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Question about Long Term Rentals

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Like many, I have always dreamed of living in the Caribbean, however I realize that it is unlikely that I will be able to live there full time. I am a single woman who is not wealthy, so I would not be able to purchase a home there. I also realize that I would need to have more connections with my friends and family, so could not move somewhere permanently. I live in a cold climate and have difficulty managing the cold winters, especially since I have MS. I also have two small dogs who would have to come with me. So I would love to be a "snow bird" in the Caribbean, but realize that January through March is high season, and the most expensive time to visit the Caribbean. I would not be able to afford to rent a place for 3 months every year, at the high weekly rate! Is it unrealistic to think that I could find a place to rent long term (up to 3 months) on a Caribbean island that would be safe for a single woman? And of course I would love it to be beachfront. And a pool would be good as I have difficulty getting out of the ocean. I would assume that the cost of that sort of rental would be too cost prohibitive? There are so many of you with all sorts of information and I would appreciate all the help you could offer. Thanks in advance!

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    I would check the entry requirements for any Caribbean island you are interested in, both for yourself and your dogs. It could be that you are only allowed entry for a month. Looking at some of my passport stamps, Antigua allowed 3 months, St Lucia 42 days, Barbados 30 days and so on.

    I don't know what is cost prohibitive is for you, but for 3 months I would try to negotiate a less expensive rate with the owner/agent, plus would look at renting away from main tourist areas, so beachfront but perhaps on the side of the island where the sea is rougher and not so touristy. You would not pay a weekly rate for a 3 monthly rental. For instance, the south/ south east side of Barbados is windswept and beautiful, but would be less expensive than the west coast. The downside is being too far from amenities and the security aspect. Also you could not take your dogs from the US to Barbados. They only accept pets from certain countries.

    Maybe research first where in the Caribbean you would be allowed to stay for 3 months and be able to take your dogs and go from there as this could narrow down the choices for you. Check the entry requirements for taking your dogs back home too, in case they would need to be quarantined after 3 months abroad. You also need to check islands that have adequate medical facilities or are easy to get back home from.

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    To be a snowbird that's cost prohibited, forget on the beach, you'll have to be blocks away and you have to have a rental car (which they also give discounts for longer rentals)

    Bring a big cooler full of spices, condiments, etc as food is quite expensive too

    What type of budget are we actually looking at? (ball park monthly rental idea) to be realistic on recs.

    You might also consider Central America, much more affordable-- Mexico, Belize, Roatan, etc

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    If you are a US citizen, the easiest place to stay is the US Virgin Islands. Okay, Puerto Rico, if you speak Spanish. You can check www.vimovingcenter.com for information on living in the VI. The dogs might be a problem where ever you go...

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    As others have said some islands have restrictions on how long "non-belongers" may remain on island so you have to research those that will let you stay 3 months. Those that do often will grant you a 30 day visitors visa which you'll have to renew (and pay a small fee) for 2 more successive 30 day periods.

    You can find 2 to 3 month retails on most islands but without knowing you actual dollar budget no one here can make meaningful recommendations. Suffice to say, you should be able to find rental units that offer 3 month rentals at lower than "weekly rates". How much of a discount you get for the 3 month rental depends on the unit. It won't be "cheap" if you are renting in "High Season".

    Now for some reality checks:

    1) Beachfront properties on any island are in high demand, especially in High Season and as such rent for top dollar even if rented "long term". The further away from the beach the lower the rental will be and the better your chances are of getting a "long term rental discount" but don't expect it to be cheap. For planning purposes figure your monthly rent will be about 25% higher than you'd pay for a similar rental "back home".

    2) The cost of living is high in the Caribbean so plan on spending 25% to 35% more than you do now for food and everyday incidentals. If you need air conditioning expect to pay a premium if electricity is included in your monthly rental rate. If utilities are not included in your rent budget a few hundred dollars extra as electricity is VERY EXPENSIVE on most islands.

    3) You'll need transportation and on most islands public transportation is lacking and taxis get expensive so budget for a rental car. You should be able to negotiate a long term rate but at the very least it will be several hundred dollars a month.

    4) Taking your dog presents some difficulties but is generally possible. First, you'll have to check the requirements for bringing your dog to the island you choose. Most likely you'll need to have valid health certificates, up to date titer tests, a microchip implanted in the dog, quarantine restrictions, etc. (do a google search "Bring Pets to NAME OF ISLAND" for lots of info) and then you'll have to make sure you understand the airlines rules regarding transporting tests - most won't let you bring more than one small dog in the passenger compartment with you and they won't let you put dogs in the cargo hold if the temperatures are above 85 F.

    5) You mentioned a desire for a pool - keep in mind the more amenities the rental unit has the higher the monthly rental will be. You can find almost any amenity you want in a rental unit but you'll pay for those amenities.

    6) If you have any "medical problems" make sure you understand the terms of your medical insurance. Most medical insurance policies (I assume you are from the US) do not cover you in the Caribbean so you'll need supplemental coverage. It's a good idea to also purchase Medical Evacuation Insurance in the event of a medical emergency - it can cost $20,000+ for an air ambulance. Medical care on some islands leaves a lot to be desired. On the island where I live most Ex-pats and the more well to do locals go to the US for their medical care (other than for minor "first aid" type treatment.

    What you are trying to do can be done but it is not always easy nor will it be inexpensive. Quite frankly the Caribbean is not a place for the very budget minded. You'll have to do first hand research and if you want guidance from contributors on travel or discussion forums you'll have to give specifics about how much you can actually spend rent and living expenses. Using terms like "affordable" , "not wealthy", "cost prohibitive", etc. are meaningless unless you give us some reference point. What's cost prohibitive to YOU may not be for those offering you advice.

    Good luck in your search.

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    Thanks to everyone for your replies. I have a lot more research to do. The trouble I am having is finding appropriate places that would work for me, that do long term rentals in general, particularly those that take pets! I would like a pool, but that would only be a bonus. I had to quit my job much sooner than expected due to my MS, so that certainly altered my long term plans, both financially and in terms of time-frame. I would have loved to purchase a little cottage on the beach and rent it out when I was not there, but the feasibility of managing a property in another country was far too daunting, so I had to drop that idea years ago! I traveled to a number of places in the Caribbean when I was younger, but then was doing more travel to Europe, so I haven't been to many places in the Caribbean lately, except for a trip to St. Croix. On that trip, I only was there for a week, and I did take my dogs, and could take both of them in one carry-on under my seat. I have never been to the Bahamas, but I feel an affinity to it just due to the close proximity to the US, particularly if you needed to get to the US for anything, such as a emergency medical procedure. I have really been interested in the Bahamas Out Islands. I know that Mexico and Central America would have less expensive options, but I am not comfortable with traveling and living alone in those places. Unfortunately when you are only going for several months, you obviously need to maintain two homes during those months, so that is quite costly! I may have to limit my time in order to make it work? Maybe I won't be able to do 3 months, but will only be able to do two months, or maybe only be able to afford one month? I don't know? If you have $15,000, would you be able to stay on an island for a while? What are your thoughts? Thanks!

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    You asked - "If you have $15,000, would you be able to stay on an island for a while?" It doesn't matter if I or anyone else would be able to stay on an island with that budget it only matters if YOU can do it. And I bet you can (see "GOOD NEWS" below). But before you do there are a few points to consider:

    First off, the Bahamas are fairly far north and can be cool during the winter months so they may not fill your your needs for a three months stay at that time of year if you are seeking warm weather. Research this very carefully before deciding to spend the winter in the Bahamas.

    Second (and another reality check), as mentioned in earlier responses beachfront property is expensive (think in terms of a minimum of $10,000 per beachfront foot making a typical 100' wide building lot around $1 million, minimum) - FYI a 100' wide beachfront building lot on my island is currently on the market for over $2 million - and people who can afford those kind of prices don't build "small cottages", they build mega-mansions. So, really, there's no such thing as a "little cottage" on the beach. Building costs in the Caribbean are high and even a small, simple home, not on the beach, can cost $750,000. On some islands you might be able to purchase a 1 BR beachfront condo starting at around $500,000. With prices like that it stands to reason rental costs will be high.

    Third, your idea of buying and renting may not give you what you want. The peak rental time in the Caribbean is in winter which is when you want to us your unit so you'll miss out on the most lucrative rental periods. You'll get fewer rentals during the rest of the year which probably won't off-set your much of your carrying costs.

    Now the GOOD NEWS, with a budget of $15,000 you should easily be able to spend 2 months (possibly 3 if you find the right property) in the Caribbean if you are willing to make some concessions. First & foremost give up the idea of staying on a beachfront property. They'll be out of your price range. You'll have to rent modest accommodations - perhaps a studio apartment or small 1 BR apartment in a private home that has a "downstairs" rental unit or in an older apartment complex but don't expect any "amenities" and it won't be on or really near the beach. Don't worry, though, on most islands you won't be more that a 10 or 15 minute ride from the beach. Besides, you'll find that after the novelty of sitting on the beach everyday wears off you and the new friends you make will be engaging in non-beach activities. For what it is worth, I and the other Ex-pats who live or who come as snow birds on "my island" are so busy doing other things that we rarely go to the beach.

    If you don't get carried away with your "needs & wants" your $15,000 budget should get you a comfortable stay for at least 2 months and maybe even 3 months.

    My suggestion is you pick an island that interests you and contact a couple of the Real Estate agents on that island (a simple google search of "Real Estate Agents NAME OF ISLAND" will give you lots of links. Tell them you are planning to come for a 2 or 3 month stay next winter and let them know what type of accommodation you require. Ask them to give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay for a modest 2 to 3 month rental. That will give you a starting point. If the average rental costs are out of your price rang pick another island. But if you are comfortable with the quotes you can begin planning your extended visit.

    I'm guessing you can find decent (2 to 3 month) accommodations on many islands for around $1,500 to $2,000/month and you'll need maybe $500 to $800/month for an "older" car rental (the Real Estate Agent can probable recommend a local car rental company). That will leave you somewhere between $2,700 and $3,000/month for groceries, activities, dining out and incidentals. You won't be eating out every night and you won't be going on a lot of day excursions but you won't be living in property either. If you feel comfortable with those numbers start your search.

    Good luck!

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