We Found a Lot! What Now?

I’ve been really quiet on this blog for some time because we really thought we were going to have to put our dreams on hold for a while. With the increasing prices of the St. Croix real estate market and our inability to sell our lake home, it just wasn’t looking like a good time to try and buy property in St. Croix.
Well, 2007 started off in a completely new direction. We started thinking about alternate locations to live out our ocean fantasy. As mentioned in a previous post, we talked about Roatan. Then we looked at Belize. Belize seemed to have some advantages over Roatan. Most importantly, it is an English-speaking island. Also, you can live on the ocean without living on an island which can make beachfront living a little more convenient, especially for moving your belongings and that sort of thing. Plus, the prices were so much lower compared to St. Croix. Sounds perfect, right?
We bought a book on living in Belize (after we had booked our annual February trip – pictures to come) and quickly realized that living in a foreign country was not for us. First of all, for me, a lawyer, it appeared that there would be no way for me to practice law without returning to law school. There is no law school in Belize – I would have to go to school somewhere like Jamaica. After practicing law for over 7 years, there is no way I am returning to school! Secondly, being a foreigner presents difficulties for finding employment. You have to have a work permit, and to get a work permit, you have to demonstrate that you have an employable skill that no Belizean possesses. If we could afford to retire at this point, these work issues wouldn’t be a problem, but unfortunately, we are not financially stable enough to retire. (see above reference to law school – I’m still paying for that)

We still took our trip to Belize, and it was wonderful, but we decided with all the obstacles that living there presented, it was not the ocean home we were looking for.

Just before our trip to Belize, a new property came on the market in St. Croix. It was on the North Shore where we wanted to be. Our realtor emailed us the listing on Thursday. The lot was waterfront and relatively in our price range. I told H that I thought it was a sign. He agreed and quickly began making travel arrangements to go view the property – who would make a life-altering purchase without seeing it? Well, apparently that logic was flawed. He was supposed to fly out on Tuesday morning. On Monday, we found out the lot already had a contract on it and had been removed from the MLS. We were absolutely shocked. This property literally sold in one day! Lesson learned: we would not try to view the next property that came up. We would just put an offer down on it. And that’s what we did when the next listing came up.
We took our trip to Belize and were there for two days when we got an email from our realtor – 4 acres on the North Shore! The price was crazy cheap. Instead of thinking, “there must be something wrong with this lot,” we just thought, “crap, we better offer way over the asking price.” So we did, 25% over. Then we attempted to deal with the Third World technology that Belize had to offer. After spending half the day trying to fax the offer back to our realtor, we got an email from her saying that the seller wanted only cash offers or pre-qualifications. No problem – we had been working with a wonderful woman at Scotia Bank on St. Croix and felt like she would help us out. She was happy to help us out, but first, we had to fill out an 8 page mortgage application. So here we were in a tiny town in southern Belize trying to find an Internet cafe where we could print out the application, copy our passports and send them to her. It was about 10 miles into town on an unpaved road – and by unpaved, I mean potholes the size of canyons. We decided one trip per day on that road was plenty so we tried to fax the application from the hotel where we were staying. It literally took three hours! Apparently, their faxes are sent through a satellite server, and it was raining so the connection was very slow. Needless to say, the paperwork was not returned in time, and we did not get the property. It turned out that this was a blessing in disguise. The property had some building challenges, including finding a way to access the property and several drainage “guts.” Getting building approval on this lot would have probably been very difficult and expensive.
We returned from Belize a little dejected – we had missed out on two lots in two weeks. We decided we would not get our hopes up on any other lots. Two weeks later, we broke our promise to ourselves. A lot came on the MLS in the same gated community we had missed out on last summer. We weren’t going to let this opportunity pass us by. It was way out of our price range, but Scotia Bank had changed their mortgage terms, and we figured we could find a way to make it work. This was our dream after all.
We sent in our offer – the seller countered at $10,000 more. What the heck – we were already almost in over our heads so what was another $10,000? We accepted the counter and started the buying process. First, we figured we should get a look at the property. We still had video footage from our trip last summer to the same community, but we weren’t sure exactly where the lot was so H booked a trip to St. Croix.
He just returned this weekend and said the property was wonderful! Even though I have only seen the pictures and video, I have to agree. The property is perfect for us. The streets are really safe for me to run and walk the dogs, it’s located on a beautiful beach, and it’s close enough to town to be convenient, but far enough away that you feel like you’re getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. (at least as “hustle and bustle” as Christiansted can get!)
Our next steps are waiting on the appraisal which hopefully the property will appraise for more than the purchase price, then the survey, and finally the closing. Luckily all of this can be done off-island, although not cheaply. Every party to a real estate transaction has to hire an attorney so that is approximately $1000 more than a regular transaction. However, with being off-island, an attorney makes things much easier for us.
So that’s what is going on with us – Step One of our plan to move to St. Croix is complete. Now the fun starts – finding an architect, starting the building process, and finally the Big Move!