Frequently Asked Questions

Advertise Your Property on Cornerstone

Since images are displayed in full screen in several areas of our site, we recommend using images with a minimum size of 1000 pixels wide X 706 pixels high, in the popular JPEG format. Smaller images will not give the best view of your property.

Advertising your own listing costs US $130 (TT $885 approx) for a three month period and payment is quick and easy using any major VISA Debit or other Credit Card or VTM card (using the secure and popular PayPal website). If your property is sold within the period we will allow you to advertise another property for the remaining days or get a pro-rated refund (for a refund proof of your sale is required).

Your listing will be presented along with any contact information you wish to provide. We recommend using an email address and a mobile phone number at the very least. Interested persons can either phone you or use the online form on your listing page to reach you. Your email address is never shown on the site. Information entered into the form will be forwarded to your email address immediately then discarded. NOTE: Cornerstone does not interact in any way with persons interested in your listing.

Payment for properties submitted via the website are handled securely by PayPal using any credit or Visa debit card. No other payment options are available at this time.

Creating your own listing on Cornerstone is easy. From the homepage start by clicking on the “Get Started” in the Welcome section. This will bring up the Login/Register prompt for you to either create a new account or login. After you login, click the Submit Property button again and you will be presented with a form which will gather all the details and images that you wish to present with your listing. Complete the form with as much information as possible and submit it. If there are any errors or omissions you will need to correct them before the form is accepted. After successfully submitting the form you will be presented with a Property has been submitted notice along with a Subscribe button. The required fees will be presented directly below the button. Click the Subscribe button to complete your payment and activate your listing. After payment, the listing will automatically appear on the site. This payment is per month or part thereof and will automatically renew at the end of each successive month. When your property is sold or you wish to discontinue your listing please write to sales@cornerstone.co.tt with your instructions.

Yes and we would be happy to do it. If you wish for us to handle all aspects of your listing then all future enquiries will come to us and you will no longer be required to pay to keep your listing online. You will however be liable for the paying the standard commission when your listing is sold or rented. Read our Listing With Cornerstone FAQ for more information.

Yes. If you have 1 to 4 listing these are all be handled in the normal way with the usual payment method. If you wish however to display 5 or more properties or use the site on an ongoing basis, we can discuss a special arrangement for you.

Editing your listing(s) is easy and you may do it as often as you like, tweaking it to get it just right. Start by logging in to our site. After login you will see a new button in the upper right corner named “My Properties”. Click on it to edit any of your recent properties.

We recommend creating your listing and making your payment within 24 hours if not immediately. We do recognize that immediate payment may not always be possible however so for this reason or if you did not get chance to finish creating your listing, you may pay later. Login later and head to My Properties to make your payment after submitting the listing. We will keep your listing for one week before removing it for non-receipt of payment. After it is removed you will have to resubmit your property.

Listing with Cornerstone

Yes, you may email us your photos as we always welcome property images. As part of our normal listing process we will visit your property to take our own photos but if you already have photos, we may use these in combination with our own photos. If sending us photos, please ensure that they are 1000 pixels wide X 706 pixels high or greater (we accept all popular image file formats).

To provide the highest level of client satisfaction and to effectively manage all aspects of the sale of your property, Cornerstone prefers exclusive control of your listing, typically for Three (3) months. During this period Cornerstone will employ all resources at its disposal to market and network your property, along with a group of well-established and reputable local realtors to arrive at a closing in the shortest possible time with the best available market value.

Although Cornerstone accepts non-exclusive listings (listings given to more than one agent at the same time), all our marketing channels cannot be used with this type of listing. We typically experience less effective results with non-exclusive listings due to the reduced marketing channels.

Yes! We encourage referrals (property for sale only, not rentals) and will mail a check to you—or send the funds to you via PayPal if you are overseas or prefer this method—as soon as we close on your referred property! At present our referral fee is 0.25% of the closing price up to a max of TT $4,500. To be paid, you should ensure that the person(s) you refer to us lets us know when they first contact us (or you may contact us yourself beforehand). Remember that we would require a name and mailing address to send your check or an email address for PayPal. Any information given to us is held in strict confidence–please review our Privacy Policy for more information.

CornerStone does not charge its clients for listing property. All costs involved in the marketing, exposure, showing, negotiating etc are paid for by us. Related transaction costs (ie: appraisal fees and WASA clearance certificate fees etc) are paid for by the client.

For exclusive listings, Cornerstone uses a judicious mix of marketing techniques (based on the type and location of the property) which has proven to be very effective for us over the past several years and continuing. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Website advertising and exposure *
  • Classified advertising
  • Outdoor signage
  • Wanted Ads
  • Realtor networking
  • DVD Video presentations at various locations
  • Open House Events and Private Viewings
  • Streaming video
  • Print advertising
  • Client database matching*
  • Direct client advertising and offers
Non-exclusive listings typically involve only these channels.

Cornerstone’s commission rate is negotiable and for lands and buildings (residential or commercial) the range is from 3% to 5% of the closing price. For rentals and leases it is equal to one month’s rent. We do not normally negotiate short-term rentals (rentals less than 1 year) unless previously agreed upon with the client.

Short term rentals agreed upon and executed are billed on a pro-rata basis as follows: (Monthly Rental/12) x Rental Term in Months

Cornerstone lists a wide variety of properties which include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Single Family Homes
  • Multi-Family Homes
  • Apartments
  • Townhouses
  • Commercial Property
  • Vacant Land
  • Warehouses
  • Estates
  • Office Space
  • Rentals and more…

Cornerstone Properties typically charges a commission which is payable by the client (property owner) when the sale (or lease) has been consummated.
A sale is normally considered consummated after:

  1. A down-payment is received (typically 10% of the closing price);
  2. All title searches have been successfully completed and;
  3. All clauses in the governing sale agreement have been satisfied.

Cornerstone will never charge a client for advertising costs of any kind. While other agents may try to recover some of their marketing costs in the event of a non-closure, Cornerstone will never charge its clients costs of any kind.

Mortgages & Financing

A pre-qualification is an estimate by a mortgage lender of how much you can afford to borrow. It is based upon the information you provide. The final loan approval is subject to further investigation of documents, such as a credit report, property appraisal, as well as income verification. A pre-approval is a firmer commitment on behalf of the mortgage company.

Based on some credit investigation of the borrower, the lender will guarantee that a loan can be made for a certain amount (subject to property approval by the lender).

Lenders like to see job stability in a loan applicant. A stable job means a steady income that will enable the borrower to make the loan payments on time.

At the very least you should get pre-qualified by a lender. By knowing the amount you can borrow, you can save yourself the time and heartache of looking at homes that you cannot afford.

By getting pre-approved, you not only go into the house hunt knowing you will get a loan, but you will also have added bargaining power when it comes to negotiating a purchase price for a home. A seller may be more accommodating to a purchaser who is guaranteed financing.

Any down payment above and beyond your lender`s minimum requirements will depend on your financial situation.

At the minimum you should leave enough funds available to cover related loan costs and two months worth of mortgage payments. Any remaining funds should be used to best fit your total financial picture. Would you be better off investing the money or buying furniture, and reaping the benefits of a larger mortgage interest deduction? The answer will depend on your financial goals.

Self-employed borrowers are evaluated on the health of their business as well as their personal credit, so most lenders require about a two-year business history. If your employment history falls short of two years, you may still be able to get a loan if the lender feels you have enough `compensating factors.`

Compensating factors can be a large down payment (20 percent or more), substantial spouse income, large asset reserves, excellent credit history, etc. There are no hard and fast rules regarding compensating factors. Their ability to offset a short employment history depends on each individual situation and lender guidelines.

A lender may tell you that its income qualifying ratios are 28/36. The 28 means that 28 percent of your gross monthly income can go toward housing expenses, as described previously in the FAQ. The 36 means that 36 percent of your gross monthly income can go toward all of your monthly debt, including housing debt. This amount is often referred to as the `total debt to income ratio` or the `back-end ratio.`

This can include monthly payments on credit cards, installment loans (auto, student loan, etc.); child support/alimony payments or other monthly payments required by a court ordered judgment. The allowable percentage can vary by lender and loan circumstances.

In order to minimize the chances of borrowers `getting in over their heads` financially, most of the lending industry has agreed that a borrower`s monthly housing expense should not be greater than 28 percent of the borrower`s gross monthly income (income before taxes).

This 28 percent, often referred to as the `housing-to-income ratio` or `front-end ratio,` includes the monthly loan payment, real estate taxes/assessments, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance and association fees (for condo or townhouse owners). The allowable percentage can vary by lender.

A 10 percent down payment was the standard years ago, but some lenders will allow the buyer to put as little as 5% down.

Ask your lender if they participate in any first-time buyer programs. These programs often require down payments of less than 5 percent. Don`t forget that you will have to pay additional closing costs, so allocate for these costs when saving up to buy your home.

Property Management

All costs for advertising your property, screening the tenant, photographs, inventory register, placing it on our website, drive time, and other general administration costs associated with the management contract will be met by Cornerstone Properties.

No setup fees are charged.

We have a comprehensive list of contractors and service providers, who have proven their reliability, to ensure every detail of your property is handled quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively. Cornerstone will usually solicit at least 2 written estimates for any work to be done on managed property and provide copies of all estimates in your secure area of our website.

Rent is due on or before the 5th of every month regardless of the date the lease is signed by the tenant.

All checks and monthly statements will be sent to the property owner’s account and copies provided online in the landlord’s secure area of our website, on or before the 10th of each month. We can also deposit funds directly into a stated bank account locally (or overseas) as required by the landlord.

Prior to move-in the tenant(s) must provide the first month’s rent and a security deposit equal to the value of one month’s rent.

Security deposits are refundable upon move-out unless repairs, painting or cleaning has to be done, in which case those costs are deducted from the refundable deposit.

Cornerstone will handle all advertising of the property if it is vacant when we commence the management contract.

  • We will perform background checks, check into previous rental history, and check to see if the applicant is employed;
  • On the landlord’s behalf we will negotiate rental agreements, collect rental fees and deposits, issue keys to the tenants and make sure the keys are returned once the tenant leaves. We also perform drive by inspections of the property bi-monthly;
  • We will perform interior and exterior inspections of the property on a quarterly basis;
  • Upon the tenants moving-out and before new tenants move-in we will contract house cleaners and re-key the door locks (if approved by the landlord);
  • Tenants will be served with late notices as required;
  • We will arrange, manage, and pay for all required repairs and maintenance (we will seek the landlord’s approval for all non-emergency repairs that exceed 25% of the monthly rental). Emergency repairs that exceed 75% of the monthly rental will require the landlord’s approval also. Emergency repairs are generally those that seriously threaten the tenants’ security; risk property damage or loss etc.
  • All tenants will be provided with a 24-hour emergency number (emergency defined as and outlined in the tenant’s package);
  • All documents, progress photos, invoices, agreements, receipts etc regarding your  managed property will be available in a special; secured area of our website where only the owner has access. This provides the landlord/owner with historical data for the life of our management contract. The files may be viewed online by the landlord, printed or downloaded.

Cornerstone charges the industry standard of 10% of monthly receipts to manage a single family home, condo, apartment etc. For multi-unit properties we can negotiate our fee. You pay nothing when your property is vacant or no rent is being paid. This means we actively fill properties with qualified tenants and follow up arrears quickly. Regarding maintenance, our tradespeople are skilled at what they do, which minimizes call-backs and increases tenant satisfaction. Any trade discounts obtained are passed onto you.

 

Unless there is a suitable and applicable exit clause in the lease agreement, a tenant who leaves before the lease expires is legally required by the terms of their contract to continue paying until the property is re-leased or the lease expires. Other than legal redress there is no other course of action for the landlord or property manager.

NOTE: Cornerstone carefully screens all prospective tenants to minimize this risk as far as practically possible.

CornerStone Properties will arrange for all cleaning prior to move-in and after move-out. While the property is being leased, the tenants are responsible for keeping the property clean and for general yard maintenance. In some instances CornerStone will undertake to manage the yard maintenance (at a nominal fee).

We strongly encourage a non-smoking policy for rental properties. Cigarette smoke tends to linger for a long time and may make your property less attractive to future non-smoking tenants. Legally we cannot say no to smokers, but it is legal to say ‘No Smoking’ in this building.

Selling, Buying & Renting

The so-called “closing” is the final transfer of the house to the buyer. It occurs after both the seller and the buyer have met all the terms of the contract and the deed has been conveyed. Closing also refers to the time when the transfer will occur, such as “the closing on my house will happen on January 27 at 10:00 a.m.”

The event referred to as the closing frequently takes place at the office of the professional who handles the transaction, such as a title officer or real estate lawyer.

Prior to marketing a listing a real estate agent will typically request from the owner, the following documents:

  • A signed listing agreement
  • A copy of the deed and cadastral sheet
  • A copy of the most recent land and building tax receipt
  • A copy of the most recent Water & Sewage Authority (WASA) receipt

Before you make an offer, think about the what ifs–things that would make the property unusable for your purposes. Add these to the offer as contingencies, things that must or must not happen before you buy. For example:

  • Offers for land without sewer hookups should be contingent on your ability to obtain permits for a septic system.
  • If an architectural review committee must approve your home plans, the offer should be contingent on obtaining approval.
  • The offer should be contingent on obtaining the type of financing you desire. Some contingencies are included in standard contracts, but your agent, contractor, or real estate attorney can help you determine if other contingencies should be added.

Searching for land can be a fun adventure. If you look hard enough, you may find a perfect building site just waiting to be cleared from an overgrown jungle of brambles and weeds.

When a new tenant moves in, the landlord often collects money to cover such things as cleaning or damage. The money collected may be refundable or nonrefundable.

  1. Refundable Deposits – The term “deposit” can only be applied to money which can be refunded to the tenant. Typical types of deposits include a damage deposit and a security deposit. If a refundable deposit is being charged, take careful note of the following:
    • The rental agreement must be in writing. It must say what each deposit is for and what the tenant must do in order to get the money back;
    • The tenant must be given a written receipt for each deposit;
    • A checklist or statement describing the condition of the rental unit must be filled out. Landlord and tenant must sign it, and the tenant must be given a signed copy.
  2. Nonrefundable Fees – These will not be returned to the tenant under any circumstances. If a nonrefundable fee is being charged, the rental agreement must be in writing and must state that the fee will not be returned. A nonrefundable fee cannot legally be called a “deposit”.
    • Screening Fees: A landlord may charge a fee for obtaining background information on someone who applies to be a tenant. The fee must be limited to the costs incurred by the landlord in processing the application.
    • Non-refundable Cleaning Fees: A landlord may collect money as a nonrefundable cleaning fee. The collection of this fee must be in writing and clearly state that it is nonrefundable. A tenant who pays a nonrefundable cleaning fee cannot be charged for normal cleaning when moving out.

A rental agreement between the landlord and tenant sets down the terms that will be followed while the tenant lives in the rental unit. The following is a description of the two most common types of rental arrangements: leases and month-to-month rental agreements. But whatever a rental agreement is called, it’s important to read the document carefully to learn its exact terms.

  1. Month-to-Month Agreement – This agreement is for an indefinite period of time, with rent usually payable on a monthly basis. The agreement itself can be in writing or oral, but if any type of fee or refundable deposit is being paid, the agreement must be in writing.
    • A month-to-month agreement continues until either the landlord or tenant gives notice to end it.
    • The rent can be raised or the rules changed at any time, provided the landlord gives the tenant proper notice.
  2. Lease – A lease requires the tenant to stay for a specific amount of time and restricts the landlord’s ability to change the terms of the rental agreement. A lease must be in writing to be valid.
    • During the term of the lease, the rent cannot be raised or the rules changed unless both landlord and tenant agree.
    • A lease for more than one year may be acknowledged like a deed.
  • Pay the rent on time. It should be paid by midnight after the day it is due, or the landlord may start legal proceedings to evict the tenant. 
  • Keep the apartment and the surrounding area clean and in good condition. 
  • Keep noise to a level that will not disturb your neighbors. 
  • Repair any damage occurring to the apartment through the fault of the tenant, family members or guests.
  • Notify landlord at once of major damage. 
  • Give the landlord permission to enter the apartment at reasonable times and with advance notice to inspect it or to make any necessary repairs. 
  • Notify the landlord of any anticipated prolonged absence from the apartment so he or she can keep an eye on things. 
  • When moving out, give landlord proper advance notice. Be sure that the apartment is in the same condition as when the tenant moved in and return the key to the landlord promptly. 
  • Notify the landlord immediately if the apartment needs repair through no fault of the tenant.

Landlord’s Responsibilities / Tenant’s Rights

  • Clean apartment before the tenant moves in;
  • Clean common areas (hallways, stairs, yards, entryways); 
  • Ensure that Hallways and entries are properly lit. 
  • Provide properly working plumbing.

With a certain amount of effort and research, you can understand and negotiate all of the required documents and other aspects of the transaction yourself. Depending on your own skills and needs, you may want to hire a real estate agent.

One concern that drives many people to hire a real estate agent (or an attorney) is that paperwork will be flying around like a small hurricane, and it can be very helpful to have someone familiar with the process to deal with it. Other parts of the transaction will be happening quickly too — hiring a valuator, negotiating over who pays for needed repairs, and the like — all of which is second nature to an experienced agent.

What’s more, experienced real estate agents usually have contacts with good valuators, mortgage brokers, and others who can make your buying process easier.

If you bought your home a long time ago, it’s probably worth much more now. But even during the months that you plan your sale, the real estate market may be moving up and down. Try to take the market’s temperature. A “hot” market is one in which there are more buyers than sellers, so the buyers are competing with each other and driving up prices. A “cold” market is one with more sellers than buyers, so the buyers can be choosy and bid low. The hotter the market, the more aggressive you can be in pricing your house.

Simply chatting with your neighbors can teach you a fair amount about the heat of the local market. Also, read your local newspaper’s real estate section, and talk to realtors you meet at open houses.

When making an offer, you should consider the following factors:

  • The asking price of the house;
  • What you can afford (its a good idea to speak to your banker first to get pre-qualified);
  • Prices for comparable houses;
  • Whether the local real estate market is hot or cold at that price point;
  • The seller’s needs, like whether the seller needs to close quickly;
  • Whether the house is uniquely valuable to you given its amenities, location etc.;
  • How much you feel good about paying for the particular house.

The best source of pricing information comes from houses directly comparable to your own. In the real estate industry, a “comparable” is a house with similar features, preferably located near yours — ideally within six blocks. When identifying comparables, look for houses with the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms and other amenities. Eventually you’ll be able to predict the prices of other houses, and get a sense of what yours should be listed for.

The key thing to setting a price is determining how much your property is actually worth on the market — called “appraising” a house’s value. Because no two houses are alike, it’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty what a buyer will pay for yours. However, the best indicator is recent sales prices of similar properties in your neighborhood. Real estate agents have access to local sales data and can give you a good estimate of what your house should sell for.

Observing the asking prices of houses still on the market can provide guidance. However, you’ll need to adjust these prices for local market conditions. In some areas, asking prices are typically 10% or more over the market. To find out asking prices, go to open houses, check newspaper real estate classified ads, and go to online listings.

  • In wooded areas, watch for pathways cut by surveyors when they marked a property line. They are often visible for many years.
  • Trees or bushes along property lines are might be marked with brightly colored paint or plastic rods.

Its usually easiest to ask the vendor for a copy of the Cadastral sheet for the property in question.

Yes. All property in Trinidad and Tobago has a rental value. Every property has the potential of being rented – whether the intention of the owner is to rent it or not. The rental value is determined by what rent the property would fetch on the open market if it were put up for rent.

Some provisions that may appear in rental agreements or leases may not be legal and as a result cannot be enforced under the law. These may include:

  • A provision that waives any right given to tenants by the Landlord;
  • A provision that tenants give up their right to defend themselves in court against a landlord’s accusations;
  • A provision that limits the landlord’s liability in situations where the landlord would normally be responsible;
  • A provision allowing the landlord to enter the rental unit without proper notice;
  • A provision requiring a tenant to pay for all damage to the unit, even if it is not caused by tenants or their guests;
  • A provision stating the tenant will pay the landlord’s attorney’s fees under any circumstances if a dispute goes to court;
  • A provision that allows the landlord to seize a tenant’s property if the tenant falls behind in rent;
  • A provision giving the landlord the right to resort to self-help to remove a tenant.

Taxes

Not necessarily. The rental value of houses on the same street may vary according to classification of the building, floor area of the building, age and condition of the building, utilities available (water, electricity, telephone etc). The property taxes payable will depend on the rental value of each individual house.

Category: Taxes

The qualified professionals at the Valuation Division of the Ministry of Finance.

Category: Taxes

The Annual Rental Value (ARV) is the monthly rental value multiplied by twelve (12) months.

Category: Taxes

No, Property Tax has been in effect in Trinidad and Tobago since the 19th century. Currently the tax is more particularly known as Land and Building Tax.

Category: Taxes

Valuers take into account several factors when calculating the unit value of the property’s price per sq. metre, which is used to calculate your property’s rental value. They include:

  1. The type or category of the property – executive; modern; standard. This depends on the features of the property: – design; variety, quality and use of room space; type and quality of utilities, finishes etc.
  2. The location of the property – for example: Goodwood Gardens, Diamond Vale and Hibiscus Avenue may be grouped together as attracting rent as executive property at @ say $80.00 per sq. metre. Modern properties @ $50.00 per sq. metre and standard properties @ $35.00 per sq. metre.

Over the last 12-18 months, the Valuation Division of the Ministry of Finance has been working on the conducting of property market analysis for Trinidad and Tobago and collect information necessary to value each property in the country.

Category: Taxes

Yes, property tax must be paid by every property owner. Persons receiving disability grants, public assistance grants and senior citizen grants may apply to the Board of Inland Revenue to have their payment of tax (and interest which will accumulate for the time the tax remains unpaid) deferred until such time as they can pay.

The tax and interest must be paid before the property is transferred to another person.

Category: Taxes