|U.S. Virgin Islands Street Atlas $34.95|
|Settler's Handbook for the USVI $14.95|
|Franko's guide map of the U.S. Virgin Islands $9.95|
From a news release:
"A robust market for luxury properties does not guarantee overnight success for sellers of million dollar homes however. The number of homes priced at over 1 million or more in the United States is approaching 500,000. With the highest concentration of luxury real estate found in Massachusetts, Florida, U. S. Virgin Islands, and California."
Is that true? The Virgin Islands are so small, physically - does the "concentration" in the above mean percentage of or actual number of?
From an article in The Herald Tribune:
"Caribbean nation-states, the Virgin Islands and parts of Central America -- think Costa Rica and Belize -- are undergoing staggering growth, fueled largely by high-end, coastal developments catering to wealthy Americans."
Interesting tid bit in the NY Post (not a rag I have much confidence in personally):
"May 1, 2006 -- Andrew Cuomo, the front-runner in the state attorney general's race, works for a little-known real-estate banking firm - and his decision to keep coy about some of its investors has his rivals raising questions. The firm, Island Capital Group, is Cuomo's main source of income.
A major Island project is Yacht Haven Grande, off St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Other projects, according to Island Capital's Web site, include a partnership with Dubai to manage all of that country's marinas and create a home-mortgage system there.
Cuomo initially told The Post that Island has a small number of investors besides founder Andrew Farkas, but said he did not know who they were.
Later, after speaking to Farkas, Cuomo aides said Farkas and another official are the only partners.
But they didn't provide the names of investors in Island Global Yachting, which Island Capital formed to develop many marina projects.
Cuomo's job description is unclear. Last week, he repeatedly described himself as an "employee" and said he had no title.
Mark Benoit, spokesman for Cuomo rival Mark Green, said Cuomo's father, Mario, "set the standard" when he was elected for demanding full disclosure and it's "disappointing . . . that Andrew Cuomo doesn't share that principle."
Cuomo said he'll make his finances public when he is formally a candidate. Aides said he'll leave Island this month."
This is a press release, so take it with a grain of salt. It sounds a little alarmist to me:
To: National and Business Desks, Political Reporter
Contact: Lucien Salvant of the National Association of Realtors(r), 202-383-1176 or email@example.com
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 28 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Home prices, particularly in high cost areas, could decline 15 percent if President Bush's tax reform panel's expected recommendation to convert the mortgage interest deduction (MID) to a tax credit gets implemented, said Al Mansell, president of the National Association of Realtors(r) (NAR).
Speaking at the opening session of the 2005 REALTORS(r) Conference & Expo here, Mansell said that if the MID were changed, the typical homeowner could lose $20,000 to $30,000 in housing equity.
"Housing is the engine that drives this economy and to even mention reducing the tax benefits of homeownership could endanger property values. The tax deductibility of interest paid on mortgages is both a powerful incentive for homeownership and one of the simplest provisions in the tax code. It should not be targeted for change," Mansell said. "NAR will continue to tell Congress that Realtors(r) strongly oppose any attempts to alter the current tax treatment of mortgage interest."
Eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would hurt middle-income families the most, he said. According to IRS tax return data from 2003, 52 percent of the families who claim the mortgage interest deduction have household incomes between $60,000 and $200,000.
From the VI Daily News:
V.I. government officials will testify today before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on legislation to repeal a 1936 federal statute that prohibits the territory from setting its own real property tax policy.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards and Tax Assessor Roy Martin are expected to begin testimony at 10 a.m. The hearing will be webcast live at www.energy.senate.gov.
In 2003, U.S. District Court ruled that the method the V.I. Tax Assessor's Office used to calculate property taxes was unfair and violated federal law and ordered the government to reassess all real property in the territory. A complaint against the government was brought by 11 plaintiffs whose commercial properties assessments were based on estimated replacement costs, not the estimated actual value.
The court ruling is based on the 1936 federal statute that imposed severe restrictions on the local government regarding property taxes.
Without the repeal, the V.I. property revaluation could result in a significant increase in residential property taxes, Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen said in a prepared statement released Monday.
According to Richards, the ruling prevents the offering of homestead, veterans, agriculture and all other property tax exemptions. It also struck down a local law that provided that no residential tax bill can increase more than 10 percent over the previous valuations.
"It ties the hands of the government of the Virgin Islands with respect to property taxes," Richards said Monday. "This has become an increasing concern for local property owners, especially on the island of St. John," where property values have skyrocketed in the last several years.
In mid-July, data collectors began visiting estates on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Data collectors must visit every property in the Virgin Islands - some 50,000 residences, which will include condominiums and timeshares.
Commercial property assessments were completed in May, and impact notices were issued in June. About 2,100 commercial properties in the territory were assessed.
The largest increases were: Cruz Bay, central, 297 percent; Cruz Bay, outlying, 266 percent; Coral Bay, 36 percent; general commercial, 56 percent, on St. John; and Red Hook, 58 percent, and Tutu, 33 percent, on St. Thomas.
Tax Assessor's Office representatives have said that only after a detailed analysis of real estate sales between 2002 and 2005 could tax assessors be able to determine how new homes will affect property values.
For more information about the property revaluation project, visit www.vipropertyrevaluation.com.
This company does a lot of mortgage business in the Virgin Islands, from the AP:
OCT. 3 12:47 P.M. ET The already scandal-plagued Puerto Rican financial services industry was rocked further Monday after First BanCorp said both its chief executive and chief financial officer stepped down amid an accounting investigation.
The company -- which operates about 40 branches in Puerto Rico and a dozen in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands -- said Angel Alvarez Perez resigned as CEO, and will retire as chairman at the end of the year. Additionally, the company said that Annie Astor-Carbonell resigned as CFO, and will leave on Oct. 31.
The management shuffle follows similar moves taken by Puerto Rico-based mortgage banker Doral Financial Corp. and R&G Financial Corp. The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining accounting practices at all three financial firms, who also continue to share PricewaterhouseCoopers as their accountant.
Click here for the rest.
From the VI Daily News:
Allowing the GERS board to invest in bonds rated BBB or better. The bill also would allow more investment in real estate and alternative investments.
Is this a good idea? Clicke here for the rest of the article.
From the NY Times today:
On Vladi Private Islands the 230-acre undeveloped Thatch Cay in the United States Virgin Islands is selling for $18.6 million and the undeveloped six-acre Red Rock Island, promoted as "the only privately owned island in San Francisco Bay," for $6.5 million.
The Ginn Company is the new owner of Mahogany Run Golf Course -
CELEBRATION, FL, Ginn Clubs & Resorts, one of the largest private developers in the South, announced that Darrin Pinkham CHTP has joined the company as of Vice President, Application Systems. Pinkham will report to Steve Heselius, VP/CTO, who is responsible for all aspects of network infrastructure, security, standards/compliance, and corporate technology strategies. In the newly created position, Pinkham will be responsible for all business and hospitality applications used by the company’s communities and developments.
Prior to joining Ginn Clubs & Resorts, Pinkham served as Chief Technology officer for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, which included Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort, and Lakewood Regional central support facility. Pinkham has also worked for Boca Resorts, Hershey Resorts, and Inter Continental Hotels & Resorts in technology and finance management related positions.
“Information technology is an important component of our growth strategy in hospitality.” said Heselius. He continued “Darrin will provide the tactical leadership we need to install, operate and maintain a leadership position in the usage of technology within the hospitality space. His expertise will allow us to accelerate our use of technology to enhance guest satisfaction, operations and profitability.”
Pinkham is a certified hospitality technology professional (CHTP) from the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP). He also serves on the HITEC Advisory and CHTP Advisory Councils, and previously served as an International Board of Director for HFTP.
From Yahoo Business:
Receiving the Realtor Achievement Award for this year is Summer Greene, a member of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale. This award reflects the previous three years' contributions to the community, local, state and national Realtor associations. Consider just some of her community achievements. Since 2001, Greene has served as the director for the Reliance Housing Corporation, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the U.S. and Virgin Islands. She is an active supporter of Homeless to Homebuyer, which educates low-income families on how to qualify for city and county grants to purchase homes, and of Habitat for Humanity Hospice. She has chaired and served on dozens of committees for both the local, national and state associations, including as FAR's 2005 Strategic Visioning Committee Chair and as District 11 Vice President in 2001. An RPAC Sterling R member, Greene also teaches Graduate Realtor Institute courses.
From the Daily News:
Sixty acres of government land on Water Island can now be used to build homes through the V.I. Housing Finance Authority.
Gov. Charles Turnbull, on Friday, signed into law a bill that transfers 30 percent of 200 acres of real property on Water Island to HFA. The U.S. Interior Department granted the property to the Virgin Islands government in May.
When the bill came before the Senate Committee on Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs in June, HFA Executive Director Clifford Graham said that the homes to be built on Water Island would be for the upper level of people who qualify for housing assistance - with an annual household income of up to $130,725. The homes, Graham estimated, could be 1,600 square feet and larger.
According to the bill, the governor must conduct a land-use study of the 200 acres and develop a land-use plan. The legislation also appropriates $75,000 from any available funds in the government's treasury in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, for the study.
So GERS is broke but the can find $5 million for a new building? From the Daily News:
ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Government Employee's Retirement System expects construction of its $4.9 million headquarters on St. Croix to begin soon.
GERS board of trustees signed the contract with St. Croix-based Best Construction Inc. on Aug. 1 after confirming that the company received an insurance bond on the project, trustee Raymond James said at the agency's monthly meeting on St. John on Thursday.
Trustees did not say specifically when the work will begin.
The two-story, 6,000-square-foot building will be in Orange Grove, Christiansted.
The project is expected to create 100 construction jobs and is scheduled for completion in 2006.
GERS officials have said the facility will better suit the needs of GERS's members, retirees and beneficiaries on St. Croix because it is larger and will give the staff easier access to records now stored on St. Thomas.
The new facility, which will be behind GERS's current location adjacent to the Casino Control Commission office, will be easily accessible by disabled people.
GERS officials expect to make money on the new facility by increasing the value of the agency's real estate portfolio and revenues from renters. It plans to rent out its current location and some of the space in the new facility, which will include a day-care center and a teleconference center.
This story sounds dangerous. When you start having these kind of shortfalls in a system where the total population is as small as it is, where is all that money supposed to come from? I am afraid for the future of people who have put all their eggs in the GERS basket. The relevant part of the story as it pertains to real estate:
Allowing the GERS board to invest in bonds rated BBB or better. Currently the system can only invest in AAA bonds. The bill also would allow more investment in real estate and alternative investments.
From the Washington Post:
The latest case, handed down Aug. 4 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ( Santiago v. GMAC Mortgage Group Inc. ), involved a class-action suit against GMAC, one of the country's highest-volume home lenders. A GMAC Mortgage customer alleged that the company marked up various fees in connection with the closing of his loan, and thereby violated HUD's ban. Citing earlier federal appellate court rulings that HUD lacked statutory authority to ban markups, GMAC asked the district court to throw out the suit. It did. The home buyers then took the case to the appellate level, where HUD's position on markups was affirmed. The 3rd Circuit covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
From the Daily News:
ST. CROIX - Gov. Charles Turnbull on Saturday approved bills to establish a summer education program and increase participation in a home ownership program but vetoed a series of zoning changes for one St. Croix neighborhood.
That veto came on zoning changes proposed for Estate Strawberry Hill, which would have shifted from low-density residential to a scattered business area. Various businesses had planned to set up shop in the area, including a laundry, a day-care center, a real estate office and a doctor's office.
Turnbull shot down the measure for what he said was a concern about storm-water runoff.
From the Daily News:
ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Senate unanimously approved legislation Thursday to amend local laws to establish an upper income limit allowing blue-collar workers to participate in the V.I. Housing Finance Authority's Home and Land Ownership Program.
The bill increases the maximum household income for program participants to 3Ã? times the median personal income in the island district where the participants live. This would increase eligibility to people with a household income of $130,725 in the St. Thomas-St. John District and a household income of $104,650 on St. Croix.
The program, which was created in 1981 by the Legislature, presents affordable home ownership opportunities to low to moderate income families in the form of low-interest loans. As the program currently operates, people with household incomes ranging from $18,000 to 2Ã? times the median personal income in their district are eligible.
According to the Housing Finance Authority statistics, the median income for a person in the St. Thomas-St. John District is $37,350 and the median income for a person in the St. Croix district is $29,900. The maximum household income for people currently participating in the program in the St. Thomas-St. John district is $93,375 and the maximum household income for people in St. Croix is $74,750.
ST. THOMAS - Gov. Charles Turnbull on Saturday signed into law legislation that will revamp the territory's banking systems and increase penalties for school vandalism.
The Financial Services Bill of 2005 updates V.I. banking laws to allow local banks to issue credit cards and expand the territory's financial services activity. The legislation also allows local banks to enter into other financial services markets such as securities, insurance and real estate.
Exemptions to interest rate caps on variable rate loans less than $100,000, including home equity and business loans, is also allowed by the legislation.
There is a lot of interesting stuff in this year in review article in the Daily News, much of it regarding or mentioning various real estate deals.
Correction: The St. Thomas Annual General Meeting is being held on Tuesday October 26th, and not Monday October 25th as previously stated. The Videoconference however is on Monday October 25th.
The St. Thomas Board of Realtors cordially invites all members and Affiliates to their Annual General Membership Meeting on October 25th, 2004 at the Palms Court Harbor View. The meeting begins with a full Breakfast at 8:30am the general session begins at 9:00am. Attached is the Program and RSVP, please fax your response to Jeyan Stout at Stout Realty. (fax)777-8784
St Thomas Board of REALTORS®
3009 Orange Grove Shopping Center, Suite 13
Christiansted, VI. 00820-4313
Annual General Meeting
Place: The Palms Court Harbor View
Date: Tuesday October 26th, 2004
Time: 8:30 am- Full Breakfast 9:00am-Meeting
Land Use and Water Plan for the VI: Bill # _________
Panel Local Professionals
The National Association of Realtors’ Consultant
Mr. Brian Blaesser
Will present his power point presentation of the present Land Use Bill that is before our Senate.
Those that will be joining us will be the Governor, the Lt. Governor, or their top assistants, if both the Gov and Lt Gov are in Washington with meetings on the EDC program. Their top aides will be joining us if that happens. Hopefully Commissioner Plaskett and his Committee will also join us.
The Senators will be joining us. Hopefully we will have the members of the St. John Realtor community joining us and maybe some of our St. Croix Realtors will jump the pond to have breakfast with us.
This will be a discussion of the pros and cons of this Land Use and Water Use plan/Development Bill: The appraisers, architects, surveyors, Attys, title companies will be represented at this meeting and it will be educational and informative!! The media will be fully represented even the St. John newspaper will be sending someone! Plus tv coverage!
We will have the vote by ballot for the 2005 Board of Directors and the changes of the STT By-Laws, so please do come. If you thought our March meeting was good this will be more than exciting and informational.
RSVP to Coldwell Banker Stout Realty at (fax) 777-8784 or email Becky@stoutrealty.com RSVP by THURSDAY, OCT 21ST. 12NOON
Will attend: ______ unable to attend: ______ No Charge for Breakfast
Name: ___________________________& ___________________________
Please Print RE Company or Affiliate Member
Board Affiliation: St. Thomas____; St. John ____; St. Croix _____ Pls Check
By TANYA MANNES
Wednesday, October 6th 2004
ST. JOHN - Sen. Usie Richards, the sponsor of the latest draft of a proposed V.I. Land and Water Use Plan, defended the plan Tuesday against charges that it is being rushed through the legislative process.
More than 40 residents attended the fifth and final town meeting - the only one on St. John - on the plan and raised concerns about its impact, particularly on Coral Bay.
Responding to concerns raised at the four earlier town meetings, Richards described the 18-month governmental process that led up to his introducing the revised legislation five months ago.
The previous document, developed with extensive public input in the early 1990s, was dusted off, revised with new data, shared with the executive branch, and reviewed by legal counsel before it could be assigned to a committee, Richards said.
Lawmakers decided to hold public hearings, further lengthening the process, he said.
"We have done all that we can to provide an opportunity for public participation in this process," Richards said.
By TANYA MANNES
Friday, October 1st 2004
ST. THOMAS - Real estate agents on St. Thomas and others raised the alarm Thursday about whether a proposed V.I. Land and Water Use Plan would make it harder for "average Joes" to afford houses.
By requiring larger lot sizes, the plan could raise home prices, real estate broker Nick Bailey said.
Bailey spoke at a town meeting held by the Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee to discuss the bill, which would revamp the territory's development law. This is the latest draft of a proposal to set zoning and other land-use regulations to create a blueprint for development instead of the fragmented laws and regulations currently in use.
Bailey said the plan should be studied for its effect on property values, property taxes and the economy. He urged lawmakers to table the bill until after the election.
"We can do better than this plan," Bailey said.
But Committee Chairman Sen. Louis Hill said the land use plan, which has been discussed, researched and revised since 1970, would not be pushed aside. The Virgin Islands is long overdue in developing a plan for "smart growth," he said.
"We're not going to table this bill," Hill said. "As imperfect as it may be, it's here and it's on the table. We're going to keep working on it until it is perfect, but we won't take it off the table."
Attorney Maria Hodge said another flaw is that the plan would limit homeowners from renting out small apartments on the property to help pay the mortgage. As it stands, the legislation would require a major permit - an expensive and time-consuming process - in order to add more than one living unit to a single-family lot.
Hill said, "If the plan has issues that would limit Virgin Islanders' ability to own land - clearly, that is not our intent."
Jeyan Stout, president of the St. Thomas Board of Realtors, said that revising the bill is not enough. She said the plan should be rewritten to address the unique needs of each island.
To All Board Members & Affiliates:
The VITAR Annual General Meeting will be held on October 30th, 2004 at the Westin Resorts & Villas St. John at 12.00pm.
To members who would like to stay for the weekend, the Westin has offered VITAR members a group rate of $129.00 per night plus 8% tax and $18.00 per day Resort service fee standard. If you plan to stay for the weekend or over night please contact the Board’s Office and requests a registration form.
Board Members who have not taken the Code of Ethics course as yet will have the opportunity to do so on October 30th, 2004 at 9:00am at the Westin Resort & Villas St. John. Attached is an attendance form, please full it out and fax it back to the Board’s office on or before October 25th, 2004 if you plan to attend. 773-6305.
NEW YORK - "Territory folks should stick together."
The theme of that refrain from the classic musical "Oklahoma" could be key to solving some of the issues pertinent to the Virgin Islands that were broached at the Republican National Convention's preliminary sessions in Manhattan.
April Newland, a St. Thomas resident and delegate to the Platform Committee, presented four amendments to the Republican Party's official platform.
ST. THOMAS - Before a legislative chamber packed with St. Thomas and Water Island residents, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources outlined its proposal to overhaul the territory's zoning laws.
The plan, which would scrap the spot zoning process, would replace the 18 zoning districts set out in the law with seven land use and five water use categories.
At a hearing Tuesday night, senators and DPNR officials said the new proposal, known as the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan, would streamline the zoning process while ensuring that development does not run amok.
The Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee will hear a presentation Wednesday on St. Croix on a new draft of the Virgin Islands Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan.
The plan, which has been discussed as a concept since the 1980s but never approved as law, would set zoning and other land use regulations throughout the territory, creating a blueprint for development instead of the fragmented laws and regulations currently in use.
"We need a plan for the appropriate management of the development of the entire territory of the Virgin Islands," Sen. Usie Richards, who is proposing the legislation, said Monday.
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ST. THOMAS - The Senate Housing, Parks and Recreation Committee has approved a bill that seeks to build 2,500 affordable homes territorywide during five years.
The Homeownership Act of 2004 would allow developers to use government-owned land to build a range of residential units from condominiums to single-family homes.
"The legislation will provide work, will provide homes and hopefully a better society," said Sen. Emmett Hansen, the committee's chairman.
The Housing Finance Authority would oversee the program, conveying for free government-owned land to developers, who then would build the homes.
by Blanche Evans
The U.S. Virgin Islands are experiencing a real estate boom, report local Realtors, due largely to still-reasonable prices.
(Editors note: not sure I agree with the reason given above!)
The VITAR general meeting scheduled for Saturday June 5, 2004 has been rescheduled for Saturday June 26, 2004. Please make note of the new date on your calendar.
To contact the association:
Virgin Island Territorial Association of REALTORS
3009 Orange Grove Shopping Center Suite 13
Christiansted, St. Croix. USVI. 00820-4312
Phone: 340-773-1855 Fax: 340-773-6305