Owning your own island in the Florida Keys has never been so easy, that is, if you have $12 million.
Located three minutes by boat is the 1.4 private island, Easter Sister Rock Island, was put on the market by owner Bob Williford. Although the property on the island does not entail the luxury that accompanies a $12 million asking price, Williford stated that was not what his home was about. Williford noted that it is “a rustic vacation place where you can come and charge up your batteries. It’s not fancy like staying at Trump Plaza, but it is a place where you can get away from everything.” Nonetheless, it is a private island, a Florida Keys’ private island.
Chris Krolow, CEO of Toronto-based Private Islands Inc., said there are only about 550 private islands for sale around the world right now, and only 60 percent of them can be purchased outright. The others are in the “leasehold category” — which means a buyer purchases permission to use an island from the government. Island inventory always is at a premium. There are 1,700-plus islands that make up the Florida Keys, but most are pristine. And with today’s strict environmental laws, new development permits are unlikely for most. Only 34 offshore properties have houses; nine of those have just one house, says Monroe County Property Appraiser Karl Borglum.
Williford and his wife, Elena, still love their island, which was a regularly used vacation home when their four kids were young. But the family doesn’t use it much these days now that the children are busy with high school and college on the mainland. Now, the island mostly is used as rental income — starting at $5,000 per week.
Williford bought the place for $715,000 in 1995 from Klaus Meckler, a gastroenterologist from New Jersey. Meckler built the island by digging a moat from the coral rock and creating a 15-foot-high plateau. The concrete poured house rests on 75 pilings drilled into the coral rock — done in the ’70s before strict environmental laws were put in place. Williford has made the place green, with solar panels and a wind turbine. Water is supplied by captured rainwater that is filtered before being stored in a large cistern. The main house has 19 sliding glass doors to showcase the view and spacious veranda. There’s an above-ground pool, helicopter launch pad, two docks and a boat for making the quarter mile trip to and from mainland Marathon. And, unlike most offshore islands, it does not have a mosquito problem. However, it can get hit by storms, such as 2005’s Hurricane Wilma. “We lost part of our roof,” he said. “But it’s just a price you have to pay for owning an island.”