Advice on where to buy a home?
Hi! My girlfriend and I have been thinking and doing research on buying a vacation home in the USVI. We've been to St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. We love all of them! We are in our 40's and for the last 2 years, we've been discussing possible retirement in the USVI. We're pretty sure that we don't want to buy in St. John.
We don't have any children, but we do have 4 dogs that we plan on taking with us at the time of retirement (6-7 years from now). Other than the tourist areas on all 3 islands, we really don't know any other locations where it would be safe and suitable for buying a home. We would like to actually buy a house instead of a condo/apt.
Are there gated areas on St. Thomas and/or St. Croix? Are they worth it? In other words, are they safer than non-gated areas? Where would you guys recommend?
Our goal is to use the property for ourselves at least 4-5 times per year and then let our family and friends go there and use it too. Eventually, we would like to make the permanent move there in 6-8 years from now.
Thank you to all who read my post and give their advice. 😀
Most condos do not allow pets, If they do, they (dogs) have to be under a certain size and weight plus they have a limit on how many animals/dogs one can have. A condo would probably be your best bet if you are only here a few times a yr. as "island climate"
demands maintenance on a regular basis. You just can't close everything up tight and go. If you have that many dogs (as I do) a condo won't be available to you. A residential home will require the exterior maintenance that a condo won't. However you will pay Condo/HOA fees in addition to your mortgage plus set fees for water, septic, grounds keeping, exterior, etc. so best to do your homework and see what works best for you
I have never lived in a gated community nor do I ever plan to.
Decide on an island and then do your research.
Each island has something different to offer and has different price ranges.
Hi Alana33. Thanks for replying to my post. At this time, I wasn't really planning on bringing all of the dogs over; that would be too much work and cost a lot for their travel. However, by the time we decide to make the final move in several years, that's when I'd bring over our dogs. We would like to set up a dog/cat rescue organization once we are there in order to help out and do our part of the civic duties.
I was actually looking for a house and not a condo/apt. Too many restrictions to deal with with condos/apt. What are some areas that you believe are nice, safe, and clean on St. Thomas? We haven't yet decided whether to buy on St. Thomas or St. Croix.
Thanks for all advice you give. Have a nice day!
I suggest St Croix. I live on STT but if I were retiring it would be STX. STT too busy for slow paced relaxing retirement and STJ, well I think it's too snooty lol!
Although I love the north shore of STX, personally east end feels safer but call Kim Lucas, she will be able to help you out.
Ps. Kim was just featured on House Hunters yesterday, episode was beachfront on a budget or something like that. She works for Sothbys and you'll love her!
Arman, I saw your other post as well. Sounds like you've been doing your homework and that's all goodness. I see that you're asking questions about gated communities, areas that are more safe than others, etc. I'm hearing you are considering a home that would support short term vacation rentals (to offset the costs of ownership). A home where yourself, friends and family will be comfortable. A home you might consider retiring and living in full time down the road. A home that would provide you flexibility in case of financial, health or happiness. Allowing you with options should you decide to move back to the States full time.
If I may suggest first to focus on your immediate/main objectives. These will likely allow you to address your other concerns(e.g., safe community) naturally as a matter of course.
Regardless of the island (St. Croix, St. Thomas, Water Island, St. John) - you might consider the following high level in your analysis. Given in no particular order of priority - and I am sure others can contribute additional considerations:
What amenities do vacation rental guests/you/your family consider most important - to make your property more comfortable as well as marketable in the case of vacation rental.
Maintenance - How much funding could you allocate annually for maintenance of the home? Are you "handy" and a DIYer? Or, would you need/want to hire most/all maintenance related activities? Masonry or wood contruction?
Property Management (and the costs associated with that) (on site trusted caregiver or a local property management company)
Property insurance - Self insure? Fire and Theft? Windstorm? Liability?
You can surf the net/MLS and get some ballpark pricing (ASKing) price of homes that, at least at a high level (affordability). You can go onto Homeaway.com and/or VRBO.com to see the homes, amenities, rental prices possible revenue that homes generate (check the online availabilty calendars - though some of the time is blocked by owners you can still get a conservative idea of possible revenue that home generates).
Next time you come down for a visit, arrange with a realtor to show you a few homes. You don't seem like a person that makes impulse buying decisions and that's a PLUS. This is all part of the homework and exploratory efforts to aid in your decision making/planning.
Judith's Fancy on STX is a nice gated community with some houses on the ocean and others a 5 min walk away. Both islanders and snowbirds live there and many homes are also rented out.
Check out this realtor's site. Currently there are 10 properties listed in this area.
Thank you to all who gave me some advice. I found the comments very helpful. In response to FL Barrier Islander's response: I'm looking for a house that has some ocean view (or beach view). I'm not a very handy person, unfortunately, so that's a negative for me. I don't know how much HOA fees are typically over there, but I have learned from my visits there that water and electricity are the most expensive, monthly bills (aside from home insurance/hurricane insurance).
I don't know the quality of the house (masonry, etc.) issues. As for renting the place out, I really didn't consider that since as I'm not looking to make a profit or income from the house. It's really meant for personal/family/friend use.
Question: are the real estate prices going up, down, staying same over the last 3-4 years? We took a very large hit in D.C. after the bubble burst, but it's slowing moving up again.
Arman, The information I provided was offered as things you might contemplate for yourself, your needs, your families needs - - I was thinking if you saw the types of homes and amenities out there online, you could prioritize your "must have's" and also have an idea where they are located and what they cost. Thus, start to narrow down your search So, these are just suggested basic questions for you to internalize and determine for yourself. For example:
How many bedrooms?
How many baths?
Open floor plan?
What's size of yard/outdoor space on your property do you prefer?
What amenities are must have or "nice to have"? Pool? Large porch? Deck?
Do you perfer sunrises or sunsets?
Do you prefer beach front or ocean front?
For living accomodations decision, I just propose that you leave "safety" and other things aside for the moment and consider what is important for you in a house for the comfort and enjoyment of your family. If you start with these basic things (and do some homework online to get an idea of the cost of homes/condos/whatever) that address your most basic "must haves", the rest of the knowledge and advice you seek will come easier - and will help to frame your decision making.
Just remember that one cannot just close all the windows up tight, lock the doors and leave for months on end as when you return,
your home may be mildew infested due to lack of air circulation in the home with our heat and humidity. You can't leave your A/C on
to counteract this as the cost of electricity/WAPA will make it cost prohibitive, not to mention the frequent power outages that may switch your A/C off. You'd have to leave your windows at least cracked open for some air to circulate.
Make sure you home has hurricane shutters (accordion ones are the easiest to deal with) and that you have someone reputable to come to move outdoor furnishings inside, close up the shutters and prepare your property in the event of a storm/hurricane and that will come after the event to put everything back in place and open the home back up. If you leave it closed up with all the shutters closed, mildew will soon follow. This, of course, will be an additional expense but well worth it to provide peace of mind and secure your investment when you are not on island.
A nice generator that runs everything on your property is a very good thing to have and worth the investment, in case you find a home to purchase that does not have one.
After a storm, depending on the severity, one can be without power from a couple days, to a week to several months such as the cases with Hurricanes Hugo (1988) and Marilyn (1995). I think with Otto (?) a couple yrs. back, we (STT) were without WAPA for almost a week.
Even a mild storm can put WAPA down for the count.
Homes in the VI do require much more maintenance, interior and exterior.
Homeowners/Windstorm Insurance is necessary, (mandatory if purchasing thru a bank) and not cheap.
STX prices (IMO) are less than STT and STT prices are less than STJ, overall.
Even in the price range you mentioned, while you may get a move-in ready home, some updating and repairs may be necessary.
Decide which island suits your needs best, then take your time and explore that island and its opportunities.
Neighborhoods here are not like those in the states. I have never (knock on wood) had any problems with safety issues or crime in the area I live in on the north-side/STT in Dorothea in the 11 yrs. I have owned this property. I have a rental home in a small quiet neighborhood at Mandahl Peak (also north-side) that I have owned and lived in previously for 30 yrs. and never had a safety issue there either. That being said even the most prestigious neighborhoods on all our islands can fall victim to crime in terms of having a home broken into. Dogs and alarm systems can help prevent this. So can good, watchful neighbors.
Working and living here is quite different than just retiring and living here.
People say STT is too busy but really it depends on your outlook.
Our cruise ship/tourist season is very short, Dec. - April so a couple of beaches will be impacted with the flock of vacationers but others will be empty during the week. I don't see traffic impacting me as I work out of my home and plan my trips to town during "high" season with least amount of ships in on that day during the week. Even on a busy ship day, it doesn't really take any more time than normal. It does depend on time of day and I usually plan to head out by 9 and be back by 4. I do avoid certain routes at certain times of day such as those that have schools letting out at 2:30.
Just depends what floats your boat.
Judith's fancy is your best bet. Fees are $1000 per year. Shoys is more expensive and further out. Caramba is also gated and is also a golf community.
The homes are masonry. Very hurricane proof.
I own a home in Carambola (not a condo)...our HOA fees are approximately $3,000.00 per year. There are a few lots available if you want to build from scratch. The HOA and the golf course are separate entities. Carambola is very peaceful and quiet, mostly adults whose kids have grown and left the nest. There are maybe two kids in this community LOL.