|U.S. Virgin Islands Street Atlas $34.95|
|Settler's Handbook for the USVI $14.95|
|Franko's guide map of the U.S. Virgin Islands $9.95|
An article today from the St. Thomas Source:
Nov. 5, 2007 -- Think outside the bin, urged Bermuda resident Allen Hunt at Monday's opening reception of the 13th annual ReCaribe 2007, a wider Caribbean waste-management conference running through Thursday at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John.
"If we don't, we're going to be stuck in the bin," he said at Monday's opening reception, held at Concordia Eco-tents and Condominiums pavilion.
Hunt, who serves as president of the Clean Islands International board of directors, has long worked in the waste-management field. Clean Islands manages VIERS for the University of the Virgin Islands.
The event brings together 42 people from 16 Caribbean countries, the U.S. mainland and Canada. Most are waste-management professionals.
I really don't understand this article, "Time for rental reforms in the Caribbean":
"The most restrictive is the US Virgin Islands. Rents are frozen at their 1947 level. For housing accommodations, the maximum rent ceiling is the rent in force and in effect on July 1, 1947. For buildings created and/or rented after July 1, 1947, the maximum rent allowed is the first rent charged for the unit."
Is this actually true (in a legal sense - I know it is not being enforced)? Does this refer to some arcane statute? When I lived on St. Thomas people seemed to charge whatever they wanted for rent, and rents were rising all the time.
Interesting profile from the Wall Street Journal:
Entrepreneurs like Gordon Black never really retire. The 65-year-old, who started a market-research firm in 1975 that went on to become Harris Interactive Inc., a prominent polling company, tried to stop working. But he soon found himself starting another business -- albeit one that took him in a completely different direction.
Mr. Black took Harris public on Nasdaq in 1999 and spent five years as chief executive. (The firm, long known for its public-opinion barometer, the Harris Poll, made a splash when it became the first outlet to use Internet polls to correctly predict the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.) Mr. Black retired in 2004, with generous amounts of time and money on his hands. But he soon decided he didn't want to spend the rest of his days at his home in Rochester, N.Y.
"I didn't want to stay in the middle of the Snow Belt and the high-tax belt," Mr. Black says laughing. Looking for sun and a place where his windfall would go further, he settled on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "I came down here because it's gorgeous, but it also happens to have an attractive tax situation, so I immediately started thinking of setting up a new company."
Within a few months, he hit upon the idea of starting a real-estate business. After buying and renovating a villa for himself and his fiancée, Annika Van Wambeke, Mr. Black decided to buy additional properties to fix up and sell.
"We bought a second house, and then a third, and my real-estate business just sort of happened," says Mr. Black, who so far has purchased seven homes, four of which have already sold. He looks for high-end homes selling for more than $1 million that are in a state of disrepair (some have been hit by hurricanes), and then renovates them from top to bottom with fixtures imported from the U.S. Ms. Van Wambeke is in charge of the decorating and interior design.
Mr. Black's customers are mostly Americans, the majority from New York, looking for vacation homes or retirement residences. One of his properties, a waterfront home with a 345-foot private beach, is on the market for $4.3 million. "People are ready to spend $2 million to $5 million on the right house," he says.
Mr. Black says he is always on the lookout for properties, and has real-estate agents alert him when a house that fits his needs hits the market. He works with architects and builders in planning each redesign, and has developed relationships with U.S.-based suppliers of furniture, appliances and building materials, importing every last tile, window and dishwasher. Each renovation takes about six months to a year, though one particularly run-down house took 16 months.
"It's very time consuming, but I love learning a new set of skills," says Mr. Black, who had never dabbled in speculative real estate before. "After 35 years of doing basically the same thing, the challenge of learning about a whole new market is fun for me."
Not that he doesn't have any free time. When not overseeing work on his houses, Mr. Black spends afternoons on his boat, and travels often to the U.S. and Paris, where he owns an apartment. He is also involved in charitable organizations on the island and frequently hosts friends and family.
"When you live in the Caribbean," he says, "you have a constant flow of guests."
Here is something people relocating to the Virgin Islands should know -
"On May 10, the 3rd circuit ruled that U.S. citizens living in the Virgin Islands may not vote for president. Ballentine v U.S.A, no. 06-4800. The irony is that U.S. citizens who move permanently to a foreign country may continue to vote absentee, forever. They retain their registration in the last state in the U.S. in which they lived. But should they then move to a U.S. territorial possessions, they lose that absentee vote. The 3rd circuit did not write its own opinion; it just it agrees with the U.S. District Court ruling."
Household water is generally provided by rainfall collected in cisterns. Each house has a cistern built into the basement level of the house. Water is collected on the roof, fed into the cistern and pumped into the house. For drinking water, many people purchase bottled water or install a water filtration device on their sink and/or between the cistern and their water pump. During dry spells it may be necessary to purchase additional water. A large full truck of water is just over 5,000 gallons and costs about $285. The only exceptions to this method are in downtown locations that are connected to public water (WAPA).
There is no household garbage pickup in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each household is responsible for taking their garbage to public dumpsters located in most neighborhoods throughout the islands. Public Works empties each dumpster regularly. Recycling is possible but not prevalent on the islands - private companies offer drop spots for recyclable waste.
Electricity is provided by the U.S.V.I. Water and Power Authority (WAPA). Electricity is 110/120 volts, so no conversion is needed for plugs of standard U.S. appliances. Power occasionally and unexpectedly goes out in the U.S.V.I. (usually only briefly, but sometimes for an entire evening), so flashlights, candles and a gas stove or grill are always good to have on hand during those times. It’s also advisable to use surge protectors on all electronic equipment.
Although there are no natural gas pipelines, gas appliances use bottled propane gas, which is available from private suppliers (at approximately $60. a tank).
In general, water and power are two things you can count on paying much more for in the Virgin Islands than in the U.S. However, you will never have a winter heating bill, and if you live on a hillside, you may also never need air conditioning or to buy water. If you are very energy conscious and/or on a budget, seek a location for your home or apartment that is known to have good rainfall and is as high up a hillside as possible (there two things usually go hand in hand - the rise in elevation means cooler aire, which also leads to condensation and more rain - of course you may then have mold problems...).
We have a brand new product available, the U.S. Virgin Islands Atlas:
"This brand new spiral bound book has tons of information for the U.S. Virgin Islands, including detailed road maps, corresponding satellite images, indexes of points of interest, references, and statistics. A real atlas, with every inch of the U.S. Virgin Islands covered. Over 130 pages in full color."
It has been a big hit so far - read what people are saying on the U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Forum. This will definitely be a great tool to have in your relocation kit, or for real estate agents.
The cost of living in the U.S. Virgin Islands is definitely higher than on the US mainland. It is hard to put an exact figure on the percentage, but anywhere from 15 to 50% can be considered depending on your lifestyle. This also varies by island, but in general, all the products you buy (food, clothing, cars, electronics, etc.) are not only imported, but are also brought to the islands in small quantities as compared to towns and cities in the states, and therefore more expensive (you could say that the islands lack wholesale purchasing power).
A typical trip to the grocery store costs about 30% more than it would in the states at a large chain store. St. Thomas and St. Croix have more bargain shopping options (K-Mart, discount clubs, large grocery stores, etc.), while residents on St. John make occasional trips to St. Thomas to pick up bulk items more economically. All three islands offer smaller gourmet shops with higher quality (and price!) produce and specialty items.
And don’t forget to factor in costs like energy, water, education (if you plan to send your children to a private school) and travel (if you plan to visit friends and family in the states). If you are looking to lower your cost of living or live economically, the U.S. Virgin Islands are really not the place to do it.
That being said, if public school is an option or if you don't have children, if you do not need to live with air conditioning (and it really isn't necessary in many places in the USVI), if you take advantage of local produce or perhaps have your own fruit trees, or if you live in a spot with ample rain and never have to buy water, then you can cut down drastically on your living expenses.
Public and private education is available for all Virgin Islanders from pre-school through college. The private schools fall in two categories – religious and non-religious. Most families who relocate to the Virgin Islands send their children to private or parochial schools, although the public school system offers education from Head Start through high school. There are also many families who homeschool their children in the USVI.
Following is some information to help in your search for a school that fits your needs.
The two websites below provide information about USVI school districts, links to individual public school web sites, curriculum information and more.
Private and Parochial Schools:
University of the Virgin Islands
The University of the Virgin Islands website offers complete information about the university and its two campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
St. Thomas Campus: #2 John Brewer's Bay, St. Thomas, VI 00802-9990 Admissions - (340) 776-9200
St. Croix Campus: RR2, Box 10,000, Kingshill, St. Croix, VI 00850-9781 Admissions - (340) 778-1620
Many people relocating to the U.S. Virgin Islands start with temporary housing, whether during a preliminary trip here or for the first month of their move. Some realtors offer short-term apartment rentals, and some hotels offer special rates for monthly stays (except on St. John where housing – both long and short term – is quite limited and expensive). Having a temporary home base makes it easier to explore neighborhoods and different housing options without the pressure of having to move into the first place you find.
Rentals are available on all of the Virgin Islands, but prices and availability will vary. St. John is the most expensive, while St. Thomas is not quite as pricey and St. Croix is yet less expensive. For example, on St. Thomas a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment generally ranges from $1,200 to $1,800 per month, while the same rental on St. John would cost $1,500 to $2,500 and on St. Croix it would be $800 to $1,200. Although there is less available during high season, a good selection of rentals is generally available on St. Thomas and St. Croix throughout the year. When looking on St. John, however, the pool of rentals is much smaller and turnover is much less frequent – don’t expect to find your dream rental immediately. You can find rentals through local realtors (and usually all fees are paid by the owner) and local newspapers also offer a lot of current rental listings.
The cost of buying a home seems to be steadily rising in the Virgin Islands and, in general, the selection of affordable, middle class housing is reasonably slim. The price for a single-family house in a good location probably averages on $500,000 on St. Thomas (with many being much more expensive and few less expensive). And, as with rentals, this varies by island as well. As of this posting real estate sales in the Virgin Islands were trending up slightly again after a little softness in 2006. Frank Barnako's News Of St. John tracks the real estate market of that island fairly regularly and is a good source for getting a feel of what is happening.
Condominiums are another housing option. Condos can often be a more affordable option for owning real estate in the USVI. Many also offer amenities such as pools, beaches, golf courses, tennis courts and beautiful views.
As the market for rentals and sales is always changing, it is best to contact a local realtor for more current information. You can also browse our Virgin-Islands-On-Line Real Estate section and use the links on this site to get in touch with local realtors to help in your search.
We are starting a new section on VirginIslandsMLS.com about relocating to the US Virgin Islands. This is our first entry, with many more to follow in the weeks ahead:
It is standard advice to anyone considering a major relocation to give the islands a trial visit. Once you've settled in, you'll learn the ins and outs of island life - the pace is slower, the cost of living is higher, the scenery is beautiful, and so on. It's best to get a feel for these things yourself, but we can give you some tips before you arrive. You can also check out our Relocation Forum to ask questions and talk to other people considering relocation.
Customs, People and Language
Things move at a slower pace in the Virgin Islands – some call it "Island Time". This means you can't expect to rush through a trip to the bank or the DMV, but it also means more friendly greetings along the way. This slower pace can take a while to adjust to for, but most people come to embrace it as part of their new way of life.
It may also take you a while to understand the local accents and you may never understand all of the residents here – but the key is to be patient. And remember if you can't understand someone, then chances are they can't understand you – so speak slowly. You'll find many different dialects deriving from the diverse cultural population. If you're curious about the local language, check out the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage: