An Education in Rock Real Estate

Choosing to make our favorite rock, Grenada, our permanent home was the easy part. Deciding on the type of housing that would be best for us proved to be more of a challenge.

Our thought process went something like this:

We’ll buy a boat, make that our home during the winter months, and then return to Chicago for the summers to our home there!

Nevermind – scrap that. Boats are too much work with far too little space. Besides, what would we do without a garden?

How about we rent a condo/house for the winter, then go back to Chicago for the summers?

Too bad condos/houses are very expensive to rent, especially if you’re only in them for half of the year. Nope, not a good plan.

What if we rent long term and sell our house in Chicago?

Unfortunately, most rentals on the island come fully furnished – what would we do with all of our stuff?

decisions

And so we decided to buy a house. After all, I do love to have my own piece of dirt (or, as it is here, rock).

As a former real estate agent, I set to work on what I assumed would be a pretty straight forward process. Much to my delight, I found a familiar real estate franchise right off the bat; in fact, it was the exact same one where I started my own real estate career many moons ago in Chicago. This is going to be a piece of cake!

And that’s where the fantasy came to a crashing halt. What came next was the opposite of straight forward – a two year process, still in the works, that has tested both our resolve and our patience.

Moving to a rock, one can experience culture shock in a variety of ways. Ours has definitely been most significant in the home buying process in Grenada. Though I was familiar with many different business models through my work in international real estate – prior to my retirement, I was even a member of FIABCI (The International Real Estate Federation) for a number of years – but nothing, it seems, could have prepared me for what awaited me on my rock.

island real estate cartoon

Though the deal is hardly done, I have already learned a lot. Here are some unexpected aspects of island real estate to keep in mind if you, too, one day find yourself looking to purchase a property in paradise:

Throw out your timetable.

Timeframes mean nothing down here. It takes forever to get appointments, to negotiate, to process documents, and pretty much anything else you once considered “urgent”. Just kick back and try not to stress. Things will start to come together… eventually.

“Caveat Emptor” – Let the buyer beware.

Truer words were never written. Here, we found that sellers are not necessarily held accountable for deficiencies, so it’s important for the buyer to pay attention. In the island real estate game, be ready to play defense.

Don’t forget – you’re an alien here.

The challenges in finding a suitable property are only the beginning. In order to purchase a home on my rock, an Alien Land Holder’s Certificate is needed. This is an incredibly lengthy, convoluted process, with innumerable documents required from both the US and our new chosen rock. As if that wasn’t daunting enough, we found that foreigners must pay a 10% tax on the purchase price of a home. Ouch.

Lawyer up!

My advice, if you are determined to buy a home, is to make sure you have a REALLY good attorney. Attorneys do pretty much everything around here – and you don’t want to get stuck with a lemon that will cause further delays.

Expect the unexpected.

Make allowances for plenty of time and patience to find and buy a house in the islands. Know what it is you want and why you want it – you will be tested in this desire along the way and it can be easy to forget during times of intense frustration and incomprehensible bureaucracy. Our motto is, NEVER GIVE UP!

–   –   –

At this point, you may be wondering – aren’t we properly discouraged yet?

I will admit – some days we say we should have just bought a condo in Florida and be done with it. But then we sit on the front porch, soaking up the island quiet, hearing only a song bird, watching the ocean in all its ever-changing moods. We think of all the gentle, sweet people on our rock and just can’t imagine settling down elsewhere.

And so we continue to wait – and wait some more – for the day when we’ll be in our house and be able to truly call our rock, our home.

beach house sign

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Maria Davies

About Maria Davies

Maria has lived many lives in many places but has never felt happier than on her current rock in the sun, Grenada. In a former life, for many years she was a successful realtor in Chicago. Ironically, Maria has found buying a new pad in the Grenadian marketplace to have many plot twists... but she loves exploring, meeting new people, and growing a year-round garden in the sun.

One of Maria's new missions is to communicate with folks back home and to teach them about the Spice Island - its unique produce, lively culture, and welcoming ways. Maria is an avid lover of life who seeks to try new foods and meet new people.

Back in a past life, Maria was a huge supporter of the opera, theatre, and was active in many civic organizations and causes. She has now limited her organizational involvement to being active in the Grenada Association of Retired Persons. She's happy to share her adventure with her wonderful husband of many years. Together, they share a large family and love to show their kids and grandkids around their lovely island home.

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9 thoughts on “An Education in Rock Real Estate

  1. We need to get together!!! We have just done the very thing you write about, but we purchased (after the long drawn out painful process) a vacation villa rental, so are trying to operate a business here as well.
    Your story was spot on, and we have felt every painful experience of the “process” but would not want to be any where else either.
    Best of luck and yes “never give up”

  2. You succinctly stated every thought we had when we purchased our home in Grenada 5 years ago, upon retirement. My husband and I love the people, the sea views and living the slower, quieter life.
    Our realestate agent was less than honest, and yes, she was associated with a reputable agency.
    We went into our purchase, as you say , with eyes wide open. I hope you will join us as ” alien landowners ” very soon!

    • Hi Maria, I live on Grenada too. We bought our home, in Lance aux Epines, about 2 years ago. Would love to meet up if you are so inclined. I’m always looking to meet new people.

      Michele La Bonte – you too!

  3. We built a home in the Bahamas. Our favorite saying is…”Are you glad you did it? HELL YEAH!. Would you do it again? HELL NO!!!”

  4. Then we sit on our perfectly beautiful rocks and watch HGTV Carribean Life. LOL No discussion of lawyers,paperwork,stamp taxes,fees,generational land etc. with the buyers who already put in their offer before filming starts. They shot a show here on Eleuthera a couple years ago.

  5. The dilemna of juggling the 6 months/6 months situation just doesn’t cut it! I am a retiree from Montreal, Quebec and am presently doing 6 months in Barbados and bunked for 6 months in Montreal as I sold my Condo here. But the day of reckoning has come and I have to solve this by next year…in terms of where principle abode will be…I rent an apartment year round in Barbados. Any suggestions?

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