Karen

Living in the Caribbean

Saw this and just had to post it. Comes close – both good and bad of living on a small island.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-walkins/9-definitive-reasons-why-_b_6496914.html

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Karen

Great Opportunity – 2 unit Condo

How many times do you hear about a condo with a separate unit that you can rent out? Well here you go! This beautifully remodeled condo has a spacious one bedroom upstairs with a wrap around deckand gorgeous views of Vieques, Culebra, and Puerto Rico! The lower unit is a smaller one bedroom with all brand new appliances, its own entrance, deck and parking! You can live in one and rent out the other or rent out both!! Add in the beautiful pool area, great location to town, and low condo fees and you have a winner!

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Karen

One way to spend a day in the Caribbean

Each island in the Caribbean has it’s own feel, it’s own flavor, it’s own style!  St Thomas has the cruise ships, St Croix has some great golfing, St John has hiking and camping.  They all have shopping and great SCUBA diving!  But when you want to get a stamp in your passport, the easiest way to do that is to enjoy a day on Jost Van Dyke.

White Bay

White Bay

Jost Van Dyke (pronounced yost) is one of the smallest of the British Virgin Islands.  Jost’s population is about 220 people.  However, it has some of the most popular bars on it.  Foxy’s, One Love, and of course Soggy Dollar.  Soggy Dollar even has a web cam http://soggydollarbar.com/ 

Renting a boat for the day is how you get there.  There are several different boating options from a ‘bare boat’ to a three cabin yacht.

However you get there, it’s always a great day!

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Karen

Be prepared for Hurricanes

Summer is coming!  The breeze dies down, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea get warmer…and the weather conditions are ripe for hurricanes in Florida and the Caribbean.  There are a few simple precautions to take to help safeguard you and yours. 

First, get some approved containers to hold fresh water for washing but dont forget your bottled drinking water as well.  Stock up on canned foods and other types of foods that wont go bad if there is no refridgeration.  Keep in mind that if the power goes out, it could be weeks before it is restored.  If you have a gas stove or grill, make sure the tank is full or have an extra one ready.  Have your hurricane shutters ready to go.  Make sure they are in good repair and you have plenty of extra screws. 

Have a full first aid kit, flashlights, and plenty of batteries.  Candles too.  You can purchase radios and flashlights now that you simply wind up, some even have an extra outlet on them.  If you have a generator, check fuel levels and make sure it is in good working condition.

Another good idea is to get together with your neighbors.  Work on the buddy system.  If there is damage in your area, once you are safe, get to your assigned neighbor and check on them.

If you have pets, make sure you have a plan for them.  Have extra food (and cat litter) and have their cages and any medications ready if you need to evacuate.  Make sure they are wearing a collar with name tags and up to date rabies tags.

Keep your fingers crossed that the U.S. Virgin Islands do not experience any hurricanes this summer.  If we do, we are prepared.

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Karen

Remodeling in the USVI

Wow, what a project I took on.  The biggest projects in the house were…building a wall to turn the main unit into a three bedroom house, rebuilding the two shower pans, and rebuilding the kitchen.   Thank you to all of my friends that gave me a hand!  Your help and support is very appreciated. 

I had also hired some people who did some good work and some who did questionable work.  The most notable of the latter catagory was Caribbean Workshops on St John.  AKA K&S Caribbean, LLC.  A man by the name of Kent Scott found me in Home Depot writing down sizes and prices of the put together cabinets.  He said his prices were comparable to HD and his were custom made solid wood.  (the put together ones are particle board)  I had him come out to my house to take measurements.  He gave me a price that was a lot higher than the cabinets I was looking at, but he said he could have cabinets in before Dec 1st and the doors and drawers on by Dec 5th.  My tenant was moving in on Dec 3 and I was getting pressed for time with everything else that needed to be done.  I gave him the go ahead to make the cabinets.

To make the story short, today is Dec 22 and the kitchen is still not complete and now he will not answer his phone.   His cabinets are a kit he put together, the ends are particle board, the laminate is coming off already, he and his workers left sawdust in and outside the house and a saw in the living room.  The cabinets by the stove were not put in the correct spot and the counter has to be redone to fit the stove.  The drawer slides were supposed to be the self closing kind, but instead they were installed with 20 cent slides from Kmart.  He was unavailable the week of Thanksgiving even though he had set an appointment with a customer I had found for him and a meeting with myself about working for him.  So much for givng a new business a try. 

This has been a learning experience for me. 

UPDATE: AS OF 2/11/09 K&S CARIBBEAN aka CARIBBEAN WORKSHOPS HAS STILL NOT EVEN TRIED TO FINISH THE CONTRACTED WORK.

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Karen

Lets talk Condos

For those who do not know – a condo, or condominium unit, is like an apartment building except instead of renting, you can own individual units just like any other piece of real estate.  Condos are similar to townhouses (explanation of townhouse at end of post)

GOOD STUFF… 

For many people who purchase here, the purchase is an investment and they are not on island to keep an eye on the place.  The purchase of a condo may be the best option for them because the outside maintenance is taken care of.  All you would need to do is find people to rent it to and make sure the inside is ready for any arrivals.  There are several property management companies( www.saintthomasvacationrentals.com ) on island who can “keep your calender” and hire maid service for you.

There is a “condo fee” associated with this service of outside maintenance to pay for materials and labor.  The outside maintenance usually consists of landscaping, amenity maintenance (i.e. pool, beach chairs, tennis court, golf course, gym), parking lots, security, and general upkeep of the outside of the buildings (paint, deck or entrance repair, etc).  General upkeep is something you would have to spend money on even if you had a house.  The condo association is just taking care of it for you instead of you needing  separate numbers for the landscaper, pool guy, painter, etc. 

Purchasing a condo is also an affordable way to buy waterfront property.  For a fraction of the price of buying a piece of waterfront property or a house on the water, you can have a lovely 1, 2, or 3 bedroom home on the water or at the very least, a very short walk to the water.

NOT SO GOOD STUFF…

This is not to say that you can assume the association will act in YOUR best interest.  Please keep up to date with any notifications or meetings and feel free to request accounts of how and when your condo fees are spent.  Outside companies are sometimes hired to manage funds.  Keep on top of them and keep them honest.

Condo fees run from about $200/month – $1800/month.  This amount is in addition to your mortgage and taxes although it typically  includes  homeowners  insurance.  Insurance is expensive here because we are in the hurricane belt.  Ask to see the complexes’ blanket policy and reserve fund. 

There is also a term called a “special assessment” that may be added at any time to address unexpected expenses that come up.  These assessments may be a one time fee per instance, or if it is a substantial sum, the complex may give the option of spreading the fee out over several months.  You can join your condo board to give your input about how the fees and assessments are spent.

Townhouses are similar to condos in that the outside maintenance is taken care of and you have restrictions as to what you can put on the outside.  The main difference is that townhouses typically are tall, skinny structures with two or more floors and one or two walls adjacent to the next town home.  There is not another unit above or below you.   While we do have some structures that would usually be called a townhouse, there is not a separate designation on St Thomas, St Croix, or St John.  All multi unit structures are listed as “condos”.

Stay tuned next time for “Who can take care of my new Caribbean home while I’m not there?”

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