Eager buyers trying to get a foot on the property ladder could snap up a tropical island for the price of a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney, a real estate agent says.
Key points:Queensland's private island market is seeing plenty of activity amid the pandemic-driven shift away from the citiesIslands have sold for as little as $320,000 in the past 12 monthsREIQ says the realities of island life might not match the dream and that it's not for everyone
Private islands are no longer just a privilege for billionaires like Richard Branson as buyers look beyond the mainland to get more bang for their buck.
"There is a greater interest," Richard Vanhoff, a real estate agent specialising in islands, said.
"With the pricing of southern states, they are paying big money for houses and they still don't get the waterfront.
"When you are buying an island, you get all the waterfront."
Around Australia, private Islands have been snapped up in the past 12 months for as little as $320,000.
Queenslander Craig Becky was searching for an investment property last year when he found an offer too good to pass up.
"I actually saw it on a morning TV show and it was touted as the cheapest island in Australia," he said.
"I thought, 'Oh it's in my price range.'
"I just never had in my mind I would buy an island one day, but when it came up, I thought, 'I just have to have it.'
"Life is short."
'Everything is on island time'
Mr Becky is now the proud owner of Worthington Island, off the coast of Gladstone, which he bought for "well under" the asking price of $385,000.
The 27-hectare island has an off-the grid beach shack and a private airstrip.
"It's not what everybody thinks of — palm trees and white sand," Mr Becky said.
"it's more mangroves and crabbing and fishing. It's like a big bush block with a shack on it.
"It's really relaxing … have a fish, have a nap, go for a walk around.
"It's beautiful, I love it."
But the lifestyle does not come without challenges — Mr Becky doesn't get much in return for his rates, with no-one to pick up the weekly rubbish and access to the island is at the mercy of the tides.
But for this island owner, the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences.
"Everything is on island time," he said.
"The thing I love is that there are no neighbours."
A wise investment?
The sale of islands is consistent with buying patterns since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).
"What we are seeing is that many people are wanting to buy regional properties because of the lifestyle," REIQ chief executive Antonia Mercorella said.
But she said it was difficult to gauge whether the obsession with space would remain when things got back to normal.
"Before you invest, I think you really need to think about the practicalities of it," Ms Mercorella said.
"In some cases the island can be quite remote and difficult and expensive to get to.
"It's not something you would buy for the purpose of flipping — you would want to be buying it with the view to perhaps holding onto it for the longer term."
What's on the market?
Judging by available listings, an island lifestyle can be achieved for any price.
Poole Island in the Whitsundays has a million dollar price tag, while Temple Island off the coast of Mackay is on the market for $1.7m.
Or, if you've got a spare $15m, perhaps Marble Island off the central Queensland coast is more to your liking.
Mr Vanhoff said the lengthy lockdowns in southern states over the past two years had made the freedom of island living hugely appealing.
"People are sitting back in those areas that are in restrictions thinking about life and thinking about their future," he said.
"I guess islands come to mind — they go, 'Oh, wouldn't we like to do that, that would be great, we wouldn't have to put up with this.'
"I get the odd call when there is a big lotto being presented.
"They'll ring me and get all the information out of me and get all excited because their clairvoyant told them they would win and then they don't win.
"But it's all good fun."
Ms Mercorella said while private islands were being marketed more regularly, their sale remained unusual.
"It's probably a fantasy that many of us have," she said.
"But I think for the majority of us, practicality and reality probably sets in and prevents us from making the choice."
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