Miles Stair of Holiday Homes has been named Realtor of the Year by the Virgin Islands Territorial Association of Realtors (VITAR). VITAR selected Stair from among its 300 members for the annual award given for community service and commitment.
But if you congratulate him, he’ll be quick to mention that two other agents in his business, Christie O’Neil and Jan Courlas, have received the award in prior years.
Modesty is Stair’s basic mode of operation, says Beth Knight, the Acting Director of Gifft Hill School, where Stair heads the board of directors. “He’ll be the last person to sing his own praises.”
But there are plenty of people on St. John who will do that for him. Stair’s contributions to the community stretch back to 1985 when he moved back to St. John and became a Realtor.
Currently, Stair serves as Commissioner on the V.I .Territorial Governing Board of Hospitals and Health Facilities and on the St. Thomas-St. John District Board. He is on the board of the Friends of the Virgin Islands Park and is an active member of the St. John Rotary. During St. John’s July 4th festival, you can find Stair in the evenings volunteering in the Children’s Village.
Throughout the year, you can also find him running in 8 Tuff Miles, swimming the Beach to Beach Power Swim, and paddle boarding in Rendezvous Bay.
Stair is frankly enthusiastic about St. John:
“The people, the culture, the friendliness, and the ability to wake up each day and say, ‘Wow, I’m in a great place!’”
Business Is Pleasure
The real estate business is a pleasure, he adds.
“You’re basically selling St. John. You’re excited, they [the customers] are excited, and you make friends for life. It’s a rewarding career.”
Ironically, Stair declined to enter the profession when he completed college, although both his parents were realtors in Virginia. Instead, he began working for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.
In 1972 Stair visited a Park Service friend on St. John and secured a job as a front desk receptionist and activities director at Caneel Bay when it was owned by RockResorts.
“There I met the cute switchboard operator, Susan,” he said, and the two were married in 1976.
“Both sets of our parents were convinced we were bums,” says Stair with a smile. That changed as they moved away and Miles rose in management at high-end RockResorts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Williamsburg, Virginia.
1985 Return by Boat
In 1985, Susan and Miles sailed their boat from Virginia back to St. John. Susan started the Grand Gallery Shops, upscale clothing and gift shops including Bougainvillea and Island Fancy. Miles joined up with Peter Griffith and Sis Frank at Holiday Homes. Miles became a broker and bought the business in 1992. In 2001, Christie O’Neil became a partner and co-owner.
Holiday Homes can trace its roots back to Sis Frank, who started the first property management company on St. John in 1960, managing the homes for Cornelius and Cleome Wadsworth at Dennis Bay and Harry and Priscilla Lyne at Honeymoon Beach.
Holiday Homes brokered the deals in the 1980s for the Great Cruz Bay property that is now the Westin, the Pond Bay Club in Chocolate Hole, and the luxury home sites in Peter Bay. More recently, Holiday Homes sold the site for the Grande Bay Resort in Cruz Bay.
“We’ve watched as the island has grown and become the tourist destination it is today,” Stair said. The island’s growth took off when the Allen-Williams’ Corp. brought in a pool of skilled labor for the construction of the Virgin Grand Resort (now the Westin) and then was fueled by the flood of insurance money following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, according to Stair.
Glen Speer’s developments in wood and stone, such as Mongoose Junction, set a new a higher standard for construction, according to Stair.
“Before then, many of the homes here were the tropical equivalent of lakeside cottages,” Stair said. “Now pools and granite counters are the norm.”
Island Real Estate History
Real estate prices on St. John generally “track the stateside market,” Stair said. “In the last slowdown, we saw a fall-off in the number of buyers and the inventory swelled. Last year, according to the Multiple Listing Service, 48 homes were sold. In the previous three years, the numbers were down in the twenties. We’re still seeing the effects today. It’s still a buyer’s market.”
It’s a buyer’s market for those who can afford the average home sale price in 2013 of $1.2 million.
Currently, there are about 150 homes listed for sale, but there’s “a shadow inventory ” as well—homes of those who are waiting for the market to get stronger before they sell, Stair explained.
With 274 parcels listed for sale on St. John, land sales have been pretty quiet, according to Stair, possibly because development requires the “visioning of someone who wants a piece of the rock and wants to build, and that takes a level of confidence.”
There are home sites for sale for under $100,000 near Cruz Bay, some even with water views, Stair said. “A good part of the market are those who are on island, and through financing and help from the family are capturing prices that haven’t been seen for awhile, especially for land.”
The real estate industry on St. John has come a long way since Stair began and the telephone was the only available technology. He recalls the days when faxes and then computers became available, and the Multiple Listing Service sent over listings on floppy disks by ferry on Fridays. Real estate agencies have grown, agents have split off to open companies of their own, and St. Thomas agencies have opened branches on St. John.
“We all do business together. We’re friendly competitors, and we celebrate everyone’s successes,” Stair said. They will be celebrating again when he receives his VITAR award at the convention of the National Association of Realtors in New Orleans in November.