Skip to main content
No. of Recommendations: 16
I got an email request to go further into details on my comments, but feel it would be better placed here.

There are 3 major islands in the US Virgin Islands, one minor, many private ones. These are respectively, St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, Water Island, and who knows what they are called. Of all the islands, the only affordable land is on St. Croix. Of course, there are reasons for this, some of which I will touch on below.

An unimproved steep building lot with a view on SJJ will run $2-300,000. Stt is probably $150-200K, if you can still find available land. Stt is densely populated. Here I've seen prime lots with killer views for anywhere from $30-130K per lot, depending on location, view and size. For example a stunning 0.7 acre level building lot on the North Shore with panoramic sea views was going for about $70K.

1. Size: St. Croix is the largest of the islands by far. There is simply more land available. However, being only 6 to 7 miles wide, sea views are plentiful. You don't pay much of a premium for a sea view unless it is one of Buck Island. Buck Island, BTW, is a nature reserve and can't be built on. Our topography is also varied with both pasture and mountains. STt, Stj are for the most part, precipitous. Water island I know very little about, but it isn't affordable anyway.

2. Location: Stx, (St. Croix,) is set apart from the rest of the Brittish and US Virgins. This is not a great thing from a boating point of view. When you live on a small island, the "road trip" becomes a boat trip. It takes about 6 hours to make the crossing in a sail boat from here to the other Virgins, 2-3 in a decent motor boat. This is in contrast to about 20 minutes to the BVIs from STT. or Stj. Additionally, tourists like the ability to island hop. Airlines also take advantage of our isolation, and we are charged a premium.

3. Marketing, or lack thereof: Our Govenor resides in STT. We just don't get marketed to the tourists all that much, and are much less well known. This to me is a huge plus. We are much more of a conventional place to live and though very dependent on tourism, not solely dependent. We have industry, in fact the reason for our being here. We are working stiffs, ;-) ,not retirees. This is not a place to party hearty, but one to lime on the beaches with family and friends. There are great water sports here, and indeed according to one major dive magazine, we have the number one dive shop staff in the world.

4. Local Attitude: Tends to be a bit abrasive and anti tourism, anti work. IMO rather like biting the hand that feeds you, but the other feeding hand is the US Gov't. We get major amounts of welfare type handouts here. Not at all a service attitude. Probably about 1/8 to 1/4 of the population is this way.

5. Crime: (Please note the following is on STT as well.) Tourism is down, unemployment up. 9/11 has not been good to us. Crime is definitely on the rise. There are areas I won't go, and living in a secluded house or going to secluded beaches has it's risk. Home invasions are not out of the question. In the 7 years we've lived here, I've noticed an increase in what I call "life is worthless" attitude. Theirs or yours, they really don't care. One way this manifests itself is in the increase in reckless driving. Some don't even slow down for red lights on our one divided highway, making defensive driving mandatory. Stop signs are a joke. I learned to drive in Boston, folks, where we are accused of not taking prisoners. On the mainland, I went to college in North Philladelphia, a seriously dangerous spot with drive by shootings being de riguer. I'm not a pansy in any way about this stuff, though after having kids I suppose I'm more careful. The problem I see here is that on a 26 x 6.5 mile island, you can't drive out to the safe suburbs, though by staying in resort areas you do minimize your exposure. The crime is not isolated, though it certainly is concentrated in certain areas. This will get worse before it gets better, since the police dept does little.

6. Weather: In a word, HUGO. This island is still recovering mentally from Hurricane Hugo, which happened about 12 years ago. Stt and Stj where essentially nuclear bombed by the storm as well, but people went back there. The return has been much slower here, and housing prices reflect that. We are still at reduced housing prices, though the upper levels, (ie: multi million,) places are selling well. The poorly built places pretty much got leveled by Hugo or Marilyn, and codes similar to FL after hurricane Andrew have been implimented. IMO, dammage due to storms will be reduced in the future because of this.

Winter weather is glorious, with highs of 85 and lows of 75. Water temp lowers a little, but enough for the locals, (us included,) to stay out of the water. Summer highs typically 90-95, lows about 80. Constant trade breeze makes it feel less humid. Summer here is much better than Eastern PA, and of course you don't need to deal with snow here, ever. You do have to deal with hurricanes from time to time, which is doable if well informed and prepared.

7. Utilities: I believe the state of the utilities are the same across the USVI. Unfortunately, power lines have only been burried in a few areas. A wind storm will result in your being without WAPA power or water for several weeks. A home must have an emergency generator.

8. Second world: We may be a US Territory, but we are short of first world status. We don't fit the third world immage either, and fortunately are heading in the right direction for the most part. This again pretty much applies to all the islands. There is a price for Paradise.


Summary: Liquidity of real estate, land in particular, is poor. Do not expect to be able to flip a property. The norm to sell a house is well over a year, sometimes 3 or 4. Land, being plentiful at this time, can be picked up by vultures for a song, but those vultures had better be willing to pass the land on to their kids.

With this potential bargain comes risk. If the island is not able to correct it's crime problem, who is going to want to live here? But taxes are cheap, prices are low, and the potential is huge. If you can wait out the storm, there is a good chance things will improve. I don't see the US gov't letting us degenerate into another Haiti or Dominican Republic. It will take time, and since I think it will get worse before it gets better, time is on your side. Come down and explore more than once before you buy.


Those are a handful of macro reasons for the "bargain" price of land on STX. If I haven't scared you off, I'll go into the reason for price differnces within STX. But right now, I need to do taxes.

All opinion, worth the paper I wrote it on.

InParadise
Print the post  

Announcements

What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.