General Real Estate Information
Hello Future Islanders!
We are happy to welcome you to information on St. Thomas and delighted that you are interested in learning about real estate in the Virgin Islands!
If you've been here, you already know how beautiful St. Thomas is and that we enjoy delightful weather mostly year round. If you haven't visited with us yet then you are in for a treat! Since we are the American Virgin Islands we offer you all the shelter of being under the U.S. flag while still offering a tropical island, relaxed lifestyle and year 'round fabulous weather. Imagine living in a place where the coldest winter night's temperature is about 68° and the average daytime temperature is 82°...ahhh! Each of the three U.S. Virgin Islands offers its own island-style and beautiful vistas and beaches. I work with brokers on St. Croix and St. John who are expert in real estate on their island. However, I am partial to St. Thomas after living here full-time since 1981, so let me tell you about "my" island.
St. Thomas is a mountainous island with fabulous water and out island views no matter where you are or where you look! Since the island is just 32 square miles and 3 miles at its widest; we are an easy island to negotiate. We drive on the left hand side. However, with speed limits outside the city limits at just 20 miles per hour, it's difficult to make a wrong turn! The south side of the island boasts the Caribbean Sea while the north side of the island has the Atlantic Ocean in its "front yard".
The entire island is divided up into areas with estate names, which date back to families and their plantation names many, many years ago. We do not have street names nor street numbers. The major routes are numbered like the highways in the U.S., and many neighborhoods have named their own roads, but most of the island's streets and roads are unnamed. We get along quite fine with "island directions" such as "turn left at the big mango tree next to the pink house with the brown dog on the front porch". Truly. We are acutely aware of north, south, east and west and those compass directions factor in to many directions to homes, stores, etc. Such as "it's on the East End or the Southside, or the West End or Northside.
The airport is at the western end of the island and beyond the airport the rest of the west end is sparsely populated. The north side of the island is known for its lushness, ever presents trade winds and stunning down island views. The landscape is covered with colorful hibiscus bushes, native fruit trees and herbs. Down island views refer to views to St. John, the British Virgin Islands and out islands on the Atlantic Ocean side of St. Thomas. The northeast coast of the island is known for it's rocky coastline and crashing Atlantic Ocean and some of the most incredible scenery on the island. Wild orchids grow on huge boulders on the Estate Peterborg peninsula and both Mahogany Run Golf Course and Magen's Bay are on the northeast coast. The east end of the island is flatter in terrain and is the yachting hub of the island and boasts some of the best beaches on St. Thomas. The landscape is dotted with cactus, fragrant frangipani trees and brilliant bougainvillea bushes. The south side of St. Thomas boast gorgeous Caribbean Sea views and views to St. Croix, Puerto Rico, the historic port town of Charlotte Amalie and the harbor islands; Hassel and the newest and 4th Virgin; Water Island. After a while, each visitor and local will tell you their favorite part of St. Thomas and why they love it only there. For such a small island, the terrain, landscape, views, etc. are very different, but all breathtaking.
St. Thomas has at least 44 beaches, all of which are open to everyone. Except for one (Magen's) our beaches are small and scattered around the island. MAGEN'S BAY was voted as one of the ten top beaches in the world by National Geographic magazine. And indeed, it is spectacular! Magen's is heart shaped and one mile of pure white sand beach fringed with palm trees opening to crystal clear waters. Magen's charges admission, a nominal $3.00 per vehicle and $3.00 per person. There are lifeguards, picnic tables, a beach bar and restaurant and great beach boutique. Lindquist Beach charges $2.00 per vehicle for admission. Other beaches on St. Thomas range from Hull Bay where the surfers meet to hopping Sapphire Beach with Sunday beach barbecues and bands and reef snorkeling to sleepy Secret Harbor where the sea grass bottom encourages great snorkeling, the plentiful palm trees encourage napping and the great restaurant right on the beach encourages long, lazy Sunday brunches. If shelling is your past time you'll love Brewer's Beach near the University of the Virgin Islands. Morningstar Beach near Frenchman's Reef Hotel is home to beach volleyball players and some serious tanners. You'll soon discover your favorite beach.
The permanent population on St. Thomas is about 55,000 people of a mixture of ethnic groups, races and cultures. In 2007, the islands of St. Thomas and St. John hosted over 2,600,000 visitors; a combination of cruise ship day visitors and overnight guests. That may seem like a lot of people, but more than half are concentrated in the downtown area shopping to they drop and leaving on their ship at 6:00 p.m. You'll still be able to find your quiet piece of paradise up in the hills and your peaceful spot on Magen's Bay Beach at the western-most end even on the busiest day!
We are a cosmopolitan population enjoying each other's diversity in background, language, foods, music and culture. We have many cultural activities on the island from local calypso music to classical music in open air gardens to art and antiques shows, carnival parades in April each year with incredible floats, bands, local food fair, art & crafts flower shows, and many other fund raising activities. The Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Orchid Society, Garden Club and Rotary Clubs, Chamber of Commerce, Pony Club, United Way, Red Cross and Sharon's favorite charity: The Community Foundation of the U.S. Virgin Islands (www.cfvi.net ) along with many others are well represented and encourage new members. Volunteering is the island-way!
Property is owned by fee simple absolute; that is you own, not lease, your land. St. Thomas offers many housing alternatives from purchase of a building site for future building, condominium living in large beach side complexes or smaller more residential complexes nestled on the hillsides to small or large homes offering the privacy of single family living on a simple or grand scale. Once you choose "your" favorite side of the island we can show you everything on the market. We are members of the St. Thomas Board of RealtorsÒ and can give you access to the up to the web-based Multiple Listing Service. We can assist you with everything from engaging an attorney, architect, builder, insurance agent, pool service, housekeeper, etc. We're here to ease your way into the American Paradise!
Typically, land is about ½ acre with R-1 the lowest density residential zoning requirement. R-1 allows for a 2 family dwelling per half acre (unless certain areas deed restrict to single family dwellings or greater than ½ acre). Large undeveloped acreage is unusual and costly. A one-half acre parcel with great water views starts at about $100,000 and can cost up to over $1,000,000 dependent upon location and amenities. A typical home with three bedrooms and 2-3 baths, pool, and lots of glass sliding doors for view and breeze starts at about $700,000 and can certainly exceed $3,000,000, again dependent upon location and amenities. Homes and undeveloped parcels right on the water or a beach are rare and therefore more costly. A two bedroom, two-bath condominium on the beach starts at about $400,000 and depending upon the finish work can be well over $500,000. Larger condos with 3-4 bedrooms are difficult to find and do not come on the market often and when they do you can expect prices starting at $550,000+
Island architects will give you more specific design and building information, but I'll offer you an overview. Homes are built from a variety of materials with masonry (either poured concrete or filled and reinforced block) being the most utilized. Roofs are very important as we use them to collect our water, which is run by drainpipe to storage under the house called a cistern. Think of it as a big swimming pool under the house, about 20,000 gallons worth. Roof materials can be either pre-finished aluminum in a color, tile (natural or man-made) plywood coated with waterproof paint or concrete. A typical roof style is a hip roof with the pitch assisting in water collection. Remember, no need for "cellars" here so storage is at a premium. We don't have nor need heating systems and no need for those snow blowers! We have strict building codes, which will dictate everything from the size of your cistern to the roof beam size.
Our homes are built to take advantage of nature's air-conditioning... our ever-present trade winds. Paddle fans are the most many homes need to stir the air and cool you off. Most bathrooms have showers only since water is so precious. Not many soaking or Jacuzzi tubs are home here! Mexican and ceramic tiles, marble and travertine are choices for most floors for coolness and ease of maintenance. Other flooring choices are termite resistant wood (pitch-pine, Southern yellow pine or bamboo) or terrazzo. Furniture tends to be light and informal. You probably don't want to ship down great uncle Albert's dark cherry sideboard until you design and choose your "island style". Outside living space is one of the most important features. So, weather-resistant furniture is important. Materials fade in our bright sun so choose carefully. You'll have large outdoor areas called "galleries" which are usually roofed over but otherwise open to the fresh air. You'll live in the fresh cool air because flying bugs don't bother you if you're in a breezy location. You can enjoy dining "al fresco" under the stars in the dead of winter. Ahhh... living island-style!
Everyone asks...just how much is it to live in Paradise? Our food costs are second only to Washington, D.C., the utility rates are among the highest in the U.S. and the housing rentals are likened to Manhattan and San Francisco. In other words...it's expensive to live here. But the trade offs are wonderful... a population that is among the most diverse under the U.S. flag, low property taxes, year round perfect weather, no winter clothes to buy, no heating costs and world-class views from every inch of our islands!
Do we get "island-fever"? Sure we do! So, plan on several day trips to St. John and the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in-between traveling to the States or "down-island" for longer visits and your "state-side fix". Many people feel that a few years on island you'll find that you miss the States less and less. Leave the mall shopping, driving on the "wrong side of the road" (otherwise known as the right hand side) at 75 M.P.H. and cold weather to the times you choose to visit the states. With duty-free shopping downtown, Havensight Mall (www.havensightmall.com) and the brand-new swish Yacht Haven Grande (www.yachthavengrande.com) and shopping via the Internet, we hardly miss a thing anymore!
Please check our web site www.CalypsoRealty.com for updates on available properties on St. Thomas. A unique way to keep up on properties is through IDX, which means Internet Data Exchange, in essence a public portal to the St. Thomas Multiple Listing Service®. Click on Multiple Listing Service on our website menu and "you're in"! I look forward to assisting you in your search for an island home! Thank you again for working with me.
Sharon E. A. Hupprich