Feb. 6, 2004 – With real estate flying off the Multiple Listing Service rolls on St. John, one local realty firm recently opened a second office, a St. John-based Realtor has opened her own office and a St. Thomas company has branched out with a shop in Cruz Bay.
This activity comes on the heels of Century 21 opening a St. John office last year and the expansion of Holiday Homes into a second office at The Marketplace.
Whether the real estate market can support this growth in agencies remains to be seen. With the latest additions, St. John has 11 agencies.
"2004 will tell the tale," Joan Sparling, owner of American Paradise Real Estate, said.
The number of properties for sale on St. John has declined in the last few years as buyers quickly snap up homes, land and condominiums, leaving real estate agents wondering what they'll have to sell. Sparling said there currently are about half as many lots and homes and about a tenth as many condominiums on the market that there were a few years ago.
"Limited supply and increased demand are driving the market," she said.
Diana Beam, a former Holiday Homes Realtor who opened her own shop, Re/Max Island Paradise Realty, in January, thinks the agents who know the market will survive. "It's very competitive," she said. And, she added, it's not enough for agents to depend on the MLS postings to find properties for clients. They also must beat the bushes on their own.
Beam said the downside of St. John's escalating market comes when she must disappoint prospective buyers who find they just can't afford St. John prices.
Nick Bailey, an owner of St. Thomas-based John Foster Real Estate, recently opened an office in Wharfside Village. "It offered tremendous opportunity," he said.
According to Bailey, St. John properties are so expensive that his staff can sell 20 percent of the number of listings that it does on St. Thomas and still make money. He said the inventory may be small, but the average sale price is five times that of St. Thomas.
The fact that the St. John clientele is high-end dovetails nicely with John Foster's affiliation with Sotheby's, he said.
The MLS as of this week offers 41 homes, 113 parcels of land and eight condominiums on St. John.
Prices have also risen dramatically. The lowest-priced MLS residence on St. John is a 700-square-foot house in Estate Carolina with one bedroom and one bath. It lists for $320,000. The most expensive is a $5.75 million house with five bedrooms at Peter Bay.
On the land side, the least expensive piece, a half-acre in Estate Carolina, is $115,000. The most expensive is 1.32 acres at Fish Bay near Reef Bay, for $4.9 million.
The least expensive condominium unit listed is a four-bedroom unit at Cruz Bay Villas for $195,000. The most expensive is a two-bedroom property at Grande Bay Resort, for $825,000.
Last November, Sparling opened a second office at Caneel Hill on the North Shore Road, in the space previously occupied by J. Brion Morrisette's law office. Her other office is in Wharfside Village.
She said the new office is definitely a plus. "It has a location at the entrance to the national park that I couldn't refuse," she said. "It has high visibility, ample parking and great views."
She said the office gets lots of walk-in traffic as people drive by on their way to the beach.
Beam agrees that location matters. Her office is in Cruz Bay Park above JJ's Texas Coast Café. And she said the Re/Max name provides easy recognition for potential buyers.
To reach American Paradise, call 693-8352 for the Wharfside Village office or 776-0560 for the one at Caneel Hill.
To call John Foster Real Estate on St. John, the number is 774-3939.
To contact Re/Max Island Paradise Realty, call 775-0949.

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