There is something truly special about the Carnival Parade on St John. Technically St John's Carnival is called Festival, but it's nearly impossible not to call it Carnival. Residents of the Virgin Islands walk around and tell each other "Happy Carnival" during, before and after the week's long celebration (which is actually one dense week ending on the 4th of July plus other events spread over a month). The coincidence of our emancipation landing on the same day as the US celebration of freedom helps solidify the festive spirit and is shown in an apt blend of Virgin Islands culture and national pride. Here is a short clip of some of the parade highlights.
A lot of big numbers are being thrown around the Virgin Islands, and that is a good thing. In March, FEMA announced that federal funding for disaster relief in the Virgin Islands had topped $1Billion. That is a pretty big number for a population of 120,000 - its $8333.33 per person. Then in April HUD announced $1.6 Billion more. Despite my cynicism for the government, it is without question that the federal response helped us in the wake of the 2 category five hurricanes; Getting the power restored and having a bulk of the trash and debris handled to name a few helpful tasks that were funded. But these funds have really not started to be spent here yet and some people and businesses are already nearly back to normal. That leaves the Virgin Islands in an amazing position to make some long coming large scale infrastructure and government level improvements that otherwise likely would not have occurred. Now, am I skeptical that the funds will be well managed? Of Course! The mis-use of public funds is the rule, not the exception. Again even with my most cynical eye on this, the affects will be very real and very visible.
How does this affect the Real Estate Market?
The real estate market has remained very active. 23 homes have sold since the storm between $225K and $2M. That is pretty healthy given the circumstances and not far below the same periods in previous years. (22 in the same period between 2014 and 2015, 29 for 2015-2016 and 33 for 2016-2017) . See the 23 sold homes HERE. There are also currently 15 homes under contract and preparing to close between $395K and $3.1M. See those homes HERE.
This activity is probably not based on the future of federal funds, but more on people taking advantage of the opportunities in the St John Real Estate marketplace.
Federal monies coming in can have nothing but an additional positive effect on the property values with new and improved infrastructure and the economic benefits of cash injection into a society. It seems that some buyers are either going to luck out with this, or they were savvy enough to see it coming. More likely, Buyers may simply have seen this is as the chance they have been waiting for with some slightly depressed values. The average sold price of homes is slightly down from 2017 when compared with 2018 Year to date. However, total volume and number of homes sold are on pace to be at or just above 2017 numbers. Sellers may also feel the same way with their chance to get out. I can state with confidence that showing traffic is way up. On one of our listings Bordeaux Gardens; We had over 40 showings in 30 days with 2 offers. That kind of traffic is unprecedented on St John.
The vacation rental market is filling in well with our homes operating pretty much at historic levels for this time of year. Of the 12 homes we manage, we have fully restored 11 of them and they are open for business as usual. In May we will enjoy about 75% occupancy. This feat was nothing short of heroic, with over 100 local people working on our projects at some times. We rebuilt roofs, walls, floors, repainted, refurnished, replanted and remodeled. The results are stunning and all of the properties feel new. The steady stream of rental guests is welcome and income is very real for homeowners who have recovered. One important takeaway I have from the rental market is that St John continues to have high integrity in the vacation rental product. Travelers seem to wonder and often ask if homes are open or functioning fully and it occurred to me that the marketplace has the same or higher integrity that it had before the storms. Simply, if a home is listed for rent on St John, I have very high confidence that it is in excellent condition and fully functional. Of course there are some self managed or friend managed AirBNB types of rentals that do not have the same level of care as professionally managed homes, but even amongst that group, I feel that the pressure of the marketplace created by professional management brings these rentals up in quality, cleanliness and service.
8 months later, insurance claims are starting to settle. About 70% of our clients have completed their insurance negotiations and have received their checks. These funds are also breathing life into St John’s Real Estate Market. Everywhere you go, you see homes being refit and put back together for the hungry vacation rental market. Older homes that likely would not have seen these kind of remodels are getting the makeovers they needed. Newer homes are taking the opportunity to improve on the lessons learned during construction.
We have spoken with the insurance industry leaders here in the Virgin Islands and also learned some very positive realities. About 7 years ago, windstorm insurance rates averaged about 2% of the replacement cost of a home. Over the last 7 years this rate has steadily declined to a territory wide average of 1.8%. The good news is, these insurance companies expect rates to simply return to the 2% level for now. In real terms, this number is pretty manageable and quells the fears many had about insurance going forward. For an example, take a home that sells for about $1M, the replacement cost would likely be about $750K. What that means is that last year you would have paid about $13,500 for an annual windstorm policy. This year, a new policy on that same home would be $15,000. No doubt, that is an increase, but its far less then what most of us feared, and those who simply renewed their policies in many cases saw no increase at all this year, even whilst collecting large settlement checks. Check out this Washington Post Article which sited Unique Island Assets as experts.
All told, we see opportunity, stability and improvements in the economic future of St John. We feel confident in the Vacation Rental marketplace and the insatiable commitment to St John from our visitors. We feel comfort from our federal government's oversight and funding. We feel relief that our insurance rates are not going to be attacked. Mostly we feel stronger and better despite the immense hardship we have endured.
Contact us anytime if you'd like to discuss any of these topics further.
Originally Published OCTOBER 23, 2017
Hurricane Irma followed by Maria has permanently left her mark on St John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The destruction is nothing short of emotionally and physically exhausting. Many are still without homes. Our small island community has literally been scattered thousands of miles apart. People have evacuated to all parts of the globe. Families are separated, lifelong childhood friends will not have holiday dinners together this year. Electricity will likely not be 100% restored for many months. No single property on St John escaped without some degree of damage. St Johnians rose up from the rubble to care for ourselves first, but we are thankful for the immense outpouring of support that has come from all over. People online remain eager to help. Homeowners struggled to get information about their damage with no communications. Travelers with vacations planned panicked about their deposits and worried how they could help their favorite vacation spot. The effects were wide reaching. The road to recovery is going to be long one. Yet still, people remain very interested in Real Estate on St John.
Take a look at this BEFORE AND AFTER. Many homes were hard to approach on first check. This home appeared totaled. However, after hard work and a big crew from Unique Island Assets, we got the interior fully cleaned out and recovered.
5 days after the first storm, I flew into San Juan and found a supply boat heading to St John from Puerto Rico. After loading it and 3 additional boats with water and other supplies we began making the crossing only to unload again. On the boat, I met a homeowner trying to get back to St John to assess his property. He had $750,000 in cash and was ready to buy distressed property. In the first emails I received, buyers were already contacting me. The day after a few more; after that even more. Here I was trying to find a way to communicate with my wife and daughter that I was OK and that all of our friends were alive and people wanted to know if there were any deals out there. I was still in shock. My arms were still vibrating from 12 hour chainsaw days. The shift was happening. The opportunities were being shuffled in a power play. The drool was starting to pool in the streets. I had to figure out how to answer people, but I also had to figure out how to get fuel, water and food. You adjust to the life of challenges, and if you have been on St John for a while, you adjust relatively easily. You get comfortable with the crazy, and then you realize, damn, I need to get to work. Not only getting back to being a broker, property manager and boat captain and musician as I have been for the last 19 years but now even more hats are added to my island closet.
So I searched for the answer over the hum of our generator and came up with these 5 steps of Real Estate Market Recovery after a Hurricane for a small resilient island with undeniable draw, desirability and beauty.
Step 1 – “When There is Blood in the Streets, Buy Real Estate” - I had heard this saying years before from a respected real estate investor. It’s vivid, awful and insensitive, but if you strip off the harshness, it has some wisdom in it for the hard ball investor. It makes sense to think you can score big in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. People are confused and desperate, wholly uninformed and emotionally unstable. Those who are not see the weakness and want to strike. Sellers may very well want out with the task ahead seemingly unbearable. These deals are most likely done outside of the typical real estate market, cash only. It is simply not possible to immediately close unless you are prepared to buy before the storm even hits. Even then, the government is shut down. Still, there are historic deals that occurred in this phase. The Peter Bay development for example, is said to be negotiated on the heels of a major storm. For sellers, keep your wits about you and try to keep emotions out of it (use a Realtor to help). For buyers, you can try to strike with a quick offers, you never know how someone values their property until you make an offer.
Step 2 –“Insurance is a Dirty Word” - Windstorm (Hurricane) insurance is an unpleasant product to buy. It’s bank required so if you have a loan, you probably have it. It’s expensive, running at three or more percent of replacement cost with very high deductibles (5-10% of replacement cost). Often people don’t insure for loss of use or loss of business in the case of rentals. In addition, people don’t insure “other structures” like fences, electrical monuments, car ports, garages etc. This leaves the insured technically underinsured and most owners short on cash for recovery. When claims get settled, many owners will simply look at those numbers and then call their realtor to get out. This second phase market will be busy and is where most of the hurricane transactions will take place. Buyers will cash in on great deals for their new “projects”.
Step 3 – “Company Town” – St John is now in a housing crisis! Homes that once were vacation rentals are now occupied by as many as 15 relief workers. Soon though, the relief workers will leave and the construction crews will arrive. Where will they all live? The island’s housing economy will have to adjust to recover, but vacation villas are unlikely to get involved in long-term rentals. Contractors will be forced to buy or rent employee housing to be able to get anything done. The already weary manpower pool will only dwindle if we cannot house them comfortably. Homes that can immediately provide housing will collect big on this and savvy buyers will capitalize on long term housing first with vacation rental goals in the long term.
Step 4 – “Flip Flop” – Flipping homes is one of those things that sounds like gold coins dropping in the bank to the novice Real Estate Investor. It looks easy, and for many people in the States, it may be. On St John, it’s another matter. On St John, flipping a home is no (johnny)cake walk and experienced investors on island will tell you, there is no cheap way to do it. There will be plenty of people looking for deals on project homes. They will pour their life into it. They will write a blog about it. Then they will add it up and list it for sale on the market for more then their broker suggests. This could clog the market with inventory.
Step 5 – “Chiropractor Visit” - It’s time to adjust! An embattled real estate market and a hurricane are a recipe for adjustment. I have been pacing back and forth trying to calculate the complicated web of economic effects on the micro real estate market that is St John. Here are my adjustment predictions
· Land – land sales will increase with values remaining stable or increasing from pre-storm values. The only real effect this storm had on Land is that it did some of the excavating and land clearing for you. Now you can see the view that Realtors have been telling you about and trying to sell you all these years. Yes, it was always there!!
· Unrepaired Damaged Homes – Damaged homes sadly will have damaged values. Simply, it will be hard to recoup the inflated price point that some poorly constructed homes once had, and those that were well constructed but must be sold damaged now come with a scar that will be hard to shake from the record for a long time.
· Repaired Homes – These homes will be slow to come to the market. Many of them will come on with inflated prices. Read your seller’s disclosure forms well buyers! Homes that are built to withstand will have value. Those pieced back together will remain stagnant.
· Un-Affected Homes – Homes that escaped relatively unscathed will see an immediate drop in activity. It is unlikely buyers right now are thinking about buying a full price home, but they should be. In time, these homes will boast their resilience to Irma and Maria and will come out ahead. Masonry homes with rafters poured into walls, back up(i.e. full time) generators, and quality shuttering systems will reign the marketplace when the Market recovers. These will champion the final stage of the recovery and define the new value of St John. Buyers would be wise to consider these homes while demand for them is low.
Looking to get in on the action? Look to your savings not to your lender. Cash deals are king right now and lending will be a challenge especially with the unknown insurance realities, which are fast approaching. Search the MLS here as listings get updated with new info about post storm conditions.
CONTACT USto talk about your real estate goals and see if you can find the deal you have been waiting for.
It was 9/6/17. My Wife’s Birthday. St John was about to get hit by the eye of a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 200 mph. Hurricane Irma blew over us leaving disaster and destruction behind. Later that day, St Johnians went outside to see what was left of their beautiful island paradise. Sadly, not much. But amazingly people survived, we are ALL ok. A few deep breaths, tears of despair and loss, and utter shock at the mass of devastation. Then just 14 days later Whoosh! Another category 5 hurricane brought more rain, more destruction to the barren island and more exhaustion to our community. Wow, what did we do that made Mother Nature so angry? Whatever we did or didn’t do does not matter; she showed up and blew us down. However, we are strong and she cannot knock us out. The rebuild is real, it is happening and we began just moments after the first storm.
The people of St John are of unique character and everlasting resilience. We are a close knit community that knows how to come together and rise above the problem. We are dedicated, kind, capable, smart independent folk that pull together as a team when the going gets rough. And with huge amounts of people that care deeply about St John that live off island, the love is flowing right back to the beating pulse of LOVE CITY. This community both on island and off is going to save this place and St John will be rebuilt in more beautiful ways than before. The warm turquoise waters that we all live there for will still be as clear and breathtaking as they were. The flowers and trees are growing fast and it will be paradise once again soon.
Rebuild - think about that word. Anytime you build something again it usually gets built better, smarter, stronger. The things that were weak before will now be built with greater ingenuity and materials to hopefully make it through the next storm. Things that owners didn’t like about their homes get to be redesigned to fresh updated modern styles. Furnishings will all be new and budding interior designers will have their chance to be inspired again and give homes a new look. Clean energy and renewable resources will hopefully become the norm and solar powered systems will make our island greener. We must look toward the light in this disaster and get excited about what it really means to rebuild. A second chance, a reinvention. If I were a tourist I’d be excited to see some of the rebuilds of your favorite villas and resorts. Just think, if you are the first guests to stay in some of these places it will be completely brand new!
Our crew has some friendly competition (more like cooperation) with other groups here on island. Great momentum has already begun with teams put together by Kenny Chesney and the Bloomberg group. They have cleaned up a great deal of Cruz Bay and the North Shore and have helped lots of small business owners begin to get up and running. The National Park has crews in place clearing the hiking trails and cleaning the beaches. St John is alive and well and working feverishly to make it back and hopefully have a tourist season by winter.
Here at Unique Island Assets we have an amazing crew on the ground and are committed to rebuilding stronger and better. Our team's tiresome love for St John and the community keeps them going and pushes them to work harder even under the worst conditions. Our company is also eager to grow with this challenge and is seeking new properties to manage and help overcome this road ahead with dedication, knowledge and spirit. We believe in the power of St John and in all of us and we are going to rebuild toward the light. See you on St John soon.
June on St John is nothing short of stunning. Every fruit tree in our yard droops with heavy fruit and a different color flower is everywhere you look. It takes patience to wait until the sweetness is just right to pick. The real estate market seems to be the same; lots of low hanging fruit. There are more homes on the market on St John under $1 Million then there have been in recent history and buyers are snatching them up. Over all, these deals have dominated the first half of the year in an unprecedented way. If you are one of those buyers that has been waiting for the moment to get into the market on St John, this may be your time to finally buy that little villa you have dreamed of. It seems like the surge of smaller, more affordable homes may be linked to the short term market which remains incredibly strong. People have taken advantage of the ease of renting smaller homes and brought a new market to St John - the villa under $1M!!
MARKET SUMMARY - All told, it remains a buyers market, but the inventory is moving at an increased rate. So far in 2017, 19 homes have sold and 16 are currently under contract. There were 11 land closings, 2 commercial and 2 condo sales. There are 8 lots currently under contract and 2 commercial listings pending closing.
The Charts above show the last 10 years of sales data on residential properties on St John. The volume and number of sales continue to rise, but the prices are going down. In the last 12 months, the average price of homes sold was down to $1.005 Million from a high of $1.604 Million in 2010/2011(June -June). However, the average price of homes sold in the last 6 months was a shocking $737,000, less then half of the 10 year high. 15 of the 19 sales in the first 6 months of 2017 were under $1M!!
So why all the low sales and where did these cheaper homes come from? This is good question, when we bought our home 12 years ago, it was one of a couple of homes even listed under $1M. Today, there are 49 actively listed homes under $1M!! It seems like there was a combination of a few things to bring these homes to the market; sellers who have owned homes on St John for a long time are getting older, homes that were built cheaply during the boom years coming to the marketplace and homes that have been rescued from deferred maintenance to serve the insatiable short term rental market which are now marketable for sale and now have fancy things like "certificates of occupancy".
Anyway you shake it, buyers have responded by snatching up these cheaper homes in a noticeable way.
Have questions about a home that's under $1M on St John? We know them all, so don't hesitate to contact us for more details
You can also try our advanced MLS tool to search on your own.
We were fortunate to be donated some amazing drone and underwater footage by one of our very talented clients. We have just started going through this stuff and cut together this little teaser. Check back for regular videos showcasing the beauty of St John and the lifestyle that goes along with it. Contact us today to Plan the Vacation of a Lifetime or a Lifetime of Vacation
CHOOSE TO BE LUCKY!!
On St John, which is centrally located to all of the Virgin Islands, we are fortunate to have easy access to some pretty incredible places. In my many years of captaining day sail charters out of Coral Bay I got to spend a lot of time at some of the most secluded and stunningly beautiful destinations. Some of them just a mile or two from the house, others within a day trip distance.
Virgin Gorda's famed "Baths" is one of those day trip spots and is nothing short of spectacular. The impossible sized stones piled on white sand beach create pools, caverns and valleys of turquoise water. One can feel the age of the earth under and among boulders that big.
Getting there Tips
17 miles to Windward(from Coral Bay -longer from Cruz Bay) can be a a long way. On a breezy day it can be a challenge to make it there. The good news is, if you try and go and can not make it, there are lots of other destinations to go to on those days. If you are lucky enough to make it, be humble, be careful and go early or late to avoid the crowds
St John is stunning and special for many reasons, but the Virgin Islands National Park is probably one of the most important. The Virgin Islands National Park encompasses nearly 70% of St John by land. Being the largest land holder on St John has a profound affect on the island, it’s politics, it’s culture and it’s jaw dropping natural beauty. The National Park’s protection of St John’s tremendous natural resources and scenery is why our beaches are so pristine, and why the demand for St John as a tourist destination remains so high. Not to mention the undeniable fact that the VINP not only maintains property values, but drives continued appreciation of the Real Estate Market on St John.
What you might not know about the park, is that it also includes over 5650 acres of submerged lands which protect the Coral Reefs and diverse collection of animal species that inhabit our shores. In addition to the huge acreage held by the park, The Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument adds another 12,700 acres to that!
This protection makes St John an amazing destination for Snorkeling and Diving. Don’t like to snorkel, no worries, you can easily enjoy the marine life that lives the slow life here in the tropics from the beach or from the boat. For those that do want to snorkel, we are always asked where is the best.
We have put together our favorite 8 snorkel spots in no particular order below. Check these out and tell us yours!
1. Waterlemon Cay – Park at Annaberg ruins and hike 1 flat mile toward the cay. Snorkel around the entire island if you are a strong swimmer or just float and enjoy some amazing Coral and tons of Fish. There can be a current some days on the back side
2. Haulover Bay – Park at Haulover beach and enjoy the southside easily without a walk, or more advanced walk to the Northside and snorkel to the east for Stunning Coral.
3. Salt Pond – Hike down to Salt pond beach is about 1/4 mile. Turtles, Rays and some great Coral out deeper.
4. Maho Bay – Park in the parking lot at the east end of the beach, Right across the street swim straight out toward the dinghy channel markers (red and green). Look for large turtles feasting on sea grass with Ramoras on their backs and Rays swimming underneath.
Below Photo's except Turtle, by Leah Randall
5. Flanagan Island and New Found Bay – Getting out on the water in a boat is a must do for any Virgin Islands Vacation. These two stunning snorkel spots are only accessible by boat. We recommend Flyaway Charters. Captain Colin and I spent years taking tourists to these spots and awing our customers with the deep clear water and amazing Coral Structures. Colin is still doing it and this is a trip that should not be missed!
6. Hurricane Hole – This is another spot best reached by boat, contact Flyaway charters for the best guided snorkel of this area. It can also be reached by shore. Park along the mangroves at areas where people have clearly parked before. Climb through the mangroves and get into the water. Snorkel close to the root systems and be careful not to stir up the water. Look into the roots for tiny versions of the large reef fish you know and tons of other interesting things like anemones, crabs, shrimp, seahorses and starfish
7. Windswept point – Snorkel out of trunk bay to the east around the point– life guards may try to stop you, but if you are a good swimmer and the North Swell is not up, this can be amazing.
8. Gibney Beach – Park along road at Oppenheimer beach gate. Walk down the driveway. Tons of great reef and then snorkel to the east along the coast for some private pocket beach stops
Thanks to your business and support, we are thrilled to announce the formation of UNIQUE ISLAND ASSETS our new Real Estate Brokerage on St John.
Running our own brokerage provides us with the ability to offer a more robust suite of real estate services. We now have greater flexibility and opportunities for creativity and innovation in marketing so that we can better serve our client's real estate needs. Pairing our brokerage with our existing property management company is the perfect match to offer our customers and clients 100% coverage for their real estate needs on St John.
Since forming Unique Island Assets 2 weeks ago we already have two amazing new listings!!
SEAROCK is one of those must have homes: A solid craftsman built custom villa with big blue views spilling into every room. This conveniently located yet private home has a delicately finished masonry build on the lower level and elegant hand made post and beam design upstairs with high end finishes in excellent condition. French doors open to the stepped down covered porch, which allows unobstructed ocean views into the beautiful great room with stainless steel chef’s kitchen and spacious living room. The breezy covered veranda with travertine floors is the kind of place you could sit forever. Outdoor spaces feature carved teak panels, a fish pond, slate patios and mosaic stone tile work surrounded by natural rock walls and outcroppings. MUST SEE THIS HOME!!
SUNSET COVE - $819,000MLS #17-106
''Sunset Cove'', a very private and charming masonry home in Chocolate Hole East, offers stunning sunset views to the west over Chocolate Hole Bay above Pillsbury Sound to St. Thomas. Currently configured as a 3 bedroom, 2 bath rental home on two levels it has wonderful opportunity for immediate expansion with a 4th bedroom that is now used for owners' storage. There is a large covered deck with outdoor dining table and comfortable hammock on the upper level, plus another expansive open deck on the lower level with a delightful new hot tub and wet bar plus another comfortable hammock for more lounging and relaxing. A third deck is located directly off the kitchen with a barbeque area. This property has deeded access to two beaches at Chocolate Hole and Hart Bay.
We are very excited about both of these listings and have already been scheduling showings. CONTACT US now for more details on these homes.
Many clients know us for our exceptional service that goes above and beyond. Now, with our own real estate brokerage, we can offer an even higher quality of service.
Our services include:
Real estate Sales and Purchases– Homes, Condos, Land, Timeshare, Business Opportunities and Commercial
Real estate home staging
Local real estate market reports, CMA’s and data/document collection
Local real estate market expertise and guidance
Real estate professional referrals (for those moving to another state or country)
Real estate leasing (commercial, industrial, retail, residential)
Detailed Professional Property Management – From simple bi-monthly walkthroughs to Full Service Management
Meticulous Home care service. Maintenance, Landscaping, Pool and Hot tub Care, Professional housekeeping, improvements and repairs, electrical, plumbing, painting, carpentry, appliance repair and more…. As the shirts our staff wears say, “Problem Solved”
Do you have a unique real estate issue that you need assistance with? We are happy to work with you to find solutions.
I greatly value the business and personal relationship I have with you and hope that you will consider contacting me for any of your future real estate needs. My updated contact information is below
Owner – Broker – Captain
Unique Island Assets
Detailed Professional Realty & Property management
Jared is the President Elect of the St John Board of Realtors
Be sure to connect with us on Social Media
We love our guests. Visitors to St John are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They love our island with a passion. They follow every social media update about every topic that covers St John. Their desktop is photo of St John. Some have a “beach bar” set up in their yards or basements. Some even engage in local politics. Most develop life long love affairs with St John, coming back every year or even sometimes multiple times a year. Some people yell it to the heavens about how great it is. Others keep it close to their chest so no one else will find out.
Tourists are funny people. Do they drive us crazy? Of course!! Even so, we happily help make their trip special and keep them coming back. We get the craziest requests and calls sometimes. Sometimes I have to leave my dinner hot on the table to help them out. Sometimes they call for extra blankets because they like the AC too cold. Sometimes they call to report about Iguanas poaching the pool. Sometimes they call because they hit the wrong button on the remote and just want to watch Judge Judy. They call when they get flat tires or lose their keys. They call when goats get stuck inside the fence. They call because they cannot figure out for the life of them how to open a coconut or cook a lobster.
The point is, they can call and we will always answer.
Now, most people read some reviews before booking a house. I have said it before, don’t read them! Or do, that’s fine, they are all good. What you cannot read before booking is the guest book entries. That is where I find the most insightful “reviews” of their trip.
We wanted to share some quotes from some of our guest books with you to give you an idea about how our guests feel after a stay in one of our homes. Enjoy!
“Thank you for providing such a lovely comfortable home for our St John stay. You were wonderful about answering our questions…we had only done Skinny Legs and Salt Pond in our previous St John visit so we really enjoyed staying on and exploring the other side of the island with your recommendations. The fresh pineapple and coconut were amazing.” -- Dan and Kathy and Family
“Only Good times, people and experiences we had while here. Thank you for making this possible for us. We love you for that!” -- The Kucher Family
“Words can not begin to describe the amazing time we have had on this beautiful island. The villa was magnificent, convenient and comfortable. This will be such a memorable experience for our whole family. WE will definitely be back.” -- John, Jill, Eric, Tom, Linda and Samantha
“Our first trip to St John will not be our last. The villa was perfect and so relaxing. Heading back to the snow with wonderful memories” --The New Hampshire Goodwin's
“Once again, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring this absolutely beautiful island!! This is the kind of house you want to stay in forever. This trip was particularly special because we shared it with out 22 month old son and his grandparents” -- The Frank Family
“Had the best vacation ever! You have thought of everything right down to the comfortable bed and top notch bedding we will be back” -- Jenny and Jon
“The house was perfect. The gardens beautiful. This place will always be special to us. This week we start our new journey in life as an engaged couple.” -- Stevie and Jenna
“It has been a rough 3 years and our stay here has helped bring us closer together and we feel so united and at peace. Thank you for providing such an amazing villa for us” -- Tom, Karen, Jason, Kylie and Tucker
Let us know if you would like to get the chance to write in one of our guest books... Or call us to fix the TV .... or just catch a drink at happy hour and talk about Real Estate....or whatever. Talk to you soon
What a whirlwind of a year!!! 2016 was an exciting and busy year for us. More and more buyers are starting to show interest in purchasing Real Estate on St John and 2016 proved that. We saw some amazing deals go through and last year proved to us that although things are certainly picking up, deals can be had keeping it a Buyer's Market. The number of homes sold in 2016 was up 39% to 53 total sales from the previous year! Sold Volume was way up as well up 35% to a total of over $55 Million.
Although the total number of condo sales was down in 2016 from 12 to 10, the total sold volume rose 30% with average sold price rising 56% to $569,300
Similarly, land sales in total number were down 13% in 2016 over 2015, but the total volume rose 28% and the average sales price rose 48%.
Much of the commercial transactions this year were non MLS transactions. One major transaction not on the MLS in 2016 was the sale of Wharfside Village. Many bars and restaurants, including the Beach Bar also changed hands in 2016. Overall the story from MLS data about commercial listings is that the median sales price rose over 113%. People are moving here and buying businesses, and they are paying more for them by nearly double from the previous year.
Overall, when looking at the 4 main segments of the St John Real Estate Market (Homes, Land, Condos, Commercial) combined, we saw a total increase in transactions up 6%. Total Volume was up 32% to $74.2 Million. Average Sales Price was up 25%.
We look at the market every day on St John and have been in nearly every home currently listed. See a property you are interested in and need more information? Contact us today or call 340-626-8229 to reach Jared directly on his cell to schedule a live Face Time tour.
Information is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. © 2017 MLS and FBS. Prepared by Jared Warren, Real Estate Broker on Monday, January 09, 2017
Let us know if we can help you become an island entrepreneur too. Check out these businesses and commercial listings for sale on St John right now
On St John, in the US Virgin Islands, there are too many views to count. Everywhere you look is stunning and magical. There simply is no way to capture it all on camera. Only being there, in person can burn into your mind the permanent glory of all of the vistas. I got a chance to go take some pictures yesterday, this post is only about the views.
People love Air BNB. Well, they love the idea of it. They think they are getting a better deal. They think they have stumbled upon a gem of a unique hideaway that makes their trip special. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they are stuck in a poorly cared for the spot with a green pool. Frequently, they are hiking up the hill with their luggage searching for the spot on an island with no street signs.
Occasionally, they run out of water and can not get the Air BnB system to load so they can communicate with the owners leaving them without showers and toilets for the night.
I get the call all of the time. “um yeah, hello, we are on St John right now and are wondering if you have any availability for the next three nights…” Eventually, I pry as to what happened that they ended up here without a place to stay and get the stories above. Stories like Jake from last week. Jake flew in on a balmy August night to find him self-waiting on the ferry dock for his Air BNB host. The person decided to text him directions rather than assist in finding the place. That was just the beginning. Jake then proceeded to arrive at the villa to find damaged screens allowing mosquitoes to eat his girlfriend’s tasty fresh skin. Then the internet went out; the hot tub was not working. Again, trouble communicating with the host, due to the Air BNB method of managing the conversation between guest and host. Eventually, Jake gave up called us and checked in.
Not all Air BNB hosts are bad. Some are great. But there is a real difference between a professionally managed or operated vacation rental and an Air BNB property looking to catch extra cash through casual, friendly business (supervised of course by a large corporation). For me, these un-vetted rentals are an issue. They degrade the quality product that many vacation rental properties have strived for decades to do well. The homes that we manage are run like well-oiled machines. That is not to say issues don’t occur. But rather, that when, or if an issue arises, it can be solved instantly, and we can be reached immediately on the phone for good old fashioned personal service.
Reviews are not enough.
We have terrific reviews from guests, hundreds of them between all of the homes – Don’t base your decision on them. Don’t choose a home based on anyone else's reviews either. In the hotel business, the guest experience is extremely personal. One guest dream room is a nightmare for another. I suggest a direct phone call with the property manager or the owner. Air BNB discourages this; they are wrong. From an owner/manager perspective, this is ideal for me.
I can tell if the customer is right for a home or not, and if not, lead them to the home that is better. Communication, in advance of booking, is crucial to satisfaction upon arrival. Having a corporation in between an owner/manager and a customer is a barrier to success. For the guests, this phone call will allow them to ask critical questions about the property and get honest answers back.
Texting and emailing eliminate inflection and tone. The call is key.
Here are some samples of questions travelers should ask to help them better understand the property and the management of it before they arrive:
1. Is someone available if we have an issue? How long is the typical response time? Can we contact you directly? - This will tell you a lot about how the home is cared for and how you will be cared for as guests.
2. Is everything on the property working right now? – If something is wrong, its probably been wrong for a while and won't be fixed before you arrive. Deferred maintenance results in adjacent failures I can assure you.
3. If we arrive late, will someone meet us? For me, when people ask this, I can give them the comfort that I am there for them 24 hours a day if needed
4. How often is the pool cleaned? - If it is less then weekly, you know your dealing with a casual program.
5. Do you own or manage any other properties and if so, are you licensed for business? Knowing this will differentiate between the casual operation and a professional company. Technically, anyone taking bookings and collecting money, especially advanced deposits should be a licensed Virgin Islands Realtor.
Overall, especially on St John, you will probably be taken care of either way. St Johnians have pride in our island and want you to have a great trip. However, professionally managed and cared for properties can provide a far better experience, while still offering you the extensive benefits of staying in a Vacation Home rather than in a hotel. On St John, people had been renting vacation homes professionally for more than 30 years before AIR BNB came along. Take the time to find out who your hosts are and how they care for a place before putting down a deposit.
1. Grilling fresh Caribbean lobster. With Lobster, its not what you know, It’s who you know. Some people can catch lobster, most cannot. My guess is most of you can’t catch a lobster; some of you think you can and may try, but it is a talent hard learned. The Caribbean spiny lobster is aptly named, for its very sharp spines. It tends to hide among sea urchins and fire coral. Snaring one is an art… if you can find one. If you can find one and you can get it without being cut or burned or poked... Fortunately for you, we know the where and how and can deliver you a live one and show you how to cook it.
2. Full Moon Drum Circles – The Danish Sugar Mill ruins are magical and full of a dramatic and dark past. A daytime visit will only begin to fill your appetite for the long and complicated history of St John and the Virgin Islands. At night, some ruins become a gathering place for drum circles under the full moon. Entering the cavernous halls under a monstrous stone sugar mill in the moonlight will be intimidating, magical and transcendent if you carry with you an open mind, respect for the scene and the freedom to participate.
3. Private catered dinner with live music – Honestly, how many of us have had a world-class chef over to cook us dinner in our house for our friends and family? On St John, this opportunity is easily arranged and could be one of those meals you remember forever. Make it truly special by hiring a local musician to entertain you between courses. St John has some amazing talent, a personal house concert in a villa over the sea with a skilled chef to cook and clean up… I am sold are you?
4. Sky tour of the night sky – Many of our guests cannot even see the stars from where they live. Others simply don’t have the time to look up. On St John, the light pollution is so minimal in some places that the milky way can be seen as easily as recognizing your wife’s voice from the upstairs bedroom when your watching TV in the man cave. Take the time to tour the night sky, whether with a guide who comes and can explain the galaxy to you or just simply sitting on the beach in the dark with a good star guide app. Don’t miss a meteor shower if you’re on St John at the right time. If it's cloudy, or too much moon, look around for Night Blooming Cereus flowers. They are as big as dinner plates and full of complexities.
5. Boat trip to unknown cays – Sure, you have read about taking a boat to the BVI. Going to Jost Van Dyke and Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and the Willy T and Soggy Dollar. You should go. It will be the best day of drinking you ever had. But you should also take a boat trip that is just for snorkeling to some little uninhabited Cay you have never heard of. The 100 foot visibility and large animal crossings through pristine ancient reefs will give you a story to talk about on the booze cruise, but it will burn in your memory what the power of untouched nature really can be.
6. Movie night at the ruins – Some Fridays, not all, but some, they show a movie up in Susannaberg. The stunning setting among quiet locals is not advertised except on a spray painted board, or sheet or barrel on the day of. Cult classics like Ghostbusters, and Jaws. Sitting outside among these recently uncovered ruins and drinking from your own cooler is as easy as it gets.
7. Contribute to our community – St John has 4000 residents, we are hardy, talented, overworked and hungry for fresh food. We all contribute to our community. Lately, I have noticed more and more visitors contributing too. We need your help. With 100’s of thousands of visitors each year (600K just in the Virgin Islands National Park estimate annually) we residents simply can not keep up with all that is needed to serve our population if you include visitors. Some ideas that help us a lot. Volunteer at the park – trail cleaning clubs and the Friends of the VI NATIONAL PARK are always looking for help. Teach a class at School of the Arts – Our kids (and kids at heart) are screaming for more immersion in the arts. If you have a talent, contact the SJSA to share it with us. Attend a benefit – There are so many benefits on St John throughout the year. These events are fun, usually with live music and other performances, raffles, games, competitions and more. Not only will you have tons of fun and meet some locals, you’ll be helping out a cause or a person who is truly in need.
Contact us today to book your trip and get the skinny on any unknown goings on on St John. The good news is, you can also just do nothing on St John and love it.
See you soon
As I lugged 5 gallon buckets of water around the property to wet down my thirsty plants, I passed under the big coconut tree and realized that we have these Coconuts hanging over our pineapple plants, and thought "this is the pina colada section of the yard".
How clear the impetus for this drink became and I wondered if some pineapple farmer like myself came up with it. I then walked around the corner, and realized we have the sugar cane growing right nearby. So I got to get a rum still going, and start making our own rum because we are literally growing our own Pina Coladas here on St John at Starlit Escape. It reminded me of this story an old salt told me a long time ago about Foxy, on Jost Van Dyke. Foxy is this idyllic islander; barefoot, dreadlocked, smiling and way laid back. He is famous now for lots of reasons, but to me it was for singing these reggae/blues/Jost Van Dyke swing songs at his tamarind bar on the beach. Gripping the guitar with work worn hands and making tourists laugh with innuendo and anecdotal songs about politics. He has this knack for knowing a song about anywhere in the world that someone is from. Well this old sailor was telling us the other night beneath the shade tree about how when Foxy first opened his bar, he stocked whiskey, rum, and beer. Confiding in the old sailor shortly after he opened he says "I don get it, I got de whisky, i got de beer, you knows i got de rum, but dese tourists come and all deh wan is de peeeNya colAAAda" he drags through the words pina colada with specific tone of being unfamiliar with a word "what i ask IS a peeeNya colAAAda?" I am sure he knows now, but I am going to have to start working on my yard-ladas. Maybe I can bring one over to Foxy and remember that time that a tourist introduced him to the drink.
SeaRock is a stunning artist built villa on St John where the big blue ocean views pour into every room. Being artist built, the home has tons of delicate and detailed features. The solid Mahogony french doors are finished with a multi layered faux finish with blues and yellows. All of the paint on the home has a intended washed look that creates a peaceful feel. The tile is inlaid with handpicked stone and shells. The walls are painted with stress lines and fractures to look like they are made of solid marble.
One of the features of the home is these huge hand carved teak panels which are used for doors and walls. The original builder and artist Kat Sowa had cleaned and painted these panels. After about 7 years in the sun they started to look a little worn. Our property management team restored them to their original color. At times, to repeat the detail, we were using brushes as small as 1 cm wide. The paint had to be mixed on site for color. It was then applied and rubbed into the wood with a damp rag. The process was tedious and fun and we caught a few photos which you can see in the slideshow below.
Property management can mean a lot of things. For us, it means taking care of your home like it was our own, no matter the level of detail it requires. It means keeping the value of your investment intact. It means creating the guests experiences that make people want to book your home year after year. It means offering homeowners the comfort that any task can be completed on your property with detail and perfection. We take a lot of pride in caring for these special villas on St John. Come see what that feels like by booking one of these homes today.
Swimming With Sea Turtles
I have to say that as of recent turtles have become a hot topic around our household. Not only sea turtles but also local indigineous red footed tortoises. Our 3 year old daughter, has had the blessed experience of interacting with both types of these creatures and it has made a huge impact on our daily lives. It seems every children’s book we open or children’s film we watch has turtles and tortoises in it ironically which delights our daughter with never ending amusement to connect her experiences with turtles. We have two red footed tortoises, Lilac and Tulip, that live on our property that she cares for, walks, sings to and feeds every day. She has learned all about their physical bodies, scientific facts, biology terms, and habitats all from a little tortoise that walked down our country road and wandered in front of our white picket fence. The tortoise found a loving home with our kid and will one day be set free back into the wild. A magical pet for a child. That is our turtle story on land.
This is our turtle story from the sea.
On a beautiful warm sunny summer afternoon when the sun just lingers for hours as it slowly sets in the west Jared and little A went on a father daughter adventure. The best kind of bonding experiences. They went for an early evening swim in Maho Bay and with little A riding on Dad’s back they swam out to the deep water of the Bay where the sea grass beds lie and there before them awaited an unsurpassed magical experience with nature. 6 giant sea turtles were feeding on their dinner of sea grass diving down and coming back up for air inches away from our daughter’s face. She was elated and giggling with joy as turtles popped up all around her. She truly felt like a mermaid, one of her favorite mythical creatures. They were the only two humans around in the pristine warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and shared that unforgettable experience together.
They came home and told me all about it and I was so happy for them. This experience happened all by chance and that is what makes it magical. They even wrote a sea chant about it!
There is no better way
to finish the day
then to swim with turtles
in Maho Bay!
Island Hopping - 10 islands in one week and why St John is still the Best.
This week, I was fortunate enough to get a little time off and get in some Island Hopping and had a chance to compare islands and research Caribbean service styles. I could title this article “Why you love to hate Caribbean Service Style”, but I am not grabbing headlines with click bait. I will tell you why that when you arrive, you think the service is lazy and when you leave, you think it was amazing and why you can not wait to come back and get some more.
An amazing week is easy to have with St John as a home base. Wednesday, we went boating in the British Virgin Islands. Leaving St John on a calm sunny morning, and heading out to sea is breathtaking. The cool breeze coupled with the warm sun as the clear blue water slips beneath you under the boat. It’s transcendental. That day I took us to Tortola, Norman Island, Jost Van Dyke and a quick stop at Flanagan Island to finish the day. The dark green steep hills of Tortola, the Rugged outpost and mind boggling clear waters of Norman Island, the beach life of Jost Van Dyke and the lonely majestic reefs of Flanagan Island all offered in one day what some people are not lucky enough to experience in a lifetime. Still, at the end of the day, we wanted to come home, to St John.
Friday, we literally hopped our way to Nevis, another tiny island 158 miles South East of my home in Coral Bay. That trip took us by Car to Cruz Bay, by Boat to St Thomas, by Taxi to the Cyril King Airport, by Plane to St Maarten, By Plane to Antigua, By Plane to St Kitts and by Boat to Nevis. What a day! St Thomas, a necessary evil for St John was hectic and practical. St Maarten was brief on this trip, with it’s looming over development and multi national culture clash all ready to bring luxury to the beach. Antigua proudly embracing it’s European roots and preparing for cricket matches with cheese on baguettes whilst a regatta begins just off shore. St Kitts with its fiercely proud history and independence (independent since just 1983 – a moment in history too large and so recent that men reminisce about it with a twinkle in their eye…because they lived that midnight moment.) And Nevis, with it’s small island feel and it’s single peak, a symbol of natural pride and self reliance.
So what did I learn about in such brief glimpses? Besides that we are lucky to have the opportunity to travel and experience such beautiful places. Besides that you can find diversity and kindness everywhere? Besides that each place can be so close and so far from each other; geographically, culturally, practically and most important that ever subtle VIBE? What I learned is that although Caribbean Service style may sound like an oxymoron, in fact, I believe service in the Caribbean to be some of the best in the world. To be fully served without pretentiousness and with casual style takes a talent unknown to the modern fast paced world. It is this key combination of casual attitude and full attention to detail that creates a world class experience. Day after day, travelers arrive carrying stress and quick judgment. It takes unbelievable talent to turn that around, a talent found throughout the Caribbean, but mostly on St John.
Even with my visit to the 10 very different islands this week, St John remains the best. I can say this with the confidence of experiencing hundreds of islands and destinations across the globe. St John has the unique quality of being the best of everything. The best beaches, the best food, the best service, the best accommodation options, the best access, the best infrastructure and the nicest people.
I will continue to travel with an open mind, and hope that one day, I may find a better place, but for now, St John remains on top.
The Enduring Strength of the St John Rental Market
Even as the economic roller coaster permeates real estate and financial markets globally, here on St John, the real estate rental market refuses to burst. Both long and short term rentals on island continue to command high prices in what seems to be a reflection of the steady stream of demand and extreme shortage of supply.
Short term rental villas have solidified their position in vacation accommodations on St John. Even with as many as 900 properties available for weekly vacation rentals on island, occupancy for this season was strong and projections for next season are strong from a poll of booking agents and owners, with most properties already booking up or nearly sold out for the 2017 high season. With short term vacation rentals, owners who have good property management can expect nearly 100% occupancy for Nov 1 - May 1. And it does not turn off like a switch. The summer months can see as high as 80% occupancy on average for June and July. August and November average at about 50% occupancy. It is no wonder that investing in real estate on St John has it's advantages. The short term market provides a viable stream of income to the owners who also want occasional use of their homes and can be the best option for owners who want their home professionally maintained and cleaned weekly.
Long term rentals are difficult to come by. The extremely high demand, coupled with the limited inventory have set monthly lease rates (on year long leases) to an average of $1800 for a one bedroom apartment plus utilities. Furnished apartments go for even more. With rates this high, many owners have built small apartments below their homes or on their properties to capitalize on the additional income stream. Some have developed small apartment buildings or condos on vacant lots to target this lucrative market.
All in all, owners and buyers can take comfort in the fact that properties on St John can and will continue to provide real income from rent, be it year leases or weekly guests. Get in touch with me if you would like to further discuss the rental possibilities of properties here on St John.