I cannot believe we did it. I can NOT believe we did it. I CANNOT believe we did it. After many conversations where we decided it would be best to just keep renting villas in Grenada, we literally ran out and bought a house.
We’ve rented villas for over 20 years and have stayed at a wide variety of houses – big, small, modest, luxurious and everything in between. Before we were traveling with Mick, our Irish Setter, it was fairly easy to find a villa. Mick makes it a little harder but definitely not impossible. What I think really shifted the conversation were 2 things – the villa we stayed at last year was available for sale and Michael’s need for a photography studio.
Michael did most of his shoots at our house last spring that, over time, became pretty disruptive since he needed to use the living room. This meant we needed to empty the room of furniture each day and I needed to pretty much stay out of the house most of the day because the living room was the central room in the house and I had to walk through it to get anywhere else in the house, disrupting the energy. Michael tried to rent studio space but there was nothing available that was convenient for him or the models. Since the villa we were renting was for sale, it got us thinking about buying. Our Woburn villa was perfectly located and has one of the very best views on the island. The house itself was pretty basic and needed a lot of work. There wasn’t enough land to build a studio, but the adjacent property was potentially for sale so we started calculating costs – the price of first house, improvements, cost of the land for studio and then building the studio itself and the math just didn’t add up.
I began to look for other property on the same street that would have the same location and views. There was one house that definitely had potential, but the owner was in the US, his ex-girlfriend was living in the house with her children and the realtor couldn’t get her to let us see the house. We kept trying, but there didn’t seem to be anyway to work out a viewing and I’m guessing it would just keep getting harder if we actually liked the property. There were also two lovely lots for sale that we could combine and the price was fair, but it would mean having a house and studio built while we were off island which generally seems to be a recipe for disaster. Michael was really against this concept for good reason and I didn’t want to take on the absentee general contractor role (and headaches) that would be required.
We decided to continue renting and I began a search for our 2016 rental. We knew we couldn’t afford to rent at “holiday” prices and stay for 3 months so that was a constraint; Mick was another. I looked at a couple of places but they were far from ideal. One had no view, which we have come to love having. Another had a driveway that went straight up while corkscrewing with concrete walls on either side. There was a beautiful house at the end with gorgeous views but literally no yard. This meant that we would either have to drive or walk Mick off the property every time he needed to go the bathroom or we wanted him to get any semblance of exercise. My knees hurt just thinking of walking up and down the ¼ mile driveway to reach dirt or grass and I’m the one with the good knees!
We were getting ready to leave the island within a week and I figured I’d just keep looking remotely and hope something would free up. We would have rented the Woburn house again but we were worried it might sell and we’d get bumped by the new owners and have to scramble for an alternative house.
One night Michael said “let’s just buy, can you find a place?” YIKES! It was Saturday night and we were leaving Thursday AM. I jumped into research mode and found out the ugly truth about researching property in the Caribbean – there is no Multiple Listing Service. This means I needed to look at every website separately to see all the properties that might be available. In addition to large established realtors like RE/MAX and Century 21, there are a lot of independent realtors, plus private individuals selling houses. I got blurry eyed spending hours looking at properties and found 4 possibilities that looked like they met most of our criteria – good location, good view, nice house, room for a studio, a bit of property for Mick and, most important, were within our price range. The house that looked the best had a bad email link so I couldn’t make contact. I set up 2 viewings of possible properties and sent an email for a 3rd. That person wasn’t on the island but was using the same realtor as the bad link so I got the info I needed to contact the “best” house. I visited the first 2 houses – one was a definite no, the other was a probably not, I never got the info on the 3rd house because the owner was out of the country and I got an appointment for the “best” house for 4:00 PM on Wednesday and since the pictures looked very promising and we were leaving Grenada at 8:00 AM the next morning, I asked Michael to come with me.
We’ve rented so many houses, in so many places, that we have a fairly good idea of what we like. As we walked through the “best” house, I was mentally checking items off our list – good location, good view, 2 master bedroom suites, large open living room, beautiful gardens, fenced yard, electronic gate, large well equipped kitchen, solar heated pool, reasonable driveway, ample level parking, – check, check, check. PLUS ~ it had a 2 bedroom guest cottage that we thought we could convert to a photography studio. The biggest downsides for me were heavily textured stucco walls throughout the villa and the height of the living room ceiling (about 9-10 feet which is low for the Caribbean and means the room will be hotter than with a high ceiling). Michael liked the walls and I thought I could get used to them. So the living room ceiling was the only real downside and we thought we could “easily” make it higher if it bothered us after we moved in.
We spent about 45 minutes walking the property and looking at the house and cottage. As we drove away, Michael said “How much do we want to offer for the property?” I gulped. Michael makes decisions much more quickly than I do but realized I couldn’t think of any reason not to buy if we could get the price down into our range so I said OK, let’s go for it. We made a low ball offer and got on a plane to return to the US. The buyer was motivated to sell and we were motivated to buy so we quickly came to agreement on a price, pending a successful inspection.
Fast forward a few months and we are now the proud owners of an older style villa with lots of charm, with a lovely view that has been very well maintained. We spent a lot of money on the engineering study ($15K US) because the woman who lived in the house was in her late 80’s, her husband passed away a couple of years go and she wanted to move back to the UK to be near her children. Even though the house looked in good condition, the price we settled on was at the very top of our price range and we couldn’t afford any big surprises after we purchased. The report identified a number of small, generally expected items, but overall, the house is solid and in great shape.
Our revised travel dream is to live in Grenada for 6 months each year and continue to travel for the rest of the year and it feels like the very best of both worlds. Better pictures to come, now that my photographer is on island. (And, I’m sure, some wild stories of our new adventure!)