Wednesday, September 21, 2011

House Hunter Version

A while back, shortly after we had begun thinking about moving we were contacted by House Hunters International (the TV program) about doing a segment about Puerto Rico. We had been in the house for 3 years at that point but were thinking of moving because of Jeff's commute. As it turned out we declined doing the show because of logistical hassles about back stories (had to go back to Seattle - no interest), short time table and general life disruption. It would have been about how we found our current house. We are fans of the show, at least some of the segments, because you can get a feel for properties in other places you've never been to and get to see the thinking of other like minded people (or not). We finally saw the Puerto Rican segment a few nights ago on TV and were disappointed because the hunters they found were all too typical of what we DON'T like about the show - people who have way too much money to spend on a "vacation" home they really are gonna just visit and not live in. It didn't really show the realistic Puerto Rico that we live in. So today's post is about our current House Hunter segment - the non-televised, real life house hunting in Puerto Rico for regular folks without a million to blow on a 2 month vacation spot (which by the way would equate to 80 plus years of super expensive resort vacations rather than a single neighborhood house in a city).

So here we go..."Jeff and Katrina moved to San German Puerto Rico 4 years ago to look for a life style centered around water sports. They wanted a place warm, tropical, with great gardening and sports opportunities. After trying to purchase a place on St. Croix they realized Puerto Rico might be a better option. Puerto Rico has the climate, the sports (kayaking diving, caving, hiking, biking), the gardening things they enjoy without the price tag. Too young to retire, Jeff would be able to find a job in engineering and housing prices would give them a year or more to find jobs without worrying too much."

Blah blah. We found our house on the internet (believe it or not) and when we visited looked at it and a few others. Since we were buying down (not shooting the whole wad we got from the Washington house) it seemed worth the risk. At that time there were engineering jobs IN San German and Mayaguez and Cabo Rojo. All these jobs have since moved up to Aquadilla.

Fast forward to now. Jobs in our area have evaporated and moved up north to Aquadilla. After 3 years of driving over an hour each way to work Jeff is sick of it. We have also started caving which is something we had never done before and that of course is in the central north primarily. We'd like to do baby surfing in Isabela, which of course is in the north and all shore diving we now know is in the north/northwest. We are STILL selling our house and are on buyer 3. Puerto Rico (and in the States as well) is pretty messed up in the banking department and we have encountered problems that are wearing us down. Buyer number 1 qualified for incentives to the tune of thousands of dollars of closing costs but they wouldn't give her Private Mortgage Insurance. Buyer 2's bank had the house appraised and it came in 25,000 or so low other houses as comprables had solar energy so they decided to pretend it didn't exist. The buyer doesn't have that kind of money sitting around and can't get a loan for the full amount and we aren't giving the system to them! Buyer 3...who knows, we are waiting for the appraiser to call this week and come out. I am honestly not too hopeful given the other problems that in no way could be anticipated! What is the problem this time? We are pretending that it will happen though and I have boxed things up and we have been looking at houses. We found 4 that would work for us, but one was really too far so it isn't in the top three.

House Number 1 is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath newish home in Quebradillas, PR selling for $142,000. The location is 40 minutes or so from Jeff's work and close to caves. Good things - the neighborhood leading up to it is clean without a bunch of stray dogs and garbage. The house is on a dead end with no neighbors on 3 sides and a nice pasture and magote kind of behind. It is on a acre of land and the floor plan is pretty open. The house probably gets decent breezes. It is an area totally safe for the cats. Bad things - the house is boring, the yard is a blank slate without any trees or landscaping and there is not storage for scuba compressors, kayaks, tanks, surf boards, caving gear, yard equipment etc. It is overpriced definitely and the people won't come down (they have a loan to pay off). There isn't much of an outdoor area (no deck or porch or balcony). It is an alien house plopped on a hill.

The nice thing is that there is really only one neighbor with one other above and the rest outside the gate. The house is on a dead end.
The floor plan is open and the house is big enough for us (less to clean = good for me).
There is potential to enclose a porch and build a nice wrap around patio.

House Number 2 is a 2 bedroom 3 bath house in Moca, PR. The listing price is $165,000. The location is 28 minutes from Jeff's work, diving, less to surfing and close to caving. It is close to 3 better-than-highway 2-to drive roads. It is on a ridge with views of San Sebastian, Moca and on a clear day Desecheo in the far distance. Good things - it is on 1 1/2 acres with all the mature fruit trees we would want to have, there are currently no neighbors on 3 sides, the house is clean and maintained fairly well, there is tons of storage inside and out an a nice deck off the back of the house looking at the bulk of the property. Bad things - kind of a trashy area (like most of PR) with some animals roaming, some garbage, some uncared for houses. It is close to the road (but has a cement wall) but the road isn't traveled a bunch (few houses on it). The property next to it is for sale (1,000 sloped sq meters) and a house could potentially go there or in front also. There are much better properties to build on but hey, this is PR which defies all logic! We think it would work for the cats but there is always potential for them to scale the wall and play in the road and get squashed. This view looks to the property for sale on the other side of the fence about 50 meters away (place for a nice hedge of mirto).
The floor plan is open which is nice. I like the breakfast bar and view out the window. The kitchen is better than any I have had before - not "upscale" but I'm not really an upscale type of gal.
The front balcony looks at the wall. I could make a neat, tropical/lush entry garden from the gate to here. The side balconies are great but the deck out back is best although it is wood which is not the best thing.

This view is of the bulk of the property looking down from the roof. The basics (mature fruit trees) are there but it is in need of the design aspect - understory flowers and shrubs!

House 3 is a house in Aquadilla listed at $250,000. It is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house on about 1/2 an acre in a neighborhood called San Antonio within Aguadilla. The house is 5 minutes to Jeff's work and 2 minutes to Shacks beach where we dive and snorkel a lot and a couple minutes to Isabela for surfing. Did I say it was 5 minutes to Jeff's work? Good things - the house is on a clean, good road that is a dead end with clean, nice, well-maintained homes (about 15) on it. The neighborhood is mainly professional people. There are a lot of dogs but they appear to be in their yards and appear healthy and clean. No garbage to be seen. The house is a decent size and seems to have ok storage for our sports/yard stuff. The property is enough and flat which is nice and not nice. Resale would be decent here since it is so close to all the jobs and the beach. 5 minutes to Jeff's work.
Nice, well-paved, safe (house is at dead end) road with nicer cars and homes on it.
Looking from in the yard there are homes across, one a long way away to the left and a fair distance away on the right and nothing behind (rock quarry at the bottom of a steep slope - no noise).
The house itself is ok. The ceilings are higher than the other 2, there are windows all around and good appears fairly well-maintained.
The yard is a blank slate - not "jungle" which is what we moved here for but still could be made into a park. Bad things - price, it is a neighborhood, it is flat and not jungle like, it is a neighborhood.
So which one did we choose? House number 2. House number 3 has some great features to it but at almost $100,000 more doesn't get the bid. House 2 has some of the tropical "style" I like, mature fruit trees are part of what we enjoy most here, the drive is much shorter and different for Jeff and it is central to everything we do here. It is only 8 minutes off 111, a few minutes from 112 and 110. It currently has 3 sides without neighbors which is rare in PR and a good amount of land. The cats will be safe, we will have lots of storage and will still be in jungle! Now we have to hope it will all work out selling our house. It seems like forever even though it has barely been 4 months. I am pretty tired of waiting. Jeff is tired of driving. We are tired of doing yard stuff in a yard that isn't going to be ours. We ARE enjoying avocados right now though. Wish us luck and pretend you saw us on TV! Puerto Rico has a lot of reasonable houses at reasonable prices if you are willing to make some compromises. Mostly people here want to live next to one another, with a big house sitting right on the road with an incredibly small amount of land preferably cemented over. If you DON'T want that you have to really look and either pay a lot more to have it reasonably close to things or you have to live an hour or more off the roads. If you don't have to work or go anywhere life here can be great! Cross your fingers for us ...3rd time's a charm?????


casas tres pequeñas said...

Hahahaha.. I LOVE IT! so funny because I watch House Hunters International all the time and I always answer the question in spanish. so as I'm reading I'm saying to myself "Casa Dos"..
I love your choice! It's the one I would pick. Now .... to get your buyers in San "Hermain" .. (sorry,, couldn't help myself). hope we meet one of these days. I'm friends with Rosa (in rincon and NJ), so maybe we will see you at her house one of these days!!

Fran and Steve said...

When I watch House Hunters, I yell at the TV which house I want them to pick. By the time I finished reading your descriptions, I was yelling in my head, "HOUSE NUMBER TWO!". I guess it worked. -- Fran

Lori from NJ said...

I love House Hunters!! I would have loved to see you on the show!! I agree with the others, house #2 looks like the best choice. Good luck in selling your home.

Cassie said...

Thanks Katrina and Jeff for a sneak peak at your thinking and how you're leaning. Hopefully it will all work out.

I totally would have done House Hunters. Maybe they are looking for more people!? :-)

I think Casa Dos is a great choice as well! Looks very nice...I was thinking with all the fruit trees you would pick that one!

We still need to get down to our house...I don't want to be just a visitor like you said, but want to live there!

We're planning on coming down probably in December or at some point during the yucky cold winter, so hopefully we can visit -maybe even in your new place!


Anonymous said...

Funny, I scan the House Hunters program guide for PR episodes. I am relieved when they don't show PR because I want to buy and don't want prices driven up. Let me get "in" before we push for a PR episode! I am still awaiting appraiser's paperwork. Process was started mid-August when I was there. Should have it next week. my offer will be based on the appraisal. Oh and I got a job, after a 2.5 year search.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the job? The long appraisal time means there are problems. The house is probably out of conformance (septic under house, no opening, they can't find comparables). Don't be excited when it comes back really really low. Appraisals are wickedly low right now but that doesn't mean you'll get a house for a low price (not exactly a buyer's market). 3 out of 4 deals don't close because either the appraisal is so low the buyer can't pay off their mortgage so they sit on it or the bank won't loan the buyer enough when they agree to pay more than the appraisal. There are a lot of crappy houses around that you could maybe get a "deal" on but you probably want one of the rare ones you will have to pay for. If it is a house you really want you will probably pay more than it is appraised for but that doesn't mean it isn't worth more. With some cash you at least can get what you want without the banks scewing it up - Puerto Rico Does It Better all right The "incentives" program really just encourages people to TRY to buy or TRY to sell - the reality is that it is harder than ever to do either.

Anonymous said...

I saw that episode in PR also. Was hoping that they would do more on the average expat moving to PR! I liked your version much better anyway! I will keep rooting for you. Oh, and TWO would be my choice as well. Good luck!=- Faith

Anonymous said...

Houses #2 and #3 are breathtaking! I'm now sadly looking at houses outside PR; dark houses that seem to be made with cardboard, and they're all $350,000 and up. I want to cry.