We Bought a House! In the Islands!

Yes, it’s true. In April, my husband and I signed the paperwork that officially made us homeowners on the beautiful island of St. Thomas. There’s no turning back now!

 

In signing those papers, not only was I formally binding myself to the house, but also to St. Thomas, and the everyday craziness that goes along with it. Some of which include…

  • People’s failure to understand how a line works (hint: the person in front of you goes first!)
  • General break-downs in and/or a complete lack of “normal” communication
  • The prolonged length of time everything takes (How many hours do I need to get to the airport ahead of time during spring break season???)
  • Safari buses (pick-up trucks with covered benches drilled into the truck beds – proceed with caution!) randomly stopping in the middle of the road (Yes, it’s a pretty view, now let’s move it along people!)
  • General un-responsiveness (What? I haven’t heard back on a business deal because my contact is sailing in a local regatta? My other contact is on vacation on another continent for 3 weeks? My back-up to the back-up contact is in the states for the rest of the week?)
  • The Internal Revenue Bureau – no further comment necessary.

The list goes on and on, and I am the first to admit that this decision did not come easily and was definitely not taken lightly. There was a lot of contemplation, sleepless nights, and time put into deciding whether or not we should establish a permanent residence on the island. In fact, we almost bailed out of the deal several times before finally committing ourselves – to the house, that is.

Island gripes aside, we really do enjoy our life down here. With all the sunshine, beautiful views, and warm weather that it offers, it’s a very happy place to live. In addition, I am starting to gain some ground with my job, and we have made great friends and memories. Of course, after moving 7 times in the last 9 years (the move to St. Thomas being a real doozy), getting married, and changing jobs 3 times in the last 5 years, I felt the need to settle down, which worked as a great home-buying motivator. I’m all set with change at this point.

Christine house post 3_WWLOR

Naturally, buying the house created a whirlwind of activity for us this past spring. First, we closed on our house, which could have been a complete Caribbean shit-show had we not hired an attorney that proved to be a strong advocate for us (thanks, Leigh Goldman!). I’m not kidding, I’ve heard of closings that last months (by months, I mean it could potentially be over a year) because an easement wasn’t filed (which could also mean the paperwork was lost) when the house sold to the current seller several years prior. This was constantly on our mind prior to closing, as our lease was about to run out.

We then proceeded to move, which shouldn’t have been a rough task since we were renting a furnished home before moving into our new house. However, as most of us know all too well, it’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate over a very short period of time. It took us countless trips, haphazardly loading up the pickup truck we borrowed from our friends, time and time again, over a 3 day period.

In addition to our local move, we had shipped a container full of our beloved belongings from storage in Chicago to St. Thomas. Now, THAT was a fun little project for me. Try keeping your patience after you’ve told the shipping company the pick-up address of your stuff at least 4 times. Then, try finding a moving company remotely 5 days prior to the actual move date during the busiest moving time of the year because the shipping company just told you that they don’t load their own trucks. Instead, their driver just sits there while you pay another company to move your things into his truck. I could provide multiple other examples of all the chaos shipping our stuff created, but suffice it to say, if you’re seeking employment, you should try logistics. Apparently, they will hire anyone!

I was justifiably shocked when our items arrived about 6 weeks after I sent them, and everything was in order. However, when the container (finally) arrived at our house in St. Thomas, I hardly recognized a thing. The movers were constantly asking me, “Where do you want this?”, and I would reply with, “What IS that?”. After all, these items had been in storage for 3 years. How was I supposed to know what we put in all those boxes?

Christine house post 4_WWLOR

Upon unpacking these boxes, I discovered how much my life had changed in such a short of a period of time. I couldn’t believe all of the items that our container had brought. They proved to be things from another life – Stuart Weitzman high-heels, suede boots from Banana Republic, Elie Tahari suits, cashmere sweaters from JCrew, countless hats, gloves, scarves, and coats. The list goes on and on. These days, the closest I get to heels is a pair of wedge sandals and my “suit” consists of white capri pants and a loose-fitting, sleeveless blouse. Hell, if it’s too hot, I can hardly wear a bra!

But, I digress. Since the house we bought was furnished, and we had just moved a bunch of our own furniture, we had a lot of shuffling around to do. My husband nearly killed himself moving furniture from here to there, while I succeeded in selling a record amount of furniture on Craigslist. On a side note, island Craigslist was a huge surprise success for us, and I’d like to think the same for the buyers of our stuff!

Alas, we have gotten everything where we want it. I can’t tell you how nice it is to finally have our furniture from our home in Chicago here. After living in what felt like someone else’s house for 3 years, we finally have a place of our own here in the Caribbean.

There is something very calming and comforting in knowing that this house is ours to do with as we like. Kevin and I realize that with the harsh elements that this island provides, we will probably always be working on the house in some way. And we understand deeply that it will cost us a small fortune to renovate this home, which currently looks like a flashback to 1984 on the inside (all 4 corners of the individual tiles in our bedroom collectively make a daisy! The walls in our kitchen and living room are neon green, orange, and yellow because the prior owner wanted the house to look “tropical”!).

Regardless, I look forward to the many memories that living here as more permanent island residents will bring. I have a lot of dreams for this house…

~ home sweet home ~

~ home sweet home ~

 

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Christine O'Neil

About Christine O'Neil

Christine moved to St. Thomas in May of 2011 after years of being encouraged to give up her corporate life in the city of Chicago by her then boyfriend, now husband. Upon experiencing this whirlwind of change, she discovered that the sunny life of an island girl was healthier, happier, and simpler than the old hustle and bustle of the stateside world she once knew. Although the islands prove to be an often backwards and sometimes puzzling place to live, Christine has learned to laugh about how silly life can truly be down here. She now appreciates the islands for what they are and tries to balance the nonsensical aspects of rock life by enjoying the many outdoor activities the islands have to offer such as golfing, running, paddleboarding, boating, and windsurfing. You can read more about Christine’s experiences on her personal blog, www.christine-takingtheplunge.blogspot.com/.

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12 thoughts on “We Bought a House! In the Islands!

  1. Yeah, b4 and aftahs would be fun! Congrats and enjoy. Does St. Thomas have a Home Depot-ish store? We actually have a real H.Depot here (St. Croix) and it’s just like the states, except perhaps in the customer service arena

  2. Congratulations on the new chapter in your island life!
    Buying a furnished house would seem relatively easy ~ try building one as a single woman on a remote island with no real airport. Ha!
    I could write a book…

  3. Okay. I’ll put a before and after post on the docket. Could be a while before we get around to the ‘after’ pics ;)! Luckily, we do have a Home Depot in St. Thomas. Thanks for all your comments!!!

  4. Welcome to the St. Thomas. Now about the Internal Revenue Service get a “STAMPED” copy of everything you give them and keep it filed in a safe place and keep the stamped copies forever. I call it getting it “blue stamped”( the color of the stamp in they use)…it literally saves your sanity. Make sure everything is copied in stamped, correspondence, gross receipts, taxes, etc. Also lot’s of deep breaths through-out the day are required…enjoy and welcome to the rock!

  5. Congratulations on your new home!

    A bit off the original topic, but in response to AC: re: IRThe copy/time date stamp saved my butt in 2005. I had a $556 bill from them via the IRS’ Philadelphia processing center. And Banco Popular couldn’t produce a clear copy of the check. Took months to sort out. They finally gave up trying to collect.

    Can’t wait to see pics of the house!

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