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.

    The Twin Peaks Above Salinas, Puerto Rico

    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.

    Typical Concrete Homes 'Casas' Carved into the Puerto Rican HillsideNew 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.

    A Reina on a Flamboyan Branch, the Official Bird of Puerto Rico

    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.

    A Busy Bee and Flower Blossom at the Lagancha Seashore Park in Ponce, Puerto Rico

    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.

    Real Estate Development Sign in Coamo, Puerto RicoIssues 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.

    Real Estate Development Sub-Division in Coamo, Puerto Rico

    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.

    Sunrise From Porch in Coamo, Puerto Rico

    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!

    Update July 2011: Regular gasoline is now running 88-90 cents a Liter.  Eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese have come way down in price.

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      23 Responses to Real Estate and the Cost of Living in PR.. My 2¢

      • Jeff says:

        I was wondering if the storm troopers have taken over PR like they have New York. You can’t go anywhere without militarized police intimidating you, Do they do that in PR? (S.Dog- Not yet, at least not out where we live.)

      • Manuel says:

        I miss PR a lot, one of the things I miss the most is the beautiful sound in the evenings of the Coqui, the rain… Morning rains where so nice…! and of course the food. Alcapurrias las fritangas I miss it all sooo much!!

      • Roberto says:

        Minor update- The cost of eggs and milk have gone down a bunch, but the cost of gas is close to a dollar a liter now. On top of that, the local government has yanked up the price on ALL utilities and taxes of all kinds. It’s still cheaper than the mainland, but the gap is closing. We switched from HughesNet to A/DSL via Claro/PRT, but that has not worked out so well.

      • Jay says:

        Awsome post. I am planning on leaving from NYC upon my retirement in less than two years and reading over the post have given me new insight thank you my decision becomes clearer. Got to get out of this big parking lot where you idle for hours in traffic, expensive rents, high priced car insurance, high taxes, ETC. I am ready. (S.Dog- I could not agree more. I assume you have come for a visit to check it out first hand. How’s your Spanish?)

      • Karen says:

        I have been looking into english speaking schools in PR. My Son will be entering 7th grade, middle school when we move. I’ve found it extremely difficult to find schools, tuition costs, and school ratings (hoping that the private schools offer a much better education-equivalent to US standards over PR public schools). When/what does PR consider to be a school year? Here in MN it’s typically Sept-June. Also, I’m a single mother, disabled, needing to find the right location in PR where I can afford on SS in safe neighborhood. I’m used to living in rural areas and enjoy my privacy but would like to be close enough to everything so we can walk to most everyday things..especially the beach… (S.Dog- Maybe someone can comment with info about private schools. I can say Summer Vacation is shorter than average since there are longer vacation periods during the school year. Also, it would be hard to get everything you are looking for within walking distance. I would start with looking around Rincon since a lot of ExPats live near by or maybe Cabo Rojo. You need to do some scouting. I assume you speak Spanish, If not, you need to learn it. Good Luck.. Arrg!)

      • Jeff Bedell says:

        First time viewer. Considering retirement there. Welcoming info esp costs of living compared with Florida’s. What does one do if milk (cheese?) is so costly there? We all need calcium. (S. Dog- Some food costs have come down, especially dairy- milk, cheese and yogurt are lower than when I got here, 3 years ago, but fresh veggies are still as high as the mainland. Most produce is flown in from elsewhere as there are too many people on the island for the local farmers to support them so transportation is the culprit. Buy local or grow your own and freeze it. That’s what we do. BTW- We love PR, but it’s not for everyone… need to make a trip 1st, to make up your mind.)

      • Ruben M. says:

        I was wondering if my pension will be taxed in PR (Rubin- Good question. I’m not sure what the rate would be, but here’s a link to help figure out any PR taxes- http://www.hacienda.gobierno.pr/planillas_y_formularios/individuos.html )

      • Richard ashworth says:

        I understand that social security pays a smaller SS payment in PR. I’m retired and live on SS and I wonder if I moved there if my SS payments would be reduced??? ( S. Dog- NO… there is no reduction in SS payments if you live in Puerto Rico)

      • Iris says:

        Lala, LOL I agree with you and your selfish reasons!! I was born on the island, raised between the Bronx NY and PR, and finally relocated to PR for good. It is soo beautifull here! I count my blessing every day when I wake up and decide whether I want to work, walk the beach with the dogs (only a 2 min walk away), or work on my house and garden. No way I want those things to change. So long as the decision is left to the locals to vote, I dont see it becoming a state anytime soon. Love the blog Roberto! Thanks! S. Dog- I’m OK with what ever they decide.

      • Isaiah says:

        Wow your 2 cents are thorough. I actually lived in San Sebastian over on the west coast for about 2 years, and I rented a 1 bedroom house, with 1/4 acre of land. I only paid $150 a month for rent. But like you said milk at $6.00? WTF? My neighbors were cows, why am I still paying so much? Puerto Rico is a paradise but only if you have steady income or are retired. Don’t go there looking for work. my two cents ;)

      • Samantha says:

        Thanks for the informative post! My hubby and I are trying to make a long-overdue move to PR in the coming months. One question nobody has touched on (probably because it’s unusual?) is the cost of childcare? We pay $10/hr here in California and were wondering how much cheaper we could get a sitter or enroll in daycare. Anyone have any input? Thanks! (Good question, A lot of the economy here in PR is done ‘under the table’. Would depend on how many kids, where you live in PR and if you knew any locals. I have seen formal daycare services, but don’t know what they charge. Sdog)

      • David says:

        Thanks for the kick-butt overview Roberto. I have lived in the islands for years, now FL, and still travel extensively throughout the islands and Cen America for my business. Look forward to hearing more from you. David

      • Vina Eitnier says:

        Having read this blog i realize it was helpful in so many ways. Genius!

      • Roger Wharry says:

        Great work webmaster, nice design!

      • Tanja Drook says:

        I’m so excited I found your weblog, I found you while browsing and would just like to say thank you for a incredible post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I marked it and also added your RSS feed, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the great work. Tanja

      • Roberto says:

        We paid $1.43 a pound for a Butterball Turkey for Thanksgiving. Rediculous Walmart prices.

      • Belinda says:

        Excellent… I have lived here for 3 years now. I lived in Hawaii 1975-1980. Puerto Rico has it all over Hawaii. Also, I do not foresee PR as a 51st state… it is not in our best interest, nor is it in the best interest of the US Government. Also, the tap water is safe to drink here, no flouride, thank God.

      • myspace chips says:

        It’s surprising how age varies the way you perceive so many ideas. Thank you for the article, it truly is pleasing to read something smart occasionally, in lieu of the standard nonsense mascarading as blogs on the web. Cheers

      • sorority says:

        Enjoyed the posts..

      • Roberto says:

        Not yet, but plan to do so in 2011. There is a late night ferry run from Mayaguez to Santa Domingo, I want to do a story on. I have to check out the 4 or 5 minor islands of PR before heading off to the Dominican Republic. Still have lots to explore here. Arrg!

      • LaLa says:

        Have you visited the DR yet? I haven’t, but I intend to eventually.

      • Roberto says:

        I agree! Leaving everything as it is, would be best. The first few years of Statehood will be very hard on the locals… many, many changes. The Dominican Republic might be a good alternative in another 5 to 10 years.

      • LaLa says:

        Loved this very informative post! For selfish reasons I hope it remains a commonwealth and a well-kept secret. I fear it someday becoming too popular and all of the nifty perks you detailed above becoming a memory.

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