buying a condo vs home
I have been reading alot on this forum and have some questions about buying a condo vs a home. At first I was only thinking of buying a home until I read a post by Alana33 and it was mentioned that one could not just close up a home and leave for extended period of time then come back and find all ok inside the home. I did not even think about this. My situation right now would be coming down there and living for 3 months out of the year. I don't work during the summers. So we were looking at buying a house but now think a condo would be better. I am not sure if we wanted to rent it out while we were not there. If we went with a house is there any advice on what we could do so the house would not deteriorate while we were away? Would renting solve that or a house cleaning company? As far as a condo I have read alot of info about condo fees and what is included (self insured, generator, water charge etc) and it seems that in some cases these fees for condos could possibly equal windstorm policy on a house depending on how much the house is. The long term goal is getting a property then eventually retiring full time or at least 3/4 time there and maybe having it paid off by then. Any advice is so appreciated. I have a notebook full of things that I have written down from this forum.
Many if not most houses have an apt. as part of the property - if you can find a tenant who is also entrusted with caretaking responsibility and hurricane prep, leaving the main house for long periods could work - you will have to consider maintenance and groundskeeping as well - but only using a property 3 mo. a year without some kind of property management is a recipe for deterioration and disaster if not outright vandalism and theft.
Paying high condo fees is the cost of convenience - but it may be much easier and possible to rent it some weeks a year to help out with the cost - some condo assoc. will have cleaning and rental help lists they use.
Closing up a condo or a house is exactly the same! You are not going to leave the A/C on in the islands in a condo while you are away for extended periods of time at .56+ per KWH. Not only will you have a $800-$1200/month condo fee, you will add to it a $500/month electric bill. Think about it!
So, it comes down to what type of property you want. I tend to agree with Exit Zero on this one.
We have a house, actually two houses and a cottage. One of the properties we lease long term and it pays all the taxes, insurance, utilities for our main house and provides some additional income and tax benefits. It has been rented since we moved here and so far it has worked out great.
The key is acquiring responsible and accountable long-term tenants and there lies the problem. If you can find them, I think it is the best alternative. Not only can do they provide you with the income, they can manage the property in your absence.
How much time have you actually spent in the islands? I'm just going to inject a little caution about buying property if your time here has been spent in "vacation mode" of short duration. I've seen dozens of people just like you who've done their due diligence and purchased property with the same long term goals as you, only to discover in a couple of years that a few months of island living doesn't suit them as much as they thought it would and that the fees and expenses maintaining their property is a real financial drain. Those I've known personally have managed to escape but only with financial loss and after their property has remained on the market for an extended period.
Summer rentals are easy to find and my suggestion would be to spend a summer here living in a rental before diving into a purchase. Good luck!
Old Tart and mtdoramike are completely correct. I say that with the experience of over 40 years of living part time in the islands the last ten years as a property owner. Rent, spend an extended amount of time here, and then consider your options. Owning property is an entirely different deal from being on vacation.
I know people who own condos in rental programs. They come down when they want and use their place; it is rented out the rest of the time. They get maintenence, someone to keep an eye on it, and they make some money. Yes, there is some wear and tear. Other people don't want strangers in their abode and so keep the place for their own use only. Condo living is different from living in your own house, you need to feel it fits your needs.
I also know of someone who left their a/c on when they left for a couple of months because that's what they do back home. They don't do it any more! LOL
But I would agree that renting a place for 3 months to start is a good idea. Some people love it here and some get bored after a week or two on the beach.
Those are some very good ideas to think about. I have been coming there on vacations for the past 5 years between all three islands but like St Croix the best. I am a scuba diver so that is one of the many things that draw me to the islands. Renting for three months at first sounds like a good idea. I guess I would have to rent out a house or condo the rest of the year if I only were there 3 months out of a year. Didn't think about how I could not just close up a condo either. My brain lapsed on that one. The reason for wanting to buy instead of just renting every year is that money could be going towards my own property. The goal is to retire full time within the next 5-10 years. So also my goal was to have property paid off by then. I have a home here in the states and would not be getting rid of it and it will be paid off by then also.
East Ender- what do you mean by rental programs. Is this something different from just being listed by a realtor?
With some Resort Hotels such as Point Pleasant, Pavillion and Pools and Saphire Beach Resort, one has the option of placing their condo unit in the resort rental program. Not all do this so if you have interest in any specific place it's best to check if they do. You can also do this on your own but would need to get set up with a responsible manager or property management company if you are only going to be on island 3 months out of the year. At least with a condo, while you pay a HOA fee, you do not have to deal with maintenance issues, groundskeeping, etc. outside the condo as one would with a residential property.
You may wish to check this link: https://www.vimovingcenter.com/talk/read.php?4,226104
We first went to STX to buy a condo we wanted a two bedroom / two bath unit to put on the rental market.
After looking around at the units that were in our price range and most were on a rental program, we decided we did NOT want to have renters in our condo. Most were trashed!
Today with Hovensa being closed it may be better, but back then most condos were rented by Hovensa workers who many times ended up having several guys living in them and not caring how they took care of them. Yes I know not everyone is like that.
But today on STX, the condo renatl market is in bad shape, more condos then renters. Maybe when or IF Hovensa ever reopens that will change.
We ended up buying a one owner, never rented, one bedroom, one bath 1200 sq ft unit at STC. The condo fees are the lowest of any near the water, $617 / month. Many places are in the $1200 per month range.
We must be lucky, but we have yet to experience mold, and we shut up our condo when we are gone. We try to be there about 5 months a year but last year we were away for a year because of family health problems.
We thought we were going to move down full time and even bought a piece of property to build on, but after 40 years our daughter started have grandkids and then my wife decided she would not move.
So three years ago we looked at buying a house. What we decided was a condo would be better for us. We can leave and just close up and not worry about security of a house. We have many friends who do have gook luck with tennants in a apartment on the property, but if you are only going to be there only 3 months a year a tennant is hard to get to know and keep tabs on.
We thought we would save a lot of money in condo fees as we would not insure for hurricane, not a option if you have a morgage. But in looking into security, pool maintainance, taxes, yard maintainance, cable, exterminator, and regular insurance. we foulnd that that would run over $550 per month. Then we heard horror stories of friends who were paying for some of these services and NOT getting them on a regular basis.
So we have opted to stay in the condo. Yes I hate condo living!! I hate the parking issues, I hate the neighbors being so close, but for us it seems to be the best choice.
East Ender- what do you mean by rental programs. Is this something different from just being listed by a realtor?
The most widely used is Vacation Rentals By Owner and you can see what it's all about by going to www.vrbo.com. Many of my friends who own condos here go this route. They block the calendar for the dates they plan on being here, deal with the vacationers themselves and have an on-island person to deal with any problems which might come up.
You also must have someone reliable to go in to clean the condo, do laundry, etc. and make sure rental is in good condition for the arriving vacation rental guests. www.flipkey.com is also a great site for vacation rentals. You can get an idea of the prices charge during different seasons. However, someone on island will be the key to having the property maintained in good condition and ready for guests if you cannot do so yourself because you will not be on island.
There are different condo association rules. Some allow self-rentals like VRBO, some allow you to put your unit in a rental pool, some require you to put it in a specific rental pool. If you are interested in a condo, ask your realtor about the association rules.
Better yet check with the condo yourself about the rules!
Many realators will tell you anything to make the rental. At STC, dogs are not allowed, we have had realators tell tennants that they are allowed only to have the renter have to move because they brought a dog.
Realators are at the bottom of my credibility list, slightly above laywers and polliticans 😮
I am familiar with VBRO. I have some friends that rent out their lake houses using this. I didn't know if the rental program was another company. So it is just with that particular condo. Very good questions to ask when looking at condos. I have been reading some good things about ST C condos. Terry, that is some good information to know that you close up your place for long periods of time and have no mold issues. I will make sure to ask lots of questions and look into management companies if I need one.
The reason for wanting to buy instead of just renting every year is that money could be going towards my own property. The goal is to retire full time within the next 5-10 years. So also my goal was to have property paid off by then. I have a home here in the states and would not be getting rid of it and it will be paid off by then also.
This is a very valid financial goal -- but if I were trying to do this, I would rent for three months and then invest elsewhere all the money I am NOT spending on mortgage payments and maintenance for the other nine months out of the year. Real estate, especially when you are depending on rental income, is one of the riskiest investments there is. And it is also illiquid. Say your plans change and you want to be somewhere else in 5-10 years, due to health reasons or family situations or relationship changes or who knows what? You will still have your money sunk into a condo in STX that you might not even ever get to see. Whereas if you have all that money earning a return somewhere, you can then take it and BUY a condo in STX in 5-10 years if that is still what you want to do. Voice of experience over here. 😉
Hello everyone - I'm a new poster and Xenna's story could be my own - right down to the scuba diving, 3 months off (must be a teacher like me?), and tentative plans to retire. My husband and I were down for the second time in June and started casually looking or driving by some property listings I found online.
My main question here involves the relative safety of different quarters on the island. I have read the threads here specifically about crime, but I am wondering if you think the closing of the Hibiscus may hurt that general area if it remains unsold for long. Any rumors of anyone looking to possibly buy that property?
Thanks in advance for any thoughts . . .
Having a buyer do something nice with Hibiscus certainly would be a plus. I'd love to see someone who's well capitalized buy that and turn it into an upscale boutique hotel. But I don't see its closing to be a major negative to the area. The biggest boost we got in that area was when the projects down the road got damaged in a storm and closed. Crime dropped dramatically after that.