Construction on STT
Hi - new poster here I'm glad I found this board! I am visiting STT soon to scope out relocation. I own a small design-build firm specializing in high-end residential work in Boston, Massachusetts, and I'm hoping that I can relocate that business skill onto the islands. If I do it, I'll be moving down in the fall next year after I finish my last projects, fold up my business and either rent or sell my home.
- Is it difficult to get a business license in USVI? I'm a native born US citizen with no criminal record, etc.
- I saw that there is possibly a need for construction services on STX but how about STT? I can also expand out into "winterizing" homes (I guess on USVI it would be called "summerizing", wouldn't it? ).
- Should I plan to ship my truck to the island or is it better to just sell it and buy one there? I am planning to ship all of my tools, etc.
- I am considering relocating with my motoryacht and living on it while I see where I might want to live. And with my housing costs covered by living on my boat, what would be a reasonable budget to live on for a single person with no other debts?
- When I'm ready to buy a house (for year round occupancy) what should I expect to pay?
I'm familiar with small town bureaucracy and island life, having lived on islands off Maine and MA for most of my life. I'm just fed up with snow and being cold for 6 months out of the year!
I am also an avid sea kayaker and I've considered starting a kayak tour business, although that's more a pipe dream....
-Not difficult to get a biz license at all.
-STT has pretty much all we neeed here, but some competition wouldn't hurt! On a side note: Why would someone want to summerize their home here?
-Sell the truck and buy one here. Much easier.
-Live on the boat indefinitely! If you get your own mooring, you could live nicely on only $40,000/year. If you dock at a marina, then you'll be spending about $15/foot, so your income will need to be higher.
-Start at $250,000 and the sky's the limit. Sure you could find one cheaper than 250, but it wouldn't be a very nice house and it wouldn't be in a very nice area, or have a good view.
-Regarding: "familiar with small town bureaucracy and island life, having lived on islands off Maine and MA for most of my life", you should really come here for a PMV first. Our islands culture and bureaucracy for you are going to be nothing like island life in New England.
-We already have some Kayak Tours here. Maybe contact them to see what their input might be?
Thanks for the tips Marty. I guess by "summerizing" I meant helping snowbirds close up their homes for the season as they go back to wherever snowbirds go. Where I used to live there was a small sub-economy of people who did this kind of work for summer homes, I imagine the same thing happening in reverse down there, albeit to a lesser degree.
As for the work - unfortunately, most of my other skills would not be very useful. I am an architect by training and spent a good part of my career working in hospitals. I also do some facilities consulting for hospitals, but that's national work - I'd have to travel all over the US to continue to do that work, which is what I'm trying to get away from. I like the residential work - my clients are nice people and the projects are small scale. I can imagine a busy summer construction season - folks getting work done on their homes during the "off-season" is that right?
Regarding the boat, if I did get a mooring, are there launch services at any of the larger marinas? Rowing ashore, especially from a mooring on the outskirts, is no fun, especially at night and/or in the rain. Anyone have a line on a full-service marina in or near Charlotte Amelie?
Even though my move won't happen until next fall, I'm booked to go down in mid-Feb for a one-week PMV. I'm just hoping to scope things out, pick up some forms, oepn a PO Box, collect some info, etc.
I saw a job posting for a Chief Engineer with one of the larger resort/hotels. The pay is OK (65K) and it's a job I'm certainly qualified to do, although it's not my first choice and it's a sizeable pay cut from my current work. I understand that many people take something less just to get started.
Any other thoughts?
Snowbirds very often have their properties handled by a property manager who finds tenants to keep them occupied when the owners are off-island. It's best to keep properties occupied here, as empty properties develop problems if things go undetected for a while, from water damage to mildew to pest infestation, etc.
Most of the locals don't hire people do do much work on their homes at any time of the year. They do it themselves or get friends with skills to help them out. People who have relocated here would be your target clientele. The more expensive the house, the more likely that refurbishment and remodeling will be done and that contractors will be hired to do the work. Keep in mind that most houses here are concrete construction with concrete or sheet metal or elastomeric coated wood roofs, which may be different from the construction styles and techniques you are used to working with.
Remodeling isn't limited to the summer "off season". As the weather is remarkably consistent, only the rainiest times of year (May and September into November) would limit some types of remodeling work.
For people living on boats on mooring ball hooks, it's typical for them to have their own dinghy with a small motor to handle transport between their boat and the shore.
Thanks - this is good info.
My background is working on high-end residential design-build, where someone wants a custom-designed, turn-key project (new construction or remodeling). This usually excludes the typical handyman jobs. Handyman stuff is not the kind of work I want to do but I'll do it if I have to. On the flip side, I've done quite a bit of insurance work, and they're usually always good projects. I enjoy working with people who might not otherwise have the means to do something nice - they are always extremely grateful at the end.
I'm accustomed to working in island climates, both from a material availibility and moisture/environmental standpoint. The tip about concrete construction is a good one. Just out of curiosity, are the homes made *entirely* out of concrete, including interior partitions? (obviously excluding roofs)
Some homes are built with the interior partitions also of concrete and others use wood frame and sheetrock inside. The concrete has fewer issues down the road, so it is pretty common.
And actually there are quite a few properties with poured-concrete roofs!
One issue to watch out for when working with concrete is that there is a limited amount of working time from when the concrete is first mixed in the truck until it is poured into place at the construction site. Most of the concrete pours on STX are done outside of official tolerance limits and without the proper additive mixes used to extend the working time of the concrete mix. Also, most of the pumps used for concrete on STX are actually designed for pumping grout. The concrete plant has to alter the formula used to mix the concrete to make it possible to pump with these inferior pumps.
When a concrete truck reaches a construction site and is past the proper working time for the concrete (so the concrete is getting thicker than can be poured and worked), contractors often add water to the concrete before pouring. This weakens the concrete and could lead to catastrophic failure over time.
The distance from the concrete plant to construction sites is where the problem begins. If you are building close to the concrete plant, you may be OK. If you are at the far reaches of the island, you should check into how the concrete is being prepared for your project to ensure you are getting concrete that measures up to specifications. There are additives that can be used to legitimately increase the working time of the concrete. Unfortunately I've been informed by some contractors that water is the more common additive used on STX.
Is concrete block a common building method? I'd think block would be much more flexible than poured concrete, at least it is up here. Concrete and hot weather is not always a great mix. It only works if there are block mfrs on the islands.
Thanks for piping up - great info.
concrete block is the primary construction method used on STX. Most of the construction that is done with poured concrete walls and/or roof is high-end residential or commercial construction.
The "local" style of building is actually quite interesting... and astonishes most new arrivals when they hear about it. What often occurs is that a local who wants to build a house for himself/herself will first save enough money to pay cash for a piece of land... or perhaps already has a building lot waiting for them through family connections. Once they have their lot, many begin to landscape the property, mowing it regularly and planting fruit trees and palms since these take time to grow and begin to bear fruit. Meanwhile they are saving more $$ so they can build their cistern and pour the slab foundation for their future house. The next step is saving for the concrete blocks to construct the walls. Some save the $$ in a bank account and others open an account at a company supplying concrete blocks and deposit funds until they have enough to buy the materials they need to put up their walls. Kind of a reverse mortgage process. When the blocks are delivered, the house builder and his friends and family join in to construct the walls of the house. Visualize an old fashioned barn raising in the American pioneering days. When the walls are up, it's time for more plumbing and electrical work and to save for the rafters and roof. When enough years go by and enough work is done, the house shell is complete and the owner can begin the interior finish work and eventually move in. Many such houses are owned free and clear of any mortgage by the time they are complete.
As you drive around the island and see many structures that appear to be abandoned, don't automatically assume they are hurricane damaged buildings. Many times they are buildings under construction... but the construction process might be measured in years rather than in months. Also, many homes built in the local fashion are never totally complete... there is rebar sticking out the top or a side where a planned future addition can be added.
In Tortola, home owners do not pay property tax until their construction process is COMPLETE. So homes are built with rebar jutting from one place or another as proof that the house is not yet done and another addition is still in process.
I understand Anguilla's aesthetic objection to the slower approach to building. But then Anguilla is largely an island of the extremely wealthy and they do not tend to build in the local islander fashion.
Anguilla is NOT largely an island of the extremely wealthy and they DO tend to build in the local islander fashion.
Anguilla is a luxury vacation destination but the island's local population is over ninety percent black West Indian with almost a quarter of Anguillans living below the poverty line. The majority of land in Anguilla remains locally owned, often passed down through families (and by law no more than 10 percent will ever be held by nonresidents.) Historically, Anguillans built on their land as their finances allowed, which resulted in large numbers of partially finished structures, not unlike what has been described on St. Croix. White continentals have deemed the unfinished construction a blight on the landscape and legislation (The Physical Planning Act of 2005) has been proposed to disallow piecemeal construction. If this legislation passes it would be disastrous for most Anguillans who have inherited land but who lack the dependable annual income necessary to procure financing to build a home.
It is interesting to read the last two posts. Alexandra stated that Anguilla is a wealthy island. She was properly corrected by dntw8up.
It is a common misconception that Anguilla is an island of wealthy white folks. That simply is not true. Anguilla land is tightly controlled by the long time families. Wealthy white folks either lease or partner with locals to build overpriced homes and resorts.
Anguilla was once my favorite island destination. The physical Planning Act of 2005 is just another reason to go somewhere else.
My comment was that the extremely wealthy don't build in the local island fashion. Of course there are locals on the island in addition to the recent influx of wealthy land purchasers. I recognize that it would be those wealthy new arrivals who would object to the continuation of generations of tradition in methods of construction that leave properties partially completed for years. Personally, I approve of the approach to people adding to their homes as their family grows and their needs change. I also approve of families living within their means and not going into massive debt to build a house.
I was not aware of the specific demographics of Anguilla at this point in time. I've heard a lot over the past few years about how the island is being "taken over" by the wealthy. "Progress" is inevitable, but it does seem a shame when an island's personality changes to a significant degree.