Mexican House Hunting

Almost a full decade ago, December 19th 2007 to be precise, Steve Cotton wrote ‘starting the journey’. It was the opening post of his blog, detailing his long search for a home on the Pacific coast of Mexico. And other tales. Many, many other -excellent – tales. He finally planted roots at the House With No Name, six or seven years later. It was an epic hunt, with enough twists and turns along the way to bear comparison with the search for Lord Lucan.

Has there ever been a blogged house hunting saga longer than Steve’s? Not to my knowledge. He’s the record holder, unless someone has done the research and can tell me differently. But records are meant to be broken. So let’s give it a go. I’m due to retire in 2039, but if things go well, perhaps I could aim for somewhere between 2035 and 2037. And circumstance and good fortune might see Mrs P and I invest in a Mexican property much earlier still. If I start my great house hunt now, I could smash Steve’s record by more than a decade.

My property requirements will be very different to Steve’s. I don’t wish to live by the sea – I’d much prefer to spend out my retirement in a more elevated region so that I might enjoy the year round warm spring-like days on offer along Mexico’s mountainous spine. I don’t particularly want a swimming pool, but a small pond big enough for a few turtles would be very nice indeed. And I don’t want a pad so spacious that in the UK it would be known as The Palace With No Name.

Merida, Yucatan.

I would prefer a house, not an apartment. I would love to make an old colonial building my home. Perhaps even as a renovation project if the price is right, our budget big enough and my health still holding up. I could equally find my Mexican nirvana in a brand new/recent construction with all the latest mod cons. But I’d rather not have anything in between. Two beds might suffice, but a third bedroom would be a big selling point. Right in town or in the suburbs? Both are potentially fine by me.

Feature wise, I do have some essential requirements that must be met. An internal courtyard is an absolute must. A place of solitude and tranquility where I can read the Guardian on my iPad with my morning coffee and come evening, I may engage my turtles in light conversation with my Arran Gold nightcap.

I’d also like either a spacious first floor balcony or a roof terrace with a view. Somewhere I can retreat to write new posts of the Mexile without the constant interruptions from the turtles. The view can be of distant mountains or a hustling street below, I’m not fussy. I’ll probably be too old by then to find a view through a neighbour’s bedroom window terribly exciting.

But you know how these things go. You draw up a huge checklist of must-haves and absolutely-nots, then find yourself looking at something that ticks all the wrong boxes and is just perfect nonetheless. So let’s not get too hung up on checklists. Except that courtyard. Must have a courtyard. Definitely. Maybe.

What about location? Mexico is such a huge country. So many fine towns and cities to choose from. The most obvious place for Mrs P and I to lay our respective hats would be in Mexico City. And yet, whilst I rule nothing out, I’m not sure CDMX is my preferred retirement spot. Won’t I be too old for all that hustle and bustle? Do I want to face all that crime and pollution again? Will my aged ticker be sturdy enough to stand up to the constant earthquakes? I’m sure I can answer these questions now. No, yes and I hope so.

Guesthouse Aldama, Coyoacan.

Unfortunately, Mexico City will not give me the biggest bang for my property-allocated-buck. Far from it. I’d need to retire with a bank balance significantly larger than is currently anticipated. But you never know what the future holds. A nice little pad in Coyoacan would be delightful. I could even entertain the idea of purchasing a slightly larger property and opening a guest house. Mrs P and I were both enchanted by the Aldama Guest House we stayed in during our visit last September.

A far more likely location for us to see out our days is Merida. A lovely little city that has its pros and its con. Con, singular. A forty plus  degree centigrade con. Ugh. But there are family reasons that make Merida worthy of consideration. Add to that the relative tranquility, the safety, the up to date medical facilities, the wonderful mix of modern, colonial and pre Colombian cultures and the value for money properties that are available. But Merida could yet have a drawback that puts me off. I really don’t want to live by the sea. By the middle of the century, if Trump* gets his way**, Merida might be in it***…

Playa del Merida

There is a third candidate city. My preferred option. Its sits on an elevated spot along the country’s mountainous spine. It’s a decent sized city without being too big. Like Merida, it has a fabulous mix of modern and colonial architecture with plenty of pre-Hispanic sites nearby. It’s a fairly easy coach ride to Mexico City. It’s not too expensive. A city I have been to just the once. But obviously, it left an impression. It was a place that, even back in 2007, had me thinking I that I could happily live there. Queretaro City.

Lazy days in Queretaro

Let the house hunting commence. I can’t promise that subsequent parts of this story will be provided as frequently as Steve managed. Indeed, I can pretty safely promise they won’t. Because I can’t even promise that part two will be published this decade. But it’s never too soon to start looking.

* What? Publish a post without having a dig at Trump? Absolutely not.

** He probably won’t though. Will the guy even get to finish his first term? Quite possibly not…

*** If sea levels rise about ten times more than current worst case scenarios…

8 thoughts on “Mexican House Hunting

  1. Pull-in parking with an automatic door is important in town.
    I like Campeche’s old centro if you are talking renovation of an old townhouse. The highland town of San Cristobal, if you want to wear a sweater the rest of your life. I like Merida a lot but it is way too big for this country boy.
    On sea level rise: I found a series of old beach ridges west of Halacho, a town south of Merida, they were twenty miles in from the coast. I was wandering around looking at old salt pans from the pre columbian. I think they were stranded from a bit of uplift. That land is scrub desert that will be ocean front come a fiffteen foot sea rise.

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    1. We went to Campeche last year. It was truly delightful. A candidate city? Quite possibly. I haven’t looked, but I’d imagine property prices are a bit lower than in Merida. Is it a bit too far out from a decent sized city for my liking though? I’m not sure. But I suspect there are a few Campeche type towns that could be interesting to look at.

      I spent a few days in San Cristobal about 13 years ago. I remember it mostly for one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life thus far. A morning trek up narrow mountain tracks with low hung branches on a horse with a wooden saddle. And an afternoon trek doing the same in reverse. The town itself was pleasant enough for a few days. A week would have been too much. My retirement will definitely be spent elsewhere. I do not want to move to Mexico so that I can wear jumpers. I can do that here…!

      I like the sound of an automatic door. I will put Steve’s experiences to good use and make sure I measure up my car and the door are compatible.

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  2. I like the sound of an automatic door: It is a safety thing in town. One never gets out of the car until the trap is shut behind the car.

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    1. Like most security devices, they aren’t failsafe though. I had a student and a friend, both with unfortunate stories of crooks sneaking in the gates at the last moment. The student didn’t even notice till she was out the car…

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  3. I love Merida, and actually considered moving there. It’s great in the winter, but it is way too hot the rest of the year, especially spring. Also the increase in mosquito-born diseases is a cause for concern during the rainy season. I have a friend who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He caught dengue fever, and said that it was the most miserable experience of his life. Campeche is very nice, but has the same sort of weather as Merida. Personally, I would rule out the tropics.
    Queretaro is also nice, but the city is booming. It is perhaps becoming expensive, relatively speaking.
    You have lots of time… and hopefully more trips to Mexico when you can check out candidate cities for your retirement.
    Saludos,
    Bill

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    1. My first visit to Merida was a particularly warm day in July, more than a decade ago. When they opened the door of the plane, the heat just punched me in the face. Hard. Queretaro, or another reasonably sized city in the mountains would be preferable. But Merida remains a very strong candidate. Family reasons, you see.

      But there is an awfully long time to go before any decisions need be made!

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  4. Having moved from Ireland to Canada in 1990 and much as I love the area we live in, having visited Yucatan I too could see myself living there. I don’t have family there to bind and gag me but my sons in Canada are not too enthusiastic about putting all my eggs in one basket either. My older son says I could visit many other places without the cost of maintenance that a money pit in the tropics could demand. But I peruse Mexintl and Tierra Yucatan web sites often enough to gird my loins at the thoughts of starting over before I’m too old to swing a pick. There are still some pleasant buildings available but they are getting expensive and on the web you cannot really buy sight unseen but it is fun to look.

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    1. Based on nothing but intuition, an older colonial house does have added appeal in that they are built to last (they have, so far…) and use more basic materials in their upkeep which would presumably be quite cheap. They also have appeal in their colonial charm. I suspect air con will be pricier though.

      I’d almost certainly probably copy Steve and rent to start with while I look for the perfect property. I’d want to be ever so careful and ever so choosy when purchasing property in Mexico. One doesn’t want to start retirement by blowing ones savings in the first year…

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