In my last post about Real Estate In Puerto Rico Part 1, I talked about buying real estate in Puerto Rico and whether it is a good time to buy right now. The reality is, however, that the majority of people moving to Puerto Rico for the first time, choose to rent. So, today I want to talk to you about renting apartments in Puerto Rico.
I had every intention of putting it all in a single post but as I began to write, I quickly realized that this post would simply be too long. So now I will need to break it up, not into two but into three posts. 🙂 So, here it goes..
Some things I will cover will include:
- Where to rent
- How to find apartments
- Common pitfalls of renting apartments in Puerto Rico (next post)
- Having realistic expectations (next post)
In my third and final posts on renting apartments in Puerto Rico, I will recount our own experience with renting apartments. Since we rented several different times, I feel we have some good advice to offer you. But for today, I will generally talk about the topics of where to rent and how to find rentals.
OK, let’s get started.
Where Is Best For Renting Apartments In Puerto Rico?
This is the million-dollar question and we get it A LOT! And as always, I have the same, lame answer:
No, seriously, it does. It depends on a lot of things. Your budget, your ideal location (i.e. beach vs. in town vs. mountains), your ability to tolerate noise, etc etc etc. I could tell you that you should rent in Luquillo on the beach, among both Americans and locals. But, if you are a country-type or a mountains person, you may hate it. So, rather than trying to answer the question for you, let me tell you what I’ve learned.
Locations On The Island
Let’s face it, Puerto Rico is beautiful and it has something for just about everyone. So, choosing the “best location” can be tough.
But, if you want to live among other Americans, you may want to consider where they live. You will find greatest concentrations in San Juan, Rincon, Cabo Rojo, and Luquillo. That’s not to say that there are no Americans in other parts of the island, because there are, but perhaps not in as great of numbers.
San Juan rentals are likely to be the most expensive, especially if you want to be on the beach. Rincón is like a mini California, so you’ll find the surfer, young vibe there but also big crowds during season, and more surf beaches rather than swimming beaches.
The East side is my favorite and I love Luquillo. It’s a small, sleepy sea-side town with lots to do and an incredible, 26-miles of continuous beaches. Also, Luquillo has the El Yunque rainforest, so you can find rentals near it too.
However, Luquillo is also the most popular local vacation spot for San Juan residents, so it has a very distinctive local vibe – some people don’t like that, but we loved it.
What About Away From People?
Clearly, Puerto Rico is an island, so most areas you rent in will not be terribly far from a town but Puerto Rico does have some “remote” areas, as well. So, if you want to live away from it all, you may find a more isolated house or apartment, but these are less common than rentals in urban areas. We had an opportunity to live on a 40-acre farm in the middle of nowhere, that had only the caretaker as a permanent resident – he lived at the other end of the property. However, we decided it was too far for us from everything and we didn’t want to be away from all our friends, so we didn’t rent it.
Also, it would be helpful if you knew some Spanish in this scenario, because the further away you go from towns, the less locals speak English. We know some Americans that chose this route and after a few months really became lonely. Now they drive 30+ minutes several times a week, just to meet with some American friends. Not everyone needs a social life, but most people eventually do. So, I advise you to, at the very least, to do a scouting trip and figure which areas are your favorite before you choose.
Location Within Your Chosen Area
I’m going to pick on Luquillo again because I know it best. We rented apartments directly on the beach among both locals and Americans, up in the rainforest mountains among just locals, and in a gated vacation community close to the beach.
We preferred the apartment directly on the beach in a mixed neighborhood. Hands down that was our favorite but we know plenty of Americans that love living in the gated condo communities or the country. We, however, found that those areas were not for us.
So, you will need to consider your must-haves. Do you have to be on the beach? In a complex? Have a pool? Among the locals? These questions will help you decide where to live.
Here are some pluses and minuses of each our own apartment scenarios:
|Directly On The Beach Among Locals and Americans|
|Beach just outside||People noise (music), especially on the weekends|
|Great neighbors / community feel||Public going to/from, some theft|
|Come as you please, no gates/gate guards||Lack of privacy: everyone knows your business|
|Everyone speaks English|
|Easy to motivate oneself to go outside|
|Close to everything|
|Stable Infrastructure (utilities & internet)|
|In The Mountains Among Locals|
|Close to Nature||Isolated, not much community feel|
|Pretty views||Less motivation to walk, exercise, etc.|
|Fresh fruit that grow nearby||Language barrier with most neighbors|
|Theft was rampant|
|Noise from dogs, roosters, loud cars|
|Crazy roads and drivers|
|Constant utilities and internet outages|
|In A Gated Community Near Beach|
|Safe, no theft||Security Gate/Gate Guards were a pain|
|Quiet||Mostly empty neighborhood, so pretty lonely|
|Close to Everything||Not directly on the beach, so demotivating|
|No local feel: didn’t feel any different than any other neighborhood in US|
|Frequent electricity and internet outages|
Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you first scout out the area you are considering renting in. If you don’t, you can be in for some unpleasant surprises.
How To Find Apartments
When we moved to Tucson, we found our apartment online by doing a simple Google search. We picked out the apartment we wanted, and we filled out an application online. Got approved online and notified via email. Once we arrived, we inspected the unit and signed the lease online, as well. It was all super easy and convenient, right? Well, don’t expect to do the same in Puerto Rico. Finding an apartment on the island is a lot more time consuming and cumbersome. Here are your options:
I’ve said this before and it still holds true, the best way for renting apartments in Puerto Rico is to know someone. Puerto Rico is very much a word-of-mouth, community-oriented society. So, if you know someone and they know someone, and they recommend a landlord, you will be a lot better off than trying to shop on your own. Hence, if you’ve been to Puerto Rico before or if you’re shopping now, ask someone you know for recommendations. Heck, even if you don’t know someone, rent an AirBNB for a few days while you’re looking around, and ask your AirBNB host. Anything helps.
Clasificados online – this is a popular online adverting site in Puerto Rico. Beware though, there are people trying to scam others, so be smart. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We found our first apartment on Craigslist, although it is not as popular as Clasificados Online, it tends to have listings geared toward Americans.
Realtor or Property Manager – This is a good option if you can find a trustworthy person to work with you. Keep in mind that realtors are in business to try to sell you property and rentals are usually secondary. Also, there is no MLS system in Puerto Rico, so when you work with one realtor, you will only see his/her listings.
Property managers are a good option for renting apartments in Puerto Rico, especially if you can find an English-speaker. However, they usually deal with vacation rentals and tend to charge more because prices are typically per day or week, instead of monthly. So, negotiate.
In general, it’s hard to know whom to trust, so look for someone that is attentive, responsive, and forthcoming. This is not always easy. Some realtors act like they want you to “chase” them: don’t respond to phone calls, don’t call back, don’t email back – stay away from those.
Footwork – Pick the neighborhood you want to live in and look for “For Rent” signs. In condo buildings, there are usually bulletin boards where owners list their rentals, go there and jot down some numbers to call. Another strategy is to look for “For Sale” signs and call the sellers to see if they would be willing to rent. I know some folks that were successful renting that way. If you’re doing footwork, then engage the neighbors and ask about the landlord. You will get a feel for the neighbors and the owner at the same time.
These are your main ways to find apartments on the island. Of course, if you’re moving here for work, consult your employer. Or if you have family on the island, ask them. But I’m assuming you’re readings this because you don’t know where to get started and I hope this helps you.
OK, I think this is long enough. More on renting apartments in Puerto Rico in the next two posts. So, stay tuned…