Has the thought of moving to paradise ever crossed your mind only for you to dismiss it? What would you do for a living? Where would you live? How could you possibly afford to live here? Well, for those of you shopping the market right now, this newly listed, income producing property might be the answer to all of these questions!
Yesterday we introduced you to Christine and Mark Fano, the owners of a beautiful new home over near Klein Bay. The Fanos recently completed a 21-month build of their home. Seeing how so many of you have dreamt about building your own home in paradise, we thought we’d share their story. Today we’re talking about what it’s actually like to build on St. John.
“It was difficult and exciting at the same time,” Christine said about the construction process. “The amount of time, money and stress that affects the owner is overwhelming to be honest. People did warn us about it, but unless you’re experiencing it, you don’t completely understand. And being thousands of miles away, did not help!
“The last six months of our build was completely overwhelming mentally. Thank goodness our kids were understanding. At the end of the construction process, things were going at a fast pace. Having to order every little item for the villa from pasta strainer to a lemon press, then King sized everything for the beds to outdoor cushions … then organizing furniture delivery to Miami, and then to St. John with customs was a full-time job in itself. We had four-20 foot containers full of literally everything in and outside of our home.
“Receiving emails on a daily basis of problems and issues that needed to be addressed ‘immediately’ was very taxing on us. Everything needed to be choreographed in perfect order because if one thing isn’t done, other things cannot be done. What we found out later was that our experience is the typical experience of those that build on island. Did it make us feel better? Not really!”
So what was the biggest surprise they encountered during their build?
“The biggest surprise was how nice of an experience things were during the build until the last six months,” Christine said. “I could write a book, but much of it was a blur and would be impossible for me to recollect. That is why I am happy I wrote my blog.”
(You can check out Chrsitine’s building blog here.)
While coordinating the build, the Fanos chose to incorporate many of the same personal touches guests at their home in New Jersey would expect.
“Our family is all about hospitality,” Christine said. “If you came to our home on the mainland for a visit, I wouldn’t let you leave unless you had coffee or tea with something to eat. We designed Casa La Famiglia for guests that absolutely want luxury with a warm personal experience.
“After our villa manager picks guests up from the ferry, we have a delicious dinner waiting for them at the house and we also have cocktails and drinks with appetizers in the refrigerator for them. I then phone the house to welcome them to St. John and Casa La Famiglia and to check on them to see if they need anything. Before they leave, we always touch base with them wishing them a safe trip home. Lastly, when we send our guest’s back their deposit, we always send a personal thank you note and a small bag of Cruz Bay Grill Rub from St. John Spice. Guests really like that, a piece of St. John they can enjoy.”
Knowing what they now know, would the Fanos build again?
“Yes, we would absolutely build again but we had done our due diligence prior and knew pretty much what we were getting ourselves into financially. But when someone asks me if they should build … that is a loaded question! It depends on the person asking and their personal situation. I would never want to stop someone for doing something they were dreaming of, but there are big risks when building on island,” Christine said.
“I would suggest strongly that potential homeowners have 30-40% more waiting in the bank than what their budget actually calls for. To add much, much more for interior and exterior furnishings as well as linens, kitchen equipment and the rest. Basically be able to furnish the whole house inside and out. To make sure they have a good solid marriage, good health and are not stretching themselves financially in order to build. Remember that you’re signing a contract with your builder…he won’t care if you get sick, lose your job, your business is slow or anything else. Be financially prepared for the worst case scenario.
“There are plenty of half-way built villas or vacant parcels that were bought years ago that are still vacant. What we found is that some land purchasers got scared once they hire an architect and see the estimated costs involved even before the bidding process begins. If someone can’t find what they want in a villa and do not want to build, another recommendation would be to buy a home in the location you love, gut it and do what you want. I have seen that done a few times and it absolutely makes more sense financially for many people, and usually work can be completed within a year. That is a project that homeowners can absolutely control in terms of budget.”
And lastly, in addition to creating a warm and welcoming home for guests to enjoy while on St. John, Christine also has a cause near and dear to her heart.
“My son Christopher has autism and we hope to work with the autism community and the USVI government to bring autism awareness, education, recreation, services and training to the Special Needs Virgin Islands community.”
For more information on Casa La Famiglia, please visit CasaLaFamiglia.com
Everyone dreams of living in paradise, right? There are currently 152 homes for sale on island. Of those, only 15 are listed for less than half a million dollars while 99 are listed for over $1 million. Here’s a small sampling of what your money can buy you on St. John.
Lets start with the cream of the crop – Kismet. Kismet is an incredible seven bedroom home in Chocolate Hole. It’s described as being “a genuine architectural masterpiece.” Here’s a bit from its listing:
“From its ultra private perch atop Maria’s Bluff, the villa offers 360-degree views framing miles of open ocean, numerous protected bays, sleepy outlying cays and thousands of acres of green hillsides within the vast VI National Park. A sprawling compound befitting its one-of-a-kind location, Kismet’s subtle Moroccan undertones are woven throughout the artisan quality finishes of its numerous guest suites, common living areas, billiards room, home theater and separate caretakers residence. Stepping outside, one seamlessly enters a magical knoll top oasis with a central pool deck, shaded verandas, and meandering footpaths throughout the exceptionally manicured grounds.”
See for yourself:
Kismet is listed for $13.5 million.
On the lower end of the market is a super cute one bedroom home located in the valley off of Gifft Hill. Turtle Haven is an idyllic home that incorporates vaulted ceilings, a contemporary kitchen and bath, and a spacious great room that flows to the generous screened deck. Check out a few pics:
Turtle Haven is listed for $349,000.
For those of you who prefer Coral Bay to the Cruz Bay end of the island, Estate Fortsberg just may be the property for you. Watch stunning sunrises and listen to the sounds of the sea from this beautiful and well appointed four bedroom home. Estate Fortsberg is located on one acre of land within the National Park which contains ruins of a Fort and Cannon Battery, according to its listing. In addition to four master bedrooms suites, the home has a fully equipped kitchen with granite countertops, outdoor showers, expansive decks and most importantly, incredible views. See for yourself:
Estate Fortsberg is listed at $2.4 million.
Want to check out the other 149 homes for sale? Here is a list of several real estate agencies on the island:
- 340 Real Estate Co.
- Cruz Bay Realty
- American Paradise
- Holiday Homes of St. John
- Islandia Real Estate
- RE/MAX Island Paradise Realty
- Sold on St. John
- St. John Properties
- Tropical Properties
For those of you looking to build on island, this may be the parcel for you. Listed at just $82,500, this half acre parcel is located in Estate Carolina in Coral Bay. It’s a gentle sloping, downhill parcel just minutes from the shops and restaurants of Coral Bay. A driveway was excavated for the parcel back in 1998 and has remained perfectly intact since.
Looking for more information? Contact Tammy at 340 Real Estate Co. at [email protected]
Now here’s a pretty interesting business opportunity for the right person. Check out this story by the St. John Tradewinds:
Eco-tourism Guru Selengut Seeks Buyer For Concordia With Eco-developer Vision
World renowned eco-developer Stanley Selengut is in retirement mode and has asked a long-time/part-time St. John resident to assist him in his search for the right person to carry on his pet project on St. John, the eco-resort Concordia in Estate Concordia on the southeast tip of the island.
The resort is in a pristine area with sixteen contiguous lots overlooking historic Ram’s Head, Salt Pond Bay, Drunk Bay and Nanny Point which Selengut previously deeded to the V.I. National Park.
“Stanley asked me about six months ago if I would help market the property,” said New Jersey Attorney Jack Zakim. “I am marketing it casually.”
“I put together a power point presentation of the property with photos, a few short videos and Stanley’s bio that will enable you to learn about the property and the man in a matter of minutes,” said Attorney Zakim.
Selengut Wants Eco-tourism To Continue
Selengut told St. John Tradewinds earlier this year that he would prefer to work with a buyer who wanted to continue his eco-tourism approach to Concordia and Zakim hopes to accomplish that as well.
Zakim, who said he met Selengut for the first time in an airport about ten years ago, has a long association with St. John, having first built a house on Ajax Peak in the early 1980s and subsequently becoming involved in the owners association of the Gallows Point Resort.
“Concordia is located on the pristine southeast corner of St. John overlooking Salt Pond Bay, Ram Head and the Caribbean with fabulous vistas,” according to Zakim’s promotional literature.
“The eco-resort caters to tourists who enjoy quiet relaxing vacations with close proximity to beautiful beaches, hiking trails and the splendor of the National Park which surrounds this magnificent property which has a mix of 17 cottages constructed with recycled material and 25 eco-tents,” it continues.
“The eco-resort is operated by a dedicated management team who love the property and enjoy their work as evidenced by a virtual 100 percent occupancy rate during the season and a healthy bottom line,” the promotional literature adds.
“This is a rare opportunity to acquire a special property with a profitable, green, sustainable, business in the U.S.A. that can be absentee operated by a great management team with room to grow the business and continue the mission of my good friend who has been an inspiration to many,” said Zakim.
Extensive Property Holdings for Sale
In addition to the resort which sits on an assemblage of approximately twenty acres zoned W-1 (waterfront pleasure use), Selengut owns fifteen vacant parcels, most with spectacular views that will be offered as an assemblage with the eco-resort to the right party, according to Zakim.
A description of the lots is available in the link http://www.digitaldudes.com/concordia-index.html under “Downloads”/”Land Parcels”.
Since two-thirds of St. John is owned by the U.S. National Park Service which surrounds the eco-resort, there is virtually no commercial development in the area where the few isolated parcels of private property that occasionally come to market are sold at a premium, according to Zakim.
Selengut also owns a nearby guest house in Estate Mandahl leased to resort employees for affordable housing and a contiguous five acre parcel within walking distance of the eco-resort, Zakim added.
For information and photos of the island and eco-resort, please click on http://www.digitaldudes.com/concordia-index.html and if you have questions call (201) 488-7211 or email [email protected].
Someone’s dream of buying a restaurant in St. John just got a little cheaper.
The popular Donkey Diner in Coral Bay listed for sale last month when the owners had to abruptly leave the island due to a family medical emergency. The eatery initially listed for $299,000 but after being on the market for less than a month, the owners dropped the price by $60,000. It is currently listed for $239,000 and is described as a “turnkey” operation.
Check out the full listing here.
This is the third time the Donkey Diner has been listed for sale in the past five years.
St. John has lots of opportunities for snapshots. But if you want more than a snap, you're going to have to do a little work. Thankfully, an earlier issue of the St. John Sun Times has done some of that work for you, assisted by Bob Schlesinger of Tropical Focus.
In the article you'll learn when to shoot. Generally, the best time to take great photos is just before around sunset, between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. That's when the light has a soft and buttery feel.
There are some interesting businesses for sale on the island right now, but what if you're an entrepreneur and want to start your own? Forumites at the Virgin-Islands-On-Line.com site have been mulling this question.
Lsugolfer in Baton Rouge said "So, here's what I do when I sit in my cube and think about how crappy this is compared to STJ. Start a gas station or a 'Louisiana'-themed restaurant."
JMhouse said, "Ha ha. I'm in a cubicle, too, listening to someone else have a loud conversation on a speaker phone. I'd much rather be the Park Ranger that leads the Reef Bay hikes."
Other suggestions people have for new island businesses.
- "A storage business where you could leave your snorkel gear/beach chairs, shoes and whatever you don't want to cart back and forth." (Diana2)
- "A wind turbine, maybe somewhere on Ajax peak." (Laurie)
- "An electric car rental company. And a self-serve car wash and vacuum area." (Msgcolleen)
- "Chicken Removal Service." (StJohnRuth) Details
- "Underwater camera rental. Would have to be a side business. (Not big enough to sustain itself.)" (Jmaq)
Twenty years ago, our packing for St. John always included a cooler of food and salty snacks.
Not because we wanted to save money but, back then, there weren't fully-stocked food stores. You couldn't be sure you'd be able to buy bread and milk never mind good cuts of beef. That's changed now, but many people still bring coolers.
In a thread on Trip Advisor, most people said they bring food for convenience, not to avoid restaurants.
"We dine out, but we visit STJ for relaxing," said Toes_in_the_Sand. "We find it more relaxing at the end of a day at the beach to sit at the villa, enjoy a couple of drinks while we fix dinner. No hurry, no parking, no worries."
Poolmom_9 added, "We saved a lot of money (bringing food). We still ate out plenty. It was nice to grill (at home)." Cleobeach1 said, "We generally eat out every lunch and dinner, but we have taken a cooler more often than not. We are particular about our meals, especially meats and specialty snacks like cheeses."
What about you?
Years in the making, years in the telling. That's the story behind the St. John Historical Society's new book, St John – Life in Five Quarters. (The Five Quarters refers to the original five administrative districts of the island: Cruz Bay, Maho Bay, Reef bay, Coral Bay, and East End).
The island history is available in the Society's online store for $29.95. The book is described as more than 200 pages of "local stories, pictures, and history … accounts of prominent people and notable places, firsthand descriptions of earlier ways of life on St John, fact-based histories of estate ‘ruins’ we have rambled, and an impressive collection of interesting and beautiful images and photos."
The Society does more than sell books.