photo: Jenny Steel

PHLIPSBURG – Almost all of the 144 brand new apartments in The Emerald at Maho are sitting empty. Buyers of these apartments have been waiting for up to four months to close on the sale of these units despite the fact that many have paid their final deposit.

According to many buyers, the government has not signed off on the final paperwork so they cannot take ownership of the properties they have paid for. They have been told that the notary presented the government with the necessary paperwork to sign off on in the beginning of September, but they are yet to receive the final signatures for the deed of division. Approximately 15 of the units are currently occupied.

Alison Penland is one buyer who has been waiting for the close of sale on her apartment for five months. She feels ‘terrified’ it may be up to a year before she has anything to show for close to $100,000 she paid for a unit. She understands many delays can happen with new build projects due to weather, labour, material shortages and even COVID but she is now frustrated with The Maho Group because, ‘they issued the closing dates and asked for the money knowing the government had not yet signed off on this.’

Alison Penland

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Another investor who has been waiting to close on the purchase of his unit is under the impression that delays of these kinds are not ‘uncommon’ and 100% believes this delay is preventing dollars from coming into the island. One potential buyer who lives on the French side admits to having the same problem. He wishes to rent the units he has paid for to tourists and says he has been assured the close of sale will be completed for February.

Director of real estate for The Maho Group, Stefano Pelizzola, explains that The Maho Group met with the Government last week and that they are trying to work together to find a solution.
‘What has been clarified is that there are no legal or technical issues from our part so now it is up to the Government.’

Broker and real estate sales specialist Sacha van den Bosch has 10 years experience with real estate in St Maarten. She has seen some investors walk away from deals in St Maarten due to the amount of time it can take for the government to process paperwork.

Sacha van den Bosch

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The Emerald at Maho is a project developed by The Maho Group, whose real estate portfolio on St Maarten includes Aquamarina, BlueMarine Residences and Villas, Maho Village and Porto Maho as well as The Royal Islander, Sonesta Resort and 2 casinos. The Emerald consists of two apartment blocks of four storeys each. Construction on them began in 2019 and was completed in mid January of this year. Touted as a ‘leading investment opportunity’ for St Maarten apartments range from studios to 1 and 2 bedroom units with prices ranging from $119,000 to $278,000.

The St Maarten Government did not respond to requests for comment.