Much needed renewable energy grants and loans are available to small business owners and agricultural producers/farmers in the USVI!

Download Fact Sheet!

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers Grants, Guaranteed Loans, and Combinations of Grants/Guaranteed Loans to help agricultural producers and rural, small businesses install renewable energy systems in rural areas. The grants and loans available are designed to assist with the installation of renewable energy system

Grant applications, applicants may obtain electronic grant applications for REAP from https://www.Grants.gov. Please submit information listed in both the NOFA & Application Template for full completion. These applications can be mailed or  dropped off –  if dropped off, TWO COPIES of paper applications need to be delivered to the Rural Development Office on St. Croix.

USDA Rural Development
4401 Sion Farm Suite#2
Christiansted, VI 00820

Please submit information listed in both the NOFA & Application Template for full completion.

DEADLINES
For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grant applications and combination grant and guaranteed loan applications: July 7, 2014.
For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement guaranteed loan only applications: On a continuous basis up to July 31, 2014.

For all applications submitted under this Notice, complete applications must be received by the appropriate USDA Rural Development Office no later than 4:30 p.m. local time of the applicable application deadline date in order to be considered for Fiscal Year 2014 funds.

Contact rena.elias@pr.usda.gov to receive more information on the application process and to receive any of the following documents:

1. Information Sheet on the Business & Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program. This program is also lender driven, meaning you apply with lenders/bank that participate in our program. Financing can be up 100% of project costs. You can apply for this program all year round. The application for this program would be obtained directly from the lender.
2. Information Sheet on the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Guaranteed Loan and/or Grant Programs under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which is solely geared to Energy Improvements. The Renewable Energy Program and The Energy Efficiency Program, as you will read there is a loan component and a grant component to each of these programs. Each program would require its own application. There is no direct loan assistance available, which means that you would have to secure a lender to provide the financing and then that lender applies to USDA for the Guarantee on the loan. Max Grant is 25%. If it is a combo, the max assistance available is 75%. So, there would be a 25% match required
3. The Notification of Funding cycle for Fiscal Year 2014 -You can check this site periodically for updates on notices of funding, https://www.rurdev.usda.gov/RD_NOFAs.html Please submit information listed in both the NOFA & Application Template for full completion.

4. REAP Application Templates – Please use these templates for application submission, in conjunction with the NOFA.

5. List of Lenders, who have previously participated in the B&I Program and may also assist on REAP

6. Lender Guide – for B&I Program – if you are pursuing a loan, see lender requirements

7. Grant Writers – Statewide and Locally – who may assist in application preparation – use of grant writers are optional

8. CFRs Guide – Definition of Terms, Eligibility use of Grant funds, Eligible/Ineligible Applicants

We’ve listed one of our BNI Lender’s below. This particular lender has been very active in our B&I program in the last 8 years plus and their information is as follows:

Mr. Michael C. Sammartino
Director, Business Development
Independence Bank
1370 South Country Trail
East Greenwich, RI 02818
msammartino@independence-bank.com
main line – 401-471-6300
direct line – 401-471-6318
fax line – 401-884-9551

relocating to st croix

A Caribbean relocation is easier today than ever before. With the internet, larger access to retail goods and a generally more “global” world, packing up and heading to a tiny speck of land in the middle of the sea isn’t quite as daunting as it was 20 years ago.

For that move to be successful, however, it is important to recognize that St. Croix, USVI is not St. Croix, MN. While most people think the differences are obvious, we find many prospective and new Virgin Islands residents are caught by surprise.

Here is a quick list of top considerations we review right off the bat with prospective island dwellers:

1. Which island are you interested in?

  • St. Croix is the largest of the Virgin Islands and is considered to be the most laid back and residential and community-oriented.
  • St. Thomas offers more of the bustle that comes with its long history as a tourist destination.
  • St. John properties are more plentiful and better priced than 10 years ago. This quiet, quaint island offers an abundance of eco-tourism and boating opportunities, but prices are higher and a trip to the larger retail stores requires a ferry ride.
  • British Virgin Islands  – Virgin Gorda is our favorite and epitomizes simple luxury- sandy sandals and champagne.

2. What are your investment goals?

Are you looking to move now or buy now in preparation for retirement? Will you want a second dwelling on the premises for rental income? Will you utilize the property for short-term rentals? If you don’t plan to move in right away, what is your plan for property management?

These are a few of the questions we can explore together. FYI…we offer solutions to buyers who are looking to rent units on their new property – both short and long-term.

3.  Do you want a condo or a home?

Condos are hot on St. Croix right now. A down payment of 25% gets you into the market. If you are not interested in maintenance and feel comfortable with the condo fees, this may be the way to go.

However, if you are looking for a property you can customize and enjoy expansive personal space, each island offers several land and private home options.

4. How do you want to enter the market?

Are you willing to do a little work on the property you purchase or do you prefer turnkey? Sometimes if you are willing to do (or hire out) a little work, you can find amazing deals in incredible locations. Let us know where you stand on this question and we can help you find the best fit. Recently, an amazing Blue Sky residential listing in Salt River, St. Croix sold for $305,000. It needed a little work but offered panoramic Caribbean sea views.

5. Are you prepared for island living?

This is last but not least. It is a biggie for many transplants to the islands. You must prepare yourself and your home for  hurricanes each year during hurricane season. Some years are very quiet during hurricane season, some more active.

The pace is slower for EVERYTHING. Internet, phone and power service are less reliable and, sometimes, something you need didn’t make the boat – literally. It can be frustrating for everyone. However, for most of us here, the pace is part of why we love it.

Blue Sky Real Estate offers a wide selection of short and long-term rentals if you would like to just put your toe in the water. Conversely, if you are ready to buy, we can represent you in the purchase of any listed property in the US or British Virgin Islands. Contact us today to explore your Caribbean Dream!

St. Croix’s annual foray into the international sports spotlight begins this weekend!

Each year, veteran and new triathletes descend on St. Croix to conquer The Beast and enjoy our island life! Residents welcome the athletes during the Triathlon Jump Up Friday and line the road to cheer for the participants on race day.

Blue Sky Real Estate extends the best of luck to our guest athletes and the St. Croix residents who will brave the course this year.

st croix food & wine experienceThe countdown is ON for another incredible St. Croix Food & Wine Experience. The annual event is one of Frommer’s 10 Best International Food and Wine Festivals. The weeklong series of food & wine infused events is peppered with amazing Celebrity Chefs!

Here is the event line-up. Some events are already sold out, so make sure you get your tickets early! Buy Tickets

Sunday, April 6

Cuisine on the Green

Kick off the week of events and indulge yourself! Combine a favorite past time with great food and fine spirits. Held at the Carambola Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones course, you will enjoy a lively tournament with tasty bites and drinks at every tee. Non-golfers are invited to tour the tastings via a golf cart.

2014 Cuisine on the Green Participants:
The Buccaneer
Complex High School Culinary Team
Darna Grill
Eat @ Cane Bay
Greenside Grille at Carambola Golf Club
No Bones Café
Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Beach Resort & Spa
Sandcastle on the Beach
The Waves at Cane Bay

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gourmet Vintner Dinner

Tutto Bene Restaurant pairs a celebrity chef with a renowned wine maker to create the  perfect dining Experience. With its gourmet-themed auction and Tutto Bene’s classy atmosphere, the Gourmet Vintner dinner is the perfect way to start a week of indulgence and generosity.

2014 GVD – Features Celebrity Chef Sam Choy & Celebrity Vintner Christina Turley! Sounds like a perfect pairing!!

City Crawl

Taste your way through historic Christiansted and enjoy three of St. Croix’s finest dining Experiences. Start with tasty appetizers and a perfect pairing of wine; then stroll to your entrée for a change in atmosphere. Finish off a fun and unique night with a fabulous dessert at the last restaurant and you’ll have sampled a bit of St. Croix’s best food, wine, and company.

Wednesday, April 9

Chefs Move To School Talk with Chef Todd Gray

Chefs across the country are answering Mrs. Obama’s call to get involved with their local schools as part of the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, including Equinox Restaurant’s Executive Chef Todd Gray.  Chef Gray will discuss his work with Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative, his work in the District of Columbia with the Murch school and how the same program can be done in the US Virgin Islands. UVI Great Hall. 12:00pm free

Food Fight! on the beach

Could you crack open a conch shell, identify a sauce blindfolded, or open a coconut in a timed challenge? As one of the most popular and exciting events of the week, Food Fight! has celebrity and island chefs teaming together to compete in a series of challenges that takes place right on the beach at the hip restaurant eat@canebay on the north shore.

Galleon Wine Dinner

The Galleon offers up a spectacular wine dinner that features specialized menus designed  specifically to complement the finest of wines. With a guest vintner and great entertainment, The Galleon serves up a  stunning dining Experience.

Thursday, April 10

A Taste of St. Croix

This is the event that started it all and simply cannot be missed. You’ll start your evening in the  VIP area, which means you’ll be the first to enter this sell-out event. Held at Divi Carina Bay Resort, you will join almost  2000 participants and guests that sample the expertise of 55 restaurants, chefs, farms, and caterers. Visiting celebrity  chefs, winemakers, rum distilleries, and breweries also offer samples of their best creations. As the only island-wide  culinary competition of its kind, Taste also offers a thread of excitement throughout the night as restaurants are judged  by renowned chefs and await the final results.

Friday, April 11

Cork & Fork Dinners

Prepared by celebrity chefs with wines presented by visiting vintners, these elegant dinners are prepared for an intimate group of 12-20 guests. Dinners are hosted in stunning private homes, several of which have  appeared in national publications.

In January 2013, Martha Stewart raved about one of our Cork & Fork venues – A Visit To Cane Garden In St. Croix – after a private tour of the Southshore plantation.

Purchase a ticket or turn the event into your own private party!

Sunset BBQ

Celebrity chefs share their grilling talents with our local culinary students at one of our hottest events.

Held in historic Frederiksted overlooking the water, this unique event allows you the opportunity to meet and mingle  with celebrity chefs and enjoy unparalleled views as you dine and dance under the stars.

Saturday, April 12

Kids Cooking

This youth event ignites excitement about cooking with little chefs learning to make simple, fun recipes under the instruction of both celebrity and local chefs.

Wine in the Warehouse

Saturday night brings everyone together for wine tastings with winemakers, cocktail samplings, small bites, and music. The one-night transformation of the warehouse is a beautiful, surprising, and fun Experience.

If you take W. Airport Rd. towards Queen Mary Highway, the warehouse is to your left, but we suggest you park across the street and take one of our shuttles across the street.

Buying Real Estate in the British Virgin Islands raises different challenges compared to buying in the US Virgin Islands. But, none of them are insurmountable and the prize of living or investing in the BVI is certainly worth it!

“Virgin Gorda and Anegada are still quaint and very laid back – more the Caribbean of old,” said Blue Sky’s Stephanie Hodge recently. “Yet, you still have access to the luxury amenities like spa, massage and great food.”

For investors, the vacation rental business is very robust, added Blue Sky’s Caryn Hodge. The BVI provide one of the few places in a day’s travel from the US mainland where you can truly disconnect and bask in the locale’s barefoot chic, low-tech appeal.

If you are interested in buying your own piece of this haven Check out our expert’s guide to a successful BVI purchase!

To get you started in your discovery process, we have included a brief overview of common questions we receive regarding buying BVI property. Please note, this should not be considered legal advice and we recommend you have knowledgeable legal counsel when pursuing a BVI acquisition.

Am I able to own land in the BVI if I am a U.S. citizen?
Yes! But, there is a process to follow. Your first step is to secure the services of an attorney familiar with doing transactions in the BVI. He/she will help you understand the key concepts critical to a successful BVI acquisition. Major concepts include: the difference between Belongers and Non-Belongers; Freehold vs. Leasehold properties; and the important tax benefits and implications that go along with becoming a British Virgin Islands property owner.

What is Non-Belonger Land Holding License?
It is a prerequisite that Non-Belongers and Non-Belonger Companies receive a Non-
Belonger Land Holding Licence (NBLHL), in order to own land in the British Virgin Islands.

What are the steps to apply for a Non-Belonger Land Holding License?
Generally speaking, buying property in the British Virgin Islands follows a patter similar to transactions in other English Common Law jurisdictions.

Applicants must submit a completed application form together with the following supporting documents:

  • Two personal references, for each individual or each shareholder and director. In the case of individual applicants, one reference must support the applicant’s ability to purchase and develop the property
  • Two character references for each individual or each shareholder and director
  • In the case of individuals, a financial report/statement from a financial institution evidencing a banking relationship for no less than one consecutive year is required
  • A recent police certificate for each individual applicant or each shareholder and director
  • One passport size photograph (coloured) of each applicant or shareholder and director
  • A copy of the applicant’s Trade Licence (if self-employed) or a copy of the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, Certificate of Incorporation, current Certificate of Good Standing and Annual Summary of Members or a Certificate of Incumbency from a Registered Agent
  • A recent valuation report of the property
  • A non-refundable application fee of Two Hundred Dollars ($200) per person for individuals and Five Hundred Dollars ($500) in the case of a company
  • A copy of the Agreement for Sale
  • A copy of the record(s) reflecting existing ownership of the land
  • A letter sized copy of the Cadastral Survey Plan

The applicable fee is Six Hundred Dollars ($600) for each individual, One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) for a company plus Six Hundred Dollars ($600) for each shareholder and director.

What is the difference between Freehold Property and Leasehold Property?

There are 2 different types of property titles in the BVI:

  1. Freehold – this acquisition results in an ownership status more like US property purchases.  You own it the property outright. Available freehold property is very rare. Bluesky Real Estate has a listing for 14 acres of Waterfront Freehold property in Virgin Gorda – this is an exceptionally rare gem.
  2. Leasehold – the government owns the property and grants you a lease, often for plus or minus 99 years. The leases are not guaranteed to be renewed. They are transferrable. You do see leaseholds in the US, but it is more the exception than the rule.

Are there tax advantages to purchasing property in the BVIs?
Yes. There are several tax advantages to buying in the BVI. There are several advantages to choosing the BVI over other offshore financial centers, including:

  • The U.S. dollar is the official currency in the BVI – therefore, by definition, there can be no currency controls and no artificial manipulation of money supply by the local government.
  • BVI are a British Overseas Territory, which provides for an outstanding political stability. The country also maintains a low international profile and a clean reputation, thus avoiding the pitfalls experienced by some more publicized and less scrupulous offshore tax havens.
  • BVI has an independent judicial system based on English Common Law. Laws and regulations are routinely developed in consultation with the private sector. Offshore financial services sector contributes a very significant part to the country’s gross domestic product. Therefore, an inherent and pronounced interest exists both with the government and with the general public to maintain and develop the country’s status as a competitive offshore financial center.
  • BVI is an independent country with a fairly high standard of living. Therefore, it avoided entering any information-sharing agreements with foreign countries or organizations for exchange of financial aid. Client confidentiality is robustly enshrined in the BVI corporate and business legislation.
  • BVI is easily accessible by sea and air, has modern telecommunications and is on US Eastern Standard Time (1 hour behind EST in winters).

What are the tax benefits of operating a BVI Business Company?
A BVI Business Company is exempt from the BVI income tax, the same exemption applies to all dividends, interest, rents, royalties, compensations and other amounts paid by a company, and all capital gains realised with respect to any shares, debt obligations or other securities of the company.

No estate, inheritance, succession or gift tax is payable with respect to any shares, debt obligations or other securities of a BVI BC. All transactions and instruments relating to transfers of any type of property of assets, shares, debt obligations or securities to or by a BVI BC are exempt from the stamp duty, with a sole exception for land-ownership transactions in the British Virgin Islands, in which case stamp duty remains payable.

Blue Sky Real Estate represents large and small Caribbean real estate properties located all over St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Whether you are interested in a luxury home, undeveloped land, condo, fix-upper, commercial property, a hilltop perch or a beachfront oasis, Blue Sky Real Estate can help.

Blue Sky Real Estate also offers property management services including screening applicants, paying bills, handing repairs, marketing online, checking inventory, assessing arrival/departure conditions, and staging property for maximum impact and income. Contact us to find out more.

St. Croix was happening throughout February!

Residents & visitors alike enjoyed a very successful 2014 Agrifest,  Mocko Jumbies at Valentine’s Jump-Up, shopping & art during Art Thursday and an extraordinary exhibit at Frederiksted’s Caribbean Museum Center.

St. Croix 2014 Agrifest

St. Croix’s annual agricultural fair is an absolute delight. Entire vacations are planned around this long weekend featuring the best of our local food, fun, flora and farm animals.St Croix Agricultural fair

The less agriculturally-inclined often pet their first goat or hold their first duck at the ag fair. Farmers are celebrated for their produce and products. Multi-colored crafts are displayed with pride. Plants & animals are offered for sale. The smell of johnny cakes shares the airwaves with heart-thumping local music.

The energy is always excellent and a good time is truly had by all. If you haven’t made it to an Agrifest yet, get it on your bucket list! We would be happy to help you secure a villa if you are off-island – but plan now. Accommodations and rental cars sell out early for this fantastic Caribbean event.

Check out the VI Agrifest Website for more information.

Jump Up

st croix jump up mocko jumbies

Four times a year, Christiansted town hosts Jumps-Up to celebrate Crucian-style. Music, local food, late-night shopping and lots of friends combine to create a magical evening presided over by Mocko Jumbies – guardian spirits brought to St. Croix through the cultural traditions of our African ancestors.

Vendors stay open late or line the streets to offer shopping and to encourage residents and visitors to explore the beauty and commerce of Christiansted town.

The remaining 2014 Jump Up Dates are:

Triathalon Jump Up – May 2
Summertime Jump Up – July 11
Thanksgiving Jump Up- November 28

Art Thursdays

christiansted art thursdaysArt Thursdays are a highlight of St. Croix’s high-season. The third Thursday of every month artists open their galleries and studios to share their talent and creative designs. Live music and complimentary refreshments are a staple of this art walk that began more than a decade ago.

Art Thursday hours are 5-8 p.m. The remaining 2013/2014 Art Thursday Dates are:

March 20
April 17
May 15
Visit the Art Thursday Website to learn more.

Home for sale? Make it market readyPeople are buying!

We won’t try and sugarcoat it, 2012 was a gloomy year on St. Croix, but 2013’s St. Croix Real Estate statistics offer hope for both buyers and sellers!

For the uninitiated, a deluge of properties hit the market in the wake of Hovensa Oil Refinery’s January 2012 closing announcement. Property values began to slide and sales were sluggish as residents and investors watched from the sidelines to see what would become of our little piece of paradise.2013 St. Croix Real Estate Statistics

The 2013 year in review brings us good news! The market is moving again. Yes, in many cases sales values are lower – residential average sale prices were 19% lower than 2012. But, the number of units sold shot up 33%.

From our vantage point, it is clear that sellers adjusted their prices to reflect the market’s trends. Once they hit the right price point, the properties sold.

Not all average sales prices dropped. Condo average sale prices were up 7% with a 100% increase in number of units sold (2012- 34 units sold vs 2013-68 units sold). Lenders have opened up financing for condos making it much easier to grab the deals.

Commercial units also recorded an increase in average sales price, but the volume of transactions is relatively low (5 in 2012 vs. 9 in 2013). However, the fourth quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 show an upward trend in commercial activity. We predict a strong showing in the commercial sector this year.

Land sales saw movement, too, with a 21% uptick in total units sold, but the average sales price dropped 52% from 2012 to 2013. Still, we are impressed with these land numbers because bank financing on land is virtually impossible to secure on St. Croix right now. Owners are stepping up to the plate more often now to offer seller-financing on land.

What does it all mean?

For buyers, the new listings’ inventory is stabilizing and people are buying. It is a buyer’s market now, but the inventory on our island is inherently limited. We recommend at least beginning your search now. There is value waiting for you.

For sellers, if you really want to move that property, we recommend the following:

  1. First impressions are HUGE – Buyers are savvy and in a position of strength. De-clutter inside and out and consider completing some of the DIY home repairs you have been postponing. Add a fresh coat of paint, clean the gutters, repair the fence and spruce up the lawn.
  2. Pricing is KEY – We know price reductions are a hard pill to swallow. However, the more realistic sellers are going to gravitate toward what prices are selling for today. The buyer is looking through a much different lens than 5-6 years ago. Work with your Realtor to review active comparable properties so you know your competition, and set a reasonable price based on sold comps.

We are optimistic that as buyers snap up the deals and supply shrinks, we will see values gradually rise. If you can sit on your property, great! Enjoy it!!

If you own a home, however, and you don’t live in it and/or you cannot maintain it, consider your options before you watch the value plummet due to disrepair.

Blue Sky Real Estate represents large and small Caribbean real estate properties located all over St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. Whether you are interested in a luxury home, undeveloped land, condo, fix-upper, commercial property, a hilltop perch or a beachfront oasis, Blue Sky Real Estate can help.

Blue Sky Real Estate also offers property management services including screening applicants, paying bills, handing repairs, marketing online, checking inventory, assessing arrival/departure conditions, and staging property for maximum impact and income. Contact us to find out more.

St. Croix commercial properties are HOT! We have seen a marked increase in both inquiries and acquisitions during the past few months.

St. Croix, and the rest of the nation, saw commercial interest drop sharply beginning in 2008. We are very excited to see this uptick in interest.

Blue Sky’s Stephanie Hodge recently assisted a couple in the closing of their second St. Croix commercial acquisition.

“They love St. Croix and see future value in the market,” Stephanie said, adding that Blue Sky anticipates another large commercial closing soon at the end of January 2014.

The interested parties include a mix local residents, business & government, off-island investors and people laying the foundation to relocate to St. Croix eventually.

Over the years, prices and rents have reduced to levels that have motivated market-watchers to action. Most buyers are looking to buy and hold. Others expect stabilization of retail rents, which translates to an opportunity to purchase property, lease the space and reap the benefits.

“We are seeing the average commercial lease rates settling at $8-$12 per square foot,” said Blue Sky’s Caryn Hodge. This is considerably more affordable and accessible for St. Croix businesses. Unfortunately, those owners who are holding out at $22 per square foot will continue to see vacant spaces.”

St. Croix was abuzz over the holidays with celebrity sightings! Martha Stewart was here, enjoying St. Croix’s unique historic properties, the sun and sand with her family, and shopping alongside locals at the Art Farm and La Reine Farmer’s Market.

Martha and her family welcomed the New Year in a beautiful island villa with a smashing view of Buck Island. She covered St. Croix extensively in three posts on theMarthaBlog.com. We love to see St. Croix presented as it truly is – a fabulous destination for one and all.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife also enjoyed a breezy holiday here on St. Croix. It was their third time to spend New Year’s here, having enjoyed their stay in 2011 and 2012. Locals were delighted to see the vice president enjoying some tee time at a local golf course and some quiet moments at church.

Actor Seth Green and his lovely wife Clare Grant were also spotted enjoying the island. He posted these nice beach photos and videos on his Instagram account.

Martha, The Bidens, and Seth are just a handful of the celebrities who welcomed 2014 in warm and breezy St. Croix. Just what makes this island so special that it suits people from all points on the social spectrum? As Cruzan Rum has recently touted, we are the “No hurry” island – we live for now and enjoy our playtime set against nature’s most splendid backdrops!

Discover St. Croix’s charms for yourself and see why it consistently ranks as a top Caribbean destination year after year in top magazines like Islands and Coastal Living. All under the U.S. Flag! No Passport required!

Plan your dream vacation with Blue Sky Real Estate which represents St. Croix’s finest vacation villas. And, if you decide to extend your vacation, Blue Sky Real Estate knows St. Croix best. We will be happy to help you house your Caribbean dream – large or small!

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