Buying a home is never an easy process. Much less when you are relatively new in an area and are making one of life's major investments. Let Piramide Real Estate Brokers offer you some suggestions, based on our 25 year experience in the Puerto Rico market. This advice should make buying your home a painless and profitable experience
TYPE OF PROPERTIES AVAILABLE:
Realize you are in a new area, with culture and way of life different from your own. Be aware that the type of properties you are used to, or hoping for, for may not be available in Puerto Rico. Neither colonial home with arches, nor large rambler style homes are widely available. Rather, as land in Puerto Rico is expensive, homes tend to be one or two stories high, usually on a small lot. Most homes are fenced and within limited access communities. Homes in free access areas tend to be heavily protected with iron grills on windows. Walk-ups (3 or more story apartments without elevators) are quite popular, as are condominium apartments, specially near the sea. For a more comprehensive explanation visit our construction page.
URBAN OR SUBURBAN LIVING?
There is much to say for suburban living and the Puerto Rico countryside is very beautiful. However, unless you are retired without children or work at home, you will have to deal with Puerto Rico's traffic. Puerto Rico has the world record for number of automobiles per mile of road. This means extended rush hours and bumper to bumper traffic (the infamous "tapón".) Therefore, the location of your home in relation to school and work becomes of the highest priority. Carefully examine access and exit routes to and from school and work. Be aware traffic is at its worst at the beginning of the school year, as there are very few school buses. After a few weeks car pools are arranged and traffic eases up somewhat.
In consulting with co-workers who live in different areas be sure to pinpoint driving time and hour of the day. Rush hours for each area can change significantly in a few minutes. Beware, numerous perceptions don't bear out in fact. Talk to residents of the areas you are considering and get their factual opinion. Everybody hits traffic but some areas are worst than others. Everybody believes their "tapón" is less than that of others. Be objective!
Examine which areas have a completed road system, which ones are actively working on one and which have nothing at all. Be aware that road construction in Puerto Rico takes considerably longer than stateside or in other countries. WHAT CAN I AFFORD? To Top
Have a clear idea as to the price of the property you can afford. How much cash in hand for the down payment and closing costs? How much recurrent income to cover the monthly mortgage (principal + interest + taxes + insurance)? For help in answering this questions visit our financing page.
TARGETING A HOME:
Once you have a set price in mind, and have narrowed your areas of choice, search for properties within your price range. Keep in mind that properties slightly above your price may be accessible as, in Puerto Rico, people usually expect to haggle and therefore set their prices accordingly.
I found a home I like. What questions should I ask?
- What is the age of the construction? Who built the home? Is the builder warranty still active? What areas are covered? These are specially important with regards to roof leaks (which are frequent) and setting of the soil.
- Is the present owner the original owner? How many previous owners has it had? Has the home been remodeled or modified? Where and by whom? Remodeling homes is almost a national sport. Most second hand homes have additions or modifications. It is important to know which and where they are, as usually these have no warranty. Some work actually do away with the builder warranty.
- Because of the brick, mortar and concrete construction, joints between new and older construction frequently leak. You should ascertain if such leaks exist, and what has been done to solve them.
- Ask about easements on the property. Underground, electricity and telephone, sewer and potable water easements may affect the property. You should understand if they exist and where they apply. Otherwise you may find that the pool of your dreams is unfeasible.
- Ask about restrictions on the deed. Usually there are restrictions on how close you can construct to your neighbor and to the back of the property, or on the size of the fences and modifications to the front of the property. In the case of apartments some owners have included the balcony as part of the living room. Owners of houses may have constructed terraces or gazebos. Make sure these don't challenge deed restrictions or you may be liable for their removal at a latter date.
- Ask your RE agent what is listed with the property. Usual items listed are appliances, curtains, etc. However, that is not always the case. If you make an offer for the home make sure all of these items are spelled out.
- Does the home have storm shutters? Water tank? Power generator? As Puerto Rico is in area prone to hurricanes, having these facilities is convenient and may be necessary.
SHOULD I HIRE A REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST?
Should you use a real estate specialist or go it alone? You would not be surprised that, as real estate agents, we recommend you use the services of our profession. A seller may occasionally be right in selling directly (see advice to sellers) but seldom does this apply to buyers. Nevertheless it is important that you choose your agent with care.
In contrast to most of the continental USA, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) service in Puerto Rico is very limited (although it is improving). In addition, dual agency activities (both having the listing and finding the buyer for the property) are the norm, and some companies/agents may
go to extremes showing you their listings without listening to your needs. Make sure you are dealing with a company/agency willing to share with other brokers (going co-broke) so that you have access to an adequate selection. The following items show you why it is wise to use an agent:
- RE agents should have in depth knowledge of the different areas, the schools in the neighborhood and the traffic patterns. Therefore he/she can point out similar areas you are unaware of, if the right property is not found in your initial area of choice.
- A RE agent will insure that you enter into the contract protected properly. He knows what the law is, what negotiation is possible and what clauses can be used to protect your interests.
- A RE agent usually has an "old boys network" that will help you find the property you need, even if unadvertised, giving you access to a wide variety of properties.
- Security. In these days and times it is unadvisable to go into unknown areas and/or homes alone.
How to choose a Real Estate agent?
Real Estate Agents came in all flavors. From the excellent professional to the crook! However, it is not difficult to ensure you are well served, if you check for the following:
- The laws of Puerto Rico require that persons in the real estate trade be licensed. These licenses come in two flavors, salesperson and broker. Make sure your agent is licensed and that the license is current. If working with a salesperson, make sure you know who his broker is.
- Puerto Rico has local chapters of the National Association of Realtors®. A Realtor® subscribes to a code of ethics more stringent than that of Puerto Rico. In addition, Realtors® are self-policing so that you can file a grievance with the local board with a better chance of a speedy and satisfactory outcome than going through the government agencies.
- References: Any professional who has been active in this field for a while should be able to provide references from past customers. Information provided by past customers of your agent is paramount. In fact referrals are one of the major pillars of any successful real estate practice.
- The alphabet soup. As with other professions, the process of learning never ends. That your agent's name is followed by an alphabet soup proves that he takes his profession seriously and is concerned about keeping up to date.
In a nutshell: Your real estate agent should have an active Puerto Rico license. In preference, he should be a Realtor®. He should be able to provide meaningful references and his card should reflect commitment to his profession through evidence of additional studies.