St. Croix Real Estate
Ava Gail Bourdon

St. Croix Real Estate
Your Home Team Advantage For Your Residential & Commercial Real Estate

Category: General

The Underwriter: Unseen Approver of Your Mortgage

The Underwriter: Unseen Approver of Your Mortgage


underwiterOnce you have found a house you like, made an offer and been pre-approved for a mortgage, you might think you are home free. However, you still have an important hurdle to clear: Getting through the loan underwriting process.

Think of the underwriter as a gatekeeper. The underwriter won’t let you in the front door unless you can thoroughly demonstrate your creditworthiness.

The Real Estate Detectives

Underwriters are like real estate detectives. It’s their job to make sure you have represented yourself and your finances truthfully, and that you haven’t made any false or misleading claims on your loan application. Their standards are much higher than loan pre-qualification requirements.

It wasn’t always like this.

During the housing boom in the early-to-mid 2000s, underwriting standards were comparatively loose, allowing many people to take out home loans who lacked the means to repay them. In recent years, loan requirements have gotten tougher. In January 2014 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enacted stricter requirements on some mortgages, which included tougher background checks into your bank account, spending and employment history.

Credit History

Underwriters will check your credit score with the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If there’s a red flag on your credit report—from such things as bankruptcies and collections—you will have to provide a letter of explanation with valid reasons for your past mistakes and the steps you have taken to correct the credit blemish. You may be able to overcome past credit problems if you have a solid employment history or agree to make a large down payment.


Part of the underwriting process reviews the appraisal of your prospective home to make sure its value matches the size of the loan you are requesting. This is important, since appraisers are sometimes pressured by buyers, sellers and their representatives to set a value that justifies the loan and clears the path for a sale. A good underwriter will take into consideration the location of the home and how it might be affected by natural disasters, such as floods.

Your Perceived Risk

Your income and the amount of money you owe will be factored in during the underwriting process. Generally, your total monthly debt obligation, including mortgage payments, should not exceed 43 percent of your pretax monthly income. More debt or lack of a sufficient income can increase your perceived risk.

The depth of the underwriting investigation depends on how great a risk you are considered to be. An investigator for the underwriter will contact your employer to verify the job and salary you listed on your loan application. If there is a question concerning your job history, credit report or personal finances, the underwriter will ask for additional information.

The best thing you can do to improve the chance of approval is to respond with prompt and complete information.


How V.I. Visitors can save over $500 this summer

Hey_Penny_Peachha_penny_beachPeople coming to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands this summer can save a minimum of $500 on a stay of five or more consecutive nights at participating properties on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas by visiting the Department of Tourism’s website, as part of the new summer promotion “Virgin Islands Nice.”

The discounts at include a free first night hotel stay, instant monetary credit, and $300 in certificates that can be redeemed at participating restaurants, boutiques, spas and attractions across the territory. The packages are customizable, allowing travelers to work with the 16 different tour operators to build their own “Virgin Islands Nice” summer girlfriend getaway, romantic escape, dive adventure or culinary vacation.

Book the five-night minimum stay directly with participating accommodation providers and tour operators or with a preferred travel specialist, then visit and insert the booking confirmation number to redeem the certificates upon check in.

This offer applies only to new bookings and is based on double occupancy. It does not include airfare, taxes or destination charges. V.I. hotel occupancy tax and hotel service charges must be paid on gross retail package price. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. The deal cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion.

The participating tour operators include Apple Vacations,,, Classic Vacations, Costco Travel, Expedia, Journese Luxury Vacations, LibGo Travel, The Mark Travel Corporation, MLT Vacations, My Boutique Travel, Pleasant Holidays, Tourico Holidays, Travel Impressions, United Vacations and US Airways Vacations.

The promotion is available at these 26 participating hotel and resort properties across the territory, including the following on St. Croix: The Buccaneer Hotel, Club St. Croix Resort, Colony Cove Beach Resort, Divi Carina Bay All Inclusive Resort & Casino, Hotel Caravelle, Hotel on the Cay, The Palms at Pelican Cove, Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort & Spa, Sand Castle On the Beach, and Tamarind Reef Resort; and on St. John: Coconut Coast Villas, Gallows Point Resort, and The Westin St. John Resort; and St. Thomas’ Anchorage Beach Resort, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Crystal Cove Villas, Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, Pavilions and Pools Villa Hotel, Point Pleasant Resort, The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas, Sapphire Beach Condominium Resort, Sapphire Village Condominiums, Secret Harbour Beach Resort, Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, Two Sandals by the Sea Inn, and Virgin Islands Campground.

For more information, go to, follow the department on Twitter (@USVITourism) and become a fan on Facebook.

UVI gets $30M for medical school

The University of the Virgin Islands Announces $30 Million Gift for the Development of a Medical School


New Generation PowerChairman Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria speaks of government house on St. Thomas.

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) received a $30 million gift commitment to help establish a state-of-the-art, Territory-wide medical school. Announced today by UVI President David Hall, the generous gift on behalf of New Generation Power (NGP) and its Chairman, Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, will serve as a major part of the foundation funding for the medical school.

PHOTO: Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria speaks, as honored guests look on. Seated from left: Schneider Regional Medical Center CEO Dr. Bernard Wheatley, Juan F. Luis Hospital CEO Dr. Kendall Griffith, Boston University School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the Office of Medical Education Dr. John Wiecha, Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, Governor John P. de Jongh Jr., and UVI President Dr. David Hall. 

The announcement comes one week after a unanimous vote by the UVI Board of Trustees allowing President Hall to commence the development phase for the medical school that UVI will develop in partnership with the Territory’s two hospitals – Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas and Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.

“This is a historic day in the life of the University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands,” said President Hall. “Dr. Kathuria’s gift is the largest in the history of the University, and its impact will last for generations to come. Many Virgin Islanders will receive improved healthcare because of this generous gift,” he said.

Discussion and planning for the medical school began in 2010 with the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), which has been very instrumental in helping UVI move in this direction. Some BUSM students have been taking their fourth year electives at Schneider Regional Medical Center for the last two spring semesters.

Virgin Islands Gov. John P. de Jongh Jr. and UVI President Dr. David Hall.
VI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. and UVI President David Hall

“We congratulate our UVI colleagues on this generous gift,” said Dr. Karen Antman, dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. “The development of a medical school will attract medical faculty to the islands and foster collaboration among VI hospitals,” Dr. Antman said. “Graduates will consider establishing practices in the VI, raising the number of physicians and improving access to health care.”

The goal of the project is to develop a high-quality medical education program that relies heavily on the use of innovative teaching techniques, educational technology and community care training that produces knowledgeable and caring physicians committed to helping the Virgin Islands’ communities, President Hall explained. This transformative endeavor for the VI and the University will present an opportunity for the Territory to establish the only English-speaking medical school in the Caribbean accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada.

According to President Hall, LCME-accreditation will ensure that UVI develops a high quality medical school that operates according to the highest academic standards. A medical school in the Virgin Islands would enhance the quality of healthcare, help address the nation’s and Territory’s anticipated physician workforce shortages in the future, help populate the physician workforce in the VI and Caribbean with the regions’ own residents and citizens, and contribute to economic development.

UVI, NGP and VI government officials at Government House
UVI Board of Trustees Chairman Alexander A. Moorhead, VI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, and UVI President David Hall pose for a photo at Government House.

Dr. Kathuria, a global entrepreneur and innovator, has founded and built multiple businesses that have generated shareholder wealth and created numerous jobs worldwide. He founded NGP, a global developer, investor, owner and operator of infrastructure assets in three key areas – utility scale power generation, distributed generation, and mining exploration and extraction. Recently, NGP, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, together with UVI, signed a landmark power purchase agreement for a solar panel project on UVI’s two campuses.

Dr. Kathuria, who holds a medical degree, in describing his motivation for the gift said: “We are honored to be part of this historic endeavor that will significantly improve the healthcare of the people of the US Virgin Islands. Our goal with the USVI medical school is to establish new trends in providing health care using advanced technology such as remote healthcare monitoring and diagnoses, and cutting edge research that could lead to improved health outcomes for people globally.”

Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has also committed to help provide funding for the medical school buildings, creating a public and private partnership that President Hall said is essential for success.

“By approving the development of the medical school just last week and endorsing the gift agreement with Dr. Kathuria of New Generation Power, the UVI Board of Trustees has taken a major step forward in the development of the Virgin Islands,” Governor de Jongh, Jr. said today. “The Virgin Islands is truly fortunate to be eligible for accreditation of its planned medical school. America’s Liaison Committee on Medical Education is the accreditation body for medical schools in the United States and Canada, and it would also extend its authority to the Virgin Islands, as the only English-speaking United States territory in the Caribbean,” he continued. “This advantage over every other medical school in the Caribbean will put UVI’s Medical School on the map and ensure its success.”

“I fully expect that the opening of the medical school will change the health care landscape of the Virgin Islands, as well as enhance the University of the Virgin Islands’ reputation as the preeminent learning institution in the region,” Governor de Jongh added.

Securing additional development and operational funding remains a goal for the project. The University estimates that $10 million from local and national donors is still needed to make the medical school a reality. Tuition costs are estimated to be below market for Caribbean medical schools and UVI hopes to enroll its first class in 2016-2017.

For more information, please contact Nanyamka Farrelly, interim director of Public Relations, University of the Virgin Islands, at or (340) 693-1056.



Use a Seller Disclosure to Protect Yourself as You Sell

When you are selling your home, a good seller disclosure might be your new best friend. The buyer and the seller don’t generally communicate during the transaction. However, this document discloses material information about the home based on the owner’s experience and knowledge, which can help the buyer make an informed decision.newhouse2

The seller signs these forms, attesting that the information is accurate to the best of their knowledge. The disclosure can help prevent potential buyers from bringing lawsuits against the seller if the buyer discovers defects in the home after the property has been sold. It is in the best interest of the seller to be honest about any problems with the home, even if it gives the buyer more negotiating power. Disclosures are legal documents that can be used in court.

The requirements for seller disclosures vary widely from state to state. Your agent will have the correct form for the seller to fill out. The forms include questions regarding major repairs, environmental hazards, defects or things in need of repair. Generally, the seller is required only to make disclosures based on their observation and knowledge about the property from the time of their purchase through the date that the form was completed. However, the seller may also provide information they know about the home from before they purchased it.

April Neuhaus, a Realtor® in Berthoud, Colorado, advises that being up-front is best. “It’s important for them to be honest when answering the questions — and they also have space next to each item for comments so they can explain further on anything they are disclosing. For example, if they put that in the past there was a roof problem, then they can explain in the comments that it was due to hail damage and they had the roof replaced, etc.” If you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to put that down too.

The seller disclosure extends to both the home and its condition as well as the property. If the seller is aware of potential zoning changes, or if the home is in a flood plain, the seller must mention that as well. In some states, sellers are required to disclose whether someone died on the property; in the state of California, this disclosure is a requirement. Other types of things the buyer may want to know can also appear, such as whether the home is in a flight path of a major airport, or if there are any restrictions for remodeling the property.

The disclosure may include information about the home’s foundation, including whether there are any cracks in the foundation, or whether there has been any leaking in the basement. The seller may want to disclose the fact that major repairs were done to the plumbing, the roof, the electrical system or other infrastructure of the house and grounds. The seller does not have to guarantee that everything is now perfect, but often potential buyers are reassured to hear that the previous owners have taken care of these repairs, and this will be a plus for them in wanting to purchase the house.

The Realtor might wish to give the seller two copies of the disclosure, since almost always the seller will need to scratch something out that they didn’t read correctly the first time. That way they have a rough draft and a final neat copy to present to the potential buyers.

What Goes With You When You Sell Your Home?

When you are getting ready to sell one of the things you will need to consider is what stays in the home and what goes. There are certain things that are generally considered to be part of the home and others which are often negotiable. Before you put the home up for sale you will want to figure out what things you absolutely want to take with you and what might be up for discussion. If you know where you will be moving to next then you are already one step ahead of the game because you know what is in your new place. If not, or if you are moving far away, it can be trickier to decide what is worth moving or putting in storage and what is worth offering to the buyers of your home.

Generally things that are not attached go with the seller. If there are things you are absolutely certain you want to take with you that are attached, make sure you tell your Realtor and so that they are included in the listing and you don’t end up breaking any potential buyer’s heart.

Some people, especially if they are downsizing or moving far away, may choose to include the furniture as part of the package. This can be tricky because furniture will not factor into an appraisal value so if it adds significant numbers to the sale price then the sale may need to be done separately. These items can also be included as a value add for the potential buyer.chandelier

There are several areas which generally feature in this type of discussion:

Lighting: Lighting fixtures are often something that people are attached to because they often reflect personal style. In general things that are attached to the home such as lighting fixtures are generally considered to be part of the home. For example, when I bought my condo, the owners wanted to take their crystal chandelier in the dining room with them. For me this wasn’t an issue, the chandelier wasn’t my style and I was happy with having the chance to replace it with something else. However if I hadn’t known this in advance and I had my heart set on the way the dining room looked with the chandelier it could have been an issue. Fixtures are to remain in the home unless the seller explicitly stated the item is not to be included in the sale. The seller also needs ensure that the item be removed without damage to the home. Lamps are moveable items and are considered personal items that can be claimed by the seller when they vacate the home.

Appliances: Appliances are often an area where the buyer and seller can negotiate. In some cases, the buyer may actually prefer that the seller remove appliances because they have their own. Other times, the seller may be ready to take the appliances but could use them as an incentive to get the buyer to pay the list price because the buyer won’t have to pay for new appliances. If you are absolutely certain that you want to take the appliances with you make sure your agent notes that. If you are willing to negotiate let your agent know that too. Most appliances are moveable items that the seller would normally be allowed to remove from the home. Moveable items are considered personal items or possessions of the seller.

Landscaping: Plants, shrubs and trees are items that are affixed to the property and will remain with the home however if you have container gardens or perhaps flower-filled urns on the front porch those can be negotiable. Backyard equipment, such as lawn chairs, tables, swings and grills, are all considered personal items. The swing set may get a bit tricky because it can be claimed that it is attached to the ground in some cases. The seller may often be very willing to sell all of the backyard items for a price.

Window Treatments: Window treatments are another area that can be negotiated. Often window treatments were bought to fit the specific size and shape of the windows and so the seller may not be interested in taking them to a new home. If you are planning to leave the window treatments behind be sure to let your agent know so that it can be added to the listing. This is often a great selling point to use because it means the person can move in and not have to worry about privacy.


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