Can REI Work Anywhere?

I’m just starting to entertain the idea of doing REI (this is day 3!), and I’m wondering if a newbie can make it work anywhere. For example, I live on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. The island is 7 x 27 miles. We have about 60,000 people, most of whom are on “island time,” so things take longer. For rehabbing: Most things are imported to the island, and are therefore expensive or slow to get shipped in, the on-island selection in stores is limited, construction site thefts can be problematic, and our most popular construction material (concrete) costs a fortune. Leaving the island frequently in pursuit of nearby deals would be expensive, usually requiring a plane ride, so I would attempt to stay on-island for most deals. St. Croix had a big run-up in house and condo prices from 2005-2007, then the market went fairly flat and quiet. We haven’t suffered from the steep drops like the states did, since mortgage requirements stayed strict here.

I suspect the answer is that I can do it if I am determined to make it work, since there are many creative angles to pursue. What are some key things I should look for to decide if there is enough opportunity, and how do I determine if there are already a lot of other people doing REI here, making it that much tougher to start? I have several Realtor friends and construction friends, and networking is easy here, since everybody knows everybody, so I think I can find the answers easily, if I know what to ask.

Thanks for any advice. I love this site. There is so much great stuff here!

Where are you living? With parents, spouse and children, alone? In an owned home? Mortgage? A rental? How strict are the island regulations for rentals? Could you make your home into a rental unit? A furnished vacation rental unit? What is the demand on the island?

How is your credit score? Would a bank lend to you? Do you have savings? Good credit? A full or part-time job? No debt or a lot or little debt? Can you stick with something once you start, or do you get bored and burned out? Are you handy? Do you have any construction or fix-it skills?

So, I have even more questions than you! Send us an answer to all these, and we will have a better idea of how to help you. Everyone has to start somewhere, and we just need to know more.


Furnishedowner, thanks for your questions.

My wife and I live in a small rent-free apartment, where we are property managers for a vacation rental villa. The villa’s occupancy is very good and doesn’t need our help in increasing it. Other vacation rental properties here tend to have low occupancy, so that’s generally a tough market.

We are mid-40’s, with good credit, no debt, liquid assets of $250K, plus retirement savings which we don’t plan to touch for 15+ years. Our disposable income is low. I could borrow against my savings, or against presumed rental income.

Along with property management, I do other work from home. Hours are flexible. I work less than 40 hours/week total, so I have some spare hours available, and could quit the other work if REI allows it.

I’m reasonably handy: painting, tiling, minor carpentry and repairs, but not advanced electrical or plumbing.

I get bored with hobbies quickly, but I usually stick with paying jobs for 10+ years.

I checked with a Realtor friend about conditions here: Demand for long-term rentals is OK, and it’s even better if you accept pets. Foreclosures are rare because of burdensome requirements on the bidders. Rehabbing is popular. Just about any residence can be turned into a rental. Rent-to-own is rare because eviction is difficult, especially when the tenant is looking at losing his down payment.

Thanks again for your help.