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Our experience in purchasing a home in beautiful Puerto Rico.

Great write-up, any regrets? plan on renting for 6-12 months and really exploring before buying.

Excellent, excellent thread.  BrianTX, thanks for taking the time. 

To the reader:  The notary thing is common when using US notaries for issues in Latin America.  We've done several like that in Columbus, Ohio.  They are often referred to as an apostille.  The Latins will want to see the notary's pedigree.  In Ohio, that basically means getting a "super notary" to sign.  You can find one at the county courthouse law library in Franklin county, cheap and fast.  Perhaps that is the case elsewhere in the US as well.

Bear in mind that in much of Latin America, being a notary is a very big deal.  For example, in Chile we have found that getting a notarization takes half the day and $100+.  The notaries there have a monopoly by geography which makes them artificially scarce and expensive.  I do not care for it - too much expense due to the usual abuse of power by government.  It really hurts the little guy and wastes a lot of time & money for all (except the notaries and whichever politicos are paid to maintain the monopoly).  If you are used to getting something notarized in 2 minutes for $1 or for free, it will annoy you.  Multiply that event 100x to understand what you will face in Latin America.

While such bureaucracy is objectively bad, once you get there, roll with it.  You cannot change it, it is what it is.  If you chose to live somewhere, you chose to deal with certain issues.  Other issues presumably outweigh the bad and make it worth it.  That is why up-front research is so very important.  Know what you are getting into, and don't let the "happy happy" (or worse yet, "politically correct") crowd keep you from looking at the good and the bad.

When we need something notarized in Chile, I get a cup of coffee, bring my Nook, and read.  No point in letting something you cannot change stress you out.  Get some personal time in.  Or bring the laptop and keep on being productive.  But sitting & stewing is a bad use of time & energy.

Do they have "juniors" in PR?  In Chile you can often pay one of them to stand in line for you.  Then as they get close to the head, they text you, you chug your coffee at a nearby cafe, and walk on over.  That's capitalism!

PS:  Good post by Igustaf as well, provides some ideas of what to expect & how to deal with it.

Here's an amusing video with English subtitles out of Spain on Latin-style bureaucracy.  There really do try to "get you", have immense power, and (frighteningly) make US bureaucracy look friendly & efficient.  Though I think we in the US are rapidly "catching up" with Latin America in many ways, including larger, more powerful, and abusive bureaucracy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wtbQUaC9mE

SteuernAnwalt :

Bear in mind that in much of Latin America, being a notary is a very big deal.  For example, in Chile we have found that getting a notarization takes half the day and $100+.

SteuernAnwalt (why the 'n' and not "Steueranwalt" as it's written in good old Germany? :D)

Here in Puerto Rico I haven't encountered a notary who isn't also a attorney and you'll find one of almost every street corner. They work fast and fees are reasonable.

Gary,

Good catch on the "n", sloppy on my part.  Hopefully the online name is amenable to amendment, else my error will live on in public perpetuity.  I had always pronounced it with the "n" and people were evidently too polite to correct me. 

Good to hear in re notaries in PR.  More hassle & cost than a few minutes in a bank in the US, evidently far less cost & hassle than in Chile.  I will be curious to see how other aspects of the PR bureaucracy stack up to both US, Chile, and the rest of Latin America.  I am also curious as to how much influence US law & legal notions have had on local law in PR, as opposed to areas of law that are more "national" (e.g. - dealing with HUD, etc.).   I am particularly interested in the foreclosure process, along with tax liens/sales.

Thus far we seen the apostille/super notary issue come up with every Latin country we have dealt with.  We were very pleased to find a local notary who could serve in the role cheaply & quickly.  I'm not sure whether such people are easy to find outside of state capitals.

To my knowledge Gary, you have to be a lawyer to also be a notary in PR. That is not the case in the US, but it is the case in PR.

I also saw a proposal about notaries being considered for having the right to Marry people.

ReyP :

To my knowledge Gary, you have to be a lawyer to also be a notary in PR. That is not the case in the US, but it is the case in PR.

I think you're right there, Rey.

SteuernAnwalt :

Good catch on the "n", sloppy on my part.  Hopefully the online name is amenable to amendment, else my error will live on in public perpetuity.  I had always pronounced it with the "n" and people were evidently too polite to correct me.

You'd have to ask a moderator if user names can be changed, I can't help you there.
Now we are on the subject, I see in your profile that you speak German, Did you ever live & work over there?
I was in Germany for 13 years and enjoyed it a lot. Actually, if I had to go back to Europe (small chance) I would rather live there than in my native Holland..

Gary,

I was an exchange student exactly 30 years ago for 1 year.  I then made it a minor in college and re-visited for a spell in the 1990's.  When I first arrived I was amazed at how much English everyone spoke, and how well they spoke it.  Indeed, no one wanted to speak to me in German.  I explained that I came to their country to learn their language and insisted that they speak to me only in German.  But I also understood that they wanted to practice English & wanted to be helpful, so we set aside some evenings to do that.  I avoided Americans who were interested in speaking English (most of them, unfortunately) and really immersed myself in it.  The Gymnasium I attended was tough, it opened my eyes to the flaws in American primary & secondary education.  I'd also go into Hamburg and randomly talk to people.  They were really great & patient, especially for supposedly "cold" Germans.  I also worked in a factory while in college for a few weeks - I learned all sorts of new words there, not mention some of the Ostfriesland accent.  Bottom line, I dove into it, spoke to anyone with the patience to listen, watched lots of TV, read a ton, and avoided English speakers.  I also had a great example in my Mom, who came to the US from Central America and learned English to the point where she earned a PHD, almost entirely funded via scholarships.  She accepted no excuses for inferior performance.  Rather, she performed.  How could I do less?  As a result I learned German well & quickly. 

One useful hint for those learning languages:  It is useful to have a ten-year old around.  My guest sister was ruthless about correcting me!  She delighted in being allowed to do so with an older "sibling".  It also helps if you find yourself attracted to someone who does not speak your mother tongue well.  I definitely checked that box, it gave me lots of incentive & opportunity to practice.

I have spoken it far less over the last 20 years.  Germans I meet tell me I'm still fluent with good pronunciation....but the vocab has fallen off and I am quite lacking where more sophisticated forms of speech (e.g. - legal & business terms) are concerned.  We plan on a visit to Hamburg for 3 - 6 months in the next few years to get it back up to par.  My wife has advised that another German "long-haired dictionary" would be a very bad ("fatal") idea.

Interesting, I do not normally find the Dutch to favor Germany over Holland.  Very much the opposite, a fair amount of resentment over the war seems (seemed?) to linger.  Europeans seem to have long memories that way.  I'm curious as to why you liked Germany?

I moved to Germany 30 years ago and started my consultancy business, I was in roughly the same area as you were.
As far as WW II sentiments are concerned, my generation (baby boomers) and later are different than the generations that experienced the war. I try to be open-minded and that attitude made me feel at home wherever I moved. I made some friends for life in Germany.

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Many doctors are notaries as well, my mil's doctor takes care of her notary needs. In addition, the docs in the boxes at CESCO. Though I imagine you'd have to be pretty chummy with your doc to get him to notarize documents that aren't medically related, but it's doable. Hell, we have a mechanic that does house calls, anything is possible. You'd want a lawyer contact here regardless so maybe my whole point is moot.

Not sure if this helps, but regarding notaries, a military commissioned officer is authorized to act as a notary.  We had to have several documents notarized in PR and it worked just fine.  If you can befriend an officer (several installations in PR) you might be able to save some trouble.

You are correct; Notories must also be lawyers. My mother was a notory in NH, and she could perform marriages, but here in PR, only lawyers can be notories.

I have not had anything notarized in PR but from different members I have heard prices between 35-150. I guess it depends on the lawyer and how much he wants to charge someone.

Thank you so much for such a thorough post!  We are planning on Moving November 1st with our 3 young kids and our visit to house hunt starts Saturday.  We are looking mostly in Palmas del Mar since it seems more family oriented.  Although when we fly in we will stay near Dorado and look there as well.  Appreciate your time in posting, especially about transporting your things!

Fun fact:  if a couple buys a house in PR, they each own half.  According to the old Spanish law observed in PR, if  the wife dies, her portion goes to her husband.  If the husband dies, his portion goes to his/our child or next closest blood heirs.   

We found a way around this by adding the house to our trust, which was already made in Michigan.  Our PR attorney required us to provide proof that our attorney up north was a legal notary at the time the trust was made.  We obtained this from the County Clerk's office for a price of $10.  Where you get this depends on the state.  Some are done through the county clerk, as I did here in Michigan.  Others are done through the Secretary of State.  It depends on the state.

Hope this info can help someone else.

As it should be: Oink, Oink. The law is male oriented. Yes trust should do the trick.

Holy Shit Brian... Thank you thank you thank you for great and thorough information. I too, am looking to buy in La Isla within the next year and you answered many questions I had, and even a bunch I never even thought of!!!! Suzanne

You are very welcome. My goal was to hopefully help in some way by sharing our experiences

Brian, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.  And congratulations on your home purchase.  My husband and I are also planning on purchasing property in Rincon.  We want to retire there in 10+ years.   If we win the lotto then sooner....lol.

We have looked at the prices of properties in Rincon, specifically land, and were shocked at what they are asking compared to the rest of PR.

When you purchased your home,  how did you come up with an offer?  I mean you explained on your post but I guess what I'm wondering is how did you know what you paid was a good deal?  How does one go about making sure that the price of a home/lot is fair?  There's no MLS to check what other properties are selling for. 

Thanks,
Leslie

Hi Leslie. Thank you, it was a pleasure. Hopefully our experiences can help someone at some point.

Yes, Rincon will typically be more expensive than other cities on the West side of the island. I would recommend making a trip to PR at some point to see the areas you are interested in possibly living. People told Marina & I about certain cities and how great they are but once we checked them out, we didn't like them at all. So make sure it is a fit for you & your family.

Just like on the mainland, you can have an appraisal done. If you have a good/honest real estate agent, they are pretty knowledgeable regarding approximate  values. We chose not to because we felt like had a decent feel for values because we had previewed or looked at many properties. We also thought the price was fair for what we were getting.

Currently, it is a huge buyer's market in Puerto Rico. That could easily change in 10+ years when you are ready to start the process. I wouldn't start looking until about a year or so before you're ready to make the move. You could also purchase land now & build on it when you're ready.

Hope some of this helps!

Brian

I got quite a few giggles from your thread starting post. Like a cantaloupe rolling down the steep driveway, too funny.

Realtors in PR, glad you found a real gem. I haven't asked a seller's agent for anything other then show up at the property at the agreed upon time.

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