Real Estate and the Cost of Living in PR.. My 2¢
In the end, it was an easy decision to make… moving to PR
As it relates to groceries and consumables, things are on a par cost-wise with most of the US. Especially if you are used to shopping in places like Walmart, Sears or JC Penney. The cost of shipping goods to PR is no cheaper than anywhere else. Imported produce is high so I try to buy local when ever I can (or grow some of my own). On the other hand, fresh milk at $6 a gallon and eggs at $3.50 a dozen are way higher than I paid, even in Alaska.
Something else that sticks in my craw is the lack of ‘generic’ branding. Real Coke, Pepsi and Doritos are no more expensive than the local brands. But they are cheaper here than I’m used to paying for the same name brand products at Safeway or Fred Meyer. So that’s good. If you shop sales fresh meat can be reasonable, but again, things are different than back in the states… the cuts are different and of course its all in Spanish. No big deal as far as I’m concerned. It just takes some getting used to is all.
Name brand clothing is available at discount prices. Very good clothing can be had at rock bottom prices if you shop the sales (and I do). The malls are full of clothes and shoe stores all competing for your dollar. BTW- its (almost) always t-shirt, shorts and sandal weather here. I sold off and gave away ALL my winter gear before I left Alaska. Should have kept a couple flannel shirts for the 60F nights. I did save my jeans for working in.
New automobiles (or one you ship over) get hit with ‘aduana’, a type of port tax. Used cars cost more here (covered in a previous post), but the cost of service is a lot cheaper..
in fact ALL services are cheaper here.
The trick is finding someone who is actually qualified to do the work though that seems to be an issue no matter where you live. Regular gas is about 66 cents a Liter so that works out to a lot cheaper than I was paying in Alaska. I would be remiss if I did not mention that auto insurance is bundled with the vehicle registration (the ‘Marbete’) and transfers with the sale of a vehicle. This makes ‘Auto Insurance’ less than half of what I was paying back in Alaska.
Health Insurance is cheaper, as is health care.
Electricity is twice the rate I’m used to, but we only use it for electronic devices, the TV, the fridge and the microwave so in the end its pretty reasonable. Some folks run solar and wind depending on their location and that can make it darn near free. Propane is used to cook and hot water is produced via a solar water system up on the roof. It works real good as long as its not overcast more than 3 days in a row. Washing clothes is almost free. Where I’m at, we don’t need or use air conditioning (AC) so that saves a bunch of money as well.
We got DishTV and high speed HughesNet, WooHoo!
Both at rates on a par with the rest of the US. DSL is finally available outside the major cities and worth looking into. Your cell will work everywhere except up in the mountains so check with AT&T or Verizon or whoever you are with to make sure it works where you plan to live. I do miss the Sunday paper, but its the cost of living in Paradise I guess!
One other major ‘sticking’ point to make, ordering things off the Net from Amazon or eBay is a real pain.
If they will ship at all (and many don’t), most shaft you over shipping and handling costs. Might want to get cozy with family in the states, to get over that problem.
USPS has Post Offices all over PR, but many US companies still treat Puerto Rico like it was another country.. idiots. You can get UPS and FedEx (2nd day air only, no ground service), but if you live rural, you have no formal street address, just an HC (Highway Contract). Very similar to a Rural Route.
Homeland Security hates that.. a real bummer, huh?
The last major cost, your home, is very reasonable. “Buyer Beware” is the rule of the day if you plan on buying any property here, involving a lawyer in the process is an absolute must. The good news is, they are very inexpensive. Spanish Law (not US law) is the rule of the day at the local and ‘State’ level. ALL legal documents are in Spanish which I had the displeasure of dealing with when trying to buy a car from a local used car dealer.
I refused to sign a document that would free the dealer from any legal obligation had they sold me a stolen car (yea, right),
if indeed it turned out to be stolen.
Issues like these are why you must involve an attorney in all real estate transactions. A clear title and background search can be harder to come by than you think. The concept of a title search and title insurance is a relatively new thing here. The major real estate companies all have offices on the island, but not all folks selling realty are certified to do so. Nor is it required by law. My big tip if you are looking to buy something? Check the local banks for ‘repos’. Then there is little chance of a title issue like some long lost relative showing up years later claiming an interest in your new home (casa). This market has been hit hard by the Great Resession of ’08/’09 so there are deals to be had.
The Commonwealth of PR feels very much like a country within a country.
I suspect PR will become the next ‘hot spot’ to retire to. Especially once it becomes a State and that is looking more and more likely. So why retire to Costa Rica, Panama or Mexico when you can live cheap and comfortable in the US?
Well, there is the little issue of hurricanes. They are usually just getting fired up as they pass by PR. The result is a lot of rain and some serious wind. The island has been hammered hard on occasion so it can happen. The last one was back in 1998. Florida is much more prone to hurricanes, hotter and more humid on average than Puerto Rico. Every place has its issues I suppose.
I would compare the year round temp to that of Hawaii.
The ExPats in PR, have a term for the ‘little inconveniences’ you have to put up with to live here- They call it the “Paradise Tax” and I’ll gladly pay it. Have you ever walked out your door to pick lemons, or mangoes or bananas? Then there is the local rum, local coffee, Pincho stands and 400 years of Spanish history. In the end, the cost of living here is a mixed bag.. its definitely cheaper than the rest of the US, for sure.
Living in PR is like being on vacation, 24/7, 365!
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