• Ballast Key, nine mile south of Key West, is for sale for $15,800,000.
  • The property has hosted literary and cultural notables over the years.
  • The private island market did not see the same downturn as did other parts of the real estate market.

What is it like to sell a private island?

And, not only any private island – one with a storied past?

Listed now is Ballast Key, truly the southernmost point in the U.S., as it is nine miles south of Key West. The island is private – only accessible by boat or helicopter. It comprises 26 acres, with a primary home of 3,904 square feet, which includes eight bedrooms, five full and three half baths.

The master suite is meticulously designed in such a way that it provides both sunrise and sunset views.

It is the only private island within the Key West National Wildlife Reserve. The closest neighbors are eight miles away. Self-sufficiency is the mantra here, as the island has its own desalination facility. But if company comes calling, there is a three-bedroom guest house close by.

The tranquil home has attracted quite the list of glitterati over time, and even had a cameo in the James Bond movie License to Kill.

The island’s owner, Key West stalwart David Wolkowsky, has hosted a diversity of celebrities and notables on Ballast Key, including Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Judy Blume, The Bee Gees and Gloria Estefan, and an occasional Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Mellon and Duke.

Marketing a private island

So what’s it take to market something as one-of-a-kind as a private island, especially one with such a storied history?

We reached out to Vladi Private Islands, a German company that sells or rents out properties such as Ballast Key. Representatives there told us that their clients and properties are truly international, and are served by four physical offices, located in Hamburg, Germany; Halifax, Canada; Wellington, New Zealand; and Shanghai, China.

Sellers of unique and high end properties like this one find a sales team online or through word of mouth. They are looking for an unrivaled vacation home of their own, although the company also does a brisk business in private island rentals.

The allure of owning your own island is powerful for those who can afford it.

The company describes that allure thusly:

“Few people can withstand the longing for their own private piece of land in the midst of vast oceans or an idyllic lake, far from the rush and confinement of the rest of the world. Even though it is of manageable size an island feels infinite – the water, creates a natural boundary that provides island dwellers with a freedom not found in any piece of real estate on the mainland.”

“Yet it is the mainland that gives islands their special character. The luxury of a private island consists of the freedom to escape into solitude and to return from it at any time – therefore, even the smallest island with a simple log cabin is of immense value to its owner.”

When buyers make the trek out to visit the properties, they are ready to buy. According to the company, the market for these one-of-a-kind sites has stayed stable while the rest of the housing market struggled.  

The commission on one of these, in U.S. terms, can keep an agent happy for quite some time. The company said that the commission structure on deals like this varies from country to country, depending on the deal.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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