Moving to Puerto Rico comes with some great perks.
Americans are moving to Puerto Rico for the climate, adventure, and tax breaks.People must also consider other aspects, such as schools, which are struggling to meet demand.Even things like finding new furniture can be challenging on the small island.
Puerto Rico is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Americans looking to relocate for tax purposes.
While the island boasts promises of adventure and financial incentives designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs, the move comes with challenges. Newcomers to Puerto Rico told Business Insider they’ve had difficulty navigating the complexities of healthcare, education, and even buying goods like furniture.
“I don’t sugarcoat it; it’s not for everyone,” said Ricky Santana, founder and managing partner of Colectivo Group, a real estate firm in Puerto Rico that helps Americans move to the island. “You need to realize you’re moving to a small island in the Caribbean where it’s still great but there’s going to be some trade-offs.”
From 2021 through 2022, about 27,000 people moved to Puerto Rico from the US states, according to data collected by the US Census Bureau. The territory’s tax incentive, Act 60, is a big draw for many.
Though mainlanders can move to Puerto Rico without becoming citizens, if they do get citizenship, they can apply for a 15-year decree under Act 60. If approved, the person or business only has to pay a 4% fixed rate on income and can receive a 75% reduction in property taxes.
In addition, individuals do not have to pay any taxes on capital gains accrued after becoming citizens and businesses benefit from a 50% reduction in municipal license taxes.
These benefits do have opponents and can be a political hot-button topic locally. According to Santana, politicians must find ways to appease native Puerto Ricans who are upset because they do not get the same tax breaks while also acknowledging quietly that the incentives are working to boost the island’s economy.
The economic impact is real, but come prepared
San Juan’s shopping and nightlife have been compared to Miami.
Jessica Peterson/Getty Images
One big consideration before relocating to Puerto Rico is ensuring the entire family is on board and will have what they need, Santana said.
“If your family, if your spouse, they can’t adapt to Puerto Rico, it doesn’t matter how much taxes you’re saving, it is not going to work,” Santana said.
One of the biggest challenges for families with young children is finding the right school, Santana said. He added there are several well-rated bilingual schools on the island, but they are struggling to handle the bandwidth of the growing population, especially in the areas deemed most desirable for the mainlanders moving to the island.
One of those areas is Dorado, a city about 20 miles west of San Juan on the island’s north side, where many of the more expensive homes are being built. While a family may find the home and community they desire in that area, if there is no availability in the local school, the children may be forced to commute 35 to 40 minutes each way to a school in San Juan.
Map of Puerto Rico.
Other challenges include healthcare and services
Another big issue that people need to consider before moving to Puerto Rico is the state of the healthcare system.
Sarah Lindsey and Sean Flynn, a semi-retired couple that moved to Humacao, Puerto Rico, from Austin in 2021, previously told Business Insider that healthcare insurance is cheap, but “you’re kind of getting what you paid for.”
Santana noted healthcare can be especially problematic if you need a specialist on the island. If you can find one, there might be a long wait, and other times, you might need to fly to Miami or New York for the necessary care.
Puerto Rico was already in a “healthcare crisis” in 2015, and the situation worsened over the next three years. In the year following Hurricane Maria in 2017, about 15% of Puerto Rico’s healthcare professionals left the island.
Lindsey noted that if somebody expressed interest in moving to Puerto Rico, she would first ask them about their health.
“Maybe you want to go down there, but if you have some health problems, maybe you don’t,” Lindsey said. “It is really better for people who are younger and healthier.”
Local and US governments are working to improve healthcare, and Lindsey and Flynn noted there is a specific effort being made to add clinics that might cater better to older individuals.
If you are young and adventurous, Puerto Rico could be a perfect fit.
Kimberly Sue Walker/Getty Images
Santana also warns clients about the need for patience on the island, especially with services.
“You must understand that in Puerto Rico, it’s going to be a little laid back,” he said.
The lure of tax breaks has real estate prices rising
As Puerto Rico is a US territory, American mainlanders can buy real estate on the island without any restrictions. The influx of American mainlanders has affected the island’s high-end real estate market.
Five years ago, developers were focused on building houses that ranged between $2 million and $4 million, Santana said. Now, developers are creating homes that cost between $20 million and $40 million, he added.
“It’s so mind-boggling that the kind of individuals moving to the island, we didn’t necessarily have that particular inventory available,” he said. “So developers have changed to adapt to the new demands.”
A $20 million house for sale in Dorado, Puerto Rico.
Collectivo Group Real Estate
Prices are more reasonable in some areas, such as Flynn and Lindsey’s new home of Humacao, which is about 90 minutes from San Juan on the island’s southeast coast.
Regardless of where transplants settle, they may encounter difficulties finding necessities like chairs, beds, and couches.
The sale of furnished houses for people coming to the island without their own furniture has increased in popularity, Santana said. Otherwise, buying furniture typically means having it shipped from the US, increasing the cost and the wait.
Lindsey and Flynn noted that it was often the same for smaller items, as Amazon deliveries can take a month to arrive.
Santana suggests that anyone on the fence about a move spend longer than a typical vacation before making a final decision.
“Maybe stay during the summer, stay for a month,” Santana said. “Make sure that it is the right fit.”
If you moved to Puerto Rico for tax incentives and want to share your experiences, contact this reporter at email@example.com.