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Land Purchase

Posts: 33
Eminent Member
Topic starter

I have made two PMV's to STX and have decided that I would like to live there. In the next few weeks I will narrow down between a few different vacant plots of land that have caught my eye to build on. I will be making an all cash transaction for the land. I would like to hear from this group anything, they might think would be nessessary before purchasing the land to have checked out. I am buying the land with the plans to start construction of a home on it in the next 1-3 years. As long as I like the land, the items below are legal/hurdles I may need to consider. Please help elaborate on the list of items below, if you have any tips, or light to shed on the subject for a land purchase to help avoid pitfalls.

- Proper zoning for the desired construction
- Investigating restrictions and associations
- Availability of nearby electrical power
- Septic system
- Clean deed

One thing that I am most concerned about is the septic system. In my area of the US the county health department comes out and performs a perculation test. If successfull, they provide a document stating that the land is suitable for the given size dwelling. Is there a similiar procedure in STX? If so how long might one expect for the gov't in the VI to get this done? I just want to insure that the land can be built on, before purchasing. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Brandon Cooper

Posted : July 9, 2006 11:26 pm
Posts: 2552
Famed Member

I would advise you to contact a good realator. Alexandra, would be my first choice. There are many things different in USVI from the US mainland, and a good realator can be a lifesavings saver.

Posted : July 10, 2006 2:07 am
Posts: 34
Eminent Member

I sent you a private message regarding this.


Posted : July 10, 2006 11:55 am
Posts: 1428
Noble Member

Brandon - You can build residential properties in nearly any zoning code section of the island. There is a Zoning Code and Building Code book available for purchase at Government House for about $25-$30. It has pages and pages of examples of what is allowed in each zoning code, such as single family or multi family homes or all sorts of business uses. Nearly any piece of land you might find to purchase would be OK to build a home on, from a zoning code standpoint.

There will be set-back distances for all sides of the lot. These vary some from property to property, but not by much. If the property is covered by an HOA, there may be other restrictions such as minimum building size or a maximum number of residential units allowed per lot, etc. Info on the HOA restrictions can usually be scrounged up by your Realtor, and when you do make an offer on a property there should be a clause requiring the seller to provide current HOA documents and information within the first week after mutual acceptance. You can leave yourself an "out" in the contract if the info in the HOA documents shows you that you wouldn't be able to use the property as you intend.

Since most electrical wires on the island are above ground, you can often see the closest electrical pole to the lot you are interested in purchasing. If you are looking at a lot in the wilderness far away from any other houses, you should expect to pay quite a bit to bring in power. This rarely applies to properties for sale in the MLS, but there are a few remote pieces of land that come on the market. Most properties have power to within at least a couple hundred yards or closer.

STX doesn't have the same septic perc test requirements that you are used to on the mainland. An engineer can help you perform your own perc test and the results would be included in your application for a building permit. Septic systems are routinely installed on the island even in areas where the soil doesn't drain as well as it should for a septic. If you are concerned about drainage when you select your lot, you might consider putting in a Sewage Treatment System instead of a regular septic system. They cost about the same, but you wind up with a grey water system you can use for irrigation if you go the Sewage Treatment route. They are becoming more popular and there are contractors on the island who install them. One has been advertising on 93.5 FM lately.

Another requirement in your offer to purchase should be that the seller has to provide clear title to the property. One of the first things your lawyer will do once the offer is accepted is to order a title search. Sometimes there are things that show up, but the lawyers involved can almost always get them cleared up in time to close. If it turns out the property is in probate or has multiple owners and some don't agree with selling it, then you will likely soon be seeking an alternate property to purchase. This is the exception rather than the norm.

When purchasing undeveloped land, yet another clause for your contract to include is a period of time to perform a "feasibility study". This is so you can talk to an engineer, surveyor, septic contractor, DPNR, HOA representative or whomever you need to have answer some questions so you can feel confident that the property can be built upon in the way you envision. Typical feasibility study periods tend to run about 30 days and you can clear them sooner if you get your questions answered.

If you have more questions on this, feel free to ask on this forum or email me directly at

Posted : July 12, 2006 2:33 pm
Posts: 11
Active Member

Dear Alexandra,

This was some nice compact information.

Can you give a wild (no one would ever hold you to it) estimate of the cost of installation of the septic: Even a price range ?? (low to high)

Posted : May 22, 2007 6:28 pm
Posts: 31
Eminent Member

Hello everyone, we were told that our bank with make sure the title is clear and get there own title insurance but if we wanted title insurance we would have to get it separately.... Also our attorney said that the bank would not let the purchase go thru if the title wasn't clear. I'm not sure about this.... Any comments .... Has any one been told this when financing with a bank?

Posted : May 22, 2007 8:19 pm
Posts: 1428
Noble Member

Franisarius - septic and sewage treatment systems can usually be put in for $5K-$8K according to a couple of contractors I have discussed this topic with. If you are doing an unusually large system or systems to accommodate multiple dwellings, they could be more extensive and costly.

Lisailortoo - Yes, banks anywhere will require clear title to close. You should, too, if you are paying cash and not going through a bank. If title is not clear, it means that a previous full or partial owner or a lienholder could take the property someday and you would lose your investment. That's not fun!

In the USVI, the buyer pays for the bank's attorney in the closing of a transaction and the buyer pays for the title insurance policy that protects the bank. The buyer may also purchase coverage for themselves if they choose to do so. This is different than on the mainland where the seller pays for coverage for the buyer and the buyer pays for coverage for the bank. Title insurance policies in the islands tend to have so many disclaimers in them that you probably wouldn't really have recourse should something show up later. So the best way to protect yourself is to make sure your titile search is as complete as it can be and that all clouds on the title are fully released before you close on your purchase.

Posted : May 22, 2007 8:35 pm
Posts: 2552
Famed Member

If you are in what they refer to as CMZ (coastal managment zone ?), you will probably need a sewage treatment system. I was told that would run between $3K to $8K, the latter from a really expensive plumber. The people at the CMZ office will tell you if your property is in a CMZ zone or not. It is usually one that in down by the water.

Posted : May 23, 2007 12:37 am
Posts: 2138
Noble Member

CZM (not CMZ) really gets into your business when you try to build here. It's one of the many joys you can look forward to.

Posted : May 23, 2007 1:57 am
Posts: 254
Reputable Member

1get survey when your in escrow your zoning will be on it R1 R2 R3 C1 A2 same anywhere. If your on a slop get topographic at same time,you will need it for your architect and you will pay twice if you don't 2 Realtor 3 If you cant see it you might want to look into that. 4 Not a problem 5 They use lawyer instead of title company there and if you ask me it is better. Have fun it is the only way to get a million dollar house for $300 to $400 thousand that i no of.

Posted : May 23, 2007 6:22 am
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