For years, it has been near impossible to find a long-term rental here on St. John. Because of this, my family of three has been crammed into a one-bedroom for more than three years. (Not for long though – yahoo!) There are a few reasons behind the lack of housing over the past few years, but it mostly comes down to one thing – money. Property owners can make more money off of a vacation rental as opposed to a long-term rental. I can’t (and don’t) blame them for doing this, but it has been very problematic for people who live on St. John full time.
This, however, seems to be changing. Over the past few months, I have seen more and more long-term rentals available online. I am currently aware of at least five places that are available, which has been unheard of in recent years. The board at Connections – the spot where residents posts things for sale and/or rent – actually has places listed for rent. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen this, and I have to admit, it’s quite refreshing to see.
So why the suddent shift? There are a lot of factors that are possibly in play. We saw a lot of our long-term units convert into AirBNBs or other types of short-term housing following the 2017 hurricanes and then again after Covid. It’s possible that some of these units are converting back now that the island’s number of visitors seems to be back to normal following an unprecedented boost in vacationers in 2021 and 2022. Another factor can be that people are leaving. Island life isn’t for everyone, as glamorous as it may seem.
Over the past month, we have had more power outages than I can count. Our grocery prices are high. Housing prices are high. And truthfully, there isn’t a ton to do, which can be a turnoff for some. Personally, I love hiking, snorkeling and spending time with friends at the beach. But that all can get old for some. So St. John tends to be a relatively transient spot where people come for a few years and then head back to the states.
I have several friends who are born and raised who are also getting priced out of St. John. It’s simply not realistic for a family to pay $2,500 and up for an apartment. We are an island whose economy relies on tourism, but tourism is to blame for the rise in living costs. It’s a double-edged sword.
When I rented my first apartment in Cruz Bay nearly 10 years ago, I paid $1,100 a month. An apartment in that building is now renting for close to $2,000 a month. All eight of the apartments in that building were long-term rentals when I moved here. Today, more than half of the units have been converted to vacation rentals. This has been our reality over the years.
Earlier this year, the only available rentals were brand new two-bedroom units located basically above a gas station. The price: a whopping $3,500 a month. Needless to say, they stayed empty for quite some time.
So many people on island have been commenting this year that St. John feels like it did pre-2017, pre-storms. We aren’t overwhelmed with guests. We actually are having an off-season this year. And now maybe, just maybe, our housing – the costs and availability – will go back to what it was pre-storm too. Only time will tell I guess!
I get asked quite often about what it’s like to live here on St. John, especially when I’m cruising the island during my Explore STJ Island Tours. So today, I figured I would provide a little more insight for all of you. I hope you enjoyed today’s Jenn Talk. 🙂
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