Island Hangouts….

I don’t know about you, but I think you can learn a lot about a place and its culture by going to the places where the locals “hang out.”  You get a sense of the values, traditions, and acceptable (and unacceptable) behaviors among those who live in the place you’re visiting.

If you come to St Croix, there are several “hang outs” you should check out.  Not your ordinary spots, mind you, which in itself is so very telling about our little island.

If you’re out east, especially on a Friday night, stop by the gas station (Ziggy’s), which becomes the “libation station” in full bloom on Friday night.  Now, i’m a little biased, because my daughter, Kirby, tends bar there on Friday night, but you’ll be fascinated by who and what you see (and hear) at the gas station on Friday night!


First of all, there’s a chef there cooking 3 – 4 interesting, creative dishes that will tingle your tastebuds.  Drinks are inexpensive and served up quickly and with a smile.  You’ll see a lot of shoulder slapping, hugging, just generally affectionate behavior among the patrons there.  Also a lot of ribbing and kidding each other. You’ll see old, young, black, white, rich, poor, and everything in between.  It’s just good people.  It’s an accepting place, a happy place, and a very comfortable place.  Newbies are welcomed, and embraced like old friends.  There’s an air of acceptance, of family, of “we’re all here because we’re not all there.”

Head west and you must check out the Domino Club, home of the beer drinking pigs.  This is a place where locals and tourists alike gather, especially late afternoon, for a shot of “mama wanna,” great conversation with “the girls” and Norma, and meeting new folks and catching up on island happenings.  It’s one of those places you’d probably not stop at, unless you knew about it – which makes it all the sweeter!

Late night, the place to ‘hang out” is the Lost Dog pub in Frederiksted.  Friendly, warm, fun, rowdy….you’ll never meet a stranger there, and you’ll likely leave with a few new best friends.  And don’t be surprised if the sun is coming up as you and your new besties leave the bar….

Oh yeah, there are LOTS and LOTS of other places to hang out here on our little rock, but these are rather “iconic” and I think really capture the spirit of the island.  Places come and go here, like everywhere, but these places have been around and probably will be (at least I hope so) long into the future.  Don’t miss them!

10 Reasons to Retire in The VI

10 Reasons to Retire in The VI

By Kim Lucas, Broker, St Croix Island Life Real Estate

Get into the “DON’T HURRY” groove…

You want to slow down, but you don’t want to STOP. In St Croix, a small town, you’ll have lots of friends who enjoy the same things you do, and lots of things to do. You’ll be physically active, but never pressured. You’re never more than about half an hour from anything here…so what’s the rush? If you’re 30 minutes late here, you’re 30 minutes early!

Press the “EASY” button….

Going places and doing things here is EASY. No traffic. No problem parking. No “fees” or charges for most fun things. You don’t have to dress up for anything, don’t have to wear make up, can trim your wardrobe down to a couple pair of (good) flip-flops, a few T-shirts, and some shorts…and your’e ready for anything! (oh, and a few bathing suits!!).

Get in SHAPE and be active…

Exercising here is just part of life. You’ll be swimming, walking, paddleboarding, hiking, and moving your BODY 365 days a YEAR because the weather is PERFECT! If you want more “structured” exercise activities, there are PLENTY!

Have lots of like-minded friends…

Your friends here will no doubt be a very DIVERSE group of people…who all happen to share a love of the sea and the “island way” of life! You’ll never meet a stranger here …it’s the friendliest place on earth! I absolutely love that I have friends here of all ages, races, ethnicities, and walks of life. We all have a lot in common, but yet a lot of differences, too, which makes them oh so fun and interesting! I LOVE my big ‘ol diverse, crazy, loving and fun island family! You will too!

Enjoy the CONSISTENCY of the weather and rhythms…

The sun comes up and goes down at approximately the same time every day here (varies by about an hour from summer to winter)…so your “internal clock” will become regular, which makes having a consistent sleeping routine pretty easy (important for your overall health). You can enjoy nature and the outdoors every day here …. important for physical AND psychological wellbeing! Living this close to nature…you “attune”….and the overall benefits are amazing!

Explore NEW and DIFFERENT activities….

Ever considered painting? Join the “palleteers” – a group of folks who meet every Friday morning to enjoy the beauty of St Croix and enjoy the challenge of painting Plein Air. Yoga? Try doing yoga on the beach with a group of friends (plenty of classes!). Try some Salsa dancing lessons! None of these activities cost very much (if anything), and all will be within a 30 minute (max) drive for you. No excuse NOT to try new things here…

Contribute to a needy community…

St Croix is a wonderful place, but there are many needs here. There will be so many opportunities for you to get involved and make a difference here. Like animals? There are several shelters and organizations that would welcome some help. Like children? Volunteer to tutor or just read to children. Want to help the less fortunate? Volunteer at the women’s coalition or one of the missions that serve the homeless. Want to make the island a cleaner place? Join in on organized clean ups! You can really make a difference here by volunteering even just a few hours a week.

Redefine yourself…among people who will embrace YOU.

As we get to the top of the mountain called “middle age” and now see the landscape before us…realizing it is not so far a distance to the end….it is critically important to really “FIND YOURSELF” and become who you are. Most of us loose ourselves in our work, tending to our family, making the almighty dollar. Retirement is time to find YOU and redefine your life, choose the lifestyle that you WANT, and do so in an environment that is accepting and will embrace you. St Croix is THAT KIND of community. No expectations here…just acceptance.

Be an example for your children!

You want them to be happy and to follow their dreams, right? Well then, what are you waiting for? They will visit, they will be emboldened and impressed by your willingness to take a risk, and they will marvel as the REAL YOU starts to blossom and grow in this Caribbean climate!

Why not??

If there’s a mermaid, pirate, or beach bum lurking inside you….time to EXPLORE that side of you!! And here, doesn’t matter WHAT you did before, as long as you are YOU now, and, like the rest of us, are nice, warm, helpful and accepting, you are going to have the time of your life here! And if you don’t? Well, you can always go back to the rat race!   Remember, people on their deathbeds don’t regret things they have DONE. They regret the things they did NOT do. Come on, live a little, and let the Caribbean sun and warm, friendly people of St Croix nurture you in your golden years!

Imagine yourself in a Historic Property this Holiday Season…and experience a Caribbean Christmas!!

4 Mt Washington
Frederiksted, VI  00840
www.estatemtwashington.com


View of Estate Mt Washington

View of Estate Mt Washington


 

Parlor to Living Room

Parlor to Living Room


 

Pool Entry

Pool


 

Labyrinth and Ruins

Labyrinth and Ruins


 

Sunset View From Home

Sunset View from Home


 

West End Beach

Close to West End Beaches


 

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West End Beach

 

 

Attention all Veterans seeking the GOOD LIFE!

At Island Life Real Estate in St Croix, USVI, we are proud of you and appreciate your service to our country.

We would welcome the opportunity to help you find a place here in paradise to come to during the long, cold winters, or to live in full time.

Consider using your VA benefits to buy a place here, and we will help you every step of the way! We have lenders who can assist, and agents who are Vets themselves who are eager to be of service to you! Tax breaks for you here, too!  Email us TODAY and tell us what your monthly budget would be for a purchase here, and we’ll go to work to find places here that would best meet your needs!

St Croix is such a friendly place, and the weather here is perfect in the winter! Fishing, snorkeling, diving, just hanging out on the beach…you’ve earned that, haven’t you? What are you waiting for? Email us today!  kim@email.vi.

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St Croix Reflection

I’ll be leaving my beloved St Croix for a few months, and was reflecting this a.m. on what I’ll miss most.  The weather was the #1 obvious answer, but after more thought, I think what I’ll miss most is the warmth of the people.  We Crucians hug and kiss every time we see each other (which is sometimes daily…it’s a small island LOL!).  We greet each other with a smile and a warm “Good morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening, even if we don’t know each other. That doesn’t happen in other places!!!  Again, it’s a small island, and I think deep down we all realize and appreciate that – which makes us more friendly and warm with each other.

As I sat there gazing at the turquoise sea (I am truly blessed) and reflecting on these things, I looked down and appreciated the bracelets that I wear.  They are all handmade by beautiful local people.  Each one has a special meaning, and they serve to remind me each day of my bond to this island, to myself (one represents strength, and it helps me get through the tough times!), and to those I love.  One was given to me by a friend who is now estranged.  My heart is heavy due to this loss, but I am forever grateful for the friendship we shared. This bracelet now serves to remind me to cherish and protect those relationships that are important to me.

I will certainly miss St Croix and my “family” here, but I know that my time away will only make my heart grow fonder.  As we say here, “I go to come back.”  And I will greedily take all I can from here with me and share it with those I meet in foreign lands!  I’m taking “Feel the Love” stickers (Thanks, Crucian Gold!) with me to put on the door to my new apartment!  I will strive to be a good ambassador for St Croix wherever I go!

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Considering Vacation Renting your St Croix, USVI, home or condo? Here’s what you need to do to be in compliance…

If you rent out a room in your home, or rent your home or condo here, for less than 30 days, you need a USVI Business License, and you must pay hotel tax on the income each month (10%).  Most folks charge that to their guests – so it’s just a pass through, but it is important to file this tax each month (form 722-VI) to be in compliance.  You can find the form here: http://www.vibir.gov/pdfs/Form_722VI_01-2012.pdf

ST CROIX — The Commissioners of Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Tourism along with the Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue recently met to discuss the regulation of vacation room rentals in the Virgin Islands, according to a press release DLCA issued on Wednesday.

The industry, which is quickly growing in the V.I., is estimated at nearly $25 billion in the United States alone. Add in Europe, and that figure grows into the $85 billion dollar range. The industry includes villas, timeshares, condominiums, and bed and breakfasts as well as hotel room rentals.

While there is currently no legislation in the Virgin Islands Code that regulates the industry in a holistic manner, the agency heads see the need to apprise stakeholders and interested parties in the industry of their obligations under existing Virgin Islands law.

Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Devin Carrington stated that individuals and entities involved in vacation rentals must apply in writing to and obtain from the Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, the proper license to engage in or conduct such business. Licensure is but part of the larger scheme of proper regulation of the industry for the benefit of the consumer, said Carrington. The commissioner stated that non compliance is a violation that shall result in a citation.

Director Marvin Pickering of the Bureau of Internal Revenue reminds stakeholders and interested parties of the obligation to pay a hotel room occupancy tax as well as income and gross receipt taxes on rental income as required by statute. Hotels, villas, timeshare owners and any one else renting any lodging for a period of less than 90 days, are all reminded that the hotel room tax is 10% of that room rental.

Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicohlson-Doty stated that compliance with the obligation for a business license only accrues to the benefit of the industry as a whole as proper regulation of the industry helps ensure that our visitors enjoy a most memorable experience in the Virgin Islands. Proper regulation of accommodations can only translate into a more rich and rewarding stay and the prospect of a return visit or word of mouth new visitors, stated the commissioner.

Commissioner Nicholson-Doty also reminded vacation rental stakeholders and interested parties that the hotel tax, which is deposited into the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund, is used exclusively for advertising the Virgin Islands as a tourist destination. Therefore, the commissioner stated, monies deposited into the fund through payment of hotel room occupancy taxes accrues to the benefit of the very stakeholders and other interested parties that make up the vacation room rental industry.

All three agency heads urge that their respective agencies be contacted regarding questions or concerns involving vacation rentals.

The Problem with “RENTAL HISTORY”

Many of my customers who are seeking real estate here for an investment, ask me for a rental history for the properties they are considering.  A reasonable request, right?  Of course it is, and I am happy to do my best to get that for them.  However, there are some problems inherent with this approach that I must point out:

1.  Many owners spend a good bit of time on the island themselves, and typically in the winter, when rentals are at their peak.  So this reduces and distorts the picture.
2.  There are so many different ways to advertise a rental; and some folks do that well, and some do not.  Some use a professional villa rental company, and some do not.  So advertising makes a HUGE difference in your rental income.
3.  Other factors can impact the rental income – such as the photography!  If the property is nicely staged and professionally photographed, it will make a significant difference in the number of rentals, and even in the rental price.
4.  Property expenses can vary widely.  It is important to find good people who charge a reasonable amount.  We can provide you with names and numbers of vendors in a wide variety of categories to assist with your property maintenance so that you are maximizing the profit from each rental.

Really, the most important thing to do when considering an investment property is to determine how rentable you think it will be (pool, sea view, and proximity to amenities are three important factors), determine what upgrades/updates will be needed and the cost to photograph the property, estimate the weekly rental amount you could get, determine a reasonable amount to spend for expenses, and project the income from there.  Good rules of thumb are as follows:

Monthly Expenses for Condos:
Your condo fee will typically include cable, WIFI, garbage pickup, monthly pest control, and common area maintenance.  You’ll need to pay for maid service ($125 – $200 per cleaning), airport pickup ($100 per rental), commission on rental (18 – 25%), and perhaps property management (sometimes that is included in your commission); liability insurance:  $100 – $200 per month;  Advertising:  $200 – $300 per month.

Monthly Expenses for Homes:
Pool maintenance:  $200 – $250 per month;  Lawn maintenance:  $150 – $300 per month;  maid service:  $150 – $250 per cleaning;   airport pickup ($100 per rental), commission on rental (18 – 25%), and perhaps property management (sometimes that is included in your commission); garbage pickup $60 per month; pest control:  $60 per month;  cable & WIFI:  $130 – $150 per month;  hurricane insurance:  $500 – $1500 per month;  liability insurance:  $100 – $200 per month; Advertising:  $200 – $300 per month.

Monthly Income for Condos:

Of course your income will depend on how nice your unit is and where it is located. We price rentals here by the season (High season typically Dec. 15 – April 15; Low season typically April 16 – Dec. 14) and number of guests.

You can expect to get a MINIMUM of $100 per night for a condo, and $200 – $400 per night is more like it for a nice unit.  If you market aggressively, you can expect to rent it out about 12 – 16 weeks in the winter, and about the same number of weeks in summer.

Monthly Income for Homes:
Your income will depend on how nice your home is and where it is located. We price rentals here by the season (High season typically Dec. 15 – April 15; Low season typically April 16 – Dec. 14) and number of guests (bedrooms).

You can expect to get a MINIMUM of $200 per night for a home with a view and pool, and $400 – $800 per night is more like it for a nice home.  If you market aggressively, you can expect to rent it out about 12 – 16 weeks in the winter, and about the same number of weeks in summer.

Bottom Line
Your rentals will likely cover the cost of owning your condo or home; fees, maid service, insurance, etc., but mostly likely will NOT cover fees, expenses AND debt service (mortgage).

So pick the unit/home that YOU think would rent the best, fix it up nice, stage and have it photographed, and hire a professional vacation rental company to handle this for you – and then just focus on enjoying your place in paradise when it’s NOT rented!