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venzzla May 3rd, 2015 03:08 PM

Saint John retirement
Thinking about retiring soon and buying a place on Saint John and would love to hear from someone that either has lived there or is currently living there now. We are leaning towards a condo near the beach. Probably go the snowbird route and rent it out when we aren't there. Does anyone have any recommendations where we should start? Leaning towards something near Cruz bay and would invite any suggestions!

RoamsAround May 3rd, 2015 05:46 PM

Go to the Virgin Islands Relocation website ( and you'll find loads of useful information about living in the USVI's in General and St. John, in particular. You'll find answers to all of your questions and hundreds more you haven't even thought of yet. There's also a link to their very active Forum where you can read 10,000's threads covering every possible topic and post your own inquiries where you'll get responses from a host of contributors who live on the USVI's, including St. John.

suze May 4th, 2015 08:25 AM

How much time have you spent on St. John?

I ask only because it is one small island, and I wouldn't move there (or anywhere really) permanently unless you've spent extended periods of time there on many occasions. I would also rent first, not buy property outright.

venzzla May 4th, 2015 11:34 AM

Thanks roams around. I have read many of your posts and you are very helpful and knowledgeable.I am going to check that website out know. Just curious roams around, which island do you live on. I know in a previous post you said you had been to lots of islands so I am curious which one you found your oasis? Suze I know this is going to sound crazy but I haven't been yet. I lean towards this island for many reasons. Mainly because it's under U.S. Law, English speaking,and is not a cruise ship destination. Before you bite my head off�� I am coming there in the near future to confirm this before buying. I just lean towards this island because of what I have read. I do obviously want to confirm all of this for myself. Thanks

RoamsAround May 4th, 2015 12:52 PM

For what it is worth, we visited around 20 different islands with an eye toward retirement before we decided on Nevis. Some islands we rejected in a matter of days, others we spent several weeks/months living there before we decided they were not for us. We saw some islands we liked but could find the right property and others where we found property but just couldn't stand the island. In the end it took us more than 5 years of serious looking before we found "our island".

You'd be wise to spend several weeks to several months on any island you are considering BEFORE you decide on where you want to live. On the VI Moving Center website & forum this is usually referred to as a Pre-Move Visit (PMV). You can read all you want about an island BUT nothing beats actually being there to find out what daily life is really like. Living on an island in the Caribbean is far different then being their on vacation - it is not necessarily better or worse than where you now live (I'm betting you live somewhere in the US) it just DIFFERENT, VERY DIFFERENT.

You should be aware that it is expensive to live in the Caribbean and St. John is one of the more expensive islands in the Caribbean so, depending on your lifestyle, expect your daily living expenses to increase between 25% to 35% over what you spend now. Property and housing costs are going to be significantly higher than they are "back home". Now, this may sound harsh but if you can't afford to do the PMV's you probably can't afford to live in the Caribbean.

Regardless of which island you choose to live on DO NOT purchase a house or property unless you've spent at least a year living on that particular island. You'll need that time to evaluate whether or not island life agrees with you and your spouse (if any) and to identify the better places on the island for your home. Often, one spouse likes island life while the other dislikes it or finds it just tolerable - you need time to figure this out.

Last comment, if you are US citizens you'll find it infinitely easier to relocate to Puerto rico, Vieques, Culebra or any of the US Virgin Islands as you'll already have residency status on those islands. Relocating to any other Caribbean island will require that you adhere to that island's immigration rules which often entail make a substantial investment in real estate plus prove that you are in good health, have no criminal background and have the financial means to support yourself without working so make sure you thoroughly investigate the immigration laws of the island where you want to live.

Good luck following your dream.

venzzla May 4th, 2015 01:55 PM

Yes,I will definitely do the PMV before deciding. Also, having residency status was another reason why we are looking into USVI. Saint John just sounded good to us because it will not have constant cruise ships coming and going. Also like the small town fill ( I live in a small town already). Oh and yes we are from the U.S. We can always make a day trip to Saint Thomas if the need arises to do some bigger town things. Just curious do you have to do lots of maintenance to your home due to salt in the air? One thing that worries me is that I am a little hot natured and I'm a little worried about not having central air conditioning. I have read where some of the islands are looking into better more efficient ways to deliver energy. In particular Saint Croix, and others are trying to follow.

suze May 4th, 2015 02:34 PM

I'm not going to bite anyone's head off, trust me :-)

I have a plan for at least 1/2 time retirement in Puerto Vallarta Mexico myself. But I have spent many many many vacations there over the past 20+ years. Then I read on forums or hear about about people planning to "retire to Mexico" who have never even been there once... boy oh boy they are going to be in for a BIG surprise!

I was only on St John/St Thomas one trip, but St John is one TINY island, not that easy to get to & from. With St Thomas hardly being much larger. I would be stir-crazy in a month or two myself.

venzzla May 4th, 2015 03:29 PM

Thanks for your input suze. I will most definitely be doing a PMV. For me, I don't think I will mind the small feeling. I live in a small town so I'm used to it. I can always island hop if we want to spend some time in a bigger town. as far as getting around we can use the ferry when needed.

suze May 4th, 2015 03:37 PM

Just saying... day dreamin' about something like this and actually moving to a place you have never even seen before are two very different things! Expect some fairly serious "culture shock" even if things go smoothly.

Truly, I wish you all the best. But even more so encourage you to reread RoamsAround posts about what it took for them to find their island as a reality check.

venzzla May 4th, 2015 03:56 PM

Yes. I have read many of his posts. He is very knowledgeable about living the Caribbean life. I will check out some more of his posts along with others.

RoamsAround May 4th, 2015 05:23 PM

venzzla asked/commented: Just curious do you have to do lots of maintenance to your home due to salt in the air? One thing that worries me is that I am a little hot natured and I'm a little worried about not having central air conditioning.

Yes, there's a lot of maintenance to homes & furniture. The strong sun and salt air play havoc on EVERYTHING. Wood rots fast and there's wood lice (aka termites) all over so you have to constantly treat for them. Painted surfaces fade and chip quickly - we repaint exterior wood surfaces 2 to 3 times as often as we did back in the US. Fabrics (even Sunbrella and similar brands) fade quickly, appliances and anything made of metal rust quickly (expect to replace appliances twice as often as you do back in the US), anything made of plastic becomes brittle very quickly when exposed to direct sunlight, stained wood has to be refinished regularly. If you live in an area where there are frequent power outages any electronic gear will be strained - for example anything with a motherboard or electronic controls won't last anywhere near as long as back in the US. Best to have surge protectors and back-up batteries for all electronics. Suffice to say there is always something that needs repair or replacement - it never stops. I consider it a big win if I have a week where nothing goes wrong. I'm not trying to scare you away but rather pointing out some of the challenges you'll encounter. Of course, how much you'll spend on house maintenance depends on the size of your house and how well you want to maintain your home. For us, it's important for our home to be very well maintained - you may be happy with something that looks "well worn".

Regarding A/C - we use our often even though electricity in the Caribbean is VERY expensive (FYI - The USVI's have some of the highest electricity rates in the Caribbean. Only you know YOUR tolerance for heat/humidity and whether or not you'll use A/C. You may have a home that's high up on the mountainside where it's relatively cooler or exposed to the prevailing winds but even so it gets quite hot and there are fewer breezes in the summer. Also, if your home has a western exposure it can get very hot in the afternoon.

Again, I suggest you go to the VI Relocation website I mentioned. Start at the top left of the home page and and work your way to the right clicking on all the dropdown menus. Read EVERYTHING (there's so much material it will take weeks). Then click on the forum link and read through the thousands of threads. Every conceivable topic has been discussed in great detail. Keep in mind that much of the information in most of the older threads is still very relevant today, the only difference will be cost estimates from a few years ago will be on the low side.

Do as much first hand research as you can!

venzzla May 5th, 2015 11:53 AM

Ok great thanks for info. I have read much of the website. Going to the forums next. Lots of the information you are telling me I have not read yet. Is it fairly easy to rent a place for weeks or months if I wanted to migrate back and forth from the mainland? Just trying to see if there is ample opportunity to help some of the costs.

suze May 5th, 2015 12:11 PM

Are you talking about YOU renting a place for part of the time? Or you mean you plan to buy a place outright and want to rent it to others when you are not there?

venzzla May 5th, 2015 12:17 PM

Me buying a place outright and renting it part of the time while I am not there

venzzla May 5th, 2015 12:18 PM

Btw roams around now I see what you mean. Tons and tons of information on forums. Thanks for some direction!

suze May 5th, 2015 12:33 PM

Is there a reason you wouldn't rent for the first year? Buying a home in a place you have never even been before, seems a little 'cart before the horse'. What if you don't like it?

RoamsAround May 5th, 2015 01:27 PM

OK, time for a reality check!

Depending on where you buy there is a bit of a "part-time" rental market but don't expect it to be lucrative. The old adage of "Location, Location, Location" applies here. The better location the more you'll pay for the property and the better chance you'll have of renting it out. But rentals are never guaranteed and you should not rely on a steady rental income stream to offset your carrying costs.

Keep in mind, most short term rentals are vacationers and will want to rent during "high season" (winter months - Christmas through Easter) which is probably when you'll want to occupy the unit yourself. Even if your property is "available" for the entire High Season you probably won't be able to rent it out for the full term every year. Rentals in the off season (Spring & Summer) are few and far between and there's virtually none during peak hurricane season (mid-August through the end of November).

There are lots of extra costs associated with rental properties. First, you'll need to hire a property manger/rental agent to care for the property when you are not there and to handle maintenance, upkeep and arranging for the rentals. You'll also need to hire a housekeeper to clean up after the tenants. Expect to pay around 40% of your rental income for these services.

You'll pay higher utility costs - renter will leave your A/C unit on 24/7 and they'll waste water (if you have government water you'll pay more, if you have cistern water you might have to purchase truckloads of supplemental water which is costly. Your tenants will abuse your furniture by sitting on fabric furniture with wet bathing suits, not using coasters for "sweating" glasses and bottles so your wood furniture will get "rings". They'll track sand and grit through your house. You get the idea! All this will add to your already high maintenance costs. If you rent out your home expect to replace much of your furniture every 4 or 5 years, repaint even more often then if it was just you living there and, if you have a home with land, you'll need someone to care for the lawn and garden.

I know several people who try to rent out their homes/condos when they are not in residence. Some are lucky and break even and few, if any, turn a profit. Most who try it say it's not worth all the effort and aggravation and after a year or two of frustration decide to give up renting.

Word to the wise - Do not rely solely on real estate agents, property mangers and/or rental agents to give you accurate info on the rental market as they have their own best interest in mind. Instead, investigate the rental market in YOUR "planned area" very thoroughly by speaking with other owners of similar properties to learn of there experiences. Do this BEFORE deciding if part-time renting is right for you.

venzzla May 5th, 2015 03:22 PM

No suze I would still do a PMV before this. I'm just weighing all my options before taking it to the next level. I am considering keeping a house in mainland to return when I want too. Just curious about the rental market. After reading roams post I'm not sure renting is really even worth the effort.

suze May 5th, 2015 03:32 PM

My point is that I think *you* should rent, not buy property right off the bat. At least for the first year or two. And go back and forth to your home on the 'mainland' if you please.

I don't mean to sound in your business about this...

It's just I've been reading & researching living in (or retirement in) the Caribbean, Mexico, and/or Hawaii for about 40 years now -lol!

There is so much to be learned. Some which you can find on line or at the local library, but most of which in my experience I have learned on the ground spending time "living like a local" as much as possible in each place.

venzzla May 5th, 2015 03:51 PM

Point taken. Looks like I need to start traveling��

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