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how's the real estate market in st croix

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anjell
(@anjell)
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I would like to move to st croix. I would like to know how is the real estate market. Are the loans harder to get for condos? I ask because of the market here on the mainland.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

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Topic starter Posted : November 3, 2008 11:20 pm
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

It would be smart to rent for 6 months to a year to get a feel for where on island you want to live. Property should be cheaper than So. California.

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Posted : November 4, 2008 9:45 am
LipstickChick
(@LipstickChick)
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Very surprised the Realtors haven't posted their opinions here. We sure have a lot of them using this board.

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Posted : November 4, 2008 2:51 pm
Ms Information
(@Ms_Information)
Advanced Member

It would be very interesting to get a good analysis of the real estate market in the USVI. I have followed it for years. The most significant trait has always been it's slow reaction to the market in the states. That appears to be true right now. While residential properties in the states have crashed to historic lows in some places, the USVI 'asking prices' seem to still be at the level they were a year ago.

I don't have the numbers, but I would expect that properties are not flying off the shelf. The asking prices, that were slower to move up during the time of frenzy, are not dropping as dramatically. I suspect that if you really want to sell a property "right now", it will be necessary to make a big price concession. However owners who don't need to sell will hold on as long as they can.

All of that being said, I don't see any bargains yet. I do see more and more properties (especially condos) listed on the MLS. When those properties do not sell then we will finally see the selling price start to trend down. A good example is Villa Madeleine on St Croix. Their are now 9 units listed. That is double from just two months ago. However the asking price are still in the same range. But no sales. There might be other factors there that I am not aware of.

OK VI Realtors, tell us what is really happening.

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Posted : November 4, 2008 3:49 pm
Ms Information
(@Ms_Information)
Advanced Member

I would like to move to st croix. I would like to know how is the real estate market. Are the loans harder to get for condos? I ask because of the market here on the mainland.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

You can see by my previous post that condos on St Croix are still near there highest asking price. Loans have always been harder to get here. That is part of the reason the prices moved up more slowly.

No bargains yet. Prices were high like in California, but haven't taken the 30% crash that Most California properties have already experienced. I expect USVI properties will begin to adjust down, because locals can't afford the current price and outside buyers no longer have the money to buy retirement or vacation houses..

Oh ye...Go Obama....

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Posted : November 4, 2008 4:01 pm
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

The reason the market hasn't crashed is because the banks just throw money at people here. It's a long process to get a mortgage here.

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Posted : November 4, 2008 4:04 pm
stiphy
(@stiphy)
Trusted Member

I didn't find getting a mortgage here to be any more difficult than I did in the states. I used Brice at First Liberty, the rate was slightly higher than my stateside lone (maybe .25) but the process was pretty much the same. I do have excellent credit though so that's likely why.

It seems like there is very little in the way of single family homes priced between $200,000 and $350,000. I bought a single family home in Tulipan in this range about 2 years ago and have to say that I've had friends tell me they'd gladly pay about $70,000 more if I would sell. Guess I got lucky.

Even though my house here has been some work I am extremely surprised at what I was able to by for such a small amount of money. I have rental income, enough space for my family to come, am in a safe neighborhood, and have done some nice things to make living here even better. The only thing that's ridiculous is wind insurance. I know Omar wasn't the worst we could get, but if I didn't have a mortgage there is no way I'd pay $500/month in wind insurance on a concrete house after seeing how my house fared in the storm. I'd just self insure by throwing that money in an account for repairs if necessary.

Sean

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Posted : November 4, 2008 8:02 pm
anjell
(@anjell)
Advanced Member

Thanks for the reponses. Please, tell me more, which banks throw money at people there? I do need a loan.
What is the average utility bill like - electricity, cable, telephone...
I would be looking for a 1 bedroom condo.
Actually, any and all information would be great.

Thanks.

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Topic starter Posted : November 4, 2008 8:14 pm
anjell
(@anjell)
Advanced Member

Hello Stiphy,

Please tell me about this? The real estate laws are much different than here in Calif. What costs would I incur? I wanted to send you a private message, but I don't know how yet.

Thanks

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Topic starter Posted : November 4, 2008 9:03 pm
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

I meant the banks DON'T throw money at you here in my experience & my credit was perfect plus I had enough in the bank to pay for the place. There aren't the number of foreclosures here that you find everywhere else these days. Even though I was approved the bank moved so slowly I had to constantly resubmit my updated paperwork.

Personally, I wouldn't buy anything right off the bat here if you're just moving. Six to 12 months down the road you may decide you hate it here after the honeymoon wears off & it can take a long time to sell again. That's not so much a problem if it's the kind of place you can rent but again, being an off-island landlord brings its own set of problems. It's also smart to know the market really well before buying.

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Posted : November 4, 2008 9:08 pm
bathiel
(@bathiel)
Trusted Member

Anjell: When I bought my land on STX three years ago, I went through First Bank to get my mortgage. They had pretty good terms (the best I could find among all the available banks) and were very pleasant to deal with. And, I did all of it from my home in Cleveland, which was convenient. The only thing was that it was a very slow process. From the time my offer was accepted by the owner to the time I closed on the loan, it took about five months.

Bernie

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Posted : November 4, 2008 10:21 pm
Ms Information
(@Ms_Information)
Advanced Member

Thanks for the reponses. Please, tell me more, which banks throw money at people there? I do need a loan.
What is the average utility bill like - electricity, cable, telephone...
I would be looking for a 1 bedroom condo.
Actually, any and all information would be great.

Thanks.

Loans here are a bit harder to get, and take longer to process, often requiring a larger down payment.. The electric rates here are maybe the highest in the country. Earlier posts talked about monthly electric costs of around $200 and more for a small condo. Some people complained of bills of $500 a month if they used their air conditioner.

The homeowners fees are also high because of the hurricane (wind) insurance cost. Many small condos are $300 to $600 a month. A few are less, but some are even around $1000 a month. Cable and telephone are about the same as in the states, but service is usually not as good. I hope this helps.

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Posted : November 4, 2008 10:58 pm
anjell
(@anjell)
Advanced Member

Thanks, this is good information.

Actually, I think anything will probably be better than here. I have lived here in the place I'm in over 2 years. I don't know my neighbors. Sure we say hello, but we don't know each others name. This is really sad, but true.

I am so tired of this here. Everyone here, it seems, they only want to get to know you if you have something to give them. So, I pretty much just rely on the friends that I've had years ago, and family.

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Topic starter Posted : November 4, 2008 11:35 pm
Juanita
(@Juanita)
Expert

Just to throw in the wet blanket! If you don't know your neighbors there, whatever makes you think you will know them here? We don't do block parties! You, as the newbie, will have to make the effort, and the effort, and the effort! You won't just be accepted by welcome wagon.
People here are great, but if you aren't comfortable with the 2 years you have lived where you are, this isn't going to be any better. Just an opinion!

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Posted : November 5, 2008 12:03 am
anjell
(@anjell)
Advanced Member

Do you have an email address for Brice?

Thanks

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Topic starter Posted : November 5, 2008 12:08 am
anjell
(@anjell)
Advanced Member

Juanita,

I apologize to you. I didn't mean to get you upset or angry.:-)

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Topic starter Posted : November 5, 2008 12:40 am
Alix
 Alix
(@Alix)
Advanced Member

Alexandra Bentley is on a cruise and she will be back this weekend....she is the one to help you, anjell.....I agree with everyone on here....rent first....

It takes a minute to meet people here, but, it is much faster than SoCal. Come down......check it out.....you will have, at the very least, a great new experience....

Alix
Alix@fullmoonbeachbar.com

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Posted : November 5, 2008 12:29 pm
stiphy
(@stiphy)
Trusted Member

Just for a little more info, I put 10% down on my house here and am paying PMI (Primary Mortgage Insurance) until I get to 20%. One issue I had was they tried to lock me into PMI for an indescriminate amount of time which I balked on (walked away from closing on) until they straightened that out. Typically you pay PMI up to 20% equity. I will soon be out from under that as I'm paying extra on the mortgage each month.

From memory I think I made my offer on the house in mid January and closed in mid March so the process took 3 months. I had to get a home inspection, a termite inspection, a title clearance (which can be a problem on a lot of properties here), and and land survey. The land survey came back that a retaining wall was slightly past my property bounds and this tied the sale up for a month while the seller dealt with the HOA as it encroached onto the HOA land. Once we got past that the biggest stress was getting the money wired from my bank in DC without me being in DC. We worked around that somehow (can't remember how) and in the end it was an easy process.

I forwarded a link to this thread to Brice so hopefully he will appear and can help.

As for knowing your neighbors, I got to know mine pretty quickly, but that is the case wherever I've lived as I'm pretty outgoing. I think that its probably slightly easier here though as people are curious at the "new face" on the block and have a genuine interest in getting to know you if you make the effort to know them. Maybe a generalization but that's just my observation.

Hope this is helpful...at the end of the day I wouldn't let this process stop me from buying a house I liked but I also wouldn't buy a house here without living here for 6 months to a year. This IS NOT THE US. Living here comes with a completely new set of challenges that you may find overwhelming when you move here. I don't want to discourage anyone from trying it, but buying a house is more than trying and you definitely want to try before you buy.

Sean

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Posted : November 5, 2008 1:08 pm
Alexandra
(@Alexandra)
Trusted Member

There are still mortgage funds available to buyers of properties in the USVI. Some of these come from on-island banks that fund their own loans and others come through Flagstar bank through various mortgage brokers both on and off-island. How hard those funds are to get depends on your qualifications as a buyer and the property you wish to purchase. I most often work with a mortgage broker in Florida who underwrites through Flagstar. She is great at getting loans pushed through in even very complicated situations where the local banks tell a buyer there is no way they can provide them with a mortgage.

To buy a condo, there are far more options for funding if the complex is fully insured for hurricane/windstorm damage. If you choose a complex that is self-insured (no windstorm coverage), buyers typically wind up applying to First Bank for a mortgage and then paying an extra insurance supplement fee to protect the bank's mortgage note in the event of windstorm loss. This does not guarantee the condo will be rebuilt, but it would pay off the mortgage and not leave you owing $$ PLUS be without a home. You would not get your equity paid back. Consequently, self-insured condos are usually not the best bet for anyone who cannot afford to potentially lose their asset.

The condo market has been in the toilet for the most part for a little more than a year now. Some complexes are still selling fairly well, but most have inventory sitting for much longer than we'd seen for several years and often without any showings occurring. Consequently many properties have undergone price decreases as sellers are acknowledging that we are in a buyer's market at this time. The complexes with the highest monthly HOA fees are the hardest hit, which is understandable. There are individual listings at some of the complexes that are priced at levels from 2-4 years ago, making them great deals for buyers who are able to invest at this time.

For closing costs, the buyer pays for their home inspection, fees to file the new deed and mortgage, and all the fees associated with getting a mortgage loan, such as appraisal, survey, loan origination fees, insurance, pre-paid items, etc. They also pay for the attorney who closes the loan for the mortgage company plus another attorney to represent their own interests in the closing. Some buyers forego that extra attorney if the sale is simple and smooth without any conflicts, but if there are any complications or re-negotiations it is best to have someone whose job is truly to represent YOU. Closings typically take about 2 months, but they can be faster or slower depending upon the situation.

Many new arrivals DO find it easier to meet their neighbors and make new friends here than in many mainland locations. Life is more active and interactive here and newcomers will receive loads of advice and overtures of friendship if they make any effort to say Hello to whoever is sitting around them in a restaurant or beach bar or on the beach or in line at the store, etc. Good weather helps this along as people are less inclined to hibernate their lives away alone inside their homes. Shy people may have trouble with breaking the ice, but if you are adventuresome enough to move to a tropical island then perhaps you will have the gumption to speak up and inroduce yourself once you get here.

Looking at the condo market on STX:

In 2000 there were 88 condo sales that closed
In 2001 there were 103 condo sales that closed
In 2002 there were 116 condo sales that closed
In 2003 there were 140 condo sales that closed
In 2004 there were 186 condo sales that closed
In 2005 there were 208 condo sales that closed
In 2006 there were 163 condo sales that closed
In 2007 there were 88 condo sales that closed
So far in 2008 there have been 79 condo sales that have closed

There are only 7 condo sales in Pending status, some of which might not close until 2009

If you are considering your condo options, there are some things to be aware of when making your selection. The insured/self-insured status of each complex is important for you to check early in your decision process. Each complex has a different monthly HOA fee and some also have special assessments on top of that. Each complex includes a different combination of services for their monthly fees, so strictly comparing the fee rates doesn't tell you the whole story. Make a spreadsheet that shows what is and isn't covered at each complex and then add in what additional services would cost you to show you the real picture. Most complexes do NOT allow pets in the units. Some complexes allow owners to have one or two small pets but tenants cannot have pets. While this doesn't affect everyone, it catches some buyers by surprise and should be brought up early in case you have pets. Most properties come fully or mostly furnished. Check the listings for the properties of interest to you to be sure of whether they do or do not include the furnishings when comparing bottom line prices.

Finally, if you opt to purchase soon after arrival, you might want to consider whether the property would be easy to rent to cover all or most of your costs if you found out later that you didn't want to live in that location yourself or if you were to leave island. Some condo complexes have a better rental history than others.

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Posted : November 10, 2008 3:43 pm
islandlola
(@islandlola)
Trusted Member

Hey Alexandra:

Awesome response, as always. I look forward to your posts.

Best,

Islandlola

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Posted : November 10, 2008 5:03 pm
stt007
(@stt007)
Advanced Member

Yes, but if I were Alexandra, I would appreciate it if others didn't post info on when I was out of town on vacation.

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Posted : November 11, 2008 1:05 am
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

Why?

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Posted : November 11, 2008 8:36 am
stt007
(@stt007)
Advanced Member

No need to let strangers know when no one is home, esp someone in real estate who tends to have more visibility than others? Why have the risk?

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Posted : November 11, 2008 12:53 pm
islandjoan
(@islandjoan)
Trusted Member

WHERE did she let strangers know you are not home?!? Did I miss something?

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Posted : November 11, 2008 1:04 pm
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

Sorry, Stt007, I misread your post to mean nobody should respond except Alexandra. That's what I get for being bleary-eyed early in the AM.

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Posted : November 11, 2008 2:06 pm
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