Doesn't anyone BUY houses in the USVI?
My family is looking to relocate in the summer 2012. We plan on selling our houses here in Maryland (ours, my mother, and my brothers) and buy a house in STX.
All I ever read about on the boards is about rentals. Doesn't anyone buy houses? I see a fair amount available on the MLS, so I am wondering why there isn't more discussion about purchasing a home vs. renting.
What might I be missing?
Thank you 🙂
My thoughts are that you can find a lot of homes already for sale online by their respective MLS listings, but not so much with rentals, so this board is a great source for that. The St. Croix paper, which lists a lot of rentals, is not available online, and I would trust this site over the scams on Craig's List. Just fulfilling a need.
We bought in 2004.
I think alot of that has to do with getting financed, prices per sq ft, committment, can take a looong time to sell etc..
Now might be a good time to buy with the economy down. Lot's of sellers have lowered their asking price.
Lotsa people buy houses on all the islands. Someone told me there were over 800 in STX. Just depends on location, location, location. Also on price and how much work you want to do to maintain them. Probably more maintenance here than in your area. Suggest you dig deeper on this board for reasons to buy or rent. And don't forget to come for a PMV before you make the leap. It may not be the paradise you thought it was.
There are a few ways to look at this -- the simplest is that many of the people who are planning on moving to the VI on these boards are younger and not home buyers. That said, it is usually recommended that new arrivals rent for awhile to get the lay of the island in both the real estate and lifestyle concept.
All of the houses,apts.,condos etc are owned by someone if you look at it that way - many of the stand alone homes have a rental apt. as part of the building - often the other part of the cistern level - and there are a portion of the homes that were bought for later personal use and rented out at this time, many of the condos are used like this.
It is generally quite a big change to move here from the US mainland in many ways so committing to the financial decision to BUY a house is usually delayed until people see how the adjustment to island living works out for them.
The survey listed at the top of this message list does ask about home ownership - maybe the results are posted somewhere??
We plan on doing a lot of research and definitely making a PMV before taking the final leap 🙂
It has always been our plan to purchase a home and the more I have been reading the mention of rentals is far greater than that of purchase, so I was just starting to wonder 🙂
I know that in the states we have excellent credit and had no problem getting pre-approved for a mortgage. I was thinking that it might not be as easy on the islands, and thus, that was part of why I keep hearing about renting vs. buying.
Might that also be the case?
Thanks to everyone for your info.
I am gaining a great deal of insite from all of you!
It is best to rent for at least a year, One, to see if island living is really for you. Two, to see where you really want to be located.
Another factor, many people once they move down here either quit this board or quit posting. Some are too busy diving and hangin at the beach. Right Mike!!!:D
Rent, see if you like it, determine what area you prefer, then buy if/when something you like pops up!
Yes, qualifying for a mortgage is MUCH harder here!
On another note, i`m going to Florida in a couple hours!
Wonder how many bags/pallets i`ll bring back this time!
It is possible to buy a house without living here first, and to remain content with your purchase years later.
On previous trips we'd spent a month on STJ and a month on STX, but eventually decided neither island suited us. We made a brief trip to the VI to look at a specific house for sale (on Water Island), but after seeing the house/island we decided living there full-time would be too much extra hassle, as it is already plenty challenging to live in the VI. We then explained to a STT agent exactly what we wanted, saw one house on STT, made an offer that was accepted, had a home inspection -- and returned to the states. We closed on our VI house as soon as the seller got a tax clearance letter -- the home inspection we had the day after our offer was accepted was the sole condition written into our contract i.e. we have a mortgage, but we put much more than the usual percentage down, and were confident of our ability to obtain financing for the balance, so financing was not a condition in our contract. We then left the VI house empty for several months while we sold our house in the states, down sized our belongings, and arranged to have our stuff shipped to the VI.
This method only works well if you are certain of your family's wants and needs, and can articulate them.
Thank you for the very detailed account of your experience.
I think that is the scenario we will do.
We envision doing a PMV to confirm that STX is the island of choice.
While we are there I believe we will scout the real estate out, and line up a few choices to look at before leaving (just to get a better feel).
Then, we will come home, put ours on the market, and once it sells, make another trip to the VI to do a 'house hunting' expedition.
My mother is also selling her house and moving with us (she will live in the apt or attached cottage that we will make sure we have).
SO, if our house in the states sells quickly, we will live w/ her until we all move.
That way, we can afford for her house to be on the market for a little bit.
I just don't really like the idea of renting. I am glad to learn that what I noticed (mostly younger, and childless couples) is the case when it comes to the renting population.
I want to be able to buy a home to move into and make my own once we are transitioned.
Again, thank you to all of you who have shared your insight.
This board will be invaluable in the coming years as we prepare for the big move!
There's a honeymoon phase when moving here that can last 6-12 months. It's not usually the case that you can sell quickly down here if you decide to move back. That's another thing to consider. It can also take months for your financing to go through once the house is sold.
I think the key thing in my case is that I was pretty flexible on needs -- the numbers of bedrooms/bathrooms and the price -- and instead developed specific wants -- neighborhood and house attributes that my agent could use to cull the house inventory. For example, I wanted to live in an area where all houses had been owner occupied for many years, which is hard to find here. There's no guarantee that the area where I live will remain owner occupied, but it's been this way for twenty-five years (when the first house in this neighborhood was built), and there are no indications that the neighborhood is changing, even though houses occasionally change hands. I wanted one level living, also very difficult to find on STT. I wanted a traditional West Indian style house (one room deep to take advantage of cross breezes), on a lot that has breezes, with the house sited to catch the breezes (as I did not want AC), and natural ventilation/cooling is frequently overlooked by home designers/builders, or unavailable on home sites. After I described all of my wants to my agent I was told there was one house, in the neighborhood where the agent had lived for twenty years, which met all of my requirements -- and that is the house I bought.
You don't mention what your budget is, but that will be a HUGE consideration when deciding to relocate here. My family and I will more than likely be there just after the first of the year and have decided (mainly because of my husband's employer's "fly by the seat of your pants" attitude) that we'll be renting, rather than buying. And we're in our 30s with kids, having always owned our own home. Homes on the island are extremely expensive, and would obviously take much longer to sell because of that very reason. Listen to Trade -- the average length of time to decide whether or not you're cut out for the island lifestyle is about 8 months.
On a separate note, if you have kids still in school, you'll need to take into account the tuition for private school -- average $11K per year per kid. It all adds up, so make sure you do plenty of research, and Good Luck!
Homes on the island are extremely expensive, and would obviously take much longer to sell because of that very reason.
Whether or not housing here will seem expensive depends largely on what you're accustomed to, and price is less relevant to time on the market than you might think, because there are always buyers at every price point. It takes longer to sell houses in markets like ours primarily because such a large percentage of buyers are making a non-essential housing purchase i.e. second/third/fourth home buyers and buying to rent to the vacation market, rather than buying for primary residence purposes.
We bought a house in STT in July, and now is a good time to buy as the interest rates are at historic lows and the prices have come down. We are renting it out for now with hopes of moving in a few years and the rent for now covers the mortgage. Keep in mind, if you do get a loan you will need hurricane insurance which can be as much as $10,000 per year. Also keep in mind construction, masony vs. wood frame, wood frame insurance can get pricey! Flagstar Bank will be your most comparable to interest rates in the US. You pretty much will need to do 20% down conventional. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! Keep in mind that interest rates are eventually going to creep up again and just last week, they were hovering around 5%.
I have found that well priced family homes that are marketed and sold to people who live here actually sell very quickly - often they do not even end up being advertised more than once if at all. Much quicker than homes that are sold to second home off island buyers and generally less expensive - but they are not vacation style living - just solid structures built for family living with a reasonable maintenance cost.
Also, because our banks/mortgage companies never got involved in the risky loans that brought down so many stateside banks - we haven't seen the rate of forclosures the states has. Most mortgages here are 20% down, fixed rate. And as stated above, construction is very different, because of the hurricanes.
So much information....where do I start?
Someone asked our budget. We are looking in the 300-400k range. Something modest is all we need. We are trying to downsize and live simpler, after all. I am finding a lot in our range as I look at the MLS. We need 2-3bd with an apt for my Mother.
Now, we plan on putting 20% down. That is the goal.
I knew about hurricane insurance. Am I correct in my assumption, that, like homeowners insurance here, it can be included in the equation so it is included in with the mortgage, or will I be paying that up front most likely?
Again, thank you to everyone!
So I will throw in my two cents on the whole thing. My background in the real world is/was in construction and real estate. I bought my first home when I was in my early 20's, a duplex that I lived in one side of and rented the other out. I still own that property as well as a waterfront home that we lived in for over a decade before moving here. We have been back and forth on the own versus rent thing for almost two years now. We considered a condo but the maintenance/insurance fees are almost as much or in some cases more than the rent on the top floor of the house that we are in now. Also the prices were falling when we looked and still have been so I just didn't see the upside. As for a free standing home the insurance as others have stated, and the maintenance are insane. With lived in a large house for the first year that we were here, the owners are friends of ours and I have to say the upkeep is constant. In the short time that we lived there they had to re coat the roof which looks to be a every couple of year event, $1000, repaint inside and out $5000 (this will last five years), replace a sewer line under a concrete pool deck $6000 est, which meant breaking up the pool deck and then replacing it. The pool pump burnt up $500, the faucet went out in bathroom shower, no replacement parts available so you break a whole int he concrete wall and replace $500. Ongoing issues with wapa and under current burning up appliances. The insurance on that house, three bedroom, two bath plus an apartment was over $10,000 a year. It cost $200 a month to maintain the yard. Those two items alone are as much as our rent, that math just doesn't work for us. The other issue frankly is unless you are retired you will find yourself working more here than you did stateside, or at least that's my case. So the thought of coming home and spending my precious time off repairing a house really isn't appealing. We haven't ruled it out in the long run but it will have to be a great deal for me to get off the fence, maybe a hurricane damaged house or a half finished, oops I ran out of money deal. Personally based on what I have learned since moving here I would rent for a minimum of six months to make sure that you are happy with the decision and the location of the property. Either way good luck with your decision.
Worth well more than 2 cents for that cogent analysis Capt Jay - Thanks for taking the time.
Amen to what Captain Jay says. Yes, I know real estate is an investment (and I own a house stateside that I rent out), but I am SO much happier not having to deal with the expense and hassles of tropical home maintenance myself. Renting lets me spend my time how I please instead of always having to minister to a house's demands.
Trade's comment about the honeymoon period is spot-on, too. People move back stateside for all sorts of reasons they never foresaw -- a family member suddenly becomes ill and needs care, or the challenges of island life just get to be too much, and so on. You can always buy a place later, but selling if you change your mind is a big hassle.
Trade's comment about the honeymoon period is spot-on, too.
The flip side of the honeymoon analogy is that married people (homeowners) make a binding commitment, and thus tend to try harder to make things work than unmarried people (renters), who do not have the responsibilities and ties of a marriage (home ownership) commitment. Only you know which sort of "housing relationship" best suits you and your family. 😀
Sometimes one half of a married couple loves living here while the other winds up hating it. That sets up another whole set of problems. In some cases one of the spouses winds up having to have more of the headaches of day-to-day hassles than the other does & that can affect who loves what. It also usually takes a while to decide on which area you would like to remain in.
Yes you can have the homeowner's insurance be set up in an impound account and your loan servicer would add those payments to your monthly mortgage bill.
Also keep in mind that the government has not collected property taxes since 2006, so you may want to keep a personal impound account for that as well, probably an extra $2000 per year that they have not collected to be on the safe side.
I think the reason this board speaks more to rental availability than to owner is that renters are more fluid and rental apts and houses become available more frequently. This is a good place for owners and rental agents to find people who are just moving here and looking to rent, doing a PMV, coming for season, etc. People who want to purchase homes will typically work through a professiona real-estate agent, have been here on enough visits to know who or where or what they want, etc. People who want to sell homes aren't typically going to "list" them here... Sure, there are the exceptions but that's why I think you see more rentals mentioned here than houses for sale.
Buy versus Sell. Real Estate is a longterm investment. We made an offer on the third day of our first visit. Lucky for us we love it here and have lived here full time ever since. While I'll agree that there are tradeoffs on the rent/vs/buy expenses ... for us buying was what we needed to do for a number of reasons and as an investment (we bought over 10 years ago) , it appears to have been a good one. (We won't know til we sell though.. will we?). I'll agree that selling takes time (whether you live here or elsewhere)... but compared to other US tropical destinations, real estate here is still a good one! And if you buy smart and don't try to make your life's fortune when you sell... selling doesn't take so long comparitive to other us cities. Too often people bought during the high and want to sell now during the low for more than they've invested. It doesn't work that way. Regardless, compare our housing prices to Hawaii! Its still a deal here. A lot of good things are happening on STX and in the VI and I think we are going to remain a good investment even though prices may be down at the moment ... but Real Estate is a longterm investment.!
We live in a beautiful place with a lot of advantages. Its not for everyone... no place is. But... just look at today - what a gorgeous day! Rent or Buy or Stay in a Hotel for a visit.. just leave your bad attitude stateside.... You'll love STX!