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Cyrano
(@Cyrano)
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Joined: 14 years ago
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October 26, 2007 1:48 am  

Amanda,

As someone who just started construction on St. Thomas I can assure you that the $300 sq. ft. quoted is not an exaggeration. I purchased my lot in 2004 with the expectation to build for $150 a sq. ft. with a little sweat equity. Maybe I could have if I had started construction in 2004, but not in 2007. Most new houses are either all concrete or combination concrete and concrete block. Both cement and steel prices have seen dramatic increases in the past few years fueled by shortages created by development in China. On St. Thomas, I am told, increases in concrete prices are also attributable to the fact that the same person owns both concrete plants and can charge what he wants.

At one point,early on, I considered kit houses and pre-fab houses, including Force 10. Well, you still need a concrete cistern and the pre-fab houses ended up costing about the same. In other words, I tried my best to beat the high cost of construction and got nowhere. Dome houses may be a cheaper option, but they are not for me.

Clearly, building in the VI is not for the faint of heart. Just read the blogsites posted by Piaa. Personally, I am indebted to both bloggers for their candid information. I learned a lot from them. The most important thing I learned is to have a fixed price contract and not a cost plus. In the end both bloggers ended up spending over twice their original budget. I too have started a construction blog in the hope of educating others about building in the VI. See www.villawhiteomornin.wordpress.com/

Can you build for under $300? I think you can if you can do some work yourself or at least takeover the contracting for the finishes. This is what I am doing to try to save some money. I have contracted for the shell only and will finish from there. Easier said than done, we will see!


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aschultz
(@aschultz)
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October 27, 2007 7:09 am  

I am doing the same as Cyrano just having the shell done. Even a contractor in the states would have a hard time with the cistern and early form stuff. The cap for the cistern is no joke. Don't be scared of unlevel terrain, it was no problem. It is half the digging half of the cistern is out of the ground, compered to flat it is like a basement. But I will worn you I did not want to pay cash anymore. I went to get a construction loan and the bank wont even take a bid for less then $300 sq. They forced my guy bid it turn key at that price. I was surprised they did not care about him stopping and me taking over, as long as it appraises for 20% more than they have invested at that time.


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Afriend
(@afriend)
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November 19, 2018 7:28 pm  

It all depends on the finish materials you choose. Figure around $200/sq.ft. for your cistern, foundation slab, four walls and openings for your windows and doors. Add another $75 to $100/sq.ft. for basic “builders standard” finish materials - high end designer finishes can easily double or triple your final per sq.ft. cost. Don’t forget to set aside extra money for site preparation if building on mountain slopes or in flat land with high water table.

Here’s a rule of thumb that we used when building our home - have your architect and builder give you their respective “best” pre-construction estimates. Add 50% to those numbers and you’ll have a fairly good idea of what it will eventually cost to actually build your home. If your project is anything like ours (and those of other friends we know) you will be behind schedule and over budget almost from day one.


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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November 19, 2018 7:32 pm  

Thanks- that's already been my experience with buying the land.


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Taz 2
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November 19, 2018 7:40 pm  

I'm almost afraid to ask about time line.

But how bad is it?


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SkysTheLimit
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November 19, 2018 7:46 pm  

2 years


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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November 19, 2018 7:50 pm  

that's what I thought


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Afriend
(@afriend)
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November 19, 2018 8:40 pm  

2 years + or - sounds about right. It took our architect about 7 months to complete the plans and specs and then it took another 2 1/2 months to obtain bids from three contractors and then another 20 months for actual construction from ground breaking to structure completion ready for move-in (not including exterior landscaping).

Interesting side note: when we began project construction time estimate given by architect was 6 to 8 months - ended up not even being close.


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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November 19, 2018 8:46 pm  

Lord what have I got myself into-Ha Ha


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stxdreaming
(@stxdreaming)
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November 19, 2018 9:07 pm  

Afriend wrote:
2 years + or - sounds about right. It took our architect about 7 months to complete the plans and specs and then it took another 2 1/2 months to obtain bids from three contractors and then another 20 months for actual construction from ground breaking to structure completion ready for move-in (not including exterior landscaping).

Interesting side note: when we began project construction time estimate given by architect was 6 to 8 months - ended up not even being close.

How was the quality of the work from the contractor you used?


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Afriend
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November 19, 2018 9:20 pm  

We were very pleased with the quality of our construction so much so that we remained on very good terms with our contractor for several years afterwards. Unfortunately he passed away a few years ago and his company no longer exists.

Best advice I can give is do your homework - obtain and check references thoroughly BEFORE you hire any architect or contractor.


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Taz 2
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November 19, 2018 10:36 pm  

Thanks-I have an architect-will be looking for builder


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mtdoramike
(@mtdoramike)
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November 20, 2018 11:31 am  

Taz 2 wrote:
Lord what have I got myself into-Ha Ha

I'm curious, what part of still recovering from two major hurricanes back to back with some parts of the Islands not getting power restored for a year made you say Hummmmm, I just got to get me some of that?

mike


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speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
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November 20, 2018 1:27 pm  

not sure why building the structure takes so long on STT. ive known people who took less time to build a house


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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November 20, 2018 1:47 pm  

Mike,

I've owned land on the Island for years, just waiting for repair work to slow down before I build.


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speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
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November 20, 2018 6:07 pm  

not everyone has their insurance payouts yet , lol. could be a bit longer

Taz 2 wrote:
Mike,

I've owned land on the Island for years, just waiting for repair work to slow down before I build.


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caribstx
(@caribstx)
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November 20, 2018 6:29 pm  

speee1dy wrote: not everyone has their insurance payouts yet , lol. could be a bit longer

That's true...I'm still waiting for mine. We haven't settled with the insurance company yet.

But, when we do, it will be very nice and well worth the wait.


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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November 20, 2018 7:06 pm  

Do any of you have recommendations for Construction loans, I own the land and have about 50% of estimated build cost on hand. Before the 50% overage.


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rmb2830
(@rmb2830)
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November 20, 2018 9:38 pm  

Still waiting for our insurance settlement too...unfortunately have the company that is having problems.


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mtdoramike
(@mtdoramike)
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November 21, 2018 10:21 pm  

I was just curious, I know several people and families that quickly left the Island when they got the opportunity vowing not to return. Unfortunately we are in a weather cycle that is not conducive to Island living without major storm interruptions, global climate change or not, the weather cycle is here at least for a while. I can remember from the late 1960's to 1989 when Hugo hit the Islands we had very little to worry about as far as major storms. It seems these cycles run for 5-10 years with a 20-25 year gap. But I'm no weather forecaster.

mike


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stjohnjulie
(@stjohnjulie)
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November 22, 2018 7:53 am  

A lot of the cost to build depends on your finishes. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it will cost to build but it's not likely to include costs for extravagant finishes. Contractors, in general, are really busy right now and will be for years to come.


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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November 26, 2018 1:27 pm  

thanks-that's why my start date is 2021


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Exit Zero
 Exit Zero
(@Exit Zero)
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Posts: 2265
November 26, 2018 6:33 pm  

With that start date - you may want to consider some preplanning. Doing the site clearing and excavating prep work for a foundation, after seeing how that settles out, submitting plans for approval and lining up the cistern crew, getting the cistern formed, poured and cured will save you months when you are ready for starting the real construction.
Getting retaining walls and even a driveway pad in ahead of the big work can also save you time and money since you are not doing it along with other projects and at your own pace as well.
Having the plans approved can sometimes hold up a project, and that makes it difficult to find contractors and bids.
Getting the Earth Change permit and starting initial work also gives you some real progress to show a bank since you asked about construction loans earlier.


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Taz 2
(@Taz 2)
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Posts: 11
November 26, 2018 8:53 pm  

Great advice


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Alana33
(@Alana33)
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Posts: 12275
November 27, 2018 8:49 pm  

Not all banks now offer construction loans.

Merchant's Commercial Bank on STT does. Not sure if they have a branch on STX.

Banco popular does.
Not sure about 1st Bank and Scotia.
Things changed after hurricanes.
Be prepared for the amount of paperwork and the fact that you won't get a lump sum to build but in incremental sums as the work progresses and shows money loaned has been utilized for the manner in which it was loaned.
Be prepared for delays in getting $$$ from bank to move forward.
Be prepared to keep every single receipt of all expenses of every single penny spent.
What type of insurance will the bank require?
Start checking around on what banks offer what!
What fees, interest rates, deadlines, etc.
Keep great records and details of who you've spoken to and dealt with.

Here's an interesting blog about building in STJ.

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

Good luck.


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