Island shopping

Marketplace Staff Jul 13, 2007

Island shopping

Marketplace Staff Jul 13, 2007


Scott Jagow: Marlon Brando had one. James Cagney won his in a poker game. I think Leo DiCaprio owns one too. I’m talking about private islands. Actually, these days, you don’t have to super-rich to buy your own island. We decided to look into the San Juan Islands near Seattle.Here’s Chana Joffe-Walt:

Chana Joffe-Walt: Shopping for an island is like buying a house. First, you check out the property. And if you’re looking for a San Juan beauty, realtor Wally Gudgell can get you there in a boat that’s perfect for you.

Wally Gudgell: I have a big boat for nouveau riche kind of people ’cause they like to be pampered. And then I have a little boat for old money people. Old money people want to be treated like a regular guy.

Joffe-Walt: What boat are we gonna be taking now?

Gudgell: We’re gonna take the little boat. . . no offense.

Joffe-Walt: So you think I’m old money?

Gudgell: Yeah you look like old money.

Hmmm. . . must be my sweater vest.

Anyway we jump in the regular guy boat and jet through a series of rounded, lush green islands jumping out of the water.

Gudgell: This is Little Devil Island, it’s about 2 acres, well it’s actually 3.5 acres.

The couple on the island next door bought Devil a few years ago, you know, as a guest island. But they haven’t used it much so it’s on the market for almost $4 million. Gudgell says plenty of people can afford that:

Gudgell: It’s true the world is awash in cash.

I can’t afford to buy this private paradise, but now islands are going for as little as a couple hundred thousand. And close to home too — off the coasts of Mexico, Canada and Connecticut.

Private island realtors say they’re getting more calls and some increased sales. Wally Gudgell says duh. Security and privacy are increasingly scarce. Plus . . .

Gudgell: Most men would kill to live on their own island.

And now there are always cell phones, satellites and crackberries to keep you company. But you can turn it all off and be here, among the wildflowers.

Well, I’m sold. That is, until I finish off my water bottle.

Joffe-Walt: So I have one other question: Is there a bathroom?

Gudgell: Oh, no you just go in the woods.

Joffe-Walt: I’ll wait. Thanks.

That’s the thing about buying an island. There’s nothing here, no bathroom, no septic system, no electricity. It’s up to the buyer to set that stuff up.

On this island, Gudgell said it’d run $250,000 to put all that in.

In the San Juan Islands, I’m Chana Joffe-Walt for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.