As of September 27, 2018. YoY Percentage Change

The residential market continues to move at a very rapid clip. For the first time in a long time, sellers are receiving multiple offers on properties. What we aren’t seeing in the residential sector is a jump in the average sales price, however. To the contrary, the average sales price has fallen 13% compared to the same time period in 2017. This can be attributed to the fact that home sales in the $500,000 + bracket are down a surprising 24.2%, dragging the average sales price down. Year over year residential sales up to $499,999 currently dominate the market: $250,000-$299,999 increased 12.5%; $300,000-$399,999 increased 58.3%; $400,000-$499,999 increased 60%!

Market stats for the condo market show very positive trends as well. While the number sold decreased 14%, the number under contract is up 15% and the average sales price has climbed a healthy 23%. Great news for sellers!

Land and commercial sales, while not as robust as homes and condos, show signs of recovery and future gains we hope are long lasting. If the dearth of inventory in the residential sector persists, land sales will likely grow.

Many people come to St. Croix with a dream lifestyle in mind: waking up to a gentle sea breeze, daily beach strolls, or weekend beach parties. While all these are definite possibilities, moving to and living on St. Croix is just like moving to anyplace else. You have to secure employment, housing, and other life essentials to get settled. This guide will help answer some frequently asked questions about relocating to and living on St. Croix.

Do I need a passport and working visa to live and work on St. Croix?

Since St. Croix is a U.S. territory, Americans can come and go freely without the need for a passport or working visa to gain employment. Although for identification purposes, social security cards, drivers license, and other personal documents will come in handy.

As a U.S. territory, St. Croix has the same immigration regulations as the mainland U.S. As such, you will need a passport and a U.S. visa to enter if you are not an American. You will also need a work visa and a resident alien status if you plan to work and call St. Croix your new home.

What is the currency in St. Croix?

St. Croix’s currency is US dollars. Most businesses accept credit cards, as well as travelers checks. There are also a lot of ATM machines throughout the island. Additionally, there is no sales tax on anything purchased on the island and the rest of US Virgin Islands.

What is the time zone?

St. Croix observes the Atlantic Standard time zone (UTC – 4:00) all year round and does not follow Daylight Savings Time. This means no need to move the clock backward in the fall or forward in the spring!

Can I bring my pet?

Absolutely! If you are traveling from the U.S. mainland, there is no need to quarantine your pet. However, you should have your pet’s health documents ready within 10 days of travel. You need to secure a health certificate from your vet, including up to date rabies shots and clearance from any infectious disease.

If you have an exotic animal as a pet (i.e. any type of bird or ferret, among others), you need to check with the Department of Agriculture to determine if an import permit is required. If one is, you must submit an application ($25 fee) and wait approximately 1-2 weeks for approval. Unfortunately for snake lovers, snakes cannot be imported into St. Croix because of health and environmental issues.

Will my cell phone work on St. Croix?

If you’re with AT&T Wireless or Sprint, it will. It is best to ask your provider if the US Virgin Islands is covered and if yes, if any roaming charges apply.

Can I ship household items to St. Croix?

Yes, you can. There are several moving companies on island that ship cargo via boat or air if you need them sooner. It is best to contact the moving companies directly to inquire about costs and shipping time as they tend to vary.

What are my employment options?

Since St. Croix is a popular destination, the tourism sector employs a lot of people. Popular jobs include hotel and resort staff, sales, wait staff, boat mates, bartending, and sales. There are a few employment agencies on the island you can contact to know more about job openings.

Aside from tourism jobs, there are also employment options in energy, health, government, education, and law industries.

Do I need my own car to go around?

While public transport is available in more populated areas, a car is still the most convenient mode of transportation on the island. You will most likely need a car to go the grocery, schools or run errands around town since very little of the island is accessible on foot. Take note that people drive on the left side of the road in St. Croix!

If you are coming from the mainland and want to bring your car, you can have it shipped via any of the cargo companies on island. You should know that your U.S. mainland license plate isn’t valid in St. Croix or any part of USVI. Therefore, you will need to have it registered and pay customs duty for importing it.

Also, consider your car’s capabilities when bringing it to the island. Most roads in the island are paved, but there are dirt roads as well.

Is my driver’s license valid in the island?

U.S. licenses are valid for 90 days after arrival. International driver’s licenses are not so you will need to secure a temporary license as soon as you arrive.

What types of schools are available?

If you are moving with children, you will find a selection of private, public and parochial schools on the island. The University of Virgin Islands also has a campus on St. Croix.

What types of housing are available?

Post Hurricane Maria, the rental market has become extremely tight due to the presence of relief and construction workers. As a result of the high demand and limited inventory, rent costs have increased. If you plan to plant long-term roots on the island, buying a home may be a better option.

BlueSky Real Estate represents a wide range of properties on St. Croix. Whether you are interested in a luxury home, undeveloped land, condo, fix-upper, commercial property, a hilltop perch or a beachfront oasis, BlueSky Real Estate can help.

Where can I apply for mortgage in case I decide to purchase a property?

Local banks and mortgage lenders have similar lending options as those on the mainland. Conventional, FHA, VA, jumbo and conforming loans are readily available. It is best to contact financial establishments (some are listed below) directly to determine what they offer. With interest rates still relatively low, there’s no better time than now to purchase a property in St. Croix. BlueSky Real Estate can easily help you navigate this process.

What type of property insurance is needed?

All home loans require windstorm insurance if you finance your home purchase. Fire, contents and other types of insurance, while optional, are certainly available.

How much is property tax?

Property taxes in St. Croix are lower than U.S. mainland rates, just 60 percent of assessed value multiplied by the applicable millage rate. Sewer and water taxes may apply as well.

Are there transfer stamp taxes?

Yes, there are. They are paid at closing or when a property is transferred from one entity to another. Transfer taxes are imposed on all real estate deals, with rates of:

  • 2 percent for properties up to $350,000;
  • 2.5 percent for properties up to $1 million;
  • 3 percent for properties up to 5 million; and
  • 3.5 percent for properties more than 5 million

Depending on the structure of the deal, either the buyer or seller will pay the full amount or split the transfer stamp taxes.

Note intra-family are exempt from transfer stamp taxes.

Are there other costs from purchasing a property?

Buyers are also responsible for the costs of the as-built survey, title insurance, recordation of deed, attorney’s fees and bank processing fees. The seller typically pays the pest inspection and associated treatment costs, but this can vary as well depending on the structure of the deal.

If I decide to rent my property, are there property management services available?

The rental market is hot at the moment! If you have a nice product, you likely will rent it quickly, especially with the help of a professional. Blue Sky Real Estate offers property management services including screening applicants, paying bills, handing repairs, marketing online, checking inventory, assessing arrival/departure conditions and staging property for maximum impact and income. Contact us to find out more.

Inventory in the residential sector is low. On average, the market on any given day has 280 +/- residential units for sale, but over the last few months, the market level is hovering at 180 +/- units.  What does this mean exactly? Given the high number of buyers, we are seeing multiple offers on properties, a trend not seen in quite some time. Sellers are certainly happy – average sales price has increased by 17% YOY.

The condo market is mimicking the residential market, though some of the metrics are more pronounced.  Even though sold volume is down a whopping 66%, average sales price has climbed 18%. The dearth in inventory coupled with the increase in market activity has driven prices up and made the market favorable for sellers.

These numbers surprised us as land seems to be making a comeback!  Given the low inventory of houses, buyers are opting to buy and build more than we’ve seen in quite some time.  It’ll be interesting to see how these numbers change in the next quarter but for now, land shows sharp declines.

The commercial segment of the market continues to exhibit similar trends.  One large sale skewed the average sales price figure, but it’s still encouraging to see confidence in the St. Croix market. Given the hurricane recovery and the emerging opportunities, we are keeping a close eye on the commercial sector.

Congratulations to this year’s winners of St. Croix 2018 Festival Parade. “We Shall Rise,” a song about the Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, captured the People’s Choice Award. The St. Croix Festival Committee along with sponsor Banco Popular announced the winners of this year’s festival parade during an announcement event held at Banco Popular’s Golden Rock branch on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

  • Under 50 troupe winner: Pearl B. Larsen
  • Majorettes winner: St. Croix Majorettes
  • Floupe (100-200) winner: Gentlemen of Jones
  • Troupe (201 and up) winner: Simply Sophisticated
  • Troupe (100-200) winner: Regal Dynasty
    First runner-up: D’People Band
  • Troupe (under 100) winner: TSK
    1st runner-up: Rigidims
    2nd runner-up: Department of Education
  • Float winner: VI Lottery
  • Individual winner: Bugs Bunny
  • Mocko Jumbies winner: Guardians of Culture
  • Steel Pan winner: University of the Virgin Islands
  • People’s Choice Award winner: We Shall Rise, featuring Blackest and the Fusion Band
  • Roadmarch winner: We Shall Rise, featuring Blackest and the Fusion Band

Read more at VI Consortium

Photo credit: Crucian Christmas Festival

Reflections on Buying A Home 5 Days Before Hurricane Maria
By Kathleen Brownsdon

Blue Sky’s Villa Rental Specialist

To say that I will always remember Hurricane Maria is quite an understatement.  Although I have lived in the Caribbean for ten years and 18 years in South Carolina I have never experienced a Category 5 hurricane.  Sure, I have ridden out a few hurricanes in my time, but they never were more than an amazing “storm party.”  Hurricane Maria was different.

After renting in the Caribbean for nearly 10 years, we decided to make St. Croix our official forever home! So, five days prior to Maria’s landfall on St. Croix, my husband and I closed on our very first island house.  As Maria approached, we searched for supplies to prepare our new home for the storm.  Unfortunately, all the shelves were empty. Our house would face the storm alone—without shutters or boards on the windows and without her new owners. We rode out the storm in our rental apartment.

The storm blew for hours.  The noise was incredible; the rain and wind relentless.  Once the worst of it was over, I went outside to assess the damage.  Trees and power lines were down, car windows smashed, parts of roofs, decks and windows were strewn across the landscape.  Naturally, I wondered how our new house weathered the storm.  With a mandatory curfew and impassable roads, I was unable to check on our home.

Finally, several days after the storm my husband Nat was able to see our house for himself.  Keeping me in suspense for a few minutes, Nat announced “the house is fine!” What a relief to know that construction on St. Croix is darned good and our home’s minimal damage is a testament to that.

When people find out Nat and I closed on our home just 5 days before the storm they all ask if we regret it.  We couldn’t be happier with our decision to buy in St. Croix. The beauty of the island, and the affordability of its real estate are what initially inspired us to buy.  The remarkable people on the island are what make us confident that we made the right move.

What a year it’s been! Despite two hurricanes in as many weeks, there is much to feel good about in the market.  Compared to the same period in 2016, the average sales price of homes rose a strong 12% fueled, in part, by a dearth of inventory in this segment of the market. At the close of the year, there were 15% fewer new listings than last year and despite the fact that 6% fewer homes sold in 2017, the low supply coupled with high demand, pushed prices and volume up.  Other segments of the market saw a mixed bag of results with land showing positive changes due to low inventory in the residential sector. Despite drops in the condo and commercial markets, when we isolate the 4th quarter of 2017, we are encouraged…

While many thought (and hoped) inventory would skyrocket after the hurricanes, that just didn’t happen.  While some areas of the South Shore and certainly Frederiksted suffered greatly, Hurricane Maria did not inflict a heavy toll on homes on the east end and North Shore where we tend to see more turnover in the residential market.  In fact, compared to the last quarter of 2016, there are 50% fewer listings on the market, driving the average sales price up a healthy 28%!  We think this bodes well for the start of what will surely be a prosperous 2018!

 

Friends,

Last month, the Virgin Islands experienced two powerful category-5 hurricanes in less than two weeks. Hurricane Irma severely damaged St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and many islands in the northeast Caribbean. Twelve days later Hurricane Maria arrived and battered St. Croix, Puerto Rico, and Dominica. Many homes and businesses were destroyed, and some people lost everything. St. Croix, which served as the staging ground for relief efforts in St. Thomas and St. John was now in need. For the first time in modern history, the entire Virgin Islands was without electricity, and all radio stations were down. While these hurricanes have temporarily changed the beauty of our islands, they will make us stronger.

Virgin Islanders are resilient, and although the damage was severe, every day is better than the day before.

  • Three days after Maria hit, some portions of downtown Christiansted had electricity restored.
  • Both airports in the Virgin Islands and all seaports have resumed commercial service. Cruise ships will return November 10 and St. Croix will see a 125% increase in cruise ship calls this season.
  • Virgin Islands basketball great Tim Duncan has delivered three planeloads of food and supplies. Virgin Islanders and other Americans across the United States have sent almost a million pounds of supplies.
  • Every day more and more businesses are reopening. So far at least 50 businesses have reopened in downtown Christiansted.
  • Hundreds of relief workers from FEMA and power companies from the United States are in the Virgin Islands assisting with the recovery.

The current curfew begins at 8 pm every evening and temporarily limits dining, entertaining, and travel options. For an up-to-date list of changes, visit the Department of Tourism Special Update website, http://usviupdate.com.

In the days ahead we will rebuild, and life will begin to feel normal again. The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority aim to have at least 90% of service restored before Christmas and the governor has assembled a task force to begin the process of rebuilding an even more resilient Virgin Islands.

Stay tuned for more updates on the recovery of the Virgin Islands. Be sure to visit our Facebook page and Like us for helpful rebuilding tips, FEMA announcements, and updates on business reopenings. We look forward to an even more beautiful Virgin Islands, and we look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your continued support. #VirginIslandsStrong

– Caryn and Stephanie

The residential, condo, and land markets continue to do well. The average sales price of homes has increased by 13%. There is still tremendous value in St. Croix’s real estate market.

The condo market has vitality and units continue to move from active to under contract status at a rapid pace.  The average sales price, while down, continues to inch up as transactions close.

Land sales are continuing its strong performance. Even though the average sales price is down slightly, more units are under contract than during the same time period last year.

The commercial market has seen a decrease in activity but the average sales price remains steady. We expect the statistics to improve and reveal a much healthier commercial sector as confidence in St. Croix’s future continues to blossom.

Elkhorn and Staghorn corals, on the critically endangered species list, are one classification away from being extinct in the wild. “The Caribbean without coral reefs is not some place I would like to imagine…The reefs really define our lives as islanders [our culture, the fish we eat, the snorkeling, our wildlife]…it’s not going to happen in my lifetime because I will continue to work…” said VI Native Kemit-Amon Lewis, Coral Conservation Manager for the Nature Conservancy Caribbean Program.

The coral restoration process used by Amon Lewis and SECORE Int’l grows larvae in nurseries, settles the baby coral on cement tetrapods to develop over a year or so, and out plants the new colonies to help reseed the ocean. New spawning methods have multiplied spawns from a few hundred to 25,000 corals. These new colonies can be found at Green Cay, The Buccaneer, Cane Bay, and several beaches throughout the east end of the island. To reverse the adverse effects of sea bleaching, scientists and citizens depend on out planting, identifying environmental threats and helping to remove them, sustainable fishing initiatives and sourcing sustainable seafoods, and avoiding the little things that impact our ocean and climate change – such as plastic waste.

Lewis urges the community to get involved in efforts to reverse sea bleaching. Visit Reefconnect.org to volunteer and snorkel in coral restoration out planting programs. If you snorkel and see bleaching, it’s as easy as dropping a pin on a map through the BleachwatchVI app at http://www.reefconnect.org/bleachwatch/. Through eco-friendly, sustainable choices, we as Virgin Islanders can work alongside these progressive scientists to save our reefs.

What better way to complement island life than to enjoy fresh locally grown produce, meats, and seafood? Just as Christiansted is experiencing a renaissance, agriculture in St. Croix has seen tremendous growth over the last few years.  More farmers are practicing sustainable agriculture and reducing our dependence on imported foods into the territory.  Many grocery stores now sell local produce and meats.

The Nature Conservancy created the Reef Responsible program to celebrate restaurants that support local fishers and make conscious decisions about the seafood that they purchase, prepare, and serve. This October students in the Virgin Islands enjoyed more local produce as part of National Farm to School month.  Organizations such as the Ridge To Reef Organic and Permaculture Farm host internship programs geared towards the delicate craft of sustainable farming.

Our local farmers understand that the key to sustainable agriculture is finding the right balance between food production and preservation of ecosystems. Sustainable farming will benefit the islands for generations to come. Here are just a few sustainable farms, located on St. Croix:

Saturday morning is the most popular day and time to shop the farms and markets. Go early and come with a basket full of  healthy deliciousness.

Photo Courtesy: Cruzan Organix Farm

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