Selling property in the BVI
Preparing your house
After you have made your decision to sell you need to prepare your house. Although you might love the way your BVI property is arranged, ask for a second opinion. Even the most beautiful villa will look worse after a few years of use. As you live in the house longer, you tend to “collect” stuff, having too many things laying around. Keep in mind that viewers want to imagine themselves in your property. Remove all the unnecessary personal items and try to create a consistent image and atmosphere of the apartment.
Selling property Do’s and Dont’s
Lay out the property to look fresh and “ready to move in.” The quickest sales tend to be those best prepared. Clean the house and tidy, look at some other pictures of properties and get inspired. A few nice items laid around the house feel nice and inviting. Clothes hanging on lines, clutter and items out in the open put people off (try to hide as many things as possible in cupboards, limiting their number on counters, tables etc.). Yes, you have to live in the property, but you also need to sell it so see what you can do to accommodate both.
Presenting your property
Every real estate agent in the BVI has a special way to present the property. Some will put on fresh coffee and layout the dining table, others prepare fresh towels for the bathroom. These small enhancements of your house may seem petty, but their impact considerable. Clean walls, floor, maintained garden and lawn can make your property stand out.
Come early to viewings
If you are not staying in the property, make sure the toilet and bathroom are always clean and smell fresh. Before the viewing, come a few minutes early. Go around the house, looking for anything that might be wrong. As you surely use some insecticides while you don’t live in the property, remove any bugs or mosquitos. There is nothing worse than having a dead cockroach in the middle of the room as you enter. Look into drawers and in the kitchen. Although you understand that BVI is a tropical destination with “all perks”, people from US or Europe might not understand the implications. Some of them might not have seen a cockroach in their entire life.
Property trends in the BVI: what are buyers looking for
There is a considerable number of buyers looking for every type of property available. The better you describe your property, the less time you will spend on viewings that will not lead anywhere. Describe your property accurately, it is never a good idea to withhold important information as number of bedrooms, bathrooms or the neighborhood.
Describing best features of your property
Start describing your apartment with the best features, such as beachfront, great view or close to beach. Describe the location. It is either close to town or secluded, buyers are looking for both. It is a good idea to describe amenities, such as closest shopping opportunities. Experienced prospects are looking for information such as quality of roads leading to your apartment. Social location can play a significant role, don’t forget to mention if your property is located in a small community or if it is a standalone house.
Specifics of BVI
One of the important factors is the view from the property. Although one picture is better than a thousand words, include a description of what can be seen (view of Brewers Bay, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, etc). There are some specifics to BVI, such as water. Your property either has cistern water or street water. If you have cistern water, your cistern has certain capacity.
Contacting a real estate agent
A lot of time and effort goes into preparing a home for sale. It is never a bad idea to contact a real estate agent, who is aware of the market situation and can provide invaluable advice.
Why should you contact a real estate agent
Real estate agents are experts in providing serious buyers. First of all, they already have a list of established clients and clients looking for property in the BVI, therefore they often can and do convert in a very short span of time. Next, realtors can advise on the price you can get to the property. If you are looking for a quick sale, any property can be sold for the right price. If you don’t mind waiting, agents can suggest a higher, still reasonable value. Let’s not forget about the real estate agent’s feedback on your property. Improving a bad road to a luxurious property, building boat access or creating a garden can dramatically improve the value of the property.
Negotiations on the property
It is almost a rule that every transaction is proceeded on a negotiation. Often, seller and buyer might have different priorities, which makes the negotiations complicated. A realtor acts as an intermediary between the two parties, assessing their goals and smoothing the property negotiations towards closing the deal.
BVI property paperwork
The selling, buying or renting procedure in the BVI is different from both the US or the EU. Especially selling includes procedures that might seem hostile towards the buyer, which might put the potential buyers off. A real estate agent can not only provide guide to the selling process and the paperwork and responsibilities, but also guide the seller and buyer through the entire procedure, including the legal bit.
Marketing your BVI Property
Look at the various properties on BVI Property get a feel for the agents and the way they market their properties. Extensive effort and considerable resources are used in the marketing process, making it nearly impossible to properly market a single property. It is also a good idea to contact the real estate agents to get a feeling of how comfortable you feel around the agent. It is very likely that if you like the agent, so will the buyer, increasing the chances of a successful property transaction.
Arranging with your real estate agent
Now, you have found the real estate agent you like. Most likely, you will be asked to sign an agreement of cooperation. Make sure you have read and understand all terms and conditions prior to signing. Most important points relate to your ability to market your property with other agents and reward for the agents.
Cooperation agreements between the seller and the real estate agent
Sole Agent Agreement
Sole Agent Agreement means you only plan on dealing with one agent. The pros are that the agent knows that no other agent will sell the property and can dedicate more resources on the property. Many real estate agents syndicate the property with other agents or networks. Your realtor is responsible for all fees to other agents and marketing websites, magazines and others. The con is that if you choose a poor agent, your property can sit around for a while.
Open listing allows you to contact as many real estate agents as you like. The pros are that you get much more feedback on the property. Note that sometimes, the advice might seem contradictory, as each real estate agent has a specific marketing style. Cons are that your agents might prefer to “push” other properties, where they have Sole Agent Agreement. Reason for this is that only the selling agent will get a fee, although multiple agents have devoted resources to sell your property.
What are the real estate agent rates?
There are standard rates for selling a property in BVI. Generally, if you have just one agent working with you (Sole Agent), you can expect a lower rate.
Property agreements and conditions
Always check agreements, terms and conditions. Selling property is one of the largest transactions a person can make, therefore it is very important to understand what you sign. It is wise to trust but check, avoiding potential future conflict. At the end of the day, the only agreements valid will be the ones on paper.
Having the authority to sell the property
It can happen that the property has been in a family for many years over several generations so you will need to check that all parties that own a property are in agreement for the property to be sold. Especially after a bereavement where there is no will or a contested will, the authority to sell the property can be unclear.
A legal practitioner can always assist you to clarify anything unclear in the property agreements, as well as provide advice on the documents. Too often, sellers ignore this option, only to find themselves in difficulty later on.
Property marketing plan
Ask your selected real estate agent or several agents how they will market your property. Assess which agent is likely to reach more potential buyers. The ability to promote your property is often linked to your rate, therefore you might not want to go for the lowest rate.
It is advisable to agree on times for viewings to avoid future misunderstanding. Also, talk to your agent about the way the property should look to make sure you are on the same page. If you wish to be present during the viewings, talk to your realtor about how much in advance they should call in order to arrange a viewing.
Call your real estate agent in reasonable intervals to find out what the progress is. Ask about the marketing efforts as well as feedback from potential buyers.
Make sure your property is presentable at all times. Should the situation changes and your house would be, for example, undergoing reconstruction, it is always a good idea to let the agent know. Unless otherwise agreed with the real estate agent, don’t substantially alter the property.
Property tire kickers
A property tire kicker is a person that has no intention of buying the property whatsoever, but is very interested to see and spend time in your property. Passing a time of day in a luxury BVI villa seems to be an enjoyable pastime for some. Enjoying the architecture, wanting to test the swimming pool or even spending the few hours off a cruise ship seem to be good motives to see your property. For you, tire kickers are a total waste of time, as they have no interest to buy. Nevertheless, real estate agents use mechanisms to sniff most of these viewers out and reduce wasted time.
Closing the sale
Closing the deal and selling the property should be a happy time. Nevertheless, selling a property in the BVI is a complicated task, requiring guidance through the bureaucratic process. It is a very goof idea to have an attorney, who will ensure that all legal obligations are addressed. Mandatory listing of property or the waiting period are only the beginning. If you need the pay off the balance of a mortgage, pay the outstanding property tax and other fees, your real estate agent will be of assistance to you and will ensure that there are no last minute surprises.
BVI tax charts and tables.
In the BVI, nominal taxation on real estate is in place. Nevertheless, many of the locals do not worry about the tax, effectively discharging all back taxes and penalties when they sell the property. Because of the low taxes for the locals, the effectiveness of the nominal property tax is often questioned.
Annual house tax equals to 1.5% of the assessed rental value of the house. Examples
|Yearly rental value of the house||Tax Due|
Regarding Land Duty, belongers enjoy much lower rates.
|Second and next acre||1$|
|First half acre||50$|
|Second half acre||150$|
|Each subsequent half acre||50$|
Transfer of title to a property Stamp Duty
|Cost of Property||Transfer Fee (Stamp Duty)|
Buying property in the BVI
Research the real estate market
Buying in the BVI can be very time consuming, nevertheless the properties here are well worth the wait. Likely one of the biggest purchase in life, it is important that all goes well. Note that the BVI is relatively small and land tends to be more expensive here than in some other, especially larger Caribbean islands.
To begin, work out what you expect from your property. List what is important to you, what are the must haves and what are the nice to haves. Location and neighborhood are the most important factors, but take into considerations the qualifying criteria such as swimming pool, view or boat access.
Research the market to gain the feeling of the BVI real estate. Use the price filter on bviproperty.com to find the price level imagined and search what type of properties you can buy for the price. Very shortly, you will get an understanding of what types of real estate can be obtained in various price levels.
It is advisable to contact multiple agents. In the BVI, the real estate agents generally work on very personal level, taking into consideration your demands, taking time to listen to you and advise. Select one realtor if you are busy or contact multiple ones if you want to take time and filter out all of the properties and have a short list of the ones to view.
Financing your BVI purchase
Firstly, take into consideration the variation in price based on quality of construction. BVI is a Carbbean destination with the hurricane season, which should be taken into account when deciding for quality level of your house. Next, especially villas are built with luxurious materials, which will reflect in price. Decide if and how much you want to spend on luxuries, too.
If you require financing your property, it is advisable you speak with banks when you start looking for your property. Banks in the BVI operate a little differently from the rest of the world, find early what you can expect.
Legal aspects of buying property in the BVI
British Virgin Islanders and Belongers must have, by law, the first opportunity to buy any land that goes on sale. Even if you are a British citizen, you are Non-Belonger and must obtain an Alien Landholding License (this is true for land as well as houses). Note that such license is not guaranteed and may be denied. After you get your Alien Landholding License, you would need another license for your next property and if you plan to sell the property to a Non-Belonger, another Alien Landholding License will be required. Typical processing time of and Alien Landholder License is anywhere between 6 to 12 months.
You will submit your application for the Alien Landholding License to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, the fees are as follows:
|Each person applying||200$|
|Each company applying||300$|
|Approval for each person/company||600$|
At the time of application, you will need to present the following:
|Two character references|
|Two financial references from the applicants bank, employer or accountant which must indicate the applicant’s ability to purchase and develop the property|
|A financial statement covering one years banking record|
|A police certificate of good standing|
|A police certificate of good standing|
|Four consecutive newspaper advertisements for the property|
|A letter sized cadastral survey showing the land and surrounding properties|
|A valuation report form a licensed surveyor plus other supporting documentation|
More legal aspects of buying property in the BVI
Before any property is sold to Non-Belonger, it must be locally advertised for 4 consecutive years (ads must be presented to obtain license).
To purchase land, one must commit to develop it within three years. Government will calculate the amount of the commitment. Calculations for 2-3 bedroom house will generally amount to about 250,000$. Failing to fulfill the commitment will result in a fine that can equal to 40% of the property buying price or blocking any title transfer. Note that the development commitment is only applied to land to prevent speculation.
In order to rent out your property as a Non-Belonger, you will need to obtain a Trade Licence. Apart from the annual fee of 400$ for the Trade Licence, it seems that it is getting increasingly difficult to obtain one. It is reasonable to assume, that this trend will continue.
OWN A HOME?
Written by Willa Tavernier
Monday, 31 October 2011
Recently, a client handed me a fairly thick document, with a look of trepidation on his face. It was the by-laws of the Homeowner’s Association (HOA), and Declaration of Covenants, for a property he was buying. It’s easy to be intimidated by these documents. Many people don’t even read them. Some people hate the whole concept.
I decided, therefore, to compile a list of the top five reasons that purchasers seem to be put off by covenants and by-laws:
• They’re never short documents
• You can’t opt out of the HOA–once you buy the land membership is mandatory
• The Association or developer can charge you fees every year for maintenance
• They contain lots of rules for things you either must do, or can’t do on your own property
• They use intimidating words, like charge, caution, lien, restrictions etc. in relation to your property if you don’t follow those rules
Restrictive covenants are agreements restricting the use of property by both present and future owners of that property. They attach to (or burden) the property, and under BVI law they must also confer some benefit on land owned by another person. Typically in the BVI, the covenants are mutual–they benefit of all the properties contained within a particular development or neighbourhood, and similarly burden all those properties.
Once this mutual benefit and burden is demonstrated to the Registrar of Lands, usually by proving the existence of a scheme of development, the covenants are endorsed on the title to the land as an incumbrance.
Once the covenants are endorsed on the title, they bind all future owners. Another method used to ensure that all future owners are bound is a requirement that the first purchaser must include the covenants in any future transfer of the property.
HOAs are formal legal entities, usually limited companies, created to ensure that the restrictive covenants attaching to the property, are adhered to. Membership is mandatory for all property owners within the development and are usually charged mandatory fees. HOAs also typically have the authority to enact and enforce maintenance and design standards. However, there are also quite a few reasons to like, even love the idea of an HOA and covenanted property.
The purpose of restrictive covenants and the HOAs that monitor them, is to maintain the quality of the properties in a development or neighborhood. They do this by keeping common areas looking attractive, making sure no one’s fixing cars in the street or running a flea market out of their driveway, and reducing the potential for people putting up eyesores, by seeing to it that buildings and renovations are in keeping with the general architectural concepts and standards of the area. Of course to do all these things, funding is necessary, which can lead to fee increases that cannot be declined (unless sufficient votes are garnered to change the by-laws).
All told, the foregoing helps to preserve property values, which is the core underlying rationale of HOAs and covenants. Your decision on whether to buy into a neighbourhood governed by covenants and an HOA should take into account the following:
• Read the Declaration of Covenants recorded against the property and make sure you can live with the conditions and restrictions contained in the document prior to signing a sale and purchase agreement.
• Find out what amenities are provided.
• Find out what the current dues are, and what they’ve been over the past 5-7 years to get an idea of the trend. Will you be able to withstand future increases or will you have to sell up and move? Once you buy the property, you can’t decline to pay the dues. If you do, a charge can be placed on your property, which can then be sold to liquidate the debt. Annual fees can range from hundreds to thousands per year, depending on the property and the amenities provided by the community.
• Find out if the HOA has cash reserves.
• Determine if there are term limits for the Board, and how easy it is to replace board members. In some developments it is impossible to change board members or by-laws because the developer retains an absolute majority of voting rights.
• Determine if there is litigation pending involving the HOA. One current suit in the BVI involves the community association suing a member for running a professional office in the property. In another community, the owner sought and obtained the consent of the other property owners for the operation of a light commercial enterprise, which was not viewed as detrimental to the property values.
Whether or not to buy into one of these communities is an individual but very important decision, that should be made with the benefit of as much information as possible.