What do you do when you’re marketing the largest house in the Thousand Islands? You spread the word, but not just to anyone. It’s all about marketing to the right people and prequalifying interested parties so you don’t waste your sellers’ time.
Randy Beck of Re/Max Finest Realty in Kingston, Ont., says there are no tire kickers allowed at this unique offering: a 4.5-acre single ownership island with a 17,000-square-foot, 14-bedroom, 10-bathroom home, multiple buildings and docks, and a private harbour with a seawall.
Only those who can afford the $12.9-million price tag will be whisked to the island treasure, by boat, or if need be, by helicopter.
Beck says he was one of many agents interviewed to represent the prize listing. He was introduced by the seller’s lifelong friend, who also happened to be a former colleague of Beck’s. The retired Realtor had asked Beck to work with his former clients.
The seller and his wife met Beck in his office in September 2019. The meeting took two hours. “At the end of it, he looked up and said, ‘Okay. Where do I sign?’” says Beck. “He is a jovial businessman and I have a business background too. We clicked in style. What he was looking for was me.”
The property was listed exclusively and Beck sent out email letters to high-wealth individuals. “I got some feedback but was not successful,” he says.
Then COVID-19 hit and plans were put on hold. However by fall 2020, Beck convinced his clients that “MLS was the way to go.” The home was listed in December.
The six inquiries made to date range from “the curious to those clearly able to purchase and pay. Half were domestic and half international (inquiries),” he says.
The House of Seven Gables on Himes Island is a 1903 manor near the Lost Channel. Constructed by builder Michael P. Davis, the home has seven gables at the front of the house. In addition to the main island, there is a second, 2,000-square-foot island connected by a footbridge, and five sets of docks.
Many large islands have two to four ownership parcels, but this one has remained single ownership.
In 1987 it was purchased by the current owners, who have rebuilt the main kitchen and turned the second floor of the boathouse into a guest cabin. Work was also done on the billiard room. The home’s charm and original feel have been maintained, Beck says.
The House of Seven Gables has a foyer big enough for a party of 25, a dining room that could seat 30 to 50 people and a living room that’s even bigger, Beck says. A gathering for 50 could be held on the front veranda, which “is screened in, in case of a buggy day.”
The living, dining room and foyer overlook the Ivy Lea Bridge, which connects Canada and the United States.
The second floor includes family bedrooms and bathrooms, while the third floor offers smaller bedrooms, likely originally for staff. There is a separate staff staircase.
The lower level has glass on the east side, so it’s bright. It provides space for a laundry, mechanical systems, gym and movie theatre rooms.
The owner has used the property as an entertainment centre, and, Beck says, has hosted famous guests.
There are also a number of other buildings, including a boathouse with twin 70-foot docks and a full cottage above, a second boathouse, a stone water tower and a pump house. That water system is no longer used, but Beck says the tower would make a great lookout. There’s also a gazebo and beach.
To highlight the property, Beck created a 20-page book with full colour photos. He says it’s important for potential buyers to have the book in their living room, so they can sit in front of the fireplace, side-by-side with their partner and fall in love with the property. “You don’t fall in love at the computer.”
He has sent out three books, all to international addresses. He expects the buyer will be from out of the country, drawn by the notoriety of the island and building. It’s been featured on television, in magazines, in an Ontario government calendar and on local boat tours.
It takes tons of legwork, organization and logistics to sell a property like this, and even to show it properly. Agents will get a co-operating commission, but Beck will be the one who shows the property.
Toronto-born and raised Beck has been a solo agent for 17 years but recently took on a partner to help with his workload. His awards include the Re/Max Hall of Fame, a cumulative career award for income that translates to about 200 property transactions, and the Re/Max Lifetime Achievement Award, a career honour for income that translates to about 500 properties, he says. “I am currently over 800 properties.”
He worked in the media, radio and television industry for 30 years but has always been passionate about real estate. He bought his first house when he was 24.
“I moved from Toronto to Kingston in 1982. In Toronto I was working at 590 CKEY Radio. I came to Kingston and to CKWS Television (advertising sales management) and left broadcasting to become a Realtor in 2003, always with the same brokerage.”
The House of Seven Gables on Himes Island is believed to be the largest residence on a Canadian private island in the Thousand Islands.
“The new owner will only be the fifth owner,” Beck says.