Virgin Islands Message Board

St Thomas condo investment?

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winterhater
(@winterhater)
Active Member

STT Resident wrote:
[quote=winterhater]
I guess you have to figure though, if you are experiencing electric bills from renters then you are also collecting rent! I don't expect to really make much if any money on a condo-I want it to be there and paid for in 10 years when I can personally use it.
So islanders will be experiencing ongoing electric reductions? That is good news! I put solar on my home in the states and am so glad I did as our electric rates are set to skyrocket by 37%.

I have several friends who own vacation condos here who have exactly the same aim as you but I think not only would all agree that they only break even but would also tell you the other negative which isn't often discussed - the expense of operating, upgrading and interior maintenance.

When you rent out your unit as a vacation rental to cover the operating costs, breaking even doesn't come easily. If you hire a property manager you're going to pay them a percentage of the income. If you do it yourself (vrbo, homeaway, etc.) the transaction is all on you. You need someone close by to call on in case of emergency or if anything at all goes amiss.

It's great to be able to come a few times a year to enjoy your vacation home but not one of my friends doesn't spend at least one of those visits doing basic interior maintenance plus, every few years, upgrading furnishings and appliances in order to keep their units rented and competitive.

Such a lot to take into consideration!

All good things to consider. We renovate homes here in the states and do it in homes that don't even have heat in the winter alot of times, so a week in St thomas doing maintenance sounds like a dream come true. Seriously though, our ultimate use for the condo would be 3 months use ourselves in the future, so anything we need to do in the meantime to keep it rented is OK with us. I think the true cost of electric does make me a little scared though....But property tax is so cheap, maybe that is the tradeoff.....

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Topic starter Posted : February 1, 2015 3:57 pm
STT Resident
(@stt-resident)
Island Expert

winterhater wrote: We renovate homes here in the states and do it in homes that don't even have heat in the winter alot of times, so a week in St thomas doing maintenance sounds like a dream come true. .

Oh the stories that can be told! Until you've actually done it you have no idea what a total chore it is here trying to get everything done in a week or two when what you need and want simply isn't available here, when supplies don't arrive from off-island in time, contractors don't show up and "tomorrow" is the key word. The weather becomes the farthest thing from your mind!

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Posted : February 1, 2015 4:34 pm
winterhater
(@winterhater)
Active Member

LOL- I can only imagine. I am thinking we should find a contractor, pick out what we want..go home for a few months and have them call us when it is done! Maybe if we start reno's in May it will be done and ready to be rented by Christmas!

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Topic starter Posted : February 1, 2015 5:39 pm
Future Islander
(@future-islander)
Prominent Member

Winterhater:

Probably not a good idea. My friend did what you're thinking of doing. The contractor "moved" into his condo, took a couple of months and did a poor quality job. Unfortunately, because my friend wasn't there, he paid the contractor in advance. Also, probably not good idea.

You need to plan your job.

When we did our villa 7 years ago (1.250 sq. ft. of tile floor throughout the villa and total bath rip-out and remodel), I purchased all of the materials, had the materials on-site, had the crew (4 people) set to start on a Monday (8:00 AM) and I was there throughout the whole 6 days (available when unexpected decisions had to be made or run out for 5 more bags of thin-set). That's right, (only) 6 days. I stayed in a friend's villa while this was going on. I showed up before 8:00 AM, each day, to let the contractors into the villa, I bought lunch for them every day (this kept them on-site) and showed up at 5:00 PM to close up. And I kept them supplied with cold water/soft drinks. Plus, because they were only providing labor, they got paid at the end of the job.

It should also be noted that I knew the quality of workmanship of the contractors since they had performed other similar jobs at my location. So I had a good idea of their skills and work ethic. They even cleaned up.

All in all, a good experience and we're very happy with the end product.

F.I.

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Posted : February 2, 2015 8:14 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Prominent Member

There are condo complexes here in STT that if you wish to purchase, you will need to pay cash as bank and lenders will not offer a mortgage loan on them if they self insure. Do your homework.

I can supply the name of a good contractor I have used in the past.
He doesn't come cheap but is honest, reliable and does excellent work.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

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Posted : February 2, 2015 8:22 am
meritks liked
winterhater
(@winterhater)
Active Member

Thank you all for your great advice. i was really kidding about hiring a contractor and then leaving. We do all our own work here in the states other than structural stuff and complicated plumbing. We can rip out and redo kitchens and baths etc. I am surely concerned about supplies though. I would assume it is a nightmare getting things like kitchen cabinets in? There is a Home Depot on island right?
I keep thinking about furniture though....do they have alot in stock? Like say I need a sleeper sofa in the week I am there? Plus, what do people do with furniture they don't want? I would almost rather an unfurnished condo....How do furniture prices compare to the states there? Again, thanks for the help-you all are really helping me enter into this with waaaaay more knowledge than before. So when I finally decide to sign the papers I can feel a little more prepared for what i am in for! I know it won't be all fun and games but i want to be prepared enough so that I don't feel like we made a mistake day one of ownership! 🙂

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Topic starter Posted : February 2, 2015 10:53 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Prominent Member

Getting kitchen cabinets from Home Depot will be a long wait if ordering.

Your best bet for kitchen cabinets and furniture would be to buy what you like and need in the states and ship here. Not a lot of options here and what there is, is pricy for good quality.

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Posted : February 2, 2015 11:25 am
winterhater
(@winterhater)
Active Member

Starting to wonder if getting a long term tenant in-at least initially would be better. There would be less wear and tear, they could pay their own electric and we could have someone there to accept delivery of new furniture...etc.

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Topic starter Posted : February 3, 2015 10:26 am
IslandBoomer
(@islandboomer)
New Member

When I was shopping for a place, I found the long term rental properties to be a mess. Many long term renters are hard on a place, wear out the kitchen more because they cook and eat there much more than vacationers, and some really stink up the place with smoke (even if you tell them no smoking).

Additionally, if they don't pay their rent and won't move out, you've got big problems, especially if you're off island.

At least short term renters pay up front, and they WILL leave. Yes they can be abusive to the property too, and surely they care NOT about the high electric and water bills or attracting ants with foods left out and about.

They both have their pros and cons. If you can find that dream tenant who's hardly ever home, pays their bills, and takes pride in their rented home, fantastic.

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Posted : February 3, 2015 5:01 pm
STT Resident
(@stt-resident)
Island Expert

If you're going to even think about putting in a long term tenant, you need a good property manager. You CANNOT be a long distance landlord, and prospective tenants need to be properly vetted. We have a highly transient population and much care has to be exercised, otherwise you end up with such as the last poster described. To find a good property manager you exercise the same due diligence as you would looking for any contractor - references, etc.

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Posted : February 3, 2015 5:27 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Prominent Member

You might wish to investigate the new management's hotel plan.
It might be easier than an offsight property manager, and their maids clean, staff fixes things that may go wrong and are onsite so complaints go to them, if something is not right or working, etc.

You'll pay for it but don't really know how they do the split between owners/hotel plan. I don't know if they allow you to take your own bookings thru, say, vrbo or flipkey, for instance or if only guests allowed thru the hotel. Might be worth checking into. You may not make a lot of money but maybe break even. You can block out the dates for your occupancy.

May other owners there can address this.

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Posted : February 3, 2015 5:57 pm
Lolly
(@lolly)
Estimable Member

The condo we rented last year for a month, and the condo for this years week long visit were both rented on VRBO but the check in , cleaning and beach towels go thru the unit that is managed by what was Antilles resorts ? I think. They operate out of a unit in A bldg . These are 2 separate owners in 2 different bldgs .
The unit from last year has an owner that lives in STT and he still uses this on site management but he did stop by to meet us . Also this is a ground floor studio in
bldg C that he has for sale but it is pricy ! This was a very good location for us .
If you want more info just let me know .

BTW we are very aware of the price of water & electricity so we try to do our best to help out...we never leave the condo with anything on , we seldom use the AC and when our G'kids are with us we remind them about the water & elec . use . I monitor 13 year old Miss Priss on her shower time ! I hate plastic bottles so we bring reusable ones and have never had a problem with the water ! hope this helps

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Posted : February 3, 2015 7:36 pm
STT Resident
(@stt-resident)
Island Expert

Alana33 wrote:
You might wish to investigate the new management's hotel plan.
It might be easier than an offsight property manager, and their maids clean, staff fixes things that may go wrong and are onsite so complaints go to them, if something is not right or working, etc.

I was addressing the OP's alternate plan of a term tenant, not a vacation renter. I don't think the on-site property managers deal with handling or providing services to tenants on a term lease. That would be the responsibility of the owner.

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Posted : February 3, 2015 9:52 pm
winterhater
(@winterhater)
Active Member

I figured a hotel management plan would want nothing to do with a long term tenant-they would be making them nothing really. I think a long term tenant is not a good option for us hearing all your comments. I think our best bet is to buy a unit that has most of the updating done and furniture I can live with, since I won't be down there any extended time until years from now..I can make small changes (paint, accessories, linens etc) in the off season. As for utilities...can you install timers on A/C units? I understand PP has no water fee-so that is a very good plus for that complex....

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Topic starter Posted : February 4, 2015 8:31 am
STT Resident
(@stt-resident)
Island Expert

If you mean a timer which you would set, that's probably not a good idea in a vacation rental. Even though year-round air temperature is pretty constant, there can be a big breeze variance from one day to the next. If you set a timer to shut off the A/C during the night you're likely to have a big complaint from a visitor who, already unaccustomed to tropical heat, has to spend a sleepless night sweating under the sheets on a very "still" night.

Vacation rental owners do their best to educate, through signs and "welcome packages", the necessity of conservation measures but you can only do the best you can and can't force it on people who are paying top dollar.

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Posted : February 4, 2015 8:51 am
winterhater
(@winterhater)
Active Member

I was thinking something that would shut off during the day after a certain amount of time but that could be turned back on IF someone was there. I can just imagine people turn on the A/C then leave for the day and it runs for 12 hours with nobody home. Someone should invent coin operated units 😉

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Topic starter Posted : February 4, 2015 10:18 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Prominent Member

Let's not forget WAPA outages which can throw a timer off.

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Posted : February 4, 2015 10:54 am
SapphireBeach08
(@sapphirebeach08)
Estimable Member

One of our best investments has been a home monitoring system. It allows us to set the maximum low temperature, guests really do not need the a/c down to 60 degrees. It also allows us to see who is coming and going in our unit.

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Posted : February 4, 2015 11:10 am
Future Islander
(@future-islander)
Prominent Member

To answer some of the questions....

At Point Pleasant the water is included in the HOA fee. You can use as much water as you want. We have our own well and R/O plant.

We have a 6 hour (mechanical) timer on the A/C unit. Yes, we would not want a guest to run the A/C 24/7 when they are not in the villa. Yes, during the night the guest might need to get up and reset the timer. We have had this for 7 years with no complaints. We have a sign posted at the A/C unit regarding the high cost of electricity on the island. It seems that the guests understand.

SapphireBeach08: Your "Home Monitoring System" sounds incredibly scary. I would think that a guest would want some privacy, without the "landlord" watching every move they make. I can understand your concern for security, that's why we participate in the on-site rental program at Point Pleasant. The management firm provides assurance that the guests are comfortable, our property is secure and they "monitor" all of the villas in the rental program for any incidental breakage and maintenance issues. Plus they run a fantastic guest activities program! Something I can't do from the mainland.

F.I.

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Posted : February 4, 2015 12:12 pm
STT Resident
(@stt-resident)
Island Expert

FI, I think you're misunderstanding the system. These systems are available specifically for vacation rental owners and do NOT include video surveillance cameras (which would be illegal anyway). They monitor ingress and egress, temperature, window entry and several other things designed for strictly security purposes.

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Posted : February 4, 2015 12:58 pm
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