May 16, 2014 -- If you've ever wanted to own an historic lighthouse -- or maybe two -- this could be your lucky day.
Two Maine lighthouses have just been put up for auction by the General Services Administration (GSA), with a suggested opening bid for each of just $5,000.
One is off the coast of Harpswell, Maine; the other is off York, Maine. Asked if there’s anything that sets these two apart from other lighthouses that the GSA periodically auctions off, program director Meta Cushing tells ABC News, “Offshore Maine is indisputably magnificent.”
The two are being offered to private buyers only after other government agencies, the state of Maine, local counties and municipalities took a pass. By law, those entities all get first dibs on surplus lighthouses. If they choose to pass, then a private buyer like Dr. Casey Jordan gets a chance to bid.
Jordan -- a professor of business at Western Connecticut State University -- bought her lighthouse (Goose Rocks, off Fox Island, Maine) for $27,000 in 2006, which Coastal Living magazine calls possibly the lowest amount for which a lighthouse has ever sold.
Jordan told ABC News that rehabilitating a lighthouse as a residence is not for the faint of heart. Her own job took more than five years and in excess of $100,000.
A would-be owner, she says, needs to be a dreamer with deep pockets.
“Buying a lighthouse is not like buying a home," she says. "It’s like having a ship that doesn’t move. I’m 12 miles off the coast. Not only do all your materials and supplies have to come by boat, they have to be pulled up by rope once they arrive.”
No matter how well you do your homework, she says, or how well you plan, “It’s going to be five times more expensive than you think and take five times as long.”
Bad weather -- not always predictable -- can further complicate logistics.
“Paint doesn’t cure in the fog; and there are days here when you can’t see your hand in front of your face, it’s so foggy -- days when you can’t get to or from the lighthouse,” she says.
All lighthouses, she adds, are on National Register of Historic Places, meaning the owner needs to get the permission of a state’s preservation experts before doing work or making changes.
Jordan says she’s still in love with her lighthouse -- but not because of the financial return she might ever see. The pool of potential buyers is tiny. Of all the more-than-20 lighthouses the GSA has sold to private buyers since 2000, none has come up for re-sale.
“You can’t flip it like real estate,” she says.
Further, in a lender’s eyes, a lighthouse is a private possession, like a boat. So, you can forget about getting a mortgage.
James Hyland, founder and president of the Lighthouse Preservation Society, tells ABC News he is familiar with the two Maine lighthouses that have come up for auction. He calls both of them difficult to access, owing to their distance from the coast.
“They’re high maintenance,” he says. “They’re expensive, and you’d be taking your life in your hands just getting out and back.”
Still, he adds, somebody with enough money and enough patience could wind up with a residence both unique and spectacular. Last year, he says, the GSA sold Graves Light in Boston Harbor for $1 million (which, the GSA confirms, is the highest price paid to date for a lighthouse).
“It’s windswept,” says Hyland. “It’s dangerous. But from it, you can see the entire Boston skyline. It’s got a million-dollar view.”
For more details on these two tempest-tossed fixer-uppers for sale, read on:
Halfway Rock Light Station
Boon Island Light Station