Archive for Moving to the Virgin Islands

Karen

Are you looking for a rental on St Thomas?

Large 3 bedroom house for rent on breezy north side of St. Thomas. 180 degree views from two levels of porches. Great north central location – 13 minutes to Red Hook on the east end and about 12 minutes to Charlotte Amalie and 7 minutes to Magens Beach.
Solar water heaters so lower electric bills! Apartment comes furnished but there is plenty of room for your stuff, too. Pets are welcome with owner approval.

For more information contact Karen at Sea Glass Properties 340-514-4730

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inside sitting area

kitchen cabinets new

new kitchen cabinets

view east down island

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Karen

I have moved to Sea Glass Properties!

I wanted to make a big announcement. I have moved to Sea Glass Properties. I feel this is a wonderful opportunity for me. Sea Glass has excellent marketing on many different websites as well as their own magazine. We also work on all U.S. Virgin Islands so I will be better able to take care of all my buyers and sellers. My cell phone number and email address will remain the same so you can still contact me easily.I look forward to hearing from you and continuing to assist you with all of your real estate needs.

I'm with Sea Glass Properties!

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Karen

2 unit new construction

The View

Come see this 2 unit home in Estate Ross. It has a nice view of the Caribbean Sea and is close to town and Havensite. This house has a new roof, new parking area, new stairway, and all new appliances and cabinets. The upper unit has three bedrooms, stainless appliances in the new kitchen, and washer/dryer hookups. The lower 1 bedroom apartment has all new kitchen and remodeled bathroom. Great for rental income!

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Karen

Selling And Buying Real Estate In The US Virgin Islands

Here I live in the US Virgin Islands.  What a beautiful place to be!

karen-korsgren-headshot

When I was 15 my family went on vacation to Grand Cayman.  Ever since then I have wanted to live somewhere where it is warm all the time, palms are the most abundant trees, the water is aqua, and wearing your black flip flops means you are dressed up.

Well, it took a few years for me to convince myself that I could do it, but here I am.  I moved to St Thomas in October of 2004 and I have never looked back.  I am selling St Thomas real estate, along with St. John real estate and St. Croix in one of the most beautiful areas in the world and loving it!  Now I get to help other people find their dream home.  This can be a studio condo or a multi-unit income producing home or a piece of land.

The US Virgin Islands consist of St Thomas, St John, St Croix, Water Island, and various other smaller islands and cays.  I can help find commercial space for those of you looking to start a business or I can help you purchase an established business.

Feel free to email me at islandrealestate@joimail.com if you would like to find out what real estate is available or ask me any questions.

Karen Korsgren (”Island K”)

islandrealestate@joimail.com

ph: 340-514-4730

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Karen

Eatin’ Chili

Y’all common down n grab a bite o grub!  The annual Texas Chili Cookoff is held every August.  This year it was on the west end at beautiful Brewers Beach where you can watch the planes take off and land from your comfortable seat in the sand.

The location has changed over the years and so has the chili.  Not the stuff the judges try, that has very stringent rules.  Over the past few years a lot of the contestants have added vegetarian or white chili to their ‘menu’.  Individuals, restaurants, and companies all vie for the chance to be the chili king of St Thomas.

There is also a costume contest.  Whichever booth has the most chili spirit gets an award as well.  The contestants for this particular prize form a parade and try to get more votes using their sparkling personalities.

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Karen

Be prepared for Hurricanes

Summer is coming!  The breeze dies down, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea get warmer…and the weather conditions are ripe for hurricanes in Florida and the Caribbean.  There are a few simple precautions to take to help safeguard you and yours. 

First, get some approved containers to hold fresh water for washing but dont forget your bottled drinking water as well.  Stock up on canned foods and other types of foods that wont go bad if there is no refridgeration.  Keep in mind that if the power goes out, it could be weeks before it is restored.  If you have a gas stove or grill, make sure the tank is full or have an extra one ready.  Have your hurricane shutters ready to go.  Make sure they are in good repair and you have plenty of extra screws. 

Have a full first aid kit, flashlights, and plenty of batteries.  Candles too.  You can purchase radios and flashlights now that you simply wind up, some even have an extra outlet on them.  If you have a generator, check fuel levels and make sure it is in good working condition.

Another good idea is to get together with your neighbors.  Work on the buddy system.  If there is damage in your area, once you are safe, get to your assigned neighbor and check on them.

If you have pets, make sure you have a plan for them.  Have extra food (and cat litter) and have their cages and any medications ready if you need to evacuate.  Make sure they are wearing a collar with name tags and up to date rabies tags.

Keep your fingers crossed that the U.S. Virgin Islands do not experience any hurricanes this summer.  If we do, we are prepared.

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Karen

Finally a homeowner!

I am finally a homeowner myself here in the beautiful US Virgin Islands.  AAAHHHHHHH…the wonders of homeownership.  The cleaning, the spackleing, the painting, the renting…Oh, did I mention I now have apts to rent?  Well I do. 

There is a very nice 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment on the lower level.  It has a large kitchen and is about 1000sf.   It will be available to rent Nov 1.

I am fixing up the 3bedroom, 2.5 bathroom main unit now.  It will be ready mid to end of Nov.  It also has a large kitchen, wrap around porch on the main level and a balcony on two of the bedrooms.  It is about 2600 square feet. 

Both have beautiful views from Inner Brass off Magens Bay all the way to Tortola and St John.  Windows on all sides, so there are great cross breezes!!  The house is on 8/10 acre and is mostly fenced at the end of a dead end road.  Both come fully furnished.  I will accept pets, but if the pets are not taken care of, the owner has to go!

Contact me at islandrealestate@joimail.com for more info!

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Karen

What do you have to loose?

When a seller puts his home on the market, he signs a listing agreement with a Realtor.  This agreement spells out what is to be expected of the Realtor and states what the seller will pay for the Realtors services.  The amount paid to the Realtor is usually a percentage of the sale price if, during the time of the listing, a “ready, willing and able buyer” is brought to the table .  A “ready, willing and able” buyer is one who wants to purchase the property after all inspections, signs a contract of sale, and is able to pay cash or obtain financing in order to conclude the purchase.  The seller is obligated to sell the house and the buyer is obligated to purchase the house once the contract has been signed by both parties if all conditions are met within the timelines set in the contract. 

The seller puts up his house as collateral and gives the buyer the right to have it inspected.The buyer puts up an earnest money deposit usually (10% of the agreed upon price) that is held in the Realtors escrow account.  An escrow release form must be signed by both parties if the sale does not go through.   Once in a while either the seller or the buyer has a change of heart and decides they do not wish to go through with the contract. 

If the SELLER does not want to sell and the buyer is “ready, willing and able”,  the buyer may request his earnest money deposit returned or, if the buyer still wants to purchase the house, he can sue for specific performance.  Specific performacne is a legal action to compel a party to carry out the terms of a contract.   The seller will still have to pay the Realtors a commission because they performed as to the listing agreement.

If the BUYER decides he does not want to purchase the house after the deadlines in the contract have expired, the seller has the option of making him purchase the house (specific performance) or keeping part or all of the earnest money deposit (minus the Realtors share) for the time the house has been off the market.  He may then put the house back on the market to try to sell to someone else.

There are certain “outs” and time restrictions built into the contract.  These were mentioned in the previous post.

 

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Karen

The ‘outs’ in a contract

There are several ways the contract to purchase a house may be cancelled.  Certain deadlines must be met and several ways of determining value that may be negotiated.

The seller must have the bound posts marked to show where the property lies if requested to do so.  I recommend Brian Moseley & Assoc www.visurveyors.com A survey is standard in the US Virgin Islands and required by lending institutions and title companies because there were no building codes or zoning laws until the 70’s.  An owner could literally have built part of his house or fence on a neighboring property. 

The buyer must have a survey and “as built” performed within seven to ten days.  An “as built” shows where the house is in relation to the rest of the property.  This is done to show there are no encroachments (see previous post) and the buyer can have clear title.

A buyer, as an option, may have a home inspection performed within the first seven to ten days of an executed contract.  I recommend Adrian Bishop at The Home Inspector abishop@homeinspect.vi This would make the buyer aware of possible faults with the house.  The buyer then has the option of requesting the seller correct the faults, renegotiating the price, or backing out of the purchase and having his earnest money deposit returned.  The seller has the option of fixing, renegotiating the price, or saying take it as is.  This clause is in consideration to the condition of the house, it is not related to encroachments and clear title.   

Next is the appraiser.  Having your house appraised is always a good idea especially if you are not familiar with prices in the Virgin Islands.  I recommend Tripp Torcia at Appraisal Associates tripptorchia@gmail.com If you are in need of bank financing, an appraisal will be required.  If the appraisal comes in at the agreed upon price or higher, the bank will probably fund the loan if you qualify.  If the appraisal comes in significantly lower than the agreed upon price, the buyer may try to renegotiate the price to satisfy the bank.  If the buyer is unable to obtain financing within the specified time (usually 30-60 days), he will have to cancel the contract.

If the seller and buyer cannot come to an agreement and both are within the timelines set in the contract, the contract may be cancelled.  If either party is outside the timelines set in the contract, the parties each have their different recourse.

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Karen

When the seller changes his mind about selling or tries to stall the sale.

For this post I would like to define two terms.  Encroachment-when a structure of any kind (a building, fence, or wall) or portion of it extends beyond the land of the owner and illegally intrudes on land of an adjoining owner.  Easement-the right given to use the land of another for a specific purpose.

A closing date was finally set for last Friday.  All three lawyers, the buyers, the sellers, the listing agent, the selling agent, a rep from the title co, and a rep from the bank were all available.  All final bills had been submitted and the HUD statement was sent out.  Thursday afternoon I received an email from the sellers atty that the seller did not want to pay the commission to the real estate agents.  Since the seller became mysteriously unavailable until Friday evening, the closing was called off.

Over the weekend the listing agent had a chat with the seller and it was my understanding that the closing would take place on Monday or possibly Tuesday at the latest depending on everyones schedules. 

On Monday the seller decided that since he still had to pay the commission, he would try to have the buyer pay for the cost of removing the encroachments to the tune of about $12,000.  In the contract it states the seller must give clear and marketable title to the buyer.  This means the property has to be clear of encroachments.  The seller is now claiming that the buyer said they would pay for removal of the encroachments.  I have a few issues with this.

1. The buyer NEVER said they would pay to have the encroachments removed. Why would the buyer offer to pay for something that was not their responsibility? 

2. This language was never written in to the contract for sale, added as an amendment to the contract, and is not in writing from the seller or the sellers atty.

3. The buyer was never given estimates, consulted as to cost, or allowed to interview the company to do the work.  Why would the buyer give the seller carte blanche with their checkbook?

4. One of the encroachments was to be given an easement.  This means that the owner of the property to the north was going to say on paper that it was ok for the rock wall to be on their property and that that part of their property now technically belongs to the owner of the property to the south. 

5. The seller spent unnecessary money he is now trying to charge to the buyer for removing the wall that was to be granted an easement. 

6. The removal of the wall reduces the value of the property.

7. When the closing was scheduled for the week before and the bank requested all final bills to be submitted, there was no mention of the buyer owing the seller $12,000+. 

8. And finally, THE SELLER IS ALREADY SUING HIS TITLE COMPANY FOR THE MONEY SPENT ON CURING THE ENCROACHMENTS!!!   He is claiming his bank allowed him to purchase the land with encroachments without telling him.

You would think the seller and his lawyer would have remembered about a bill as large as $12,000.  It was only after the seller saw the amount of money they were receiveing from the sale of the house and the commission that was to be paid that the attemt to not pay the commission was tried.  After that failed,  the seller and his atty brought this bill up.

The problem for the buyer is that even though seller put his house on the market knowing about the encroachments, and the buyer has been waiting for the encroachments to be cleared for 7  1/2 months (they are still not officially cleared),  and the buyers have kept to everything on their side of the contract, the buyers cannot make the seller sit down and sign the paperwork.  The seller can tie up the buyers earnest money deposit that is held in escrow.  The only recourse the buyer has is to sue the seller.  This means going to court and could take years to settle.

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Karen

Closing on property, The Loan Stateside

After reading the previous posts, you may be asking yourself, why would I use a lender on island?  Well, you may have to.  St Thomas and the other US Virgin Islands are territories of the United States, not states themselves.  Although the laws and citizenship are US, there are some differences that become more noticable when trying to purchase property here. 

If you have a good relationship with your bank or credit union in the states, or if you own property in the US, you may be able to use a stateside lender.  The problem is that lenders in the states cannot use a property in the USVI as collateral on a loan.  This means you would have to own something in the US of equal value to what you are purchasing in the USVI.  If you default on your loan in the USVI, the lender would forclose on your US property.

Unfortunately when it comes to finding a financial lender in the USVI, there are very few choices.  We have recently had the opportunity to use lenders located stateside that are licensed to practice in the USVI.  That is a welcome change.  Half of the transaction is still on island time, but it seems to move along a bit better.

Buying a first home or a vacation home should be an exciting experience, not one you loose sleep over.  I have been looking for a home to purchase since I first moved to St Thomas in 2004.  I know that sometimes it will be years before you see the home you love.   I will help you find that home in paradise!

 

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Karen

Closing on property, The Loan

Lucky for me a loan officer from another bank came in to my office.  After I told her the story and showed her the appraisal, she said she didnt understand why my 30yr was not approved.  After speaking with her boss, a 30yr mortgage at a great rate would be mine.  Send in the paperwork.  I told her that the only way I could change lenders at this time is if we could close the first week of September.  This gave her just over a month.  She said no problem.

I sent in all the paperwork that was requested.  I mentioned that I would be off island for ten days and anything else they needed had to be submitted before I left since I would return at the end of August and we were supposed to close a few days later.  Upon my return I had a list of ten things the bank needed that were not mentioned before.

After asking many times for a truth in lending statement, I received it Friday September 19, 2008.  Three weeks after we were supposed to close.  Looking over the statement, I noticed the rate stated is one point higher than quoted.  When I asked about the difference I was told that since I was putting it into a trust, they had to charge me a higher rate.  This was not mentioned when I applied for the loan.  

I also wanted to mention that hiring council is recommended here.  There are certain functions that would normally be preformed by a title company or the lending institution in the states that an attorney must preform here.  Inform yourself  as much as possible and stay on top of what is going on.  You are paying these people to work for you.  Make sure they do their job. 

Next…Getting financing from the states 

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Karen

Closing on property, The Appraisal

Every time a lending institution thinks about lending you money, they want an expert opinion that what they are lending the money for is worth the amount they are lending you.  Welcome to the appraisal process.

The appraiser goes to the property to give their opinion on what they saw.  They take measurements of the rooms, rates the condition of the property, states what the house was constructed of, takes in to consideration the area, etc.  Then they research what other properties are listed for and the sale price of recently sold properties in the area.  In their opinion, the house in question was a two unit property with an accessory room (an extra bedroom outside the two units) and it was undervalued.  In other words, the buyer was getting a good deal! 

At first the bank said we were good to go.  The buyer turned in all requested paperwork.  The buyer was going to get a good rate on the mortgage, and I helped them look for potential renters.  Then the bank said they couldn’t get a traditional 30yr mortgage because the house was not zoned for three units.  Fannie Mae had rejected them.  Even after explaining that the third unit was just a bedroom, showing them pictures of the unit, and pointing out that even the appraiser said it was just a bedroom with an exterior door they said Fannie Mae said no. They suggested a thirty year amortized, ten year renewable in house mortgage.  Oh, and the loan would be considered commercial property.  This means that the buyers would have to come up with a 25% – 30% down payment (instead of 5%-20%) for a ten year mortgage with payments as if it were a thirty year mortgage, but at the end of the ten years they would either have to pay the mortgage in full or “renew” the mortgage at whatever the prevailing rate was.  The difference between this financing and a traditional ten year balloon mortgage is that if the bank lets them renew there are no closing costs.  This information comes when we have been under contract for almost 90 days and they cannot back out because of financing since the contract states they have 30 days to secure a loan.  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A COMMITMENT LETTER FROM THE BANK!

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Karen

Closing on property…encroachments

Let me start by saying, buying a home here is the same process as buying one in the states.  Oh wait, but it is not.  

As far as I can remember, the lending institutions here need all the same information, they just go about collecting and organizing it differently.  There are a few additional requirements (like hurricane insurance) that were not required in other states I have lived in.  My customer and I have been under contract since February 14th, 2008 to purchase a lovely two unit home on St Thomas.  Today is September 21st and we still do not have a closing date.  Now it is not all the banks fault because there have been some changes and the seller has been slow (very slow) about some items, but I do believe if the banks here had more of an interest in doing things in a timely manner, this would not be taking quite so long. 

The first problem was that the property had three encroachments.  This means that a part of a structure (building, fence, driveway, etc) from one property is actually on another property.  Every time a home or lot of land is purchased in the USVI, a surveyor must go to the property and map the boundries.  According to the original builder of this house, everything was built two feet within the properties boundries, however the current surveyor has said that this is not true, so the present owner of the house has to “cure the encroachments” prior to closing.  Normally a lending institution will not lend you money if someone else can lay a claim on part of the land they are funding.  The present owner of this house was fully aware of the encroachments before listing the property.  In the contract it states that the owner has 60 days from notification to cure encroachments or leins against the property.  The encroachments were supposedly cured and resurveyed by August 15, 2008. 

My buyer could have (in retrospect should have )backed out of the contract after the 60 days.  The problem was that there was not a alot of choice in that price range, they really liked the house, and they could see a lot of potential for improving the property.

So, the next issue… the banks take on the appraisal.

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Karen

To Purchase Land on St Thomas

If you have decided that you want to build your own dream home, you must first find the perfect property. There are several beautiful pieces of land available. The closer to the water, the more expensive. We have cliff waterfront, rock beaches, and sand beaches available. There are also parcels farther from the water with beautiful views. These cost a bit less and, since most places are about 15 minutes from any beach, this may be just what you are looking for.

The terrain here is different for every square foot – and it is rock.   A topographical survey (topo)of the land should be performed for an architect to design a house that fits the land.  It is a lot easier to build the house around the rock than to move it.  I have seen some very interesting rock formations incorporated into homes.

Keep in mind the cost of building here is on the high side – between $200-$500 per square foot. This is because everything must be shipped here and we must build for hurricanes. Whether you use poured concrete, concrete block, steel frame (force-10@earthlink.net ), or mixed masonry such as Deltec  (www.asenciosconstruction.com) you will have to build your cistern and septic tank first.

Also, remember that everything has to be shipped to the island – that means materials to build with and items to finish your home. Whatever amount of time you are told it will take to build or ship, assume it will take twice that amount of time to actually get done. Sometimes this is due to workers on “island time”, other times it is because in order to accomplish one thing, something is needed and it is not on island.

Whatever you decide you wish to purchase – home, condo, timeshare, or land – contact your trusty Realtor (that would be me) for listing information.

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