My husband and I are looking to move to ST X maybe next year. We are retiring but want to remain very active. Hoping to find a "fixer-upper" (he built our 5,500 sq ft home in VA, and is still quite capable of hard work). He has great building and hardscaping skills. I'm a graphics and web designer.
Any advice - warnings - etc. would be welcome.
have you been here before? people suggest you rent for at least a year to decide where on island you want to reside. and also to make sure you really want to live here .
how is your health? will you have insurance?
read through a a few dozen of the past pages to get some sort of idea and maybe after you will have more questions
Our health is great and we have Medicare. We've been there twice for week-long stays. We think the island is more diverse than many we've been to (and a little bigger).
Do you have any specific questions after reading through some of the pages?
Location, location, location.
Almost all houses on STX are fixers to some degree. A lot of the homes I looked at prior to purchase needed new kitchens and baths by mainland standards. Because of the difficulty/expense in getting materials, many make due with maintenance, paint and replacing appliances/fixtures as needed.
Well maintained, well built, well priced houses in great locations sell quickly right now. When you're serious, find a realtor to work with you - then check MLS routinely to see if something of interest pops up. Be prepared to get on a plane to take a look.
It takes at least 2 months to close on a house in the VI. Earnest deposit is 10% of selling price so plan ahead.
Start getting rid of your personal stuff now.
If you decide to buy, start looking for homeowners insurance as soon as possible as insurers are inundated.
Here's some information from a meeting I attended a couple days ago.
Prices are going up, but it could take two years before things settle. Neither broker was willing to commit to a ballpark estimate of what percentage increase homeowners can expect. But there was a lot of emphasis on the fact that insurance is predicated on the cost to rebuild. Not the sale price. And construction costs have gone up, in some cases significantly. Also, using a current owner’s policy as an example of what a new owner might expect is fraught with confusion since we don’t know when the policy was taken out – ie: how much to rebuild then vs. now, what is the deductible, etc…etc…
Good News – especially with wooden homes.
The brokers said that if a home has withstood hurricanes, that will indeed be factored into the cost of the premium. And plenty of wood homes have withstood serious winds.
Upon executing a contract – start the insurance process right away. It’s taking several days longer to write policies these days because of obvious reasons.
Do not put off that process.
Do not underinsure.
Appraisal crisis in the VI.
There are fewer and fewer appraisers around, and the process of becoming an appraiser is arduous and involves mentoring, which current appraisers aren’t always willing to take on. Lenders sometimes have to ask and ask again to secure an appraiser.
Nevertheless, lenders still believe a 60-day close is reasonable at the moment.
The market is strong – despite the hurricanes – and in large part, because inventory is low.
First Liberty– conventional, Fannie & Freddie loans, Jumbo loans. No land loans, No construction loans
First Bank– Conventional Fannie & Freddie, Jumbo loans, No land loans. No construction loans. First Bank does hold portfolio loans and specializes in lending on condominiums that fall under the “resort” umbrella.
Merchants– Conventional, Land loans. Construction loans. All up to $2.2-million
Banco- declined repeated offers to attend.
A lot of employment interruption with the storms. Brice said the lenders have ways to deal with that, and it’s not an automatic deal-breaker for loan applicants. A credit score is the biggest issue for a lender.
Merchants will do a cash-out program on land, enabling people to get into a home purchase.
Re. Insurance premium increases - master policy at our condo complex increases by a little more than double what it was the previous year. Complex had at least 3 million in damages.
If you don't need a mortgage you may be able to close in less than 60 days.
I'm hearing our condo HOA common area insurance may go up 35% this year when it renews in the next month or so. HOA had no Maria claims, did not meet the deductible. Previously our rates had been declining year to year for the past several years.
I renewed the unit policy in January which includes windstorm at no cost increase.
Fixed uppers aren’t as easy as getting all the supplies you need on island. Trips to the hardware stores are frustrating at best and finding NICE appliances/hardware is next to impossible. I swear the tile at HD is circa 1990. Puke. The STT HD did get some nice stuff in their remodel and we have MSI which has beautiful fixtures but ridiculous prices. Ended up ordering all online. Annoyingly mismeasuring causing two days of hand sanding a porcelain sink. Lawd I suck at measuring but can eyeball it like a pro hah!
Bring three times the amount of money expected for a “fixer upper” than you think you need and order everything online and wait.
I’ve been here 5 years and keep telling mylsef I want to do the same, I’m also very skilled - but then I slap myself straight and remind myself the horrors of such an endeavor in the VI.
HIGHLY suggest living here for a few years before buying.
I have a friend who moved to St. John about the same time I did back in 1999 that said to me, if people make it a year without wanting to move, they will likely make it to two. If you make it past two, they will likely be here for five. And if they make it past the 5 year mark, they will likely make it to 10. After that, it will usually be having young children or health issues will be the only thing to make them leave. This is for the 20 something group mostly. I've seen hundreds of people come and go over the years. The storms made many many transplants leave. Especially those with children. Some will come back, but many more will not.
Like AandA2VI said, supplies can be hard to get. Ordering online has its challenges as well! Knowing what works here and what doesn't will also have a bit of a learning curve. The climate takes a toll on what is outside your home, but also what is inside your home. Not many people have fully climate controlled interiors. It would be advised if you take on a fixer-upper that you speak with others here who have done the same and get as much information as you can from them on what kind of fixtures, furniture, etc work best here and how to source those things at a reasonable price.
Why are you selling?
Why are you selling?
Sick relative back in the states who will need a lot of care.
Is it REALKY si grim?
is what really so grim?
Is it REALKY si grim?
The situation on STX
The outlook is brighter than it's been in a while for STX - that is said with the caveat that hurricane season is on the near horizon with the rightful fear it brings.
We have the potential of the refinery starting up again on STX and the expansion of the south side port that will support the refinery and commerce.
Improvements to the infrastructure (roads, hospital, electric service, communication) are underway.
Christiansted may be getting some of the small cruise ships before the end of the year and the Fred is contributing to the vibrancy of Frederiksted.
You have the hovering federal government and influential citizens watching progress right now that help make sure money makes it to where it was promised.
VI is an old school place - face to face business. It's expensive but that all depends on where you're coming from - money can jump out of your pockets quickly - particularly if you're not a budgeter and planner - but that's the same anywhere.
The ability to entertain yourself is important for successful living in the VI. Being an optimist is valuable as well since island naysayers can pull you down - and know that's just part of the culture.
There is a housing shortage because of the storms and that could increase with more people coming on STX to work on the refinery, port and infrastructure.
The situation on STX
Gator's Mom's post is 100% spot on!
It is not that grim on STX but other posters are just giving you a reality check on how some things are here.
A&A - HD on STX has some nice tile. The wood grain look, nice light grayish color. Also the white wave ceramic tile - love it!
I don't know how much in stock as I am not doing any renos right now. These tiles would make a killer feature wall!
Thank you islandjoan and Gator's Mom. It doesn't sound like now into the next year is going to be a good time to find a house.
I've heard rumors of the plant opening for years. Is it really going to happen? I assume that would make housing even harder to find?
Houses have been going for slightly less than asking still from what I have heard. Not sure how that trend will go. With all the work going on right now and the BP rumors there is potential for housing to get more expensive in the next year. But if anyone could really predict these things they'd be billionaires.
Very nice place! Sorry you have a sick relative and have to sell and move.
Or just buy my place which really doesn't need any work except some landscaping 🙂
Gator's Mom, how do we know money is going where it's supposed to go? Please tell me where I can get that info!