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Observations of 3 month visit

Rented a condo in Boquerón this Spring, 90 days. My base for exploration seeking RE purchase in SW PR. General observations, and my opinions, of the SW area, and western hilly or "mountain" areas NW--Lares, San Sebastian, Moca. Not gringo-land Rincon and surrounding which I visited, I'd stay in Florida if I wanted that.

Read many of the posts of topics but only subject areas that were of interest to me

#1: Any quotes about what an existing house goes for based on square feet or meter is totally unreliable.
The Island is swamped with for "For Sale" and a ton of repo's.  For new construction, $$ per sq foot/meter maybe somewhat reliable but wasn't in my plans so no clue. But, for existing property, ha ha on any reliability based on $$ per sq foot. What may have been a price range indicator in the past is now totally unreliable for existing houses.  Alot of very nice places going for drasticly less then they would have in the past, so alot of owners suffering. Alot of places I looked at, alot--stuff was torn out of the walls to take with the former owner. it's an extreme buyer's market and though I was limited to the SW coast for the most part and Lares area, I doubt there is going to be a different picture to the east.

Realtors--the biggest ha ha in PR. Good luck, a lot of sellers poorly served by even the ones that are supposedly reputable--and that's not talking about every Tom, Dick, and Harry that has a "license". They do not return calls, emails, do not show up if you do get something going, and may or may not even be the true listing agent. Most people rely on Clasifcados, online advertising site in PR--but you take your chances with realtors in PR. There is no MLS to speak of in PR, if there is I didn't get the memo.
For example a joker calls himself "Universal Properties" and has many listings on Clasificados, so does another imposter for a realtor, Johnny Negron. I wonder if either exists.

The beaches in the south west are highly over rated by the travel mags. And that incudes every beach from Mayaguez on down and then around to the SE coastal areas. Aside from other issues which are commented on in the forum, what I did not see mentioned is that many of those beaches are faced with fairly recent, documented, enormous erosion problem due to high sea levels which are never going to be resolved. Walking on many of the "Featured" beaches was down to maybe 8-10 feet widths in parts. Erosion. Crowded on week ends, not bad, but keep in mind June July and August are the peek times for that area in terms of the locals going away for the week-end or vacations and I was there in the spring. Many week day mornings were sparsely populated.

Very, very few gringo tourists in Cabo/Boquerón area this spring. That was the consensus opinion. Saw/met more Canadians and Europeans then gringos by far.

Crazy drivers? Didn't see it at all and SW, nothing worse then you'd experience on the mainland. Traffic was minimal in that entire quad, very little congestion, only at red lights in Cabo commercial area, Rt 100. The main "Interstates" were very good, congested at red lights in municipal areas. Side roads up in the hills--I hope you have big ones--no way at night--and I am very very experienced with L American countries--I rarely saw roads that narrow. In good shape, paved unlike Centro America mountain areas for example, but so narrow, dark, winding, unprotected, big drainage drop offs on both sides or hillside suicide drops, merciless, one mistake in the pitch black and you are in trouble. Room for 1.5 cars. If a truck or bus comes towards you, OMG. I spent 10 days in the hills near Lares, 700' elevation. Wouldn't drive it at night. 6.5 km from a "secondary" road. Got home before dark. Day time took me ten minutes, night 25. Creeping speed.

Groceries, atrocious and it pains me to think of a population mostly below the poverty level paying those prices even for basics, eggs, milk, produce.  $5 for milk, $4 for eggs, crazy produce prices. Same for booze and beer. Bacardi--a PR home grown, hugely subsidized for whatever reason--they say to keep the jobs and marketing and whatever other BS--is cheaper in the US then at their liquor/grocery stores.. Go figure that one. Taxes are part of it--I think sales tax were 11%?

Water--I wouldn't drink it and I was in a 15 y.o. 6 story 24 unit building. It stunk for openers. A good friend that I made, a cop in Cabo, told me it is peculiarly worse in Boquerón which was my base camp. Water also had a slimy feel to it in the shower, slippery tub. When I got back there was US EPA story about PR water being the worst in the US. I believed that news report instantly. Every body is buying the plastic gallons at the supermarket for $1.25, but it is still from a local source and I am not sure ionization is going to fix that stuff.

Restaurants/food way over-priced--$12 for BK at a so so joint is typical. Restaurants and all that aren't important to me, but just saying. Actually, the best food and the best deal on eating was at the "cafeterias" at the two main grocery chain's, Econo and Mr Special. $5-6 and very good, ample, square meal. PR's agree, they were generally crowded. And the "Pincho's" , road side stands or outside bars, or wherever, $5 for 5 or 6 pieces of BB-Q chicken on a pincho (spear). They sell hamburgers, hot dogs, other stuff but you need to acquire a taste for the diff between our versions and theirs. I found generally beef sucked, pork was the order of the day.

The people--much different then PRican's....blaah, blah.     Incredibly nice, didn't meet or even particularly notice one jerk. Love conversation, good humored, love talking to a gringo. My best memory of PR, 1000%.

Roosters--they love their roosters, really, so deal with that morning noise 4am? and dogs. Very unimpressed, sadly unimpressed with the mentality on pets. Saw it time and time and time again, borderline cruel. My only poor grade for the locals. Sorry, but they admit it too.

Not unusual to see a horse on the side of the road, or walking same at night in rural areas. Cabo govt is cracking down, read it in the paper. Night riders, they have a word for this "party", but a bunch of guys, like 20, go riding horses down the road at night, late night. Insanity by gringo thinking, unlit roads. They scraped a dead horse off the road a block from my condo at 3am, rider in an ambulance.

Gasoline prices, surprisingly in line with mainland or not that much more prices

Car repairs, dirt cheap.

Rent a car--hand's down Charlie's-- on price and all else--no if's and or buts, and to a T, all Charlie's desks around PR were very nice people at different facilities. So why the car repairs--don't ask but excellent work and cheap.

English everywhere, ha ha. Hit or miss depending on the setting. The tipico local-locals, not much. In the country side or the hills, minimal. PR's are getting inglis in grammar school, but it isn't working. Fine with me, I like it like it is. But for those PR's that are fleeing to Florida or Texas or CA, they are going to be "just another Mexican" (sorry for that) despite that they are US citizens. 

Medical--was exposed to the system a little, enough to make a first impression comment anyway. Mmmm--if you get really sick but treatable, you can get back to the mainland. Trauma? Maybe you are in trouble. I think the forum was accurate about Medical in PR--but getting worse--the profession is fleeing. Hospitals everywhere--anybody working? Hmmm.

What do they call us? Invariably, I was referred to as "Americano".

That's my two cents. Overall, I liked it very much. disappointed in somethings, who isn't when they go to a new place with a skeptical eye. But at least SW and in the hills, you do get the feel that you are not in Kansas anymore. I like that.

Thanks for taking the time to write your experience during your stay. I would say that is accurate for that part of the island. However I never had an issue with the water if it was clear (sometimes it is not).

Your experience with the realtors is very, very common and completely accurate. Those small roads 1.2 to 1.5 cars wide are a nightmare any time of the day or night.

Most of the time I eat at neighborhood places or by the side of the road, rarely at a restaurant or fast food join, I am a local so I always go for local food, large portion and low price.

Good job, thanks

Nice write up! Okay a few may not like it, but reallity from your eyes.
That's what we should hear!

Chuckled at the roosters comment - they drive me mad!

Our members need hear the good and the bad, what is important is that the reporter takes his time and be honest.

I do not sugar coat things and some say i am negative on some things, but members have to hear it all and make their minds armed with as much information as possible. Nothing is perfect, besides perfection is a personal thing.

I have been known to also criticize a writer when that writer was obviously not honest and absolutly could find not a good thing to say. In that case it was someone that due to his job was forced to live in PR against his will, needles to say he never wanted to come and was negative even before he got on the plane to come to the island.

I can agree with most of this.  I don't think the roads are THAT bad though, but maybe I'm just accustomed to them now.  I've seen worse ones in Kentucky.
(But sounds like he's overpaying for his pinchos.)
But the great sense of humor of the Puerto Ricans can't be overstressed.

The horses know their way home, so when too drunk, just hop on, hold on and the horse will take you home.

A lot of people have dogs not as pets but to bark if someone comes. Those dogs are unloved and can turn nasty.

I forgot to add something that may be helpful for property seekers. Banco Popular is a major Bank in PR and certain markets stateside, but probably #1 in PR. Their portfolio includes many foreclosed properties of course. deShow.com is their website for these properties. The deShow people are not realtors but have the same mission--sell.

The website takes a little getting used to but eventually you will figure out how to search by municipality, price, type of property etc.

If you see something you like, another challenge arises--how to get more info on it. Often the info is very sparse, often only 1 foto, sometimes the coordinates are given. You can request more info on-line or phone but not much more, really very little new info comes back. You can go to their office in SJ and get the keys after jumping thru their hoops, and mail them back securely. Not a good option for non SJ based lookers. So in reality you are forced to find a SJ based realtor or another trusted type to jump thru those hoops.

Their asking price is way over what they will take, I know first hand from two experiences. You also have to prove you have the $$ to do the deal when you submit your bid or a provable source of financing and I don't think it incudes them as a new mortgagor.  You'll get an answer from their "Committee" fairly quickly.

I lost out on one I should have bid higher on, perfect for me, app 950 feet elevation, long private entrance road, very secluded, very nice newer house, and only 35-40 minutes from Arecibo. I am still hoping that deal falls thru, but no way of knowing other then keeping an eye on it. If something is in the works it will be listed as "optioned".

Mind you a lot of their portfolio is junk, and many way out of my price range, and their properties are all over the island. But the site is worth looking at if you are in the hunt.

Very helpful 35th.
Thanks

Hello, 35th,
Thanks for your input.  You bring up many valid points, both good and bad.

Regarding property...  My husband and I have been spending time there off and on for the past 25 years and finally decided to buy a house.  There are realtors who are very good, especially Taty in Ponce, however, we found that their properties tended to be way overpriced.  Even the repos. 

We checked out many Classificados properties but  found the house on Craiglist.  WE didn't find it... a friend up north saw it and forwarded the ad to us.  It's a great house, but as always, there are issues.  Here is what we learned.

As a buyer in PR, you have the right to choose a lawyer to draw up the deed.  The seller is obligated to pay the lawyer.  We had been assured that the title was clear, but when our lawyer ran the search, she found a number of issues.  She flatly stated she would not make the deed.  So...  the sellers, who  are very motivated to leave the island, hired a lawyer to clear the issues.   Now we are all waiting for their paperwork to come back from CRIM.   We have been told that we should be able to close within a month or two.  We are well aware that this could mean six months.  Stay tuned :)

The rest of it... the horses, the narrow roads, the chickens... well, that's just part of the charm.  Sure, there are a few things we don't like, but there are things up north that we also don't like.  Nothing is ever going to be perfect.

The main thing that worries me is what my good expat friend calls the "thefty" element, especially keeping the house safe while we are up north.  We will tackle that one when we move in.  Meanwhile, any ideas or tips are appreciated :)

Ann

Ann, the best protection is to keep the place occupied, rent the property if you are not going to be there part of the time. Maybe get a maintenance company to keep it nice clean and put it up in Airbnb even if it is a couple of months a year.

You gotta have a live in caretaker!   :cool:

Agree with Rey and Sitka - if it's unoccupied, it will be burglarized. (Hell, even if it's occupied, the chance of a burglary isn't inconsequential.)

35th, Yes, you took the time and trouble to help a lot of strangers. I just stumbled onto your post, as I was going to ask whether the cheap rentals in San Juan metro were the product of distressed owners or a scam. I guess you answered this, and you touched on other concerns, e.g., crazy drivers, health care, general services and prices (I think that's the old VAT added on purchases). But you didn't say what you concluded. Are you taking the plunger or not based on your impressions?

Seoulguy - you mentioned cheap rental in the metro area, care to point me to some of those that could be potential scams?

Nice opinion piece; I agree with some. FYI; since Gringo means "stranger", then Canadians, and Europeans are also gringos. If you come to PR and go to BK, shame on you! Best places are on the side of the road, by far! I don't know where you found eggs for $4/dozen, but I usually pay $2.89 for 1.5 dozen. Milk, yeah! Worse in St. John, where it cost $9/gallon... eight years ago! Booze; I buy on the military base, so, no complaints there. Boqueron & "Cabo", no mi gusta; but I'd love to find a home in the hills!

Rey P, I've been using Clasificados, but these cheap rentals are found on Craig's List.  I just checked again to make sure. So, go to CL, click on PR, Alquiler (not bienes raices), and the very first page. Scroll down to where you see a rental of $630, then 616 or it could be 660, then 570, then 600, then 600, then 650, etc. These have only the one image.   I didn't read the text because I figured they were scams since most in Isla Verde. I usually start a Clasificados search between $700 and $900, sometimes $1000. So I thought these were just too unusual for CL.

seoulguy :

Rey P, I've been using Clasificados, but these cheap rentals are found on Craig's List.  I just checked again to make sure. So, go to CL, click on PR, Alquiler (not bienes raices), and the very first page. Scroll down to where you see a rental of $630, then 616 or it could be 660, then 570, then 600, then 600, then 650, etc. These have only the one image.   I didn't read the text because I figured they were scams since most in Isla Verde. I usually start a Clasificados search between $700 and $900, sometimes $1000. So I thought these were just too unusual for CL.

I used the following link https://puertorico.craigslist.org/searc … lityMode=0 and the majority of the ones listed in the range of 0-700 (my search) seem to be single bedroom apartments. They sound believable to me.

Here is one for $560 and it is furnished. https://puertorico.craigslist.org/apa/d … 82214.html

If it is you you or you and your partner and you can sleep in a single large bed, then the places would be perfect for retirees. Small means less to clean, more time for fun. Visitors can sleep on the couch.

Location, location, location; I just shared a post on FB, for a 2br house for rent, $250... in Isabela.

Re you not liking Cabo and Boquerón, I was a tad disappointed about the beaches but still was happy and enjoyed the area. And Cabo is a big Municipality, area wise. 4 very popular beaches, 4 or 5 separate towns like Cabo (pueblo), San German, Lajas, Puerto Real, all distinct.

I made local friends easy at the "Likur Bar", popular local place on the left at the entrance to the town of Boqueron. Pharmacist I met was a true gem, like an angel God sent. She spent alot of time showing me SW PR, also a day trip to the mountain coffee fiesta in Maricao, another to Adjuntas. Wow--now that's a place I could live. About 2000', low 60's the morning we arrived, panoramic mountain views.  Called the "Switzerland of PR". Just wish it was a shorter ride to the coast, but can't have it all.

I liked that Cabo/BQR area was much more laid back then anything from Mayaguez on up. Minimal traffic, and the minimal night life is OK w/ me, 9 or 10pm and things are rolling up. A little livelier at the Boquerón beach/bar streets at night and on week-ends was crowded with locals. Maybe of interest that a bunch, alot of gringo trash, sorry, hanging around the 2 bar streets all day, You know the type, unkept looking, living cheap in the sun? Not surfers. Not that important to me but maybe worth noting. That beach bar area is roughly 1 block long by 3-4 blocks long? Not big at all.

Also, of the three Balneario's (Public beach but $$ to park) that I visited on the W Coast, BQR was the best. Beautiful grounds, big building for showers and toilets, very nice cabin's for rent, very long beach, empty for the most part weekdays. Lots of people joggin or walking or cycling on the asphalt areas, big palms everywhere. A religious group having a bar BQ with a music revival one day. Plenty of room for everybody, privacy not an issue. Huge area all in all. Really a neat place, liked it a whole lot. And week days nobody was paying the $5 to get in, just parking on the road leading into the gate area and walking in, legal.

But, all in all it helped me decide I'd prefer the elevation--it was hot--which I like, but they tell me it gets very uncomfortable in the summer. And dry. I like planting stuff. Lares averages 90 inches of rain a year and is a lot cooler. But, one of the great things I liked about PR is it is 100x35? miles. Heck, you can drive to a change of scenery in the time for a lot of you big city folk to commute to your office.

And you commented gringo means stranger, I did not know that, always thought it was a Mexican short for Green Coats dating from the US-Mexico wars. But stranger works.

I heard that rumor too, so when I got here, and was called by "the Gringo", I had to look it up. It was interesting to learn, that it was actually from the Greek! Although meant as offensive, originally, it is not said with malice, here on island. As with the term, "negro", which is used as a term of endearment, unlike in the "mainland". I prefer the culture here, than in the states. Well, here ya go!


gringo (n.) Look up gringo at Dictionary.com
    term for a European or Anglo-American, 1847, from American Spanish gringo "foreigner," from Spanish gringo "foreign speech, unintelligible talk, gibberish," perhaps ultimately from griego "Greek." The "Diccionario Castellano" (1787) says gringo was used in Malaga for "anyone who spoke Spanish badly," and in Madrid for "the Irish." Hence the American Spanish verb engringarse "to act like a foreigner."

Word Origin and History for gringo n.

1849, from Mexican Spanish gringo, contemptuous word for "foreigner," from Spanish gringo "foreign, unintelligible talk, gibberish," perhaps ultimately from griego "Greek." The "Diccionario Castellano" (1787) says gringo was used in Malaga for "anyone who spoke Spanish badly," and in Madrid for "the Irish."

Puerto Ricans are some of the genuinely nicest people I have had the pleasure of knowing... especially my wife! Life is a growing process.

I would LOVE to find a small farm (finca), to live and grow my own food, up in the mountains. I'm 12 min from the beach, and I might go once a month, so it's not so important (for me) to be near the coast. Your insights are welcome, and you have quite a flair for writing, so I sincerely hope I did not offend.

Mac 00677,
The food q made me think of this experience at Econo Supermercado in Cabo.

Maybe Rey can answer it.

I was in the Produce section and they had a table featuring sliced/packaged watermelon.

An elderly gent was on his soap box and loudly commenting about the steep price and the source, that it was a product of a country in S America, that it can be grown in PR so what is this.

PR commercial produce farms a thing of the past in the fertile valleys of PR?

PS: The only product I noticed as Hecho en PR was the ron.

35th :

Maybe Rey can answer it.

I was in the Produce section and they had a table featuring sliced/packaged watermelon.

An elderly gent was on his soap box and loudly commenting about the steep price and the source, that it was a product of a country in S America, that it can be grown in PR so what is this.

PR commercial produce farms a thing of the past in the fertile valleys of PR?

PS: The only product I noticed as Hecho en PR was the ron.

There ar a lot of products and the list is growing "Hecho" means made as in manufactured. Fruits and vegetables are likely to say "Del Pais" = from the country.
Rice  is being grown, Quenepas, Mangos, many other fruits, there is a farm raising and selling tomatoes, lettuce is being grown,Pumpkins, many, many things. The thing is that we are not yet making enough for the country, we are supplying only about 15% of what is consumed in the island. But it is growing, there is a movement to be able to supply at least 50%.

As to the guy on his soap box, that is strange, I would have assumed that the supermarket would have removed him unless he was promoting products from the island instead of talking down the foreign watermelon. They do grow in the island but I am not aware of any commercial production.

Most products from PR are more expensive than those that come by boat because those other countries pay very little in wages, even with the transportation cost it is cheaper to buy from other countries than from PR.

There been a lot of movement for the supermarkets to buy from the local farmers, and there is a website about consuming from Puerto Rico: http://hechoen.pr It has list of companies producing things in Puerto Rico including clothes, food, and many other items.

ReyP :

The thing is that we are not yet making enough for the country, we are supplying only about 15% of what is consumed in the island. But it is growing, there is a movement to be able to supply at least 50%.

I'm familiar with the 85% import figure for food.  I'm wondering however if 85% of all food consumed is imported, or whether it is 85% of all food purchased.  I suspect the latter, as it is easier to get those numbers.  But that would ignore all of the locally grown produce for consumption, not sale.

My plan is to grow for my own table, and share with friends and neighbors.  How common is gardening among Puerto Ricans?

WarnerW :
ReyP :

The thing is that we are not yet making enough for the country, we are supplying only about 15% of what is consumed in the island. But it is growing, there is a movement to be able to supply at least 50%.

I'm familiar with the 85% import figure for food.  I'm wondering however if 85% of all food consumed is imported, or whether it is 85% of all food purchased.  I suspect the latter, as it is easier to get those numbers.  But that would ignore all of the locally grown produce for consumption, not sale.

My plan is to grow for my own table, and share with friends and neighbors.  How common is gardening among Puerto Ricans?

Fruits and some vegetables in almost any house with a small land. Even houses in Hurbanizaciones have some planting.

I have 1.6 acres so I have plenty of space to plant flowers, fruits and vegetables. Right now it is a jungle of weeds but once I build my house I will start planting many things. There is already 2 mango trees there, 3 or 4 banana, and 1 avocado tree already there. I assume people go by and get the stuff.

The number is related to consumption, purchased or self grown? no idea.

Unfortunately some take several years before they.give fruit, for example avocado usually give fruit 5 years after planting.

Ouch! on the 5 years re my favoritas

35th :

Ouch! on the 5 years re my favoritas

The two mango trees are old, probably 15 years or more and they been giving fruit quite a while, the Bananas are also well stablished and the Avocado tree is probably about to start giving fruit. When I start moving land around to do the construction of the house I will have to be careful with the Avocado tree, Bananas don't take long to grow so no concern with them and I am taking down 1 Mango tree that is at the edge of the road and is blocking some of my view of the sea,

The rest will be all new planting with many spices, orange, lemon, Plantain, Yuca, Guayaba, hot peppers.(Caballeros), sweet peppers, Gandules, Red Beans, Pinto Beans, Panas (bread fruit), and many others will be planted as I clear the land and figure out which fruits the wife likes the most. I don't like Lechosa and the wife does not like it either so that one is out. I also plan on a green house for lettuce and others that need protection. Wife said no chickens, but we shall see down the road, I like fresh eggs and fresh chicken, we shall see.

No tomatoes? I've read on other sites they can be problematic and vice versa.

35th :

No tomatoes? I've read on other sites they can be problematic and vice versa.

Yes I will be also planting tomatoes but in the green house, too many parasites.

Darn, didn't have a greenhouse budgeted but I need my 'maters.

Mostly agreed! But the people here are driving crazy.  I mean, if you only need 2 drivers lessons what can you expect?? No blinker and driving slowly on the left lane are onl 2 examples.
I live in Mayagüez and  I really don't like it.
The beach here is ok for me because we have a horse and we can ride it there without taking care of people hanging around there.  :D

ReyP :
35th :

Maybe Rey can answer it.

I was in the Produce section and they had a table featuring sliced/packaged watermelon.

An elderly gent was on his soap box and loudly commenting about the steep price and the source, that it was a product of a country in S America, that it can be grown in PR so what is this.

PR commercial produce farms a thing of the past in the fertile valleys of PR?

PS: The only product I noticed as Hecho en PR was the ron.

There ar a lot of products and the list is growing "Hecho" means made as in manufactured. Fruits and vegetables are likely to say "Del Pais" = from the country.
Rice  is being grown, Quenepas, Mangos, many other fruits, there is a farm raising and selling tomatoes, lettuce is being grown,Pumpkins, many, many things. The thing is that we are not yet making enough for the country, we are supplying only about 15% of what is consumed in the island. But it is growing, there is a movement to be able to supply at least 50%.

As to the guy on his soap box, that is strange, I would have assumed that the supermarket would have removed him unless he was promoting products from the island instead of talking down the foreign watermelon. They do grow in the island but I am not aware of any commercial production.

Most products from PR are more expensive than those that come by boat because those other countries pay very little in wages, even with the transportation cost it is cheaper to buy from other countries than from PR.

There been a lot of movement for the supermarkets to buy from the local farmers, and there is a website about consuming from Puerto Rico: http://hechoen.pr It has list of companies producing things in Puerto Rico including clothes, food, and many other items.

What you wrote is very much true and a trend I have been following by reading as much as I can on it. Recently found out that some Walmarts in PR have started buying produce from local farmers. Was wonderful news to read about! Agriculture is definetely going to become a defining moment for Puerto Rico as more time passes. Positive changes well on their way.

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