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?
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.
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.
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!
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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.