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July 27, 2005

Putting it in perspective – a comparative look

"An analysis of property values in Aspen, Camden, Fairhope, St. John, and Woodstock reveals that Nantucket’s prices are not as far-fetched as may be perceived "

Below is part of an article from a Nantucket, MA website that quotes Joan Sparling extensively:

ST. JOHN, USVI

There are approximately 5,000 year-round residents on the island of St. John, according to the most recent census figures available to American Paradise Real Estate president Joan Sparling.

The property tax is based on 60 percent of assessed value multiplied by one and one-quarter percent, roughly $750 a year per $100,000.

Known for its white sand beaches and unspoiled beauty, St. John is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts, but also offers amenities such as a few quality restaurants, hotels and yacht supply facilities.

There is a small commercial area, but no airport. Access is by ferry from neighboring St. Thomas. Because of a generous donation of acreage from one of the Rockefellers, two-thirds of St. John and its shorelines are protected national park property.

Sparling said that although many people live full-time on St. John, it is the Baby Boomer generation’s interest in second homes or investment properties that is driving the island’s current real estate market.

“Supply and demand has always kept our prices higher, particularly now, and like Nantucket, it is hard to find a home 2,000 to 2,500 square feet for under a million. Our construction costs are high — many are building masonry homes, because of square foot, and that’s not even highend construction,” said Sparling. “As prices for real estate have increased, it has made it more difficult for teachers and others who are an important part of the island to purchase or rent. Therefore, what is available is expensive, so we are seeing people moving to St. Croix or St. Thomas.”

According to Sparling, few homes on St. John sell for less than $500,000, and those are “very rustic” one-bedroom cottages that may have difficult access routes.

The most expensive home listed is $13 million, a four-bedroom, fourand a-half-bath with 1.85 acres and on a bay. She explained that at any given time, there are usually 55 to 65 homes on the market in the $2 million range. A typical home selling in that range is two or three bedrooms, with a sea view, pool, gourmet kitchen and tasteful furnishings.

“When you buy a house here, it’s a pretty turn-key operation,” said Sparling. “For $1 million, you may not get a pool. A million is more like a year-round resident.”

There are 180 to 200 parcels of vacant land for sale on St. John. The standard lot measures a half-acre and costs between $180,000 and $1.5 million, depending on the neighborhood. The majority in the lowest range are quarter-acre properties. One 2.5-acre lot is selling for $1.4 million, but cannot be subdivided.

While certainly not cheap, the real estate prices in St. John do not pose a deterrent to the many who want to live in what a National Geographic travel magazine called one of the 50 places in the world that “must be seen” during one’s lifetime, said Sparling.

“The word is out, and the fact that it is [a possession of the United States] and easy to get to,” Sparling said of St. John’s popularity, but also stressed that the island is not just a vacation destination or investment opportunity. “St. John is a real community of people that cares very much about its island and its future and about its residents.”

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