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Building a Home On STX  

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usvichic
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June 24, 2012 12:21 pm  

I agree with all the advice you got from nohstx. A reputable GC is key. I know a few, so if you want names PM me. Also, you can end up not using a GC but using a reputable sub, again, I know some. Getting permits are key. Making sure you stick with your drawn up plans are even more key. I knew people who moved electrical outlets 2 inches and got fined because their drawings didn't match up with their actual building.


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TamiP
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June 24, 2012 1:53 pm  

Thank you all so much for the input. We have taken all into consideration and decided that we need to buy an existing home with the open possibility of building after we are certain that we will want to stay for the long haul.

It looks like it will be extensive and a long time to complete and we don't want to start off with a bad taste in our mouths so to speak.

Tami


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MGW
 MGW
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June 24, 2012 4:23 pm  

Hello All,
Would other people be so kind as to post the approximate cost per square foot to construct their block/masonry home on St. Croix. I have heard figures from many people and they range all over the board!
Thank you


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blu4u
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June 24, 2012 4:35 pm  

Not the answer you are looking for... But it may help place the range of costs in prespective:

Prices will change with availabiltiy and cost of materials at time of PO.
Prices will be site specific to account for ground conditions.
Prices will reflect quailty and quanity of finish details.
Prices will vary upon level of supervision and adherence to plans.

Some nice VI upgrades to consider:
2nd cistern
back-up generator
hurricane shutters
pool w/solar pumping and cover
outdoor kitchen/ covered pool cabana
concrete driveway
solar electric
passive solar hot water
gray water irrigation

If you wish to control costs do alot of homework. Pick a solid lot. Hire a good GC. Talk to your subs. Pay promptly. Select and price every item from roof to doorknob befor moving one shovle full of dirt. Be prepared to issue po's and write checks. Be prepared to make 100 tiny descions everyday.


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blu4u
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June 24, 2012 4:35 pm  

duplicate. sorry


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Afriend
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June 24, 2012 7:15 pm  

blu4u is right - the reason you've "heard figures from many people and they range all over the board" is because that's the way things are. It all depends on your finish material. As a rule of thumb you can figure around $150 to $200 per square foot for basic lot clearing (not extras for filling in high water tables, shoring up hill side property or excavating solid rock), construction of your foundation, cistern, four walls, roof sheathing and openings for your windows and door. Everything else is "extra" - figure anywhere from a minimum of $50 to $75 more per sq. ft. for "Builder's Standard" finishes all the way up to "the sky's the limit" for designer type finishes. Things like quality of windows, wall and floor tiles, hardware, quality of paint, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances all are variable and can greatly add to you final cost.

Do your homework, get your best pre-construction estimates from your Architect, GC, contractors, sub-contractors and materials suppliers. Take that number and add 50% - if the result does scare you then proceed with building otherwise build a much smaller house or way until you have accumulated more money. Building on STX or anywhere in the Caribbean is not for the budget minded. It's much easier if you have deep pockets.


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Texas_Webmaster
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June 26, 2012 2:14 pm  

We just finished building a home in Judith's Fancy. We built on a flat lot and ended up spending right around $300/sq ft, not including land purchase cost. We also did a lot of our work ourselves. It took us 13 months from the time we broke ground until the time we moved in. After moving in we still had a good six weeks of work to do.

We hired a GC to build the shell and used a fixed price labor contract for that. We procurred all the materials ourselves, and I am torn on whether I would do that again. It saved us money but it was extremely time consuming. Picking the right GC is absolutely critical. I oversaw the budget from day one and was able to stay within 5% of our target costs, even with some design modifications. Also, don't buy a building lot because it is cheap. Buy it because you love it and want to live there. I have seen people buy a $50,000 lot with no view then put an $800k house on it. To me that doesn't make sense, but I guess if that is what they wanted more power to them.

If the housing market of today was in place a few years ago I am not sure we would have built. I think buying a home is the smarter move today and for the near future.

It isn't extremely detailed, but you can check out our building blog: http://www.MovingToStCroix.com


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EngRMP
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June 28, 2012 1:12 am  

Hey Texas_Webmaster,

Thanks for the link to your building blog. I just finished reading though it... it was a great read. Your home looks great; and what a beautiful location. I love that front door. Can't wait to see the HHI episode.

I have a $50k lot that is really steep, but I love the location, view and breezes. So, I'm going to fight to avoid sinking the home into the hillside. (When I get around to starting the work) I should hire you and Emily to help me find a GC and write the contract...


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blu4u
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June 29, 2012 2:26 am  

EngRMP, Rember the clint eastwood line; "A man's gotta know his limitations'. Don't overestimate the amount and type of "i can do that myself" items you exclude from the contract. A pro with correct tools a working knowledge of available materials and an understanding of delivery of said materials, will save $$ in the long run. Have a plan which includes all materials from roof to door knobs. Decide on firm intervals for progress payments and write checks promptly. Hand out checks at the job site. Be on-site every day if possible. Take expert advise.

I agree with Tex. A home in the tropics isn't about mega sqft or fancy interior finishes. Its about the great outdoors.

Look into alternative engery opitions: solar, wind, hampsters, gray water, passive solar hot water.


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EngRMP
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June 29, 2012 12:17 pm  

Hey blu4u,

As an engineer, I would normally completely agree with you about caution when considering taking on a lot of work yourself. Anyone who has watched a professional do a job will undoubtedly say to himself a few times "geez, I could do that"... but, if you're honest, you'll also say a few times "hmmmm, I would not have thought of that... and that would have cost me a lot to fix after the fact".

But... have you seen the building blog http://onawhimstjohn.wordpress.com/ ? Les is like me (at least I like to think I'm like Les)! Yes, you can cringe at his home made scaffolding everywhere; and he did get initially confused by pole jacks. But, he has ended up with really nice work on each of his projects. He has been really smart about finding ways to do many jobs by himself, and bringing in help when needed.

So, I start fooling myself, saying "I could do that". The problem is... I'm only about 5 years into a 10 year design phase (I won't be $ready to build for another 5 or so years)... and I'm not getting any younger. The jobs that I said I could do 5 years ago, I probably won't want to do 5 years from now. So, there are many reasons why buying a house is probably easier... but, the idea of building that perfect home is a wonderful dream... (since I'm not actually spending any money yet, it's still a "dream").

On a different but related subject: one interesting design concept that I got from Tex(Chad's) blog was: hallways don't necessarily have to be indoor spaces. Of course, coming from Virginia, this is a completely foreign and strange idea. I'm going to play with this in my Sketchup model and see if I can figure out how best to incorporate it.


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blu4u
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June 29, 2012 12:52 pm  

Strairways don't need to be interior either. The only drawback is locking up at night. Have fun!!


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SkysTheLimit
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June 29, 2012 6:39 pm  

Quote EngRMP "have you seen the building blog [onawhimstjohn.wordpress.com] ? Les is like me (at least I like to think I'm like Les)! Yes, you can cringe at his home made scaffolding everywhere; and he did get initially confused by pole jacks. But, he has ended up with really nice work on each of his projects. He has been really smart about finding ways to do many jobs by himself, and bringing in help when needed."

That's a great blog. I hadn't seen it and having done so much of the work on our house myself I can relate. Les is doing a great job and a TON of HARD work!!! Amazed that he was able to do sooo much himself and I loved the scaffolding!

I'm feeling motivated for my next project(tu) Thanks Les!

Alan
St. Croix resident since 2000


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piaa
 piaa
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June 30, 2012 11:59 am  

Hi SkysTheLimit (and everyone else of course)

Thanks for the kind words on our blog ( www.onawhimstjohn.wordpress.com ) Les is my wonderful husband and I am so proud of him !! I can honestly say, and do tell him daily "I love my house" ........... before, well not so much 🙂

I have to agree EngRMP I cringed at his scaffolding also, but I have to say even I felt safe (even on the upper level on a ladder) once it was completed............taking it down, when that baby started swaying, well not so much.

Good luck with all of your projects and builds everyone.

Pia


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Texas_Webmaster
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June 30, 2012 3:00 pm  

EngRMP, I also said "I could do that myself" so many times. I found that the problem with that was most of the time it took me much longer than anticipated. Something I thought I could do in two hours would take five for a multitude of reasons, most of the time due to my inexperience with that particular task. So while I did start out thinking I could do a lot of the finishing work myself I quickly hired guys to work along side me. Of course getting the right guys is key. I found a few good ones and some not so good.

If you ever get any closer to building I would be happy to offer advice, but my only expertise is having gone through the process. Of course having gone through it I do know things I would do differently.

Thanks for the comments on the house and blog.

Chad


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piaa
 piaa
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June 30, 2012 3:48 pm  

Texas Webmaster

I have not yet read your blog (going to now) but I did see you on HHI - LOVED your home - gorgeous 🙂 I have a quick question - what is the size of your pool? I ask as we are planning ours (well I am - Les not so keen) and if I remember yours looked to be the perfect size.

Thanks and again beautiful home.

Pia


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EngRMP
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July 1, 2012 12:56 am  

Hi Pia,

I love your writing style... it has been really fun to follow over the year or so. I'm really impressed that you've been able to keep up with the blog... I'm sure it's a lot of work. These building blogs are incredibly useful to anyone considering building a house in the islands... there is so much information in the pics and descriptions.


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brandonc
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July 1, 2012 2:21 am  

Texas_Webmaster: I really enjoyed your blog as well. Thanks so much for sharing. Also, I was just curious since you got a construction loan yet did a lot of the finishing work on the home yourself.... How did the bank view this when doing a construction loan? Was it a big deal to get them to allow you to do this and only let the contractor shell in the home?

Brandon


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Texas_Webmaster
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July 3, 2012 3:48 pm  

Hi Pia, thank you for the comments. Our pool is 10x20. I was leaning toward not having a pool, but my wife really wanted one, so we settled on a smaller one but put a swim jet in so that she can swim "laps" without needing a big pool.

I found your blog a while back, but need to catch up. 🙂

Brandonc, thank you as well for the comments. The construction loan, was a little tricky. In reality the bank didn't know and didn't ask so we didn't mention it. The money from the bank was handed to me directly when I asked for it and I handled payments to contractors. I am not sure if this is typical or not, but the contractor doing only the shell was definitely a concern of mine prior to construction. We basically submitted a budget to the bank, detailed out where the money was going to be directed (but not to who). They never asked to see the contract I had with my builder which would have shown that he was hired to build the shell of the house. I didn't detail this much in the blog because I didn't want to draw extra attention to it. Toward the end of the project we had to dip into retirement savings to pay some contractors because we were unable to get our final disbursement from the bank until we had our certificate of occupancy, which took DPNR several months to get to us. But every other time we requested money from the bank we had it in our account on average in a week.

Chad


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EngRMP
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July 4, 2012 1:47 pm  

Probably most people have read this building blog, but just in case... this is a great building blog in STJ. Really entertaining, and lots of fantastic info.

http://www.bongobongostjohn.com/blog/

Pia, have you met these guys? Are they still around?


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EngRMP
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August 5, 2012 10:54 pm  

Hey Chad,

I finally saw the HHI with your place. I wish the building process was as easy as it looked in the episode: 80% of the time (2-3 days) looking for a home and lots; 20% of the time building the perfect house on your property!!!

A great looking house (I had read through your blog, so I knew what to expect). I also liked the bright, light vibe inside the home.


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blu4u
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August 6, 2012 12:52 am  

Probably most people have read this building blog, but just in case... this is a great building blog in STJ. Really entertaining, and lots of fantastic info.

http://www.bongobongostjohn.com/blog/

Pia, have you met these guys? Are they still around?

Nice stone work. Good lay out. BUT 200% over budget? Wow. 450k v. 1.2+m!!
So Chad, knowing all you know now, are you ok with the 1.2m? What items came as supprise v. what items were choosen upgrades. could you have built the same house and stayed within the contractor's 800k esimate?


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Alana33
(@Alana33)
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August 6, 2012 11:44 am  

Yep! That bongo bongo blog should be required viewing for all persons contemplating building a home in the VI.
"Don't stop the Carnival" should be required reading for those contemplating moving here!


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Texas_Webmaster
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August 6, 2012 4:31 pm  

Hey EngRMP, yeah, the HHI show is kind of like the Cliff Notes version of our process. Of course they only film you looking at 3 houses, but in reality we probably looked at 40 properties (including lots) over a long period of time before finally deciding to build. 🙂

Chad


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