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amanda4882
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October 18, 2007 11:44 pm  

Me and my husband just bought some land on STT and are looking into building our retirement home. Can someone give me an idea of cost per sq-ft to build? Not the over inflated $300 sq-ft you hear quoted all the time, but an honest to goodness realistic cost from someone who has done it. I have received a few quotes from builders on island and some are quite high. I mean like 600k for a 1500 sq-ft house high! Now I know it is expensive to build on a island but come on! I was on STT last week and I saw several locals building and I know they cant be spending 600k! I know people will say the locals all live together and build a little at a time but I did the math, you would have to have 10 people working 40hrs a week for 20 years to build at this rate! I am not completely ignorant to the fact that it can be expensive to build in a desirable locale as I currently live in San Diego CA. Talk about expensive!
So, please tell me there is a way. Because if there isn't a realistic way to build then I cant see how the USVI will ever attract new, educated professional people.

Amanda


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Captain Jay
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October 18, 2007 11:55 pm  

I found this web page a while back and they appear to be legitimate and in line with what I have seen for pricing.
http://www.phvi.com/PHVIpricelist.pdf

I would expect to pay between $200 and $300 dollars a square foot. It has a lot to do with no natural resources and a very limited labor pool. All the material have to be shipped in.
Jay


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dntw8up
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October 19, 2007 12:07 am  

"I have received a few quotes from builders on island and some are quite high. I mean like 600k for a 1500 sq-ft house high!"

You asked builders for quotes but don't agree with their quotes? I know several folks here with masonry houses (more expensive than wood or mixed construction) of approximately 1500sf who paid much more than 600k for their houses and now pay 1k/month to insure (less than they would pay if wood or mixed construction) and none of them are waterfront. This is an expensive place to build, buy, insure, etc. All building materials have to be shipped here from elsewhere. If builders weren't plenty busy at the prices they quoted you they'd probably be working for less.


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Lizard
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October 19, 2007 3:59 am  

amanda4882,
When someone gives you a ballpark figure of $200. and $300. per sq ft price. You have to make sure your on the same sheet of music, meaning "the number quoted, did it include the land and all hard and soft cost". In order to build "today in the USVI your plans must be prepared by a licensed Architect,Engineer". For an additional fee he/she can cost the project out related to the improvement for you in the market area. What type site work is going to be required, utilities access, cistern (water storage tank), septic system, central ac/wall units . Type of construction materials, block, concrete,wood,composites etc. I think from your post your looking for a builder for a price. I wouldn't go that route yet. Talk and retain a good Architect. However a no frills estimate should start around "$175.00 per sq ft on the actual building/house cost ballpark figure on STT. Good luck!


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Jules
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October 19, 2007 9:32 am  

It's been a few years since I reviewed the numbers with an architect, but as I recall he broke it down to these approximations:

- $40-100K for excavation/cistern (depends on the terrain, boulders, etc)
- $300-350+/sf for interior space (kitchen, fixtures, and amenities play a role in this number)
- $200 sf for covered patio/balcony space
- $150 sf for uncovered patio/balcony space

The architect probably charges a percent of the projected building costs, so tack that on.

dntw8up's friend's house ($600k, 1500 sf) is in line with these numbers.

The estimates would probably be higher now.


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Linda J
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October 19, 2007 12:04 pm  

There are many middle class, middle aged folks who have made the move to the USVI.

When we moved, we sold our house in the states and put the proceeds and all our savings into mutual funds, etc.

We decided to live here for 6 months or a year before deciding if/where to buy. After 4 years, we've decided not to buy at all. We rent a very nice 2BR 2BA house from a very nice lady. Our monthly living expenses (rent, insurance, utilities, phone, internet, cable) are less than $1800 a month. We live off our pensions and income from working. When something goes wrong at the house we just call the landlord.

A lot depends on your wants and needs. I suggest you come down and live for a year before starting to build your house. You will gain some prespective and insights into the islands. You will also make contacts that will be invaluable when you do start to build.

My 2 cents, and worth about that much.

Linda


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Lizard
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October 19, 2007 12:31 pm  

Linda J,
They own the land already. Their looking for a price to build on it.

Captain Jay, referenced Premier Homes LLC (2007 Price List for Construction of New Homes) they build for a cost of $243.00 to $248.00 Per sq ft. That's a far cry from $400.00 Per sq ft. That price does not include Land acquisition, site work, pools or AC. It does include Builders Profits and soft costs related to building (Architect Fees, Building permits, inspection fees, costs of materials and erection of same.


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Linda J
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October 19, 2007 12:35 pm  

Yes I realize that. And my advice was to wait and NOT build immediately. And I stand by that advice.


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billd
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October 19, 2007 12:51 pm  

There are few things that are CRITICAL. The first and perhaps the most important is the land. If it is hilly then you will need to do much more work in getting the cistern set. The second is how far the house is from the road. The last is the design of the house.

I might suggest that you call DELTEC. They offer a pre cut house that is shipped to you. If you want to know more about this then PM me.

Also the suggestion about living here before you decide on what you want is a good idea. What you have may not be want you want in the long run.

I rebuilt a hurricane damaged house and it has been an interesting experience. We owned two condos at Crystal Cove and it took some nerve to dive in to rebuild this house.

Bill


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Trade
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October 19, 2007 1:22 pm  

Many locals that you mention do the building themselves. They save to buy the land, then save to pour the cistern which is a big chunk of the budget. They then buy the materials (concrete blocks, etc.) as they can afford to & slowly the house is built with help from friends & family. By the time the house is finally finished - and that can be several years later - the house is paid for. They're not hiring general contractors to build the whole thing as you would be.

I've been watching the progress on this kind of building for several years from my deck. I thnk Linda's suggestion is a good one, and it would be a good idea to be living here at the time you're building to keep an eye on the progress & make sure all is being done properly.


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billd
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October 19, 2007 2:03 pm  

I would like to add few more facts to what I sent before.

1. Concrete can run well over 180 a year. That is TWICE the average mainland rate.

2. A pumper truck will run about 1000 a day. So if the land is very steep you will need a pumper truck for many days.

3. Steel rod, blocks and hardware to build the foundation are much more expensive here. About twice the main land rate.

4. Locals barter their traids. So one does and then does for another. The houses they build in floors with each family living on a floor. So you will see many multi-story homes here.

5. I don't know where you bought the lot but it is the most critical part of the expense, next to size and type of home.

6. I strongly suggest that you pour the walls, not make them our of wood or even block. It gives a much better home to withstand hurricanes.

7. There are some unique permitting things that happen down here.

I would strongly suggest that you live in a rental for the time it takes to build a home. That might be in excess of one year given the slow progress. I have a house below me that they have been building now for two years. They have a year to go.

But when it is all said and done you will have a beautiful home in one of the most beautiful places in the world.


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The New Improved Jane
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October 19, 2007 2:06 pm  

Trade is spot on with how the locals build their houses. It can take a decade to even be close to finished.
IMHO $300 a square foot is pretty close to the final cost. Can you rent elsewhere and build yourselves?
Linda J is also right in that many middle class people transplant to the Islands - they rent, they buy condos, and they buy existing homes. I lived and worked on StCroix and, in general, the people who were bulding their homes were not "middle" but had lots of money available for the project.


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Alexandra
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October 19, 2007 2:41 pm  

It definitely also depends upon the builder. There is a brand new house on the market on STX with 2200 sq ft interior space and large front and rear galleries with an ocean view... price just $399K. The finish work is excellent and the over-sized tile for the floors, loads of hardwood cabinets in the kitchen and baths, lights, etc. are all very nice. This is a spec home and includes a half acre of ocean view land, yet it is probably priced less than you would pay to have a builder put a custom house up on your own lot. Having seen this house, I would be inclined to talk to the builder if I wanted to build a new home myself as the quality and well thought out floorplan with large rooms were impressive compared to many other homes I have seen on STX.


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Lizard
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October 19, 2007 2:45 pm  

amanda4882,
Years ago a General Contractor had to know the In's and Out of construction, When to call a specific trade in to do their part on the construction of the house in the proper timed sequence.( Meaning when to call the plumber, electrician, carpenter, roofer,etc). With the Building codes today, and the required inspections, the inspectors will tell you when your ready for the next trade, that makes it easier to GC yourself with a considerable savings. The big problem on any construction site is loss of materials, this happens all over. Security of supplies on site is a paramount problem. So deliveries must be monitored and secured when needed. Another suggestion is go to Home Depot, There is always contractors there in the early AM, talk to them about price (with plans on hand). Always get references!


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billd
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October 19, 2007 3:53 pm  

I was reading your note again to help you out on your build. The last sentance sort of gets to me. There is a constant influx of people from the main land now. Construction is going on over in St. John were they are building houses that exceed 3-5 MILLION. The same is for here on St. Thomas. There is construction everywhere. We live over by Sapphire Beach. If you look up on the hill there is probably 20 homes under construction. Some big, some small. The lots right below me are on Pelican beach. They are selling for 965K.

So there are PLENTY of folks moving down!

Bill


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Captain Jay
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October 19, 2007 3:53 pm  

Lizard,
That has go to be the worst advice I have ever heard. I am contractor so I'll put that out there right now. But you are talking to a person that currently lives in California, and wants to build in the Virgin Islands. Yes inspections to a point will dictate when a sub can go to work but that's not what you are paying a general contractor for. You are paying him first for his knowledge of the subs, which ones to hire which ones to run away from. Also his supervision of that work and holding them accountable. To think someone is going to manage construction of a home themselves that will in all likely hood take more than a year to build in a part of the world were construction techniques, methods, designs, permitting, etc., not to mention the culture are so radically different that what she is used to is a recipe for disaster. I don't normally build houses but I do large and extensive renovations and additions that in some cases are as large as average homes were I live. I agree whole heartedly about references they are the only true measure of a builders reputation. I have not run an add in my market in the last four years, my company is not even in the phone book. We stay booked anywhere from 3 to 9 month out at any given time. Word of mouth and what you have done speak volumes as to the quality of the work.
Frankly I am faced with the decisions Linda mentioned right know and even with my knowledge of construction and real estate, I am a second generation contractor and have also sold real estate and manage my own rental property, upon relocation I will either rent or live on a boat. I would want to be in the area for at least a year to learn the market and the areas before I invested money in real estate or new construction.
My .02 and it may not be worth anymore than Linda's
Jay


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piaa
 piaa
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October 19, 2007 3:58 pm  

Try reading these blogs 🙂

http://bongobongostjohn.com/blog/index.html
http://www.reefmadnessvilla.com/Madness-9.htm

Pia


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Lizard
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October 19, 2007 4:47 pm  

Captain Jay,
It wasn't advice, but an option. The OP stated."So, Please tell me there is a way". That might not be the way for them, but it is something to think about. The OP also stated that they own land already on the island of STT, with the intention of building a retirement home. One would assume that they already did their Homework and are now facing sticker shock on the cost of construction. And if I can think of another option that might help out, I'll post it.

I find it interesting the price's quoted so far are all over the top to say the least, with the exception of Alexandra.
Her price comes in at $185.00 per sq ft, New Construction, Spec House with Land Included.

I agree with you on the merit of a good local GC, you are singing to the choir with that one. As I stated on my earlier post on this thread is starts with a good Architect, who could cost the project out and more than likely reccommend a good GC or Builder.

PS. Maybe when your down there on your boat you could GC the Job, PM Her. Thats another option.


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Lizard
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October 19, 2007 5:23 pm  

piaa,
Those non-experienced two young guy's, built a 2800 sq ft villa inside measurement and 1100 sq ft outside on ST John for $316.00 per sq ft. with a pool, masonry with steel.


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Captain Jay
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October 19, 2007 6:16 pm  

Lizard,
Sorry I came of a little harsh sounding on that one. I have been to one too many homes were they have been watching HGTV for a month and think you can renovate there whole house in a week for $2000.00. I wish I was in a position to offer my services to her but I will have to jump some hoops and do some smaller projects in that market before I would be comfortable with a whole house there. I have found through the years that my relationships with building inspectors, suppliers, and subs are as important as those with my customers. I gave the link to the builder above because if they deliver what they claim to on their web page it looks like they are a class act. As for the Bonjo Boy's blog. Those are definitely not your average people. They went through a process that would drive the average person to brink. I read there other web page on-st john and read that blog religiously, they had a GC that seems to have a very good reputation, although I believe even they are affected by Island Time and the Carib gods from time to time.
I too think the original poster bought her land and either didn't have a full grasp of the situation or as you suggested is facing sticker shock. I am afraid what most people envision as the easy life in the Cari bean just won't add when all of the realities of a daily life kick in. It is obviously hard work living in paradise unless you have an endless supply of money and even then it will only be as good as the help you can hire. As much as I believe in the value of real estate as an investment, I think Linda especially at retirement age may well have it down. I am assuming from her post they sold of there property state side, invested the money conservatively and are living of the proceeds and there pensions. For a fixed income this is by no means a bad move.
Jay


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Lizard
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October 19, 2007 7:14 pm  

Captain Jay,
Linda J, expressed what was right for her and why she made her choice. And I realize she was sharing that information to be helpful. However the OP was asking for prices, the purchase of land was already done. Sometimes a thread can get morphed into something else and the poster goes away more confused than when they started and still has no answers. So the Question still remains "So, Please tell me is there a way". I would like to see more posts like I know a builder NamedXXXXXXX give him a call. that would be great.


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chop
 chop
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October 19, 2007 8:11 pm  

Amanda,

I'm afraid that unless you know the construction business and are able to oversee each step of the construction and also contribute your own labor to the construction, those $300 per sq. ft costs are valid. We are nearing the completion of a 2,000 sq ft, simple West Indian style house on Bordeaux Mt. on St John and we will be right at that $300 mark. That 2,000 sq ft includes the inside living space, cisterns and covered porch. After hearing all the horror stories about building and reading the different blogs I was very worried about what would actually be the cost in the end. I have followed the Bongo Boys and the Reef Madness blog (both good blogs) and they both used a builder with a good reputation and it would seem they still paid more than they should have. I took a chance on someone who had never built a house in the Caribbean before. He had however, built large industrial plants in the southeastern US and his brother (architect) has lived in Coral Bay for ten years so he knew some of the better contractors to use. I have gotten VERY LUCKY with Coral Bay Design and Build. For most of the build I was the only house he was building. Believe it or not, our house will come in on budget and be a one year build. He has really looked out for us. Examples, he has returned cypress to a lumberyard that was trying to ship us a lower grade of wood than we picked out and still bill us for the higher grade. When a contractor couldn't deliver on a fixed price poured concrete footer he sent them packing instead of just passing on inflated bills for us to pay. There are many pirates in the construction business. There are also some good ones who have lived construction all their lives and have some ethics too. Finding the good ones will make your dream manageable. Good luck with your dreams.


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amanda4882
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October 19, 2007 11:45 pm  

Hello all,
I definitely appreciate all the input and healthy dialogue my post produced!
Yes, we did buy on STT but only after two years researching the USVI, a PMV, and a honeymoon!
We are not strangers to the cost of building a home in an expensive area. We were very aware of the challenges we could face but just wanted to hear others experiences.
It just seemed very impractical that on an island where the average income was much lower than our home city, the house prices and construction cost would be equal or even more!
This is going to be a long term project, since we wont retire for at least 15 years. We are in no hurry.
But if we do get it done earlier than expected we could have a nice vacation spot for years to come.


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Trade
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October 20, 2007 1:13 pm  

Good luck with it! Friends have used Doug White successfully as architect & he prefers now to do more traditional West Indian style building & knows his stuff. Might be worth just talking to him, if you're interested.


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Afriend
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October 20, 2007 3:28 pm  

Take it from someone who has been there and done that - building costs on any island, STT included, are going to be quite high. Your best bet is to get the most accrate pre-construction estimates you can and then add 50%. If the resulting numbrer doesn't scare you then go ahead with your project. Building in the Caribbean is not for the budget minded. It helps to have deep pockets or a good source of capital. You will be behind schedule and over budget almost from the very beginning.


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