Since owning real estate on St. John today has become cost-prohibitive for most people, time share ownership is becoming the latest Love City trend.
The Westin Resort and Villas vacation ownership villas have been so popular, management is now offering more than 100 additional guest rooms at the resort as time shares, according to the Area Managing Director Graeme Davis.
We are taking 108 of our guest rooms and turning them into vacation ownership villas, Davis said. Weve had extremely successful sales over the past five years with our vacation villas sold in weekly intervals.
We decided to add more because weve had such great success and such great demand, he added.
108 Rooms To Be Time Share Units
Although 108 rooms will be used for the time share conversion, two or three of the rooms will be converted into one time share unit, Davis explained.
We will gut out the interior of the rooms and cut through the walls, he said. The rooms will then be joined together to create the time share unit. Well also be adding kitchens to the units.
If you take three hotel rooms you create one two-bedroom villa, Davis continued. The middle becomes the living and kitchen areas and the two bedrooms are on the sides.
$20,000 to $140,000 Price Tag
Prices for the time shares vary greatly depending on the size of the unit and the time of year.
The current pricing ranges from $20,000 to $140,000 for lifetime deeded ownership for a week, said Davis. The pricing is for the new and the old its a combination. To buy a week in a studio in the off-peak season will run about $20,000.
A three-bedroom villa during Christmas week will probably cost about $140,000, Davis continued.
The hotel rooms slated for conversion are currently in buildings 24 through 27, located on the main hotel side of the Westin property. The rooms are on the hillside above the pool and restaurant.
Rising real estate prices on the island are contributing to the increased popularity of vacation ownerships, according to Davis.
I think its popular because if you look at the home prices on St. John they average around $1.2 or $1.3 million, he said. People who want a second home usually wont use it all year. What better way to own a property on St. John than to just buy one week or two weeks, and be able to walk away?
The Westins amenities and reputation contribute to the strong time share sales as well, Davis added.
Guaranteed Electricity, Water
People feel good knowing that they have a strong brand like the Westin looking after their property, he said. When they come down they are guaranteed electricity because we have our own power plant, and guaranteed water, because we have our own desalination plant.
Time share sales enhance the property and buffer any economic downfalls that might occur, Davis explained.
First of all, you have guaranteed return visitors, he said. Even if there is a down-turn in the economy, it wont affect us. Well always have the occupancy numbers up here at the Westin.
Well always have people who have an affinity for St. John, Davis continued. Time share owners have the ability to trade their week at the Westin St. John for a week at any of the Westins time shares throughout the world, or at a differnt companys properties across the globe.
Owners Hold Love City Week
Few St. John time share owners, however, ever trade their coveted Love City vacation week, according to Davis.
Ninety percent of our owners keep coming back to St. John year after year, he said. We have one of the highest percentages of vacation owners returning out of any of our properties.
It says a lot about the island and a lot about our property as well, Davis added.
The Westin has a total of 282 hotel rooms, including the 108 guest rooms which are being converted to vacation ownership villas, and another 92 time share villas. Each of the new time shares will have a kitchen, but Davis said that wouldnt detract vacationers from frequenting local restaurants.
Even though they have kitchens and full amenities, 80 percent of the guests will eat at restaurants here on the property and in town, he said. It wont have a great impact on the number of visitors dining out.
Inventory Remains Same
Units that dont sell as time shares will continue to be sold as guest rooms, explained the resorts area managing director.
Well still have the same inventory, he said. If units are not sold, well rent them out. Well still have the same amount of people, which is about 1,000 guests when were full.
The conversion project should be complete by next July, and Westin management plans to convert even more guest rooms into time shares, Davis said.
Eventually, well probably phase more hotel rooms into vacation ownerships, he said. But well always keep a core number of rooms, around 100, as guest rooms. Well never convert the whole property.