Aerial view Jekyll Island

Nearly everyone who has ever vacationed on Jekyll Island falls in love with the scenic beauty, slow pace of living and idyllic lifestyle.

And when they leave the island, many want to come back.

What they don’t realize is, compared to property on St. Simons Island, homes on Jekyll Island are a deal. There is a wide mix of single-family homes, condominiums, cottages and townhomes ranging in price from $130,000 to more than $1 million for homes with an ocean view.

Like everywhere else in the Golden Isles, the challenge for potential customers is lack of inventory, said Jay Kaufman, owner of Parker Kaufman Realty, which has an office on Jekyll Island.

“I don’t think the inventory has ever been this low,” he said. “Everything is selling — old, new, condos, all of the above. They are all desirable.”

Kaufman believes “urban flight” from other metropolitan areas due to the pandemic is helping to drive the demand for homes on Jekyll.

He said there are three types of buyers driving sales on the island. Some are seeking property with the intent of becoming permanent residents. Other buyers are investors who plan to rent the homes to vacationers. And the third group of buyers are those who are part-time residents who spend extended time on the island during the winter months and other times of the year.

In some instances, buyers begin their relationship with Jekyll Island by renting a vacation home on the island, then realize they like it so much they decide to make Jekyll Island their permanent home. It is especially appealing to business professionals who can work from home.

“Our typical rental guests, they are the ones buying it,” he said. “They can get a piece of paradise for a very reasonable price.”

Jekyll Island is a state park, which does make buying a home there more complicated in some ways than in other parts of the Golden Isles and Georgia.

Getting a loan approved is not the issue some people have when they are considering buying a home on Jekyll. Instead, it’s the fact that they can own a home on the island but they don’t own the dirt the home sits on.

“You can borrow traditional money,” Kaufman said. “They don’t own the dirt fee simple. They lease the land.”

The expiration date for leases is 2089, far enough in the future where it is not a concern for people looking for property on the island. And it’s expected the leases will be extended when the current ones are set to expire in 58 years.

Property owners on Jekyll have to also pay a separate fire protection fee on the island and an annual land lease that is paid to the state.

“It’s a state park,” Kaufman said. “It needs to be open, accessible and affordable to all Georgians.”

C.J. Jefferies, a broker with Jekyll Realty, said most of the estimated 600 homes on Jekyll were originally built between the late 1950s and early 1970s.

“Homeowner’s insurance and conventional mortgages are available at rates very comparable to those that are found elsewhere in the county,” Jeffries said. “Most of the homes on Jekyll Island are not located in a flood zone and in many cases, lenders don’t require flood insurance, though we always recommend it for our buyers.”

Many of the homes have been recently renovated but there are still some fixer-uppers that come on the market from time to time, he said.

“More recent construction includes a 122 townhome neighborhood toward the north end of the island, a 39 residence seaside community adjacent to the Hampton Inn and a 48 unit mix of condominiums and residences on the river side of the island (currently under construction),” he said.

Jefferies said the bulk of new buyers come from all over the nation, but many live within a short drive of Jekyll Island.

“I think it safe to say that most are drawn by the allure of golf, tennis, the beach and 26 miles of bicycle trails – Jekyll Island makes for an ideal place for social distancing,” he said. “The fact that we don’t have a traffic light on the island is also worthy of consideration.”