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Building on STT, Crown Mountain Rd  

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Taz
 Taz
(@Taz)
New Member

I own a large lot near the top of the mountain over looking the main port. I have hired a STT licensed Architect and he is working with local builders, we are only in the design phase-that is made more difficult by the 27% slope on the lot. I am planning to be off grid producing my own power, collecting rain water, using a gray water system and a brown water septic system.

I am concerned about the building costs as I have heard everything from $100-$150 sq. ft. to $500 sq. ft.

I also need information on financial instructions that will do a construction loan on the Island.

Thanks

Taz

ReplyQuote
Posted : August 29, 2016 6:00 pm
STTsailor
(@STTsailor)
Island Expert

300-500$ sqft is realistic.

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Posted : August 29, 2016 6:13 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Noble Member

There will not be a single person here who can answer your cost question with that limited information - but no matter what you plan for it will cost more before you are done - never seen it happen otherwise. Island life.

Our local banks will do construction loans based on a completion schedule if you have substantial credit.

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Posted : August 29, 2016 6:18 pm
Alana33
(@Alana33)
Islander

True what EO says.
And you better have a great relationship with your loan officer.
It certainly depends on your budget but plan on going ove your budget, t
the architect may screw up and as things progress, plans change as do the whole process and deadlines being delayed and a whole sort of other ting dem.

Check out
www.bongobongo.com

This is in STJ so some of the issues they dealt with won't be yours.
Good luck!

ReplyQuote
Posted : August 29, 2016 7:49 pm
Afriend
(@afriend)
Reputable Member

I have to agree with the others. Despite lots of pre-construction planning we were behind schedule and over budget about two weeks into our project and it continued until the house was finished. It's a fact of life in the Caribbean. For what it is worth our home ended up costing almost 50% more then the pre-construction estimates we got from our architect and builder and that didn't include what we added for landscaping. Home construction in the islands eats up money.

You'll be lucky if $150/sq. ft. gets you a cistern, your floor slab and the 4 walls with openings for windows and doors. Add another $100 to $150/sq. ft for the actual windows and doors and "builder's standard" finishes. If you want "designer" tiles, fixtures, and other finish material you can easily spend "the sky's the limit".

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Posted : August 29, 2016 8:47 pm
Alana33
(@Alana33)
Islander

(tu)

Too true.

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Posted : August 29, 2016 9:28 pm
LoveUSVI
(@LoveUSVI)
Eminent Member

Hi Taz,

I agree with what has been said here: $100 to $150/sq. ft. is not even close to realistic. You need to think at the very least $300/sq. ft. In fact, I would be reluctant to take further advice from anybody who told you about the lower range... it is totally unrealistic in STT.

Having a big lot gives you more flexibility in the placement of your house. This is a big determinant of the cost of construction. You may want to discuss with your architect:
- the excavation required in different locations. You can pre-analize which design will require less excavation. What is more difficult to ascertain without conducting tests is where you will hit hard rock (which increases substantially the excavation cost)
- whether you will park at street level or at the house level (the latter is much more expensive).
- the length and slope of the driveway, if you need one, and the turnaround area (which also adds considerably to cost).
- the height and length of retaining walls.
- the more you want a flat house, the more expensive it is (in general); the more the house adapts to the topography and the more steps that it has to do so, the cheaper it is to build in general... but you always need to do the numbers and always count at least $300+ sq. ft.

In addition, you need to consider the size of the house you really need. In particular a determinant of the cost is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms (for resale and for vacation rental as a villa you need one bathroom per bedroom).

A pool is also desirable and it will add $50 K to $100 K+ to the cost.

You are making the right decision about going solar for the ecological value as well as quick repayment (it pays back in 5 years or so). Going off the grid is also a laudable goal (and avoids you dealing with WAPA), but you need to do the numbers carefully since the cost of batteries is very expensive. For a home with 3 BR/ 3BA, I would count $50 K for solar panels and $50 K additional if you go off the grid. This is not included in the construction cost of $300+ per square foot. You may need a flat roof to have room for enough panels if you are going off the grid.

Finally, large windows are important, just remember that they cost about five times the cost of a concrete wall.

In addition to the blog mentioned by another poster, I would recommend that you read:

http://www.seasthedayvi.com/construction-blog

It is also written by two guys building in STJ. Bongo Bongo deals a lot with the issues of construction loans. Seas the Day shows a couple who were very determined to build within their means with a very nice and efficient layout. Like everybody else, they were over budget and suffered lots of frustrations. But, I believe that both couples are happy in their spec homes.

To be able to build a house to your specs is a wonderful opportunity. Time spent now reviewing alternatives will pay off in reducing the final cost of the project, but realistically you won't go below $300 + per sq. ft. for indoor spaces. To this you need to add: cistern, terraces, parking, driveway, retaining walls, solar panels, batteries and maybe a small generator, pool, landscaping, furnishings, and architectural fees.

Note: in general architects will give you an estimate of cost based on square footage for cisterns and terraces (usually priced at $150/sq ft) and actually living indoor space (usually priced at $300/sq. ft. for a house with simple finishes). You may want to hire an estimator to price your different preliminary designs based on estimated cost of concrete needed, electrical, plumbing, etc.

All the best!

ReplyQuote
Posted : August 30, 2016 2:41 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Noble Member

"pre-analize which design"

That is a very apt description of what you will be feeling, and where, during this project.

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Posted : August 30, 2016 3:04 pm
STTsailor
(@STTsailor)
Island Expert

"pre-analize which design"

That is a very apt description of what you will be feeling, and where, during this project.

(tu):@)

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Posted : August 30, 2016 3:29 pm
Scubadoo
(@Scubadoo)
Noble Member

Finally, large windows are important, just remember that they cost about five times the cost of a concrete wall.

All the best!

And don't forget the hurricane shutters for those large windows and doors. You can get less expensive panels but you'll grow tired of dealing with those vs. the convenient accordions.

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Posted : August 31, 2016 1:44 am
Afriend
(@afriend)
Reputable Member

One more thing to consider - when you get an estimated price range for something - human nature being what it is - you'll tend to focus on the lower amount while the person giving you the estimate will probably be thinking the final number will be closer to the higher number.

When estimating building costs in the Caribbean always error on the high side.

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Posted : August 31, 2016 10:41 am
Jerry Barth
(@Jerry_Barth)
Active Member

We're building now on Water Island. Not a whole lot of surprises so far (we're doing the cistern/foundation right now). One thing I would recommend is to camp on the property if possible for a while during different times of the year to get a better idea of where to place everything. Another thing is to get familiar with the DPNR rules for setbacks, etc. If you have to get a CZM permit then some of these things could have a big impact on what is possible to build. Also, be aware that getting a CZM permit can take a long time and is probably impossible to get without an architect that is familiar with the process. And after you get the CZM permit you have to get a building permit and that takes awhile too. We're lucky that our site is fairly flat and during excavation we only ran into a couple of boulders that added about 20% to excavation estimates. We're building small (675 sq ft) just for us, so we don't consider what renters want. We're also in a very breezy spot and not going to live there full time so ditching the AC and will probably have a solar grid tie system with battery backup. The winner for the septic system popularity contest seems to be the AquaKlear system, the distributor is on STT. It does require constant power to run it so that is really the only reason we're going to have a grid tie. Another thing from my neighbors experiences is that doors/windows don't last very long, some of them are trying fiberglass or PVC to get longer service. They also say that high end appliances are a waste, they just rust out. Your area may be different, in this spot with the windows open people will wake up with a salt crust inside the house. It looks like so far we're going to hit $250-300 sq ft, but that is with me doing all the labor other than the cistern/foundation and a very basic (concrete floors, basic doors/windows, minimal appliances) design. I agree don't go with the low ball offer, from watching some other projects around us it seems that that is courting a major disaster, especially if you're not there everyday to monitor progress. Getting a loan can be a nightmare too, just like the guys on the Bongo Bongo blog. A lot of people instead will do a home equity loan on their stateside house and use the cash to build the island house. Banco Popular is the only one that does land loans that I could find, and the process was much slower than in the states. Hope this helps.

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Posted : August 31, 2016 2:41 pm
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