Moving in a couple of years... maybe.
Hi all, this is my first post... A little about us... We live in NYC. I'm a Chicago native and he's a Gettysburg, PA native. My husband and I are in our early thirties, recently got married, and honeymooned in STX. We stayed at the Divi, and absolutely fell in love with the island. We have been all over the country, Hawaii, down south, midwest, you name it, and this was the first place we have been that my husband's eyes lit up and he said he wants to end up there. This "idea" is definitely a few years away from us, but we are starting to do our research now to figure out if this can be a possibility for us...
I think the biggest reasons we fell in love with STX is the warmth, "island time" and actually the somewhat seclusion (compared to nyc, it is) We are exhausted! Also, for us to buy a tiny apartment in Manhattan would cost no less than $600,000.00, and we saw that decent properties were avail in STX for much less, and for a home! not a one room apt....
I have worked in the service industry for the last 8 years... (wanted to be an actress, so supplemented income by waiting tables) Now I am an editor at a market research company, but still wait tables on the weekends... I've worked as a maid, in retail, and waited tables and bar tended, so I'm fairly confident I could get a job at a resort... which I'm fine with, why stop now...lol My husband, is a film editor, but also was a server for years... He claims he is not passionate about his work and would go back to hospitality to sacrifice living on the island... The Divi Starlite Grill actually drove us both nuts, because the service was sooooooo bad, we were honeymooning so stayed relaxed, but we watched so many people walk out and the place lose business, either he or myself could have run that entire floor alone and given superb service....
Anyhoo, after reading posts, it seems if you know the service industry, it's probably where to start for work correct?
That's my number one concern.
Number two is transporting my cats... I have 4 (probably 3 by moving, because one is old and may not be here in a few years 🙁 ) I would probably fly them on an airline that allows them... but will have to research this further.... from what I read you can have one per person if the case fits under seat on select airlines, so we would have my mom and his mom fly each with one as well... Since we plan on purchasing a home, i'm not worried about a rental.... How are the veterinarians on STX?
Purchasing a home--- can you get a decent mortgage rate there? We really have to start investigating the real estate...
we would buy a car on the island, since we are in the city now, we have no space or need for one, so why have one shipped....
The insurance topics scare me.... I guess I'd like to find a place that has marital coverage....
We don't have any kids, nor are planning them anytime in the near future, so schools aren't an issue for us... I really think if we made the decision to have one after we migrate there, I would get involved in homeschooling.... I went to public schools my entire life and actually had very traumatizing experiences...lol I don't think it made me a "stronger" person... lol, but who knows...
ok i have rambled a bunch.... I'm glad i found this forum. Please send helpful advice our way! Like I said this is an idea in slow progress, atleast a few years away....
Can anyone recommend a book on moving to St. Croix? Does one even exist?
Read "Life in the left lane" and Settlers Handbook". While not specifically about STX, they are informative. For a Realtor, get with Alexandra, a poster on this board. She is great and will answer all of your questions. She can't tell you which area is for you, you need to see them and decide that for yourself.
Welcome and have fun planning your move. What an exciting time!
As for the cats, the last time I checked most airlines had restrictions on the number of animals allowed per flight. I think it was one per cabin, so at most you could have 2 cats on a single flight. That's assuming that I understood the rules correctly (coach and first being separate cabins?). If you end up with a turboprop leg, that's one cat per flight. So, you will probably have to take separate flights.
Those soft-sided pet carriers work pretty well if you cats aren't too large. You have to stow the bag/cat under the seat for takeoff and landing. One time on Delta a flight attendant made me keep the carrier under the seat the whole way even though I had read Delta's policy on such things and I knew that I was allowed to put the carrier (unopened, of course) on my lap after takeoff. When I tried to politely inform the flight attendant of this she became angry and threatened to have the captain come talk to me! Wow. It is annoying to have to pay extra to stuff my cat under a seat (still within the baggage limit) when infants are allowed to fly free sitting in someone's lap. How is THAT safe??
I flew with my cat many many times and that was the only problem I had. Keep in mind that you will have to run the cat's bag through the xray scanner. I took her out and held her while I walked through the metal detector. I always gave her a small dose of prescription sedative before flying.
You are also supposed to have a veterinarian's letter of health prior to flying and for bringing a pet to the USVI. The letter has to be written within a certain time frame-- I think it was 10-14 days or so prior to the flight. In all of her flying, not once did anyone ask to see the letter. Eventually I just typed them up myself with a fictitious vet name/address. No one ever looked at the document. I did have a real letter/certificate when I moved here--still no one looked.
Rebecca - I think you posted on my blog (movingtostcroix.com), but I'm too stupid to figure out how to reply unless I also post on the blog! Some of your questions are answered on my blog - I have a couple of book reviews on there, but another book I've read that I haven't reviewed yet is Desiring Paradise. It's about a couple that moved to St. John so a lot of their experiences are applicable to St. Croix.
I'll have a lot more advice in a few months since I'll be moving down in August with 2 cats. My husband will follow later with the rest of the "family." American Airlines allows 7 pets in the plane per flight (2 in first class, 5 in coach) so all 3 of your cats could travel at one time according to their website, but after talking to a representative, I learned that it is a first come, first served basis.
Sorry, I can't help much with respect to jobs. I'm an attorney so I will be continuing my career in that field. Feel free to send me a PM. I'd be happy to answer any questions that I can.
" think the biggest reasons we fell in love with STX is the warmth, "island time" and actually the somewhat seclusion (compared to nyc, it is) We are exhausted! Also, for us to buy a tiny apartment in Manhattan would cost no less than $600,000.00, and we saw that decent properties were avail in STX for much less, and for a home! not a one room apt...."
Ok, now I'm just asking here so please take what I'm about to say in a helpful manner. Island time means getting anything done here takes 4x as long. So in a customer service time arena it can be extremely frustrating for newcomers to adjust to.
You mentioned the cost of homes in nyc, do you have money saved up to buy one? Because you will be making much less money here then you are in nyc. You may well have to work two jobs to pay for your island home here if you don't have savings. Please please rent for a while, at least 6 months or so. You guys are still on a vacation high. Living here is a totally different thing. I always say one of the best perks about living here is not living here but making all my stateside friends and family jealous, its a big cultural adjustment. A few of us take to it like fish to water, some of us grow into it but most go back stateside. And to sell a home here if you do not like it can take years and be a big financial strain on your relationship if one of you wants to leave, which happens all the time.
I actually got married in stt while still living in orange county, CA and had the same reaction you guys did, and a few years later we moved down here. We research like crazy and new it was going to be a adjustment and wasn't going to be "paradise" as I'm sure you already know, but knowing and reality are two different things and it really does take 6 months to 2 years to find out if island life is for you. Everyone has different adjustment times. 3 phases---Honeymoon (We live in the Caribbean! Woohoo!!!), Adjustment (Why do they do this this way, why are there so many homeless dogs, why don't the cops do anything, why is their so much litter, etc), and Acceptance (its home, Good and Bad).
Your mortgage choices are much more limited then stateside. Your choices are pretty much a 30 yr fixed or a 30 year fixed. Also when looking at houses, figure out 3% of the home price and divide by 12 and add that to the monthly cost. That's your hurricane insurance. Sometimes its a little more sometimes its a little less. Depends on house construction and location. Almost all of the condos will include that in their monthly fees.
"The insurance topics scare me.... I guess I'd like to find a place that has marital coverage...."
What is marital coverage?
Do a couple of pmv's and live like a local not a tourist. Don't stay at a resort. Go to the grocery store, look at rentals, go on job interviews, go to the post office, etc. Do things you would do if you lived here, and usually that's not the beach! The old joke is you can pick out the residents statesiders because they are all pale.
Don't bother with the books in my opinion, I read all of them and found them of little help. This board however is the best. Just read back in the treads everyday till you reach the end. You will get questions answered you never thought to ask.
I completely agree with your critique of the Starlite Grill. We just don't go there. However, you may need to lower your standards of acceptable service, or you will never eat out. And if you get jobs in the service industry, you may find yourself getting very frustrated with your fellow employees, and you can't change it. I only mention this so you don't start building up in your minds that you are going to come down here and be "super servers". There are restaurants with excellent service. They are usually the small places, like my favorite, Salud, where the staff is small and more of a "family". Whatever you do, don't come with the idea of changing a place to NYC standards. You will only be disappointed.
--I completely agree with your critique of the Starlite Grill. We just don't go there. However, you may need to lower your standards of acceptable service, or you will never eat out.--
Oh we ate all the tiny off the path places while we there, and Starlite was the only place we had problems...
We don't have high standards of eating out really (i work in a pub/bbq joint), but the staff at starlite literally took 45 min to bring us a bottle of wine or take our order, there were 2 other tables in the entire place, lol...
our favorite restaurants were south shore cafe, the gallion, and le st tropez
Rum runners had great peel and eat shrimp, but i felt the rest of dinner was ...eh
and believe me one of the things we like about st. croix is that we could leave nyc standards behind.... nyc is what has been making our lives stressful beyond belief.
we are hard workers and know we'd have to work alot to pay the mortgage and bills, but ya know what? we already do that here, so why not do it where it's warm? and on our days off can enjoy the beauty?....
I love all the advice you guys have given, keep it comin! 😉
The first thing I said to my husband was "you're on a vacation high"...lol And he swears up and down he's not
When we honeymooned we talked to a lot of locals, made some friends, shopped at grocery store, went to post office and kmart(haha), got scared by some local crazy people at night, witnessed the poverty stricken areas, fed wild chickens and chicks some potato chips, admired a shark at duggans, drove a chevy malibu through the rainforest AND made it out... (the map looked like it wasnt ALL dirt), and talked with restaurant owners (some of which gave us their home numbers), realtors on their lunch break at a pizza joint... we didnt do "normal" resort honeymoon things, we are the whitest people ever and cant do alot of beach...lol I guess point of saying all that is... we are looking for a change, if youve lived in NYC, you know how expensive and crazy life is.... I'm sure it will be the same there (expensive and crazy), we actually found food prices at store and restaurants to be the same as NYC prices...but you either make things work or you don't... fortunately for us, we are hard workers and do what it takes to get things done...
A few years down the road, is what we have to remember, not today or tomorrow, but planning ahead and going slow I think is the best thing.... I also think we should check out St Thomas to see what its all about...
As Betty said, come for a PMV. Make it a long one. Don't buy until your sure.
I have told this story before, but it is not a post you could find.
I have met several people on this board also from AZ. One couple were living on the island already about 8 months when we came down to look for a condo to buy. He liked it there, and would have reupped another year on his one year contract at work, but she hated it there. Couldn't wait to leave.
The other couple who we met two or three times in AZ for dinner, came down for a week PMV while we were there. At the end of the week, they cashed in their airline tickets, had their friend clean out their house, send some things there, and one lady brought them their cats. They have never left, it's been about 3 years now, and they still love STX. It's not for everyone. So do a long PMV and rent!
uhm...seriously not trying to argue but it sounds like a normal vacation on stx to me. The only thing that sounds odd for a vacation here is the post office. Many people go to the grocery store/Kmart while on vacation to stock up on supplies, buy cheap liquor or just see what its like in the caribbean. Many many people go through the rain forest, it is definitely a great assest to tourism but often a under used one. Love the creque dam farm, little underwhelmed by the smoothie place, but seems nice for the kids.
I always recommend a pmv, but not sure how much good it really does. I may be biased because I did not do one, it seems like it would help but I really don't see how it could keep from being a vacation. Maybe someone who did some pmv can tell us how it helped.
Many yankees and midwesterns move down here for the sun so I get what your saying I just hope you hear what we're saying as well, which I'm sure you have. Also something else people forget to think about is family. There are currently no cheap flights and if you have a close knit family who is used to living close together, it can make the transituation harder. But if you're used to seeing your family just a couple of times a year it shouldnt be any different.
Seriously though if you don't have kids and you're both used to hard work you can definitely make it here. Just don't blow your nest egg and don't buy right away. I've seen more then a few friends go through their nest egg and then have to go back stateside and have to start saving all over again (ok the ones that lost everything bought businesses here). It can be hard to put money away here. Its fun to plan and dream but just take one step at a time. I'm feeling like a old timer today, thinking about all the people I've seen come and go.
We only see our families at Christmas time, anyway and are very far (mileage wise) from both sides, we have to fly to see anyone now as it is.
I appreciate the concern about really knowing what we're getting into, that's why I got on this site!
But we aren't the type to get scared away from things just because it may be "rough"...
But we are the type to gather everything we can information wise, keep a clear head and are willing to accept consequences that may come of taking "risks".
My father died on his 43rd bday of a heart attack, he never travelled or did anything for himself, but talked about how he was going to upon retirement.... He obviosly never made it, and died in a city and tiny apartment he hated, cus he was holding out for retirement....
So I say to those that have dreams of moving somewhere like the islands, or to trying something new, and taking risks... do it while you can, because tomorrow doesn't always come.:$)
I love everyone's concern on these boards though, it truly shows that you are human and have care for complete strangers! -- you don't see that too often anymore.
Last year at Thanksgiving we were thinking about the large group we'd had dinner with the year before. Except for one man, everyone else, about 8 people, had left the island. Granted, one person died (we miss you Linda) but of about 11 people, only 3 are left on-island.
Traveling to the states is expensive and not always easy. I left Louisville yesterday at 1 pm. Got to Miami at 3:30 and almost immediately boarded a plane for SJU. After sitting on the tarmac for 40 minutes, they off loaded us because of a mechanical issue. An hour later they announce the plane is ok but no crew is available. At 10 pm we finally board the SAME plane and get to SJU at 12:30 am. Got a voucher for the Best Western (very nice hotel at the San Juan airport) Finally get into bed at 1:30 am. 5:30 wake up call, a little comp breakfast, back through security and I'm at the gate for my 35 minute flight to STX. Get on the bus at 7:30 - board the plane for my 8 am flight. At 8:40 they announce there are maintenance issues and we are changing planes. Off the plane, onto the bus, over to another plane. Now it's 9 am. 15 minutes later the captain announces that this delay is caused by transfering the flight clearance from the first plane to this plane. I arrived on STX at 10:30 am.
Now THATS what I call "island time" Almost 22 hours to fly 5 hours and 40 minutes!!!
You're right Betty, we're getting old and grouchy. LOL
On the real estate side of things, the current rate from the mortgage broker I use is about 6.5% for a 30-year fixed loan on a primary residence. One thing to work on during your planning is make sure your credit scores are good or find ways to improve them if they aren't all they could be.
For some people, it is a good idea to wait a while before buying when they move to the island. Taking a few months to learn the areas you most want to live in or most want to avoid can be helpful in making a good decision. Another way to do this is to make multiple visits over several years before moving and along the way you can zero in on where you want to live once you make the move. People coming here to work in the same career field they have on the mainland have the luxury of being able to wait to purchase and likely will still qualify for a mortgage after they have been here six months to a year. For anyone coming who plans to change career fields, be aware that you may NOT be able to get a mortgage until you have been here a couple of years working within ONE industry. For that kind of situation, some buyers would be better off making a purchase based on their jobs and income before they complete their move down. I understand why many people caution new arrivals not to buy for a year, but each person needs to look at his own situation as I have seen some people shocked to find out they were unable to get a mortgage after a year of renting.
Also keep an eye on what is happening with our real estate market, as for a few years prices were rising dramatically and waiting was a bad decision for some people who found themselves priced out of the market. Currently prices are holding level or dropping slightly on STX, which makes it more of a buyer's market and there is less urgency to buy immediately. Some buyers are jumping in now while they can get some good deals from sellers who will take a discounted offer to make a sale while the market is slow.
Most new arrivals would do well to buy/rent a much smaller house or condo than they think they need before they get here. Too many spend a lot of extra $$ on guest bedrooms they rarely would need, etc. You don't owe family and friends a free vacation and it can be hard enough to cover your own bills without paying extra for unused space. You don't need the same square footage as in cold climates as you spend a lot of time outdoors and your patio is your "family room".
For Hurricane Insurance, you figure the rate on about 70%-80% of the purchase price, as you are insuring the replacement cost of the building and you don't insure the value of the land. Some properties have more valuable land than others (waterfront or extra acreage, etc.) and in those cases the house value may not be as high a percentage of the purchase price. The appraisal or assessment will break out the relative values of the land and structure to give the insurance company a guideline when figuring the insurance premium. Homes made of concrete or engineered panel systems (such as Force-10) cost less to insure than wood framed structures. There are also discounts available if you have hurricane shutters, if you are at an elevation above the flood plain, etc. Typically the rate winds up being between 2% and 3% of the replacement cost of the structure as an annual premium.
Marital insurance? lol. Yes, many of use would like that, especially for couples new to the island. We see a lot of couples arrive and eventually one half stays and the other half departs... and often it's the one who wanted to make the move the most who winds up opting to leave. Island life can be a great experience, but it doesn't always measure up to the fantasies people arrive with. One more reason not to burn all bridges when moving to the islands. The most important piece of advice I offer is to come with "Reasonable Expectations."
If you'd like more specific info on real estate questions as the next few years go by, feel free to PM me or email me directly whenever you'd like at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll do what I can to keep you apprised of changes in the market as they occur. I can put you in touch with a good mortgage broker who can give you advice about timing a purchase depending on your specific financial/work/credit situation.
Alexandra -- You give the most cogent and concise information of anyone on any forum. Thanks!
I'm not sure, but I think he was speaking about health insurance for a spouse through an employer.
That's what I thought too.:-)
Thanks Alexandra your info was really helpful to us, my husband seems to think that we'd be in the category to buy something out there while still living here....
On to trying to plan our next trip out there...
Good luck planning the move! We arrived from NYC a little over a month ago. I thought NY prices would prepare me for anything, but "processed" food is a lot more expensive here. Pepperidge Farm cookies are $6 at Pueblo (I know I am always writing about random grocery items, but there is still a shock each shopping trip). Tropicana juice is $5 or so. It is definitely more expensive than NYC, and the milk goes bad faster than my family of four can drink it. So that is an added expense. I probably will learn to eat more local, and save money that way, but sometimes you just want something familiar.
We bought a new car here, and it was really incredible - they had a kind of reasonable sticker price on the car, and then they listed about $10K more fees to get you to the "island sticker price". Even bargaining them down we still paid more than $3K more than blue book.
As someone mentioned in the car insurance thread, the insurance they offer you is incredibly minimal. We are paying A LOT to get reasonable coverage, that also will cover us back in the states.
Island time is very frustrating for my husband as he applies for jobs and then waits and waits and waits to hear from HR. But hopefully the right job will come around soon. Right now he still has his job in NYC (telecommuting) so as long as the internet connection works he is fine.
But we had a GREAT day today, swimming in a friend's pool, eating dinner at Off the Wall, watching the waves... Hope everyone else is doing well also.