Moving to PR

Well we gave up on the Ceiba house we were planing to purchase.

The plan was to sell some stocks and use the money to buy the house cash. However there were a lot of delays (since July) due to the seller realtor and a problem with the land measurements being incorrect. I finally got a message earlier this week that the issues with the title have been ironed out and the property has been registered with the correct numbers. Since the market has gone down over 20% since my initial offer in July, I told them I was not buying the house since I would need to sell 20% more shares to get the same amount of money.

Here are the new plans:
We have decided to go ahead and look for a plot of land instead, this will give us the freedom of building a brand new house with a pool and in a modern style using modern construction (phone lines, Internet, cable TV connections in every room, flexible tubing), big balcony, pool and surrounding area that matches the house and tile, etc. Depending on what we decide, it is likely to cost us 80-120 for the construction, permits, and taxes. So for about 200K we can have a very nice place in an acre of two of land and build with the options the wife wants.

I contacted by friend that is a realtor (Carlos) and asked him to look for plots of lands in the 1 to 2 acres size. I also contacted my brother to ask his wife, she and her sisters have about 20 acres between them in an area I like, they will contact me later with prices. I don’t like dealing with family and business but it is an option.

My realtor friend called me that there is a plot of land about 2 acres in size, right next door to the Ceiba house I was planing on purchasing. we are familiar with the area so that one gets a golden star. The 2 acres are selling for 65K which I find very reasonable.

I told my realtor friend that we will be arriving in 2 to 3 months, to have 4-5 properties (lots) that meet my needs to see. I told him they need to be in the area of Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo or Humacao (most of upper east coast).

I really like just getting the land now and build whenever I decide to go to PR, besides …. the money I get from selling the house in MA, I can use to build the house in the new plot so I don’t have to touch the stocks if at all possible.

We plan to rent for about 6 months while the house is build and we will be there to supervise the work so there are no costly mistakes.

So we will be in PR in 2 to 3 months looking at some lots.

EVERYTHING is so fluid inside PR and in US mainland I would go with don't do business when you aren't there as a plan.  No guarantees, but I think much safer.  I think you're better off with new plan.  :)



Sounds like a reasonable approach given the current state of the market.  Look me up when you get here.

I have a contractor that is an honest guy and we trust him, he has good recommendations and you can look at his finished custom built houses if you're interested.

Carlos, thanks, I do plan to be in the island and monitor construction, there are a lot of things I want just right, like location of the pool, a cover bar area by the pool, cabling for internet in each room, cabling in the walls for security cameras and alarms, and a nice balcony and deck. Many other things that most houses don't have in PR or are added on to the house in a rather unorganized way. I want everything to fit seamlessly.

Sitka I will check with you when the time comes, but building will not start until I move in, so many months from now. I will look you up, maybe we will go fishing or grab a beer and some alcapurias somewhere.

It is going to be 2-3 months before I see the properties, another month or so to check the titles and close, then wait until my current house sell, move and rent a house while the new house is built.

It will be a while!

All things in due  time.

Hey Rey,

We've gone back and forth enough now on the forum it's almost kind of like I consider you a friend. It's hard for me not to say something. I would really take a serious look at where the real estate market is going. I think you live in Massachusetts or maybe Connecticut. I really doubt whether the real estate market is going to hold very well. If I were you and you really are coming to Puerto Rico, and I believe you are, I would get to selling that house right away. A little bit down is one thing, I really do believe in general the US market is in a bubble. You can already see what has happened to the stock market so far this year. Just a good-natured warning, I don't want to see you get hurt. I feel very fortunate to have my four-plex here in California in escrow for a fair price. Word to the wise.

All the best,


I could've sent this to you in a private email, but for people moving to Puerto Rico it's not bad advice for anybody on the US mainland.

When you make your travel plans, will put on the calendar 'Happy days are here again'.  I will bury a bottle of bili, to be opened when you return.

Sounds like a good plan, Rey, sorry the other home didn't work out.

I will post when I am heading to the island, mean time we have an appointment with the realtor in a week or so to ask questions about selling the house. Out house is fairly empty now and we are working on repairs and painting.

We do plan to sell as soon as possible. Housing market can be hot one moment and cool off the next here in Massachusetts.

Does anybody know how long it takes on average to build a 1 to 2 floor house in PR?

Rey; Many are leaving the island, for work on the mainland... the housing market is increasingly becoming a buyers market. My wife and I are not yet in a position to purchase, but I think that you'd do far better being on-island, BEFORE making any land purchases, or commiting to any building projects.

I know you were planning on the eastern side of the island, and I don't know if you are locked into that side or are open to anywhere on island, but if you are not tied down by a location, you would do well to monitor all deals, island-wide. It seems to me that $200k would get you a friggin' mansion, in some parts of the island!

If you want to live in Palmas Del Mar, sure; $200k will get you a small carpet of grass, and a modest home, or condo... I've got a friend in Las Marias who paid almost half that, and as luck would have it, got himself 34 Acres of farmland, with a house (improvements needed)... he later was notified by the municipality, that his property had to be revised, and he would up with 96 Acres, because additional land was included in his initial purchase... now that's a farm! I'm not a real estate expert, by far, but it seems to me you will do well to find a cheap place to rent, and search while here.

my two cents...

You have very good advice Mac, however most of my family is in the east coast (brother, son, grandkids, cousins, uncles, childhood friends) which expect to be able to drop by my house any time they feel like it and or have me visit them. Las Marias would be about 3 1/2 hour drive each way and it is also not a town on the coast.

Waiting for a better deal is the right thing to do, which is what I am doing but within limits, I do not ever plan to sell my place so market now versus 30 years later is not important to me. When I die, I do not care if my kids have to sell at a lost or move into the house.

1-2 acres close to my family is about right for my needs as it gives me plenty of space to build a comfortable place with 3-4 bedrooms and a nice long pool, bar and covered patio, but away from other houses for privacy and noise control.

Also I want to be close to Vieques, Culebra and El Yunque. I am a country person, a Jibaro, so comfortable in el Campo but close to the beach. Most of my family is buried at "El Mango" cemetery which is part of the town of Juncos and one day it will likely be my resting place.
So yes east coast and surrounding area is a must and I am familiar with the area since birth.

Yes, some of my decisions may not be the smarter financial thing to do but I can not just hang in there until the best deal. The wife wants permanence in a place she likes. If I was single, I would probably still move into the area and rent forever or live with family that already have a house like my brother for example.

You are 100% correct, but wife wants to be able to change the house, including additions, tiles, fences, etc and we can not do that to a rented place. While renting gives you freedom, we want to set roots down. Renting limits you and the place may be sold under you to somebody that does not want renters. This is my last move ever, I am coming home.

Rey, I am sorry that the house in Ceiba did not work out but like they  say, if it doesn't work out, something else better will come along. I firmly believe in that.  The house that you are planning sounds amazing. When you have it all done, you should have a house warming and we will all be there, ha ha.

You said that you were coming here in 2-3 months? Let me know. I am planning a get together for all the expats that want to come out to the North west . Not sure of the date yet. but I will let you know . It would be great if you will be here and you can make it.

Take care and good luck in the land quest.


Definitely plan to have a get together once the place is build and furnished. As to heading to the north west, I would love to come, but timing may be an issue. I will post my schedule when I have a date. My realtor friend Carlos is looking for reasonably priced lots of land in the areas I prefer, once he has several, I will make arrangements to come. So likely 6 weeks or so.

ok, great.

When I discussed building with my contractor, he indicated that a concrete house could be built in about 9 months.   But realistically, I think a year may be more like it.   I was plannig to build a new place, but with the current market, those plans are on the back burner now.  But we've got our hands full for the time being.  In a year we may reconsider.

Not sure how a contractor makes money if a house that cost 100k to build takes 9 months to a year to build, minus the cost of material and minus the cost of the labor that leaves very little left for the contractor.

Lets see:
Labor: 7 per hour, 5 workers, 40 hours a week, 4 weeks in a month, 9 months time = 50,400 in labor
Materials is at least 40,000, so that leaves only 10 grants for the contractor.

Maybe a year working 2 days a week on that particular house and working on 2 or 3 other houses concurrently? Which would mean that most of the time they are not working on that house, it is just collecting rain.

Seems way too long for me, the world was created in 7 days, right?

Our house took about a year to finalize. Not all the time it was on actual construction. We end up building rather than buying already build because we could not found anything we like. So we build to our design. Also it took us 2 contractors since the first one try to rip us up. At the end we have spend over $100K on it. Will we get our money back, maybe. But I don't care it is our retirement home. When we die, it's going to be for the kids. I'm going to enjoy it for as long as we can.

We had the family over to celebrate the New Years, it was wonderful having the family over and been able to spend that time with them after so many years away.  We love the way the house turn up and plans to have many family reunions in the upcoming years.

He adlin,
How about a description of the place, also if single floor or two floors house or two houses in 1 (1 up 1 down)? Since it is a custom house, did you buy a plan, had someone draw a new one or used no plan?

There are a lot of people that call themselves contractors but they may not be able to even read a house plan, they can make a mess out of it and loose you money. Some are not well organized and you end up with down time. I plan to go see people with different house plans and a set cost, houses they have already build in the past that they can tell me how much it cost to build and the time it took. Maybe visit and walk around some of the ones they built so I gan gauge quality.

The right contractor and engineer make a lot of difference unless you are looking for a standard PR matchbox.

I tend to be a perfectionist, sorry guys.

Ever use Microsoft Project?
It lets you break down the steps of a project into small tasks, organize them into the right order, set the time it takes for every step, assign people resources to each task, set prerequisites for each task so you wait on pooring the floor until the under floor plumbing and electric Coductit is in place. It lets tou calculate delay if a particular step is late starting or takes longer than extimated. I love the tool. I moved a data center and the entire network accross states and got everything up and running again in the alliwed time frame using this tool. It lets me be anal and prove what it should take and what it should cost. Love it
If they dont kick me out I bet I can shave a lot of time in a project.

A little update: As I stated before we are making little changes to the house in MA and some repairs, today we had a Realtor over to see the property and tell us what he believe we should do to the property. For the most part we were working on the correct things. In a couple of months we hope to finish and put it on the market if all goes well.

Yes lots of situations like that happens here . Well best of luck on your new journey

No crystal ball here Rey, but it would not surprise me if you find materially lower home prices six months from now with all that's going on in Puerto Rico - debt, unemployment, economic uncertainty, infrastructure challenges, Zika virus, etc.  Further, as you well know, falling investment portfolio values is a negative in terms of demand.  Obviously, not all of this just happened overnight, but the crushing weight of so many negative factors does not seem to bode well for property values.  So, I'd see the reset on your plans as possible huge financial savings for you.  Good luck.

Thanks Sawman,
It is hard to think positive given the stock market volatility, but I am hanging in there. The key is to spend little now and wait it out, the market will come back toward the end of the year and that should give me additional breathing room.

Do you know it is -6 F here today with a wind shield of -23 F?

You guys in PR are very lucky not having to deal with it anymore.

I have to bear it for most of this year, sell my place, move to PR, rent for 6 to 12 months while my place is build.

Rey, wife is a PM so she have all the expenses delineated. We do had a project plan with every expense on it. It keep un grounded and on track.

Cool adlin20, there is nothing like being well prepared and having a solid plan. In your case you likely have until 2018 so more time to perfect it and to see what happens with the debt issue in the island.

I am trying not to spend another winter here if I can help it.
As it gets closer I will give you a call to go over things and some of your ideas.

Rsy, it will be my pleasure to helping you. I al planning it that my current contract in California should be my last one. This hospital is scheduled to go live by 2018 so once that happens I can move along too. At least California winter is not as bad. Today is almost 80 degrees outside. :-)

I'm not worried about the island issues, this is nothing new. Some folks here may not agree with me but there's a lot of things that you don't worry about once you retire. Yes cost of living is worrisome specially if you are on a fix income. But you should budget for it and have some cushion. If you're planning on or already retired and you are using 100% of your retirement money you will have some issues as the cost of living increase. This will be the same in PR or in the states. The idea of moving to a different place and different cultures is to assimilate and live as close to that culture as possible. You want to move to the island but live the same way as in the states, it just doesn't work. Then you complain is expensive to live there. Ask yourself if the local folks can live with less, why can't I do the same? You want to move here and live like americans, so guess what, you will be paying like american. I read of the bugged folks here post, some of them are higher than by budget to live in Texas is right now. Median income is 15-20k in the island, think about it. Look around, the local folks going to the beach, shopping and doing their daily living live on that. And I read here budgets of 50-60k a year! No wonder most Americans had to work until they died! It's called compromise and lowering expectations.

And this was my rant for today folks!! :-)

I am with Adlin20, Most people should be able to make it on 2000 a month, many Puerto Ricans make it on less than that.
Pack the cooler with sandwiches or some fried chicken and some soda when you go to the beach and you will have a great day that cost you pretty much nothing. Same thing for a trip to the river or lake or a walk in the woods.

We cook at home and eat at home, we have family and friends come over and visit. We go out for a meal about once a month and may order out every two weeks. 2k should be fine for most. My social security by itself will more than cover the 2K, so I should use very little to nothing from my savings.

Lets hear from those that make it on around 2k.

Spot on Adlin and Rey.  We always live frugally here in the states and will do so in PR.  Actually, can't remember the last time we ate out (years?) except at Subway when we first arrive in PR from traveling and hubby has to get something in his stomach. :)

Lots of free activities to do, for sure!

I did it for years, on half that!

We make it on a little more than 2 a month, considering we have a grandson who likes to eat. We make meals mostly at home. Once in a while we might get something to eat out but not at a fancy restaurant but more like a bocadillo at the flea market or at the VA when hubby has appt.

I love to eat out and if it was up to me, it would be at least once a month but my hubby doesn't like to sit down to a meal, he would rather get something quick or eat at home. I guess I have come to terms with that.

The amount mentioned above includes, rent, water, elect., food, internet, phone and cable. We don't go to the movies even though I would like to but we have Netflix which has many movies and of course Direct TV, which has many programs we watch. Many times, I will just sit on our balcony and read or we will go down to one of the beaches here and just chill and enjoy the beautiful scenery and weather and that doesn't cost anything. 

Thankfully hubby has a green thumb and raises tomatoes, ajises, cucumbers, watermelon, peppers and we have an avocado tree, a lemon tree, a guayaba plant and a lechosa tree.  He recently planted a gandules plant and we also have a orange and grapefruit plant but it has not beared fruit yet.

It isn't always easy but we are happy here and are here to stay.

SO, so far we have Adlin, Mac, and Tonie making it on about 2K or less, some claiming significantly less.

This should show others coming to the island that they can make it on less than what they were afraid it would cost to live in PR.

I hope others share their budget with us, the more the merrier, see Making in on a Budget

Yes, Tonie is an example of not exactly bare bones but not high on the hog either, and showing it's possible to live on a reasonable budget if the Caribbean and being inside the USA at the same time is a person's cup of tea.  Personally, even though I'm from one of the most beautiful states in the union already, I'm ready for a fresh cup.

What state are you from?

The state whose motto is "Eureka!" (meaning I have found it) and whose nickname is "The Golden State".  Now when our current governor was serving his first term (currently in his 4th) and dating Linda Rondstadt, he was known as "Governor Moonbeam" and some called the state the land of fruits and nuts.  We're all over that of course.

The Sierras and giant redwoods (world's biggest trees and whole groves here before birth of Christ), Yosemite valley, north coast, San Francisco unique city and history in all the world, Golden Gate, So Cal beaches, Big Sur, country's agricultural treasure, San Diego, Mojave Desert.  And then there's "We all is in HAHL-LEE-WOOD".  There's another that compares?

I plan on building a custom house, with Internet cabling on the walls, cameras and motion sensors outside, not a regular PR box but stylish with recess lighting and all sort of small details.

Have any of you look at this type of construction (see link)?
It seems to offer a lot of choices for shape and style of the house.
Looks like it will also be faster to build, but the corner contractor is not trained for it.

I would like to get your opinion guys.

Here is a brochose of what the construction is like: … iZDZR/view

It looks very nice. My question will be cost. How much will it cost versus a normal cement house? Will it last as long? What will happened if damaged? How does it withstand against the high humidity in the island? How about termites? What happens if I want to expand later on? Will I be stuck to one contractor?

According to them it cost about 10% to 15% less. The others I do not know, have only exchanged a single email with them, not yet spoken on the phone or visit them. I have time, first the plot of land then pick a design and get a price both ways and ask all the questions.
As to humidity, they have many projects in Panama, Bolivia and other central and south america. Also they been doing many projects in PR, some of them are in the brochure I included.

Rey, both the site and the brochure look impressive.  I may refer back to them should we have to built a house in the future, as of now, we are ok. How is the sale of your house in MA going? I wish you much luck in selling it as quickly as you want.

Puerto Rico , as you know is sooooo beautiful. We went for a ride today and came across another beautiful beach in Camuy, called Penon Brusi. It is gorgeous and has a few drinking and eating establishments there as well. Good for a Sat. or Sunday afternoon and close to home.

Take care,

Yes it seems to be cheaper to build and faster so saving on labor also.

The wife is the handy one at home, she is doing things like removing borders, hanging new curtains, painting, etc. We are getting a contractor to partially remodel a bathroom, replace some lamps and ceiling fan, change bedroom doors, all sorts of things.

That will probably takes us another 2 more months then it will go on the market.

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