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78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

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78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

My wife and I and three other couples recently stayed for two weeks (Feb. 24 - Mar. 11, 2010) at 78 Dawn Beach Estates. While we had a thoroughly enjoyable stay on St. Martin, our experiences with this house, the caretaker and the owner left a lot to be desired.

What follows is an abridged version of the letter that the eight of us sent on March 18, 2010 to the owner (I haven't included the accompanying photographs as they do not copy into this forum).

The owner has not responded to us so I am posting the letter on this forum as a warning to potential renters of this property.

March 18, 2010

Dear Mr. Gallagher:

We have just returned home after two great weeks in St. Martin (February 24 - March 11, 2010). The only negative aspect of our vacation was our stay at your house at 78 Dawn Beach Estates; not so much the stay as we had good times at the house but the house itself left a lot to be desired.

In general, although the house has great potential, it was in a state of disrepair and dirty and the surrounding property was very much overgrown. It was obvious to us that very little, if any, cleaning and maintenance has been put into your property. We were also expecting certain amenities that were promised in the rental information document that you sent us. Very few of the items noted in that letter were in fact available to us. For example: 1) Alvo, the caretaker, was generally unresponsive. Among other things, he did not respond to our request to set up a mid-stay house cleaning and he did not respond to your request to supply new patio furniture and 2) the house cell phone had none of the promised minutes on it (we had to purchase the initial minutes).

Below is a list of some deficiencies that we noted during our stay at 78 Dawn Beach Estates:

Exterior of house: broken storm shutters, rusting roof, mouldy and rotting soffits;

Blue/turquoise bedroom: screen on patio door torn, fan switch cover broken, GFI outlet cover in bathroom broken, GFI outlet loose in wall, mould in shower, patio door curtains in poor condition, caretaker took two days to repair plugged toilet (erroneously blamed us for the problem) and then two of us had to assist the plumber as Alvo was unavailable to assist;

Pink bedroom: torn screen on patio door, broken toilet seat, mould in shower, patio door curtains in poor condition;

Master bedroom: patio and screen doors broken, lights burned out in shower stall, mould in shower, sink faucet handle broken, blood stains on bed sheets at check-in (blood came out when we washed the sheets), patio door curtains in poor condition;

Apartment: refrigerator, microwave oven and gas range not working, air conditioning remote control not working, leaking faucet in bathroom, dirty bed sheets at check-in (sand between sheets), bulbs missing from several light fixtures, patio doors broken, one window broken, mould in shower, main door poorly repaired, patio door curtains in poor condition;

Garage: garage door opener not working properly (opens but will not close with remote control), at check-in side door could not be closed (we had to make repairs), no key provided to this door;

Deck, patio and pool: continuous problems with pool circulation system (pool-man came out once but he did not rectify the problem), broken deck lights, view of sea from pool obscured (no pruning of vegetation), broken patio furniture (chairs and tables);

Gas BBQ grill: only three and then two of four burners worked, gas cylinder supplied by you was almost empty (ran out while cooking during second day at house), spare tank was empty (we had to purchase a full tank);

Gates: all three gates could not be locked, electronic controls for main gate (for vehicles) not functioning, gate had to be secured manually (rubber tubing);

Kitchen/dining area: infestation of ants on counters, range hood (fan and lights) did not work, shortage of kitchen utensils, pots and pans, glasses, faulty wire to kitchen and dining room ceiling fans and lights, missing or burned out bulbs in lighting fixtures, no adequate can opener provided, dirty cupboards (inside and outside), dirty drawers;

Living/entertainment area: dirty, thread-bare furniture, all patio doors broken and/or missing screens, curtains tattered and in poor condition; and

Powder (rest) room off main entrance: toilet clogged on check-in and although a plumber came out, it was not repaired during our two week stay.

Our group has booked vacation villas via the Internet several times and, in all cases but this one, the properties have exceeded their on-line descriptions. Your on-line property description certainly does not. Your on-line description including photographs should be updated and the villa should not be described as "luxury", as it is not, in its current state. Your on-line description is also misleading as there is no mention that two of the bedrooms are contained in an apartment whose entrance is separate from the main house.

Your information package should also be updated as it currently contains many errors and invalid information. Some examples are: 1) incorrect instructions to call to the French side of the island, 2) the beach is not a "short walk down the hill", 3) security and safety instructions; we never saw Sherry or Reya who were to explain them to us.

A final comment (although we could add many more regarding property and staff discrepancies and deficiencies): although our stated checkout time was 11 A.M. on Thursday, March 11, Alvo and his cleaning crew were at the house demanding access to start cleaning at 9 A.M.! This was a very uncomfortable situation for us.


Auburn Washington
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for St. Maarten-St. Martin
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1. Re: 78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

Wow, I'm sure people that are considering this place appreciate your review.

Thanks for such a detailed assesment.

Lincoln RI 02865
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2. Re: 78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

Was thinking of this house and also La perla which is other property thanks for the insight it really does sound good on paper.

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3. Re: 78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

If you're interested in up-to-date photos of the 78 Dawn Beach house, I can e-mail them to you. The current online photos in ads for the house were obviously taken several years ago. The place was once quite luxurious and still has great potential (especially with the spectacular view of Dawn Beach, the sea and Oyster Bay) but not before some time, effort and money is put into it.

We drove by the La Perla house several times but can't offer comments about it other than the access path to Dawn Beach is overgrown and not maintained (can see this from the beach).

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4. Re: 78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

To make sure all the forums get these posts, I'll repost my review as well. I think between fish_biologists review and mine you get the picture. Great views, great potential, but the house is in disrepair with a very sketchy owner.

Just got back from a good week at #78 Dawn Beach Estates. First off, we won a week at the house in a charity auction, so despite everything I read in these forums and others, we were going anyway. I definitely would not have selected this property based on the reviews. In fact I was a bit traumatized by the robbery postings, and the horrific tales of La Perla, so I went prepared with duct tape and the notion that the house might not be in great shape and definitely wouldn’t match the website. With that in mind it took the sting off arriving to find some deficiencies with the house. These deficiencies did not ruin our stay though, but I would be lying if I said they didn’t detract from my stay personally.

Ok, enough with the preamble, on to the house.

Location: The view is incredible. The house is perched on a hill overlooking the Westin and all of Dawn Beach. Absolutely gorgeous. Because of this location however, it is about a 10 minute walk down to the beach, mostly along a road through the high-end Dawn Beach Estate neighborhood. The houses are beautiful, some of them are in various stages of repair so a fair amount of work going on, which makes it feel like the neighborhood may be recovering from some bad years. Quite a few for sale as well, including one I would kill for. At any rate, it is a nice walk down but a challenging one back up after a long day on the beach. The elderly or the out of shape will definitely have a hard time making it back up under the blazing sun. They would be best off to take a car down to the end of the road and finish the walk through the Westin parking lots. The Westin affords some nice amenities while you are on the beach like lunch and a swim up bar. Mr. Busby’s is at the far end of the beach, so don’t think you will stroll right down the hill to find a cold beer awaiting you there. The access road from the Westin has car swallowing pot-holes, make sure to take the newer, less pot holed rd around the treatment plant. You can get through it with a regular car, albeit slowly. If possible use Naked boy hill Rd. instead (take a left out of the Estates) to get to Phillipsburg or through the middle region.

Condition: The house has seen better days but sounds to be far superior to La Perla in terms of broken fixtures. For the most part everything was in good working order, it is showing its age though with scuff marks in the stairwell, broken garage doors, broken electric gate opener, could use some updating all around and is short on cups and dishes (not uncommon in house rentals I’ve had over the years). The master bedroom was impressive, with a very nice bathroom but things kind of went downhill from there in terms of finish quality in the rest of the rooms. Not the luxury you would expect in a house like this. The grill was pretty gross, but probably we could have gotten it to work if we spent some effort on it. The gas stove in the kitchen had to be match lit on some of the burners. The door ice dispenser did not work. A number of screens had been cut over the years, most likely due to that rash of break-ins. The plastic patio chairs were mostly broken, but the wooden ones (2) were solid, and the lounges (3) were still in good shape. Most of the sliding doors and windows are locked by blocks of wood, the locks themselves are useless. The wood blocks worked fine except in the 2 bdr apartment where the wood blocks didn’t fit, so the main sliders could not be locked. The generator also didn’t work, so the regular daily power outages were a bit of a pain. Some mirrored closet doors were cracked and some broken light fixtures in the 2 bdr apt.

Layout: Top floor - (also accessible by stair from the outside) consisted of the huge kitchen\dining\sitting area seen in the website photos, a family room with bar (left-over from previous guests), TV, dvd and stereo. Then there is an office with a computer that worked quite well, a common bathroom, a laundry room and the master bedroom and master bath. Great views from every room. The master bed wasn’t all that comfortable according to those who slept there.

1st floor -consists of two additional bedrooms, each with their own bath, and the garage and a 2nd washing machine. The bedrooms open out onto the huge patio with a small infinity pool. The pool actually worked perfectly for the space and if it weren’t for the overgrown palm tree it would have had an excellent view of the bay. It is quite deep, at least 8 ft, so jumping in after the hike back up the hill was wonderful.

2 bedroom apartment – this is also on the patio level and has a small living room, kitchen (the refrigerator doesn’t work), two bedrooms and one shared bathroom. The finish quality in the apartment is below what is in the main house, and there is only AC in one bedroom. You cannot access the main house from the apt. So it is all little annoying if you are the ones in the ‘cave’ of an apt. One window in the main bedroom was un-lockable with no storm shutter, so we duct taped it closed and could see the old tape from previous reviewers. Otherwise it makes a very secure bunker with the storm shutters down. All in all, the apt is inferior to the main house, so be aware when booking more than 6 people.

Ants!: The 2 bdrm apartment had a major ant\spider issue. After a day or two they had infested our luggage and bedding (they weren’t bedbugs fortunately). So I spent quite some time fumigating the rooms, luggage, and had to launder everything. We then spent some time each day going on a search and destroy mission to keep them under control. They weren’t as bad in the main house, mostly in the kitchen. Oh and bring bug spray for the mosquitoes outside, we were ravaged the first couple of nights!

Toys: several pairs of flippers and snorkel gear are there, which was great. Some nerf guns were entertaining. I can't remember much else.

Security: So this is where the major concerns were for me based on previous horror stories in this forum and tto. The lock on the 2 bedroom apt was loose and could have been easily pried off at any time, and as mentioned the sliders were tough to secure in the apartment, so we ended up having to close the storm shutters on both the apt and the main house every night and whenever we went out. It got a little tired. Problem was that the storm shutter on the master bedroom was completely broken, so basically the main house could have been accessed if someone really wanted in. But really, if someone really wanted to get in they could have anyway via the garage door, the main door, etc. anywhere that didn’t have shutters. In the end if someone wants to rob you, they are going to find a way regardless of the security options in place. That said we tried to lock up the best we could and did not experience any issues. There were some motion sensor lights on the patio and around the other sides of the house so that was a good improvement. There is a safe, but it wouldn't lock. We weren’t particularly impressed with the neighborhood Security staff, but the fact we didn’t see many suspicious folks around may be a better indicator of their abilities.

Property Manager: Alvo showed up twice, once to let us in and once near the end of the week to deliver propane. Otherwise when we tried to raise him on the cell phone they provided we could never get through. Seemed amiable enough though. What was interesting was that mid week some of us were harassed by the pool man because he hadn’t been paid in months. We told him to take it up with Alvo, who also apparently hadn’t been paid in months. Blair, the security guy at the gate said that there has been a long history of people not getting paid at 78 Dawn beach, which I suspect, along with previous reviewers, may have contributed to the theft reported by other guests. Oh, and that 6 pack of beer that the owner promises you when you arrive, we later learned that is to be left by you when you check out!

Summary: We had a good time, but mostly due to location and the great group we were with. The house was much, much better than we expected but for me though, the anxiety isn’t worth it right now to stay this house. If in the future the house gets some updating and fixes and the owner pays his staff more regularly, 78 Dawn Beach could be a great house for large groups. However, right now I know you can find better places in the area, so my recommendation is to look elsewhere if given the choice!

5. Re: 78 Dawn Beach Estates (again)

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