For Sale: A House In The (Connecticut) Islands
September 05, 2012|By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN, firstname.lastname@example.org, The Hartford Courant
Owning an island has its charms — the peace and quiet, the independence, and, of course, the water views.
Then again, there's the boat ride necessary to borrow a cup of sugar.
Still, if that balance appeals to you, there are at least half a dozen islands up for sale in Connecticut, including two just listed last week in the fabled Thimble Islands off the coast of Branford. Some are pricey, running well into the millions. Others have had price reductions reflecting the downturn, including one that's now affordable to someone other than a millionaire.
Jon King has owned Underwood Island on Coventry Lake for 20 years and has been trying to sell it — on and off — for two years. Most of the people he brings out to the 2-acre island, which lists for a modest $245,000, are curiosity-seekers.
"A lot of people just want to see it," King said. "They are curious about what it would be like to live on an island."
In addition to Coventry and Branford, there are islands for sale off Westport, Guilford and Stamford, with prices ranging from $1.5 million to $15.4 million.
Heiress Christine Svenningsen spent tens of millions since the late 1990s buying nine islands in the Thimbles — a chain of small islands rumored to be buccaneer Captain Kidd's secret hiding place for buried treasure. Svenningsen is now Jepson Island for just under $2 million and the larger Belden Island for $3.8 million, both above what she paid.
Celebrities including Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and Nicholas Cage highlight the ranks of island owners. But even stars avoiding paparazzi can understand the desire for seclusion these days, said clinical psychologist Stephen Goldbart, co-founder of the San Francisco-based , Meaning & Choices Institute.
"We are all living in a world where there isn't much privacy," Goldbart said. One of his clients has bought an island, and several others are interested. "The need for feeling has increased radically since the economic downturn."
U.S., Canadian and British buyers make up about 80 percent of the market; far-flung locales such as the Caribbean have a more buyer base, he said. The Bahamas and Belize are hot, as is Panama. In the Mediterranean, Greek islands are popular.
"These types of people are looking to create something for themselves, to put up a flag and say, 'This is my own little country,'" Krolow said. "They all tend to be very entrepreneurial. Not just the wealthy, but those who are determined to do something different."
Tony Nuzzo, one of the listing agents for the islands off Branford, said he hopes to tap into New York's second-home , offering the Thimbles as an attractive alternative to Long Island and the Hamptons.
The listings are the first time that an entire island in the Thimbles has been for sale in at least five years, according to listing agents at William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Madison. Despite recent "substantial" at some properties, none of the houses are occupied year-round, Nuzzo said, most of them from just from April to November.
For example, Michael Alexander's great-grandfather traded a stamp collection for Bear Island in 1934. Today, two lots on the island are for sale, including a 720-square-foot bungalow on 1.2 acres for $999,000. There also is a 1.7-acre lot approved for a four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house, priced at $1.7 million. Together, the 2.9 acres — or half the island — is priced at $2.75 million. (No word on what the stamp collection was ultimately worth.)
Another in the Thimble chain, Pot Island, has a 6,300-square-foot house with 11 bedrooms, 5 full baths and 5 half-baths on 1.7 acres for sale. It comes with an asking price of $2.5 million, according to listing agent Joe Piscitelli.
"The people that come on are unique, going to have to be wealthy and they tend to be good neighbors," said Alexander, president of the Thimble Islands Association, formed in the 1970s to advocate for islanders. "They join the association. Everyone looks out for everyone else."