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Nancy
 Nancy
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March 4, 2007 3:12 am  

Hi all!

Our family wants to move to St. Croix this summer. I have found homes that sound really great but Realtor says "they are not in a neighborhood that he would recommend to Statesiders who may be unfamiliar with our island". Also, I'm a bit nervous after reading all the derogatory comments from others of living on the island.

We have a tight budget, trying to stay under $225k, so we don't have too many options as far as the ability to pick our neighborhood. But, what are the neighborhoods really like? I have 3 children, all boys(white), ages 12, 10, & 5. We are a casual family, I'm a stay@home mom and my husband is a chef/bartender. We have no problems getting to know other people.......what can we really expect???

Currently, we live in the Pacific Northwest-Portland,Or is the closest major city. We hear a lot of bad stuff on the news here but generally feel safe and comfortable. I don't feel like I need to watch my back all the time, or wonder if there may be someone behind a bush waiting to attack me...Is it really like this for the island residents???


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terry
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March 4, 2007 5:07 am  

don't buy until you come down and see for yourself. Rent for a while. Then get with Alexandra for your realtor.


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Island Rat
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March 4, 2007 10:41 am  

Nancy,

Terry is right! If you are looking on get to STX for good, makes as many PMV's as possible. You really need to see if the Island is right for you, and you are right for the island. It took my wife and I almost 5 years and a lot of PMV's to explore, discover and experience STX. We fell in love with it and now have the start of a fantastic life in the islands.

I tell all my friends that it isn't a post card or a Jimmy Buffett song - BUT - with the right attitude you will find exactly what they are singing about, and find beautiful places to stare at for hours!

Have you thought about how to handle the school situation - thats kinda important and worth considering.

Island Rat

Alexandra is fantastic to work with - you must get in touch with her before your trip!


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Betty
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March 4, 2007 11:32 am  

What was the neighborhood the realtor didnt recommend for you? There are definitely areas where houses are much cheaper where I would not recommend a new transplant or anyone I know live. But there are alot of inbetween neighborhoods that you have to take street by street. I can think of at least five houses right now that are in your budget and in fair to good neighborhoods. The market has slowed so things are getting snapped up as quick.

As far as the feeling of constant fear, if we all felt that I dont think anyone would live here. There are common sense things people do on the islands like become good friends with your nieghbors (not just a nice thing to do but very important here), rescue a good size dog or two. Do not waste your money on a security system, because it will be a waste. Content insurance is pretty pricey down here and your hazard and flood insurance is much higher so you have to weigh if it is worth it to you, because you have to have the hazard and if you're in a flood area the bank will require that as well. That being said I do not sleep as well when my husband goes out of town, but maybe being a chef he will not travel as much? And do not tell anyone you do not have to when you leave island for a vacation or get a house sitter.

If someones already invested their time showing you around and most likely giving you good advice it is considered very poor form to switch realors, unless for some reason you just do not get on. Who was it that helped you? Its a small island if this person has a bad reputation for some reason this board will tell you. 🙂


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terry
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March 4, 2007 12:48 pm  

Also look at the threads on schools. From reading them, the common theme is "send your kids to private schools" at about $5k per year each.
A lot of the time they also mean that the neighbor hood is West indian / Cruzian(black). Most statesiders are not used to being the miniority, and may find this uncomfortable, some may not. I have talked to some statesiders who love their West Indian neighbor hoods.
We own a condo. But the neighbor hoods that I see that I would be interested in if and when we might buy are: Enfield Green, Cotton Valley, and Queens Quarters( I think that is the correct name), St John. All seem to be a mixture of statesiders and West Indians / Cruzians. I am sure that there others as well, we are looking.


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Betty
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March 4, 2007 2:14 pm  

Terry I'm sorry but your way off base about why people no not want to send their kids to public schools. Locals send their kids to private schools. It is not a white/black thing or even a local/outsider issue. Its the awful condition the schools are in. Would you send your kid to a school that couldnt even afford books? Or that did not have the resources to help your children prepare for college? The issues are alot more serious with public schooling then you think.


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halawest
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March 4, 2007 2:44 pm  

well i would not recommend mon bijou, glynn,frangiapani, williams delight or campo rico to any statesider simply because of the crack dealers and users


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terry
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March 4, 2007 3:16 pm  

Betty I never said nor I hope implied that the reason about the schools was the color difference. That is why I told her to go the previous posts. Thoese go into the quality of schools.
I was refering to the neighbor hoods. I'm NOT saying that it's a bad thing either.


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Betty
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March 4, 2007 4:29 pm  

Terry it is often hard to tell what people are trying to imply on the interenet. But I dont exactly agree with you on the neighborhoods. Sure there are a few that seem to have more statesiders then cruzans and vice versa. But locals make up over 95% of the pop. of the island. You're pretty much going to be a minority anywhere. If anyone's not comfortable with that they shouldnt come.


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jane
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March 4, 2007 6:26 pm  

my advice (fwiiw), is absolutely do not buy a house in any neighborhood until you have lived on island long enough to really research the neighborhoods - it is almost a street by street thing.
Buy where you are most like the other people on your street. The same hopes, education level, comfort zone, children's school, income etc. Forget the race issue, go for the # of vehicles, noise levels, dogs barking, children's behaviour etc that you are comfortable with.
Location is always important - who knows when you might have to sell in a hurry. Be the cheapest house in the best neighborhood that you can buy is always sound advice.
Ask people who you feel are like you - where do they recommend? where would they not set foot etc?
The school issue is serious - 5- 10K each child! Not good for a limited budget. The locals who can afford peivate school jump on it - they won't put their kids in the substandard public system.
We lived in La Grande Princess - mainly black neighborhood, but prices there range from 100K up to 400 - 600K up on our hill. The lower neighborhood had a lot of junked cars and barking dogs. But, where we lived was gorgeous.
Listen to locals as well as realtors and research before you even think about buying.


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beachbumbq
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March 4, 2007 6:59 pm  

what kind of reputation does Judith's Fancy have, or La Vallee or Cotton Vallee?


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terry
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March 4, 2007 9:15 pm  

Judith's fancy is one of the nicest spots on the island IMHO. Very expensive.
La Valley is more of a rual setting, I like it as well. Out on the North shore, and a drive from most things.
Cotton valley is one of the nicer and I think more affordable spots on the East end with a Buck Island veiw. Very nice.


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terry
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March 4, 2007 9:18 pm  

Betty, One of us seems to be thin skined or something. Maybe it's me, but I never said or tried to imply that "I" felt that way. I said that is what it seems to be when realtors say that statesiders wouldn't be comfortable in a area.


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Jim Dandy
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March 4, 2007 9:19 pm  

Judith's Fancy is a gated community that Realtors consider upscale. It is NW of Christiansted. Some of the houses are great others not so. You will find cars up on blocks in some yards.

Cotton Valley is an east end area. Prices depend on if the home is water front and/or what type of a view it has.

The Shoys is in my opinion the most upscale neighborhood on STX. It is a gated community. Homes start in the low seven figures and go up. Price is dependent on the homes location, view and size. No junkers in any body's yard in the Shoys. Most all of the homes are well maintained and beautifully landscaped.

Jim


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joethebartender
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March 4, 2007 9:23 pm  

I'm looking into buying an inexpensive (150 to 220K) home soon. The neighborhoods on my list to visit include:

Barren Spot
Diamond ( near Rum distillary)
Golden Rock
Sion Hill
Hannah's Rest
William's Delight
Clifton Hill
Sion Farm
Eliza's Retreat
and
La Grande Princess

Can I get an opinion or two on these areas? I've been on the island twice, and will be visiting again at the end of the month. We expect to buy and move to STX in October. Thanks for any input, this message board is GREAT.


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halawest
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March 4, 2007 9:26 pm  

I live in Lavallee and love it, we have never locked our doors and all the neighbors know that, the guys under the tree on the corner pretty much watch the entire neighborhood so we have no crime up here unless it's the neighbor guys fighting with each other, i feel safer here in my neighborhood than i ever felt in minneapolis, up here i can walk the road at 3am and feel safe i would never walk the roads in either town and feel the way i do about lavallee and cane bay


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halawest
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March 4, 2007 10:04 pm  

well i don't have experience in any of the listed above, but based on island knowledge after 13 yrs i'd question ur realtor and go with alexandria or honee over at the cormorant or whatever they're calling it these days, i don't think any of those neighborhoods are all that great


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terry
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March 4, 2007 10:13 pm  

That's interesting to hear, we are going to be looking at a lot for sale there. I was watching (interested but not ready to buy yet ) the house with the Christmas looking tree that sold just aways past the "drug tree" ( that's how it was described to me ) last year at this time. Is that the tree you are talking about as well. The people there don't present a problem? All of the times I have driven by it, I don't think I have ever seen anyone there at all.
My friends at the dive shop in Lavallee just love it there as well, and also said they feel safe there.
If possible could we meet for lunch or a drink or whatever so I could pick your brain a little? If so, PM me, so I will have your email address or phone number. Once I get down there, I won't have access to this board. I have been trying to get my Cingular Blackberry to work with my laptop for several days now, in fact I have been on the phone with their tech people for over 10 hours in two days trying to figure it out.:(


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jane
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March 5, 2007 12:09 am  

Where in these areas is important. I lived in the 'posh' part of La grand Princess - very nice...down the road, horrid.
When I first moved to the island, I lived in a super beach house by Good Hope. The address was Whim. If you say Whim to most islanders, they think of the drug infested rat-hole parts of it.
I repeat again - you have to go to these areas and see if you can live in them. We had an acre of hill top with a pool... other parts of the same address have junk cars, a main road, barking dogs, drug deals and trash piles.
our list includes mainly middle of the road local neighborhoods, some 'nicer' than others.
One man's etc etc.


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Betty
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March 5, 2007 1:35 am  

Terry I'm not upset at all just didnt agree with you.

Joe I would say no to williams delight, sion hill, sion farm, and hannah's rest but maybe they're in a good pocket. But even with that you're equity will move slower. Rent a while and get a feel for the market. Market is moving very slow and interest rates seem to be coming back down, so you have time 🙂


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SailAway
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March 5, 2007 6:34 am  

Terry:

Call me thin skinned.

I don't agree with you either, but unlike Betty my response is a bit more emotional. I haven't talked with a VI Realtor in quite some time, but back when I did I never got even the slightest hint of racial steering from anyone I ever spoke with. Being a Realtor myself (my own company - Scottsdale), if I had I would have called the Feds to report them and they'd be in their third year of their prison term right now. It's that serious. Any agent who's had their license more than a week knows that -- and knows that the Department of Housing and Urban Development loves to use "shoppers" to pick out the bad apples, so people who want to keep their licenses and stay out of jail know better than to say the wrong things to any potential customer.

I'm not saying there aren't a number of bad apples that HUD hasn't found yet or that you couldn't very well have spoken to one or two of them. But I take exception when you hint that *most* Realtors seem to be referring to race when they say a statesider 'wouldn't feel comfortable' in a given area. It is my experience that agents refer to things like drug arrests, rape and burglary reports or even the number of dilapidated cars on a street when referring to certain neighborhoods they think the prospect might shy away from. True, it is also my experience that *some*prospective buyers infer from those statements that the agent is saying the area is black or green or French when all they said was something like; "There's a higher rate of armed robberies in that vicinity, I don't think you'd be comfortable there based on the conditions you have given me."

If an agent actually says something like; "I wouldn't buy there if I were you because the people there are not like us", or "they wouldn't accept your kind" or anything similar, DON'T work with them. Even if all they do is give you a slow nod and a wink while suggesting you wouldn't be comfortable in a given neighborhood, I would suggest calling HUD and giving the agent's name so they can send a pair of "shopper" couples for a visit.

I've read many of your posts and I frequently agree with your positions, but I disagree with the idea that illegal racial steering is pervasive in our industry.


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beachbumbq
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March 5, 2007 9:30 am  

Wow, great insight on the places I asked baout -thanks so much. Also wanted to ask aout the Whim, but I see it seems to be not such a great neighborhood - drugs et al. Too bad, saw a nice house there that just came on the market. This is very helpful to get the perspective of those that know the track record of some of these areas as we narrow our search.


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joethebartender
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March 5, 2007 12:33 pm  

It is interesting to see the responses to the "good neighborhoods" question. My inquiry into whether a neighborhood is "good" or not stems from my desire to, as Betty suggested, buy the least expensive property in the nicest area possible for the amount that I'm able to spend.

I believe that what makes a neighborhood good has nothing to do with the income level or the color of the skin of the people living there, but everything to do with, as Jane stated, drug deals, junk cars and trash piles.

I can't possibly speak with the knowledge that a lot of people on this board have from having been on island for so many years, but it seems easy to pick out those that show a bit of "cultural bias" in their messages. Many others though, show an open mind and don't see race or color but instead base their opinions on more concrete reasons that a neighborhood may not be a good place to live.

I'm discovering more about the island, and definitely more about the people who are regulars on this board, the better I get at using the board and searching for information.

I can't wait to get down there at the end of March and look at the island through what will be slightly more informed eyes than I've had my last two visits.


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terry
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March 5, 2007 1:31 pm  

Sailaway,
What I said or meant to say was when that was said, that is probably what they mean. I didn't mean to imply that all realtors say that. I had one tell me that when I was first trying to line up a realtor. He also told me that if I had a place that faced the wind, I wouldn't need A/C 99% of the time. ( He was right on "that" account.
Hey, when I get back in April, lets get together for lunch. I'm in Mesa. My wife works for the City of Scottsdale. PM me with your email or phone number. I'll try to PM youas well.


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Alexandra
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March 5, 2007 2:54 pm  

It would be pretty tough for a Realtor to "steer" a buyer away from a neighborhood for "racial reasons" on an island where every neighborhood has approximately a 90% black to 10% white ratio. There is very little variation in the mixture of races that make up whatever neighborhood you might look at when viewing properties advertised for sale in the MLS. On STX, there are pocket neighborhoods I have not yet driven through because properties don't come on the market in some areas. Most locals build their own homes and keep them in the family pretty much forever unless a divorce or death forces the sale of a property. Consequently, the same properties tend to be listed and re-listed as the years go by and a small pool of properties changes hands again and again.

Some neighborhoods are more poverty stricken than others and some are extremely affluent. Even so, these differently priced neighborhoods adjoin one another and in most cases there isn't much to define the separation where one neighborhood ends and the next begins.

Crime statistics tend to show higher instances of criminal activities occuring in close proximity to the low income government housing projects. Some neighborhoods are better maintained by their residents, while others have broken down cars and old appliances littering the yards and driveways. Each buyer has to determine which neighborhood feels like home to him/her. Since buyers come from varying backgrounds, three different home buyers are likely to choose three different neighborhoods.

I do encourage buyers to consider both the rate of appreciation in a particular neighborhood and the ease of resale of a property when they are making their final decision. These factors directly affect the value of this major investment a buyer is making. If a house has been on the market for 4 years without selling, then a buyer may have a similarly difficult time selling it in the future if they need to leave island. In the end, the choice is the buyer's to make.

I am scrupulous about showing buyers ALL of the options in their price range in ALL sectors of the island before they select one to make an offer on. I do hear quite often from buyers that another Realtor refused to show them properties in the western half of the island. Even then, I wouldn't think that the reason for their refusal was racially motivated, but more likely from the often expressed sentiment that the west end is somehow "bad" or more dangerous than the east end. I personally live west in Whim in one of the nicer pocket neighborhoods.

Nancy - there are some nice properties available right now within your price range. You won't have a huge quantity of homes to look at, but there are always a few coming on the market. One additional thing that works for some buyers is to look at 2-unit properties that are in a little higher price range. Many times you can find a better property this way and the rental income from the second unit will more than off-set the higher monthly mortgage payment, as long as you can come up with the extra down payment. This can give you a few more properties to look at. I'd definitely caution you to come to visit the island for at least a week or two before committing to moving down with your young sons. Do you plan to home school them? Your husband's salary as a chef is unlikely to be sufficient to support your family and still have enough left over for 3 private school tuitions.

I grew up about 20-30 minutes drive from Portland, OR. You'll like the weather here! There aren't people hiding behind bushes to jump out at you. Avoid the usual situations that are dangerous anywhere (buying/selling drugs, walking down back alleys at 2 AM, e.g.) and you aren't likely to become the victim of a violent crime. There are a lot of threads on this site about crime. While crimes of one sort or another do occur at a higher rate than any of us would like, you don't have to live your life here in constant fear.

I can think of a few neighborhoods with houses listed in your price range that would likely have inspired the comments of your Realtor. Definitely have him drive you through those neighborhoods to see them for yourself before you totally write them off. If you then still want to tour the houses, that can be set up for another day. I know sometimes I have set up appointments for buyers who were here only a couple days and they had some properties on their list of things to see that I knew probably wouldn't be a good fit for what they were asking for... but set them up anyway at their request since they wouldn't be here long enough for a second day of property tours... then had those buyers refuse to get out of the car to go see the inside of properties once they saw the neighborhood in person. Most people don't relocate here from the mainland to live in a slum neighborhood. Properties in some of the run down neighborhoods do sell from time to time, but most often to someone who has lived on the island for a while and become comfortable. I suspect that all Realtors would be uncomfortable encouraging a family moving here with small children to buy a property in one of the less desirable neighborhoods before the family had come down to see the neighborhood in person.

There have been instances where I have sold properties sight-unseen (other than lots of photos emailed to the buyers) in condo complexes a buyer knew they wanted from a previous trip or in very nice neighborhoods, but there were other times when I refused to write up a contract on a property until the buyers came down to see it in person because the reality of a house and/or its neighborhood didn't match up with what they had told me they were seeking. Sometimes MLS listings paint a better-than-true-life picture of certain properties. Others don't include enough info or photos to really grasp what is being offered. It's great if you have a good rapport with your Realtor and can trust their descriptions of property to help you select possible homes if you are narrowing your choices while still off-island. When it comes down to making the final selection, it's really best if you do that in person after scouring the island to find your best fit.

While Nancy and Joe's price ranges won't buy them fancy villas in Shoys or Judith's Fancy, there are very livable homes in pocket neighborhoods scattered about the island in the $200K price range. Some of the "Estate" names that are widely viewed as undesirable areas actually have sections that jump out and surprise you in a positive way. Some of the estates are quite sprawling while others are very small. The larger estates typically have a mixture of neighborhood types within them. If a listing piques your interest but you're not sure if it's in a neighborhood you would like, go for a drive and find it and look at the area instead of arbitrarily crossing it off your list. With so few properties on the market at any one time, you have to take a serious look at every option.


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