cheaper section (Great Lakes islands), fall in love with a particular island and then hours later realize, it will probably never happen. Here’s why.

Islands are Expensive to Hook Up

Even those islands that have all of the basics, running water and electricity are incredibly expensive to maintain, as opposed to living on the mainland. Further, if you’re looking for an island that is widely undeveloped, perhaps one that is currently being used for camping or hunting and fishing, forget about it. The cost to hook all of that up will begin to rival the cost you paid for the island.

Erosion Can be a Serious Problem

I remember visiting many islands in Lake Erie as a child. It is amazing coming back as an adult and seeing how much erosion has occurred on waterfront properties. Even with rehabilitation efforts, the constant pumping of sand, concrete and building of break walls, a number of smaller islands have lost acres within the last 10 years. Ocean properties might be in better shape with the reefs surrounding those islands but one would have to be very careful in not disturbing that process.

Flooding is a Reality

A number of islands I was looking at seemed like real winners, great prices, steals in fact! I wondered how they got that way, until I realized that they were at or below the flood plane. Yes, they were rewarding times for camping in the summer or hunting during the winter but any amount of rainfall or snow melting in spring sent them almost back underwater. This would undoubtedly ruin any infrastructure.

What do you Think? Are Islands a Good Investment?

I’m not expert. I don’t know how they appreciate like other pieces of real estate but have a hard time committing to them with those three variables illustrated above. Perhaps a smart buyer has a seasonal rental idea in mind with a great marketing plan.

Another idea someone proposed to me was to form a corporation to buy an island with a number of family or friends, each contributing equal amounts of money. The island would then be set to a calendar, allowing certain members to stay on certain days. Expenses would be split and a number of free days would be open for it to be rented out.

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