Living Part Time in...
 

Living Part Time in the VIs  


GTGA
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 GTGA
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Hi, I'm new to this forum and looking for guidance from experts. I'm still in the planning/dreaming phase of this, so please help me figure out if this is realistic:

Within the next 2 years we intend to be able to buy a small home (~2 BR) in the VIs and have little to no mortgage on it. We want to maintain our primary residence back in Florida due to work and school for the kids. We would be able to work from home during the summer, so we aren't concerned about finding jobs for the summer. We have been regular visitors for nearly 10 years and have friends who live there. We are aware of many details of island living, and hope to start out part time and make it full time within a few years due to work commitments.

1. Is it feasible to live in Florida during the school year, and live in the VI house during the summer (June-August)?
2. Would there be a market for a potential long term 9 month rental for late August-end of May? I'm thinking this would be a better option than short term rentals as long term renters would be responsible for their own electric bills, and it would be more consistent income to cover the cost of insurance. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
3. How could we maintain a vehicle on island? If we continue to have FL driver's licenses, could we register a car there? Or is a better option to rent a vehicle for 3 months like Zip cars?

FYI we have family in Florida to take care our house while we would be on island.

Thanks so much for all who can offer insight.

~GTGA

12 Replies
JulieKay
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1. Sure. But I'm sure you're aware that during the summer more of the restaurants and shops are closed, there is higher risk of hurricanes, and towards the end of the summer it's quite hot.

2. All depends upon finding a tenant. Most long term tenants I find want more than a 9 month lease, but you never know. You might consider renting as a vacation property instead and managing utilities. It will be hard to find tenants to rent for 9 months and then move out for your family to use the house.

3. Depends upon where you garage the vehicle and if it will be driven during those 9 months. That's a long time for a vehicle to sit un-used. Also it will be important to protect the vehicle from theft. Having a friend/caretaker drive it while you're gone might be a better bet. Yes you can register a car in the VI with a stateside license. Or, you can rent a vehicle for a monthly rate from a rental agency (you don't mention which island so I don't have suggestions which one).

Good luck!

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Exit Zero
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You might look into a property that has a guest house or rental apt on premise. Then you would be able to have a tenant or caretaker that would be able to look out for your interests if you go the short term rental route. Finding a 9 mo. tenant each year is not going to be an easy task unless you get really lucky - maybe by finding someone who has a yearly summer job commitment in a stateside resort area.
Keeping your car in a storage facility would be the best bet unless you find a property with a locking garage - they are few and far between.
Putting the house in the short term rental market with a management co. is another option to consider, they can do booking and maintenance for a % and even with a few weekly rentals it might work out to be financially more than trying to find a 9 mo. tenant each year.
You mention the tenant being responsible for their own utilities - unless you go through the dancing hoops it would take to change from your account name to theirs every year with Wapa, Cable, phone and internet it will be in your name year round and ultimately your responsibility.

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bolongo girl
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Look into renting to visiting nurses. We rent our condo out to them 13 weeks at a time, three times year and we enjoy our winter months on island.

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STXBob
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1. Yes, you can live here in the summer. It's hot, but FL is probably hotter, so I guess you're better off being here.

2. You're unlikely to find a renter for 9 months of the year, but you might find a snowbird to rent it for 3-6 months. You'd be making the house available for all of high season, so that's in your favor. Your house also has to be desirable enough to rent. Eg: Views, amenities, clean, everything works, etc.

3. You might prefer to lease a car for 3 months instead of buying one and having it sit unused for 9 months. Or you might find a friend or someone to drive your car once every couple of weeks.

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sunshinefun
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Even though its quite hot here in the summer, its generally cooler than most parts of the US mainland. I'm always surprised that the Dept of Tourism doesn't market the USVI as a destination to get away from the summer heat. But then again, nothing the government here does surprises me anymore.

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Alana33
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If you plan on living here part-time then a condo may be your best option as anyone who owns a residential home here can tell you,
maintenance can be a full time job in our climate, both for the home itself, inside and out plus your yard. You can't defray it for 9 months and expect to come back and not spend lots of time and $ getting things back in order.

You cannot just close up all your windows and go for months without having mold/mildew grow on your ceiling and interior (especially north-side). My sister owns a home in FL. When they leave for months, they leave the A/C on but their bill is only $50 per month to do so, not the incredible amount it would cost you to do so here in the VI. Everything will require maintenance whether its your car or home and finding someone reliable to do so for you can be challenging and costly.

It can be done but you need to consider all the challenges it entails and cover your bases.

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mtdoramike
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1. Sure. But I'm sure you're aware that during the summer more of the restaurants and shops are closed, there is higher risk of hurricanes, and towards the end of the summer it's quite hot.

2. All depends upon finding a tenant. Most long term tenants I find want more than a 9 month lease, but you never know. You might consider renting as a vacation property instead and managing utilities. It will be hard to find tenants to rent for 9 months and then move out for your family to use the house.

3. Depends upon where you garage the vehicle and if it will be driven during those 9 months. That's a long time for a vehicle to sit un-used. Also it will be important to protect the vehicle from theft. Having a friend/caretaker drive it while you're gone might be a better bet. Yes you can register a car in the VI with a stateside license. Or, you can rent a vehicle for a monthly rate from a rental agency (you don't mention which island so I don't have suggestions which one).

Good luck!

I agree with Julie. It seems to me that you are already pretty much islanders. So don't fret it, but I wouldn't discard the idea of renting your place as a vacation rental either. They have multiple property management groups on either island that can handle that for you at a nominal fee. In most cases you can earn as much if not more in two weeks with a vacation rental than you can with a monthly rental. But this would also hinge on location, location, location. If you intend to leave a vehicle on island, I would opt for a hooptie or something that people wouldn't be beating themselves to death to steal.

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GTGA
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 GTGA
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You have all given me so much to think about, in a positive way.

So, I will broaden my home search to include condos and homes with a legal apartment/cottage thanks to Exit Zero and Alana. I was worried that homes with a rental unit may be above our price range, but being able to have a yearly rental available makes more financial and logistical sense and can change the financial dynamic. Also, it would give us the ability to visit for vacations and/or keeping up the place even with tenants. But, is it normal to ask the tenants to look after my part of the house/check for mold/make sure everything remains in working order while we are away? That seems more like a caretaker, is it fairly easy to find someone willing to do that?
I was unaware that hoops needed to be jumped to change a name on utilities, as it is pretty much a friendly phone call stateside. That's why I felt the need to pose a question here before jumping into this head first. I knew I would gain valuable insight.
Also, you have all convinced me that renting/leasing a vehicle for 3 months at a time will be better than leaving an island car unattended (for the most part) of 9 months.
I guess I shouldn't shy away from short term rentals as many of you suggest. But, I'm not sure that the home we will be able to afford will have the attributes that many vacationers will find desirable (view, pool, hot tub, etc). I'll have to see what the market will bear when we are ready to purchase.

Thanks to everyone!

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JulieKay
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But, is it normal to ask the tenants to look after my part of the house/check for mold/make sure everything remains in working order while we are away? That seems more like a caretaker, is it fairly easy to find someone willing to do that?

You can ask, and some tenants do a fine job - but I have heard many horror stories of tenants who did not. The repercussions of poor tenant behavior are just not that significant on the island - people can get away with stuff, unfortunately. I have a good friend on St. Croix who had the upstairs tenant "looking in" on his mother's vacant condo in exchange for a discount on rent...when he came back to the island 6 months later the condo was full of mold, bugs, patio door wide open, furniture ruined, and it was pretty obvious that she was letting her friends "squat" in the vacant condo whenever she wanted. He just spent the better part of three months gutting and re-habbing the condo so he can rent it out full time now. There are lots of stories like these, hence my opinion and suggestion that you manage it as a vacation rental through a reputable rental agency who will provide adequate maintenance and care during the time you and your family aren't on the island.

My comment on summer heat was because while it does get much hotter in Florida, most people are used to AC in the states and in the islands, many places don't have AC, or running it is quite expensive due to WAPA. I would suggest looking for a property that gets good breezes as some summers feel quite hot, like this one we just finished, or else make sure your budget supports AC if you decide to go that route.

Good luck!

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Alana33
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You'll have to find an absolutely trustworthy tenant or management company that can manage your property, take care of all maintenance issues whether it be plumbing, electrical, etc. while you are away, if you do short term. You'll have to have that the rental cleaned and maintained in proper fashion or any review on a vacation rental website that is not good can kill your future business.
Keep in mind that a excellent lease or contract that covers contingencies and spells everything out is essential as well.

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mtdoramike
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My wife and I would even consider renting your place for 6 months out of the year every year depending on the location and the fee.

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AJ
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I live in St.Croix for three months a year. One in the winter, and two in the summer. I rent my house out to snow birds for the rest of the winter. If you're near the water it is rarely really hot here, especially if you have multiple fans. I wouldn't buy a car until you have really figured out the finances. Renting a car is relatively cheap and you don't have to have another insurance policy which would be grossly inferior to your stateside policy. Nor do you have maintenance or repairs. You also don't have to waste a day registering your car. I would suggest finding someone whose schedule is compatible with yours so that you have the same people coming back rather than continually finding new people. I am willing to let my house be empty rather than rent to someone I do not trust or does not come with strong references. Good luck.

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