Months into their hunt for an apartment in San Juan, Valentina Valldejuli and her partner, Rafael, pivoted from searching local real estate websites to browsing Facebook Marketplace.
Valldejuli was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has lived her entire life in San Juan.
The 29-year-old "Modo de Vida" art director, told CNBC Make It that it was essential to find a two-bedroom in the city to be close to her family.
"I love that anywhere you're on the island, you have the beach nearby. I live in this center of an area, but I can just take a ten-minute drive and get to the beach here in Ocean Park in San Juan," she says.
In October 2020, the couple found a Facebook Marketplace listing for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, for $1,000 a month.
Valldejuli says that because the hurricane season in Puerto Rico is only getting worse as the years go by, the most important thing for them was that the apartment has what they call "tormenteras," or storm shutters, and for the building to have a backup generator, too.
"The moment we saw this apartment, we just fell in love," Valldejuli says.
She added that although the rent for the apartment was only $1,000 a month, there was a catch: it didn't come with a refrigerator or an oven.
After getting approved for the apartment, the couple paid a $1,000 security deposit, the first month's rent, and about $1,200 for a refrigerator and $600 for an oven.
"We were willing to compromise to get those appliances because we love the space so much. We had already seen four different places, and it was very difficult to get a place this big and [in that] price range," Valldejuli says.
The couple put the three bedrooms to good use by making one their primary bedroom, turning the second into Rafael's office and music studio, and using the third as Valldejuli's home office.
"I'm a photographer and a graphic designer, and I wanted to explore what interior design would look like from a perspective of a photographer and a graphic designer," Valldejuli says.
The art director describes their apartment decor as a mix of boho with a mid-century vibe and a bit eclectic.
Valldejuli says although they'd love to buy a home, that probably won't be for another three to five years. So for now, they'll stay put.
"We just have to take advantage of the privilege and how lucky we are to have this space at a low price," she says.
The couple has considered moving to Canada or Spain, but Valldejuli can't see herself being away from Puerto Rico for too long.
"There's just something about the island that no matter how much we're struggling, it still calls me back," she says.