Updated last year

There are many reasons and probably more that I can list, but I will try to cover the most common ones. Remember, a realtor is there to make money on sales, is a businessman and has expenses and other clients to service. It's not that they don't want your money, is that they think they will not get it.

Before you contact any realtor, make sure you have social security cards (can not be laminated) for you and your spouse (house has to be in both names), find both birth certificates or passports, and make sure your driver licence is up to date. Then contact a realtor in Puerto Rico to ask how the process flows and what sort of documentation you will need to bring for getting qualified for a loan. These are basic questions that should only take 5 to 10 minutes of their time and you have zero commitment to them or their firm.

Most of the issues listed below are historical and they have affected realtors. These issues have caused some realtors not to want to deal with mainlanders and instead concentrate their efforts on people that live on the island currently.

The first root of the problem seem to be that people come to the island for a limited amount of time, they usually come for a week or two and are in a rush/panic to see as many properties as they can in such short amount of time. Likely they will not be able to see that many properties in such short periods of time, so you will need more visits. A lot of times they want to see 50 properties in a week or two which is impossible due to time constraints and how the system works (see note about types of realtors).

The second root of the problem is that the customers are unsure as to where they want to live, they are not sure of the type of property they want and the lifestyle they will adopt in the island. If the customer has not visited the island sufficiently or has not rented a property for several months, the customer is unlikely to know what they want.

I understand that as a customer you want to maximise your time in the island, but no realtor is going to take you on a tour of the island unless they think there is a good chance you will purchase something, or you are paying for their time.

Here are some examples and reasons why they don't want to contact you back:

1) Realtors see the customer area code, and they do not speak sufficient English to deal with you, so they will not pick up the phone, or they will ignore your English email. Remember in Puerto Rico people speak Spanish, the whole country is run in Spanish. While some (about 20%) speak some English not all are fluent enough.

2) Realtors have been burned a bunch of times with mainlanders coming to the island like it is a candy store, with no idea what they want or where they want to live. This is a big red flag to them, and they fear that the customer is just going to waste their time. As such they do not want to spend too much time with you (the customer) looking at properties that you are not yet ready to buy. In their mind, as a customer, you are likely to go back home and return a few months later and do it all over again. A big red flag is when a customer wants to look at properties that are one to three hours away from their office or in entirely different regions of the island. After a few customers like this, the realtor won't give a mainlander the time of the day and will completely stop responding. This is a major reason to avoid you. Do your homework, decide on a town or two after some tourist trips to the island then contact a realtor.

3) Mainlanders while still in the States and without signing any contract with a realtor for their services, sometimes call or email realtors asking them to investigate the cost of schools, map out bad neighbourhoods around some properties that they saw on the Internet. While it is understandable the customer wants information, if you as a customer are not on the island and are asking about potential properties that you have not yet seen/visited and there is no contract with the realtor, then you are being unreasonable and wasting their time. At the first sign of this, they will stop responding. They don't even know if you are serious or if you even qualify to purchase a property.

4) Even after selling you a property, no matter how nice a realtor is, a realtor can not afford to do you favours, he has expenses and his time is money, just like your time, respect must be mutual. You expect to be paid for every minute you work for your employer, well so does the realtor. So don't ask unless you can pay them for his time and they have mentioned that they are willing to assist you. Even then, keep it to a minimum. Their main job is selling houses, there not much money in being an errant boy, so keep that in mind before you ask. This is another big one. Don't ask them to arrange for someone to build a fence, find someone to cut your grass, etc.

5) Some mainlanders do searches on the Internet and then contact a realtor to investigate a property that they did not list. Some ask them to compare it to other properties and give their opinion. Given that it is not one of their properties, the likelihood is that they have never visited that property so they cannot give you a comparison or an honest opinion. It is also not their job to give you opinions; their job is to show you properties and make it easy to close the sale. Come to the island first, see some properties with the realtor then make your mind. DO listen to their advice if they offer it; they know how things work and have a pretty good idea of what kind of offer the owner will accept.

6) Realtors are not available 7/24. Calling a realtor in the middle of the night with some questions that can wait until morning is rude and not thoughtful. Besides, it may be a holiday in Puerto Rico while it may be a workday in the States and from time to time a realtor also wants to spend some time sleeping or have an outing with friends or family. Would you like to be called at all times of the day and night?

7) Also calling the realtor and expecting them to be on the phone with you for three hours while you ask hundreds of questions is not financially rewarding to the realtor. Writing a long letter that they have no time to read also does not work well, it is not likely that the letter will be read or read carefully. You may be retired; they are not. List your questions, make them short, and they can spare you ten minutes once a week or so.

8) Some mainlanders treat the realtor like hired help and or are in general rude. Some will make inappropriate comments or conversations (example bigotry, politics, religion, sex). A realtor can get very uncomfortable under this situation; they need to sell properties in a professional manner and while they may keep calm no matter how rude or inappropriate you have been, next time you contact them they will remember or avoid you. They are providing services for a fee or commission or both.

9) Some mainlanders have been known to flat out lie and say they are looking for a cash transaction when in reality they need a mortgage for which they may or may not qualify. They do this mostly, so the realtor takes them out instead of sending them to get qualified for a loan.

10) Some mainlanders have lied about what they can afford, they have the realtor show them 350k homes and then turn around and maybe purchase a falling apart property for 80k. Even worst, they purchase it from a competitor. If you intended to buy cheap property, it was a waste of time for you and the realtor to look at properties well above what you are willing to pay. This angers them to no end.

11) Some mainlanders do not want to get pre-qualified for a loan for many reasons, but they expect the realtor to jump thru hoops and show them properties without any assurances that they can afford the properties. You see this in the States also, but most realtors will basically tell you to get pre-qualified then come back.

12) Some mainlanders have put in outrageous offers/bids on properties that insult the owner and waste everyone's time. Insulting the owner typically ends the possibility of a sale. The owner is likely to refuse to deal with you after that no matter how much money you are offering. If you intend to make a low offer ask the realtor about how likely it is that the owner will accept. To prevent insulting the owner a realtor may sometimes not carry your offer to the owner and just tell you that the owner refused -- this way they can keep the communication channels open. They are not supposed to do that but some do so the deal doesn't die.

The economy is bad in Puerto Rico and house prices are already depressed. What you as a mainlander may not know is that the asking price may already be a firesale, so offering 10, 15 or 20% less could offend the owner and waste everyone's time. The first offer is the start of negotiation as long as it is reasonable. If you are sure you want the property but cannot trust the realtor for an opinion on the offer, then go ahead and get the property assessed by a professional. It does cost money, so you will only do it if you are serious about that property, you do not want to end conversation too early or offer way above its real value. If you are getting a mortgage, keep in mind that the bank will turn you down if the property is not worth what you are offering. Also, note that what is reasonable in Yauco may be an insult in Fajardo.

There is a big difference between buying a home in the States and in Puerto Rico, partially because in the US the process is not rushed, it is spread over months or a year. Every week or so you get together with a realtor to see 1-5 properties, and you are partially familiar with the areas where you want to view properties. There are also realtor databases in the States with plenty information and pictures about all homes being sold nationwide. Finding properties is a matter of searching the database, this makes it efficient for you and the realtor to quickly discard properties and only visit properties with high possibility of being just right for you and within your budget. In the States, you probably only need one single realtor for the areas you are considering.

When you come to Puerto Rico, you as a customer are under pressure of time and money. Every single trip to the island is costing you and draining your funds. As such you want to maximise the number of houses you want to see in the least amount of time. Perfection will be if a realtor goes around with you to show you multiple places every single day and be dedicated to you for the week or two that you are on the island.

Let me tell you, that realtors have a hard time devoting themselves exclusively to you for long periods of time. But even if they did, there is no easily searchable database of properties, information and images, so running out of properties to see from a realtor is common.

It is understandable that the customer is in a panic since the odds are against finding the perfect place in such short amount of time. That is why you need to focus on a spot/location and concentrate on what is available there. Do your candy shop number as a tourist, nail down the area, then contact a realtor.

And if you want to find out how to be effective in your home search, there's a separate guide just for that.

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