Never invest in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has beautiful beaches and blue water but only go in the high season and do not buy property.
Find somewhere else to invest if you want to buy ocean front property. After spending two years there it is clear. This is not the place to invest. Its a good place to visit in the high season if you go to a big resort or pay great attention to security. I will discuss Las Terrenas specifically but many of these points are applicable to the greater dominican republic. Of course there are exceptions. There are people who invest there (though rare) that get in low enough and are able to manage and protect their investments well enough that they actually make money. That almost never happens. Whatever you do DO NOT GO THERE AND BUY SOMETHING PLANNING TO LIVE THERE FULL TIME. If you think you want to live there full time go rent for a year or two then decide.
OK First Vacation Rentals are not good investments for most people for a variety of reasons. Do your research. Second if you are not there to watch your investment all the time people are likely to steal from you. Property Managers rent your place, don’t tell you and collect the money for themselves that is sadly so very common. If your property is not well protected criminals will break in and loot it. If someone tells you they are going to sell you a place and rent it out for you (while guaranteeing or predicting rental income) run the other way.
The town dump is frequently burning (they burn their trash all across the island) it is located above the town in Las Terrenas (a serious problem for groundwater) and the toxic smoke flows down the mountain to cover the city below. When the winds are wrong it is nearly unbearable. Many local residents are sickened by the toxic smoke. In the short term people suffer the long term consequences of exposure to toxic smoke are of great concern.
Excessive rains and flooding are fairly common now. Coming off of 4 months of solid rain and horrible flooding the rains continue. Hopefully this situation will improve. Watch the weather.
Crime is on the rise. There is a massive amount of crime. A woman walking around the streets of the Dominican Republic with a bag or purse is nearly guaranteed to be mugged. We logged 25 muggings on our street from our condo complex alone in two short years. This situation is manageable but you must take precautions.
The police are increasingly corrupt and starting to operate check points frequently to shake the people down. Fortunately we knew where they were most of the time but still ran in to some. I did what you should not. I just kept driving, waved and smiled. That would have worked only so many times I am certain.
The Dominican Republic is full of foreign born criminals. Two infamous examples in Las Terrenas are the petty criminals Emi Garrido AKA Noelia Garcia and her hoodlum brother Ney Neyda Garcia. In the words of a local “avoid them like the plague”. One example of their criminal activity is that they hired a man to violently assault another foreigner who said things that were critical of them. They have been accused of stealing money from local businesses after they wheedled there way in to management positions. These are two examples only, Las Terrenas is brimming with criminal foreigners. The strange thing is all the locals know who the criminals are. They do not hesitate to sit and drink with them and watch the latest tourist get victimized.
Prostitution is another dark side of the Dominican Republic. It is sad to see the foreigners coming to the Dominican Republic to exploit young women and the terrible crimes that the women and their pimps engage in that are all too often ancillary to prostitution. It is common for the police to become involved with shaking down prostitute’s customers.
Enmity between foreigners and the locals is at an all time high. The locals have been treated badly for a long time and they do not like you if you are not Dominican. They hate Haitians the racism against Haitians is palpable. Their anger toward foreigners is also powerful. They see foreigners as responsible for their poverty. They think the foreigners come and take everything good while leaving them with nothing. To some extent this is true but their corrupt politicians are the people that sell them out.
The cost of electricity in Las Terrenas and many other areas is shockingly high. Las Terrenas, a poor little town has some of the highest electricity rates in the world. This creates a constant cycle of “Huelgas” aka protests. Foreigners get charged even higher rates. We personally had a deposit with the power company Luz y Fuerza for our account. We dealt with a lot of red tape, provided an excessive amount of documentation and paid an excessive deposit. Our account magically became the property of our shady landlord Pedro Jose Bruno AKA Carlos Jose Bruno (most dominicans have aliases) who we suspected colluded with the power company. Our bill was constantly at or over $200 dollars US while our Dominican neighbors paid substantially lower but still high prices. They took more advantage of us because … they could, because we were foreigners.
The over priced electric grid is now and increasingly VERY unreliable. Count on constant power outages commonly a couple of hours but sometimes for days at a time. If you dont have a backup generator in the middle of summer you are out of luck.
Electricity Huelgas – or protests happen every year in Las Terrenas sometimes as many as five times. The citizens burn tires in the streets, sabotage infrastructure, destroy property, people die, roads are closed. It is ugly. The power company is so corrupt and so well connected to the equally corrupt governing bodies that they charge high prices tack on extra fees and do everything they can to squeeze the people. The people see their only recourse as protests or strikes in Las Terrenas.
Home robberies and invasions are common. If you dont have your home heavily guarded at all times YOU WILL BE ROBBED. Seriously I am not saying you might be robbed if you have anything and you leave it unguarded it will be stolen and often your home will be vandalized. Even people that have their homes guarded get robbed by their own Security Personnel acting directly or complicit. We know many people that were robbed several times.
Sanitation is effectively non-existent Zika and Dengue are common if you eat food that you did not prepare yourself and cook to a high temperature you will be sickened by some parasite or bacteria at some point. This is not an exaggeration. You will get sick and many of the maladies common there are difficult to diagnose. For example Amoebiasis is very difficult to diagnosis and treat. The amount of bacteria in the water and food is shocking. After every rain fecal matter runs in the streets. This will sound redundant but I am not in any way exaggerating.
Hospitals are Horrible in Las Terrenas they are dirty, they will try to rob you of every penny possible, they will try to take your passport from you illegally to hold and they are incompetent. If they dont have a certain drug you need they will tell you it does not exist in the Dominican Republic to steer you away from a competitor. If you need prescription drugs in Las Terrenas be prepared to be gouged on price THEY WILL TRY TO SQUEEZE OUTRAGEOUS PRICES OUT OF YOU. The only way to get fair pricing is to fight and comparison shop and ask around what the fair price is. Your fair price if you are white will be the Gringo Price, you will be lucky to get the Gringo Price not the rip off price you will almost never get the Dominican Price unless you have a Dominican shop for you that you trust. Good luck finding one.
The beaches are disappearing. As I write this to the best of my knowledge no active remediation efforts are underway. The ocean in Las Terrenas is rapidly encroaching. Beach side restaurants are beginning to be claimed by the ocean. The impact this has on investment must not be underestimated.
The Dominican republic is not a safe place to drive. The Dominican Republic has the highest rate of motorcycle accidents on the planet and cars are not far behind. The Dominicans drive like insane people BE CAREFUL.
Dominican Food is some of the worst food in the world. Dominicans cannot tolerate any spice and they do not use it (though MSG is popular). Food is food to them whether its hot or cold, if its sat around all day it does not matter. They eat a lot of chicken and they destroy it. Do not go to the Dominican Republic for food unless you like bland over cooked garbage that is likely to to be contaminated with something.
Las Terrenas is cursed. The local government is corrupt. The locals lie and steal commonly, it is expected. A Dominican in Las Terrenas that does not lie and steal is the exception to the rule in my experience. The foreigners are greedy and almost all willing to lure the next victim in to investing in the sad town of Las Terrenas.
Las Terrenas is Dying. All the good Ex Pats are leaving. The only decent people that are left there (from my circle of North American friends) are there because they have investments that tie them there.
The legal system is painfully slow and nearly totally corrupt. If you bring suit against someone count on litigating for two years or more. If you think lawyers in your country are corrupt you are probably right but Dominican Lawyers make them look angelic. It is common for Dominican Lawyers to take your money and do nothing, file nothing. If there is enough money involved, you manage to bring suit and wait out the process expect the judge to be paid off. If you pay the judge he or she may take a bribe from the other side also. If you are the foreigner guess who she rules for. We hired a lawyer for a clear cut case. He told us we would have to buy witnesses and it would take at least two years.