The housing deals can be sweet on this largely underdeveloped strip of the Gulf. May 13, 2005: 11:29 AM EDT By Jon Birger, MONEY Magazine. Additional reporting by Sarah Max.
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NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - The 50-mile gulf coast stretch from Port St. Joe to Carrabelle has about as much in common with Miami or Fort Lauderdale as it does with Paris. There are no glam discos or high-rises -- just lovely beaches and very cheap real estate, at least by Florida standards.
Locals call it the Forgotten Coast. The onetime reason: an old paper mill that used to smell as bad as it looked.
"Nobody wanted to come on vacation and look at a paper mill," says local broker Diane Peevy of Port Realty.
Well, the mill closed in 1999, and home prices have been rising ever since. Among the nicer, still affordable homes is a two-bedroom condo in Barrier Dunes, a gated community on Cape San Blas. Steps from the beach, the Gulf-view unit is listed at $425,000. Just below the Cape, where the beach is less susceptible to erosion, a two-bedroom townhouse lists for $475,000.
But the area's undiscovered gem is Dog Island, an 1,800-acre barrier island three miles from Carrabelle. The island is accessible only by boat or small airplane. (A pair of local captains operate ad hoc ferries.)
Pam Housholder, Dog Island's resident realtor, believes today's prices will be recalled as bargains. She's probably right.
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Most of the island is owned by the Nature Conservancy and cannot be developed -- a big draw for both nature lovers and supply-conscious investors. Dog Island's dirt roads look more like hiking trails, and the beaches are just about perfect. (Yes, there are phones and electricity, but most people use water-purification systems to compensate for so-so drinking water.)
Gulf-front houses start at $650,000, but interior lots -- all with beach rights -- sell for $225,000 to $275,000. Another $200,000 could build you the cozy getaway of your dreams.
I used to own a lot on the bay side with a sunset view...just before the millenium in a cash crunch I was forced to sell it as it was as liquid a property as I had...paid 35k in 1993...got just under 80k.... I heard it is worth close to 600k
but the island is not for everyone...no shops...no restaurants.... just pure nature..tough to get to (that is the attraction)
it will eventually (my opinion) be the most expensive property in the nw beach region...not quite yet. But when the richest people...celebrities included want to really have a beach house.... there is nothing to compare
90% of the island is nature conservancy.... one of those places that time has forgotten...
if any of you have a boat in the region...worth it to take a look....
Auroleon, you are one of the very few people who have ever set foot on Dog Island. I own a lot on the bay side, which I bought in 1999, although the seller has since passed away, so it was definitely not your lot. At the time, the realtor said, "In the early 90's you could get these lots for $35K", which is exactly what you paid in 1993. By 1999, the listed prices ranged from $75K to $115K for a deep gulf front lot, with high dunes (the "mountains" of Dog Island).
Celestine Sibley used to often write her AJC columns from her beloved Dog Island, so some people in Atlanta have heard of the island, but since it is only accessible from air or water, few have set foot. There are about 350 private lots on the 6.5 mile long island, with the rest in the hands of the Nature Conservancy. There is a very sleepy Dog Island board on Yahoo Groups, that I check a few times a year. The last time that I spoke to a realtor about Dog Island, she mentioned that a daughter of Jeff Lewis (the post WW II owner of the entire island, who gave most of the land to the Conservancy) worked for Arvida/St. Joe Towns. She mentioned that a very out of left field rumor has St. Joe swapping wetlands in the panhandle for the 75% of Dog Island owned by the Conservancy.
I found the comment very interesting, since there was a precedent, in the late 90's, of which the realtor was unaware. I recall reading about how the NC gave a few hundred acres of beach in Virginia to a developer, in return for thousand of acres of inland wetlands. The diehard environmentalists were of course, howling with indignation, but the Nature Conservancy have always been a pragmatic group. It makes sense to swap beach for wetlands at maybe a 100:1 ratio, just as a wild guess. The current residents of Dog Island would be very upset, to say the least, but they are few in number. There are only about 120 houses on the island. Of course, investors, such as myself, would be smiling. JOE could set up a Carrabelle based shuttle to the island and develop a very nice upscale resort. I remember staying at a small, upscale eco-resort on the Big Sur section of the California coast, with a great restaurant and spectacular views of the ocean. Dog Island would be perfect for a limited number of people willing to spend $400-$1000 a night to stay on their private island. Sort of like the Cloisters Hotel on Sea Island, Georgia.