Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thinking the Unthinkable--and Then Doing It

Over the years, as we've driven around México, we've fantasized about buying a house somewhere. We've never found the right place until now, though all along we knew it wouldn't be anyplace on the beach.

Over the past month or so we've talked to realtors, looked at houses to rebuild or remodel, looked at empty lots and talked to a builder, and looked at finished houses. Are we crazy? Probably.

In late February we looked at a very nice house in our neighborhood recently built by a woman who unfortunately passed away within a year from the cancer that had plagued her most of her life. We agreed that it was a beautiful, well built house with lots of windows and sun and patios and portals and fountains, completely furnished, on a large open lot. The price, however, was out of our comfort range, so we filed it away in the "impossible" category.

The person who showed us the house indicated that the heirs would consider an offer, so we made one that we could live with, both feeling that if it was accepted we'd be happy, but if it was rejected it wouldn't break our hearts.

Well, our offer was accepted, and we're part way through the process of buying it. We have a signed contract and deposit, and last week went into Morelia with a bilingual friend who's been through the process of applying for permisos. While ex-pats can own property in most of México without having to use a bank trust (fideicomiso), we still have to get permission from the government. Our permisos were ready the next day, record time probably because the office isn't processing many requests. Between the stagnant US real estate market, dismal economy, and general press hysteria about all things Mexican, there are few foreign buyers.

Next was a visit to the notario, who prepares the deed (escritura) and makes sure that there are no outstanding liens on the property (like unpaid water bills) and that the title is clear. He represents the government and has no allegiance to either the buyer or the seller. We will close on April 25 at noon.

It's an understatement to say that we're both delighted and slightly terrified. We looked at each other and said, "If not now, when? We're not getting any younger, and the time to do this is now."

As you may have gathered from our posts on this blog, we like Pátzcuaro very much. It's a reaction to the friendliness of the locals, both Mexicans and ex-pats, and the beauty and congeniality of the entire region. We've made strong friendships within the small community of interesting and accomplished ex-pats. There are magnificent crafts to be found in little dusty villages, where a single artisan creates beautifully finished work in a rustic workshop, and we've bought quite a bit of it. (Mark laughs and says that buying a house just so we don't have to worry about getting it all home is a little extreme. And in fact we will leave much of it here.)

We're not blind to the difficulties here. The narco-wars in the northern states are horrible, and while this area is relatively tranquil, we've no illusions about the corruption, extortion and bribery that saddle local businesses at a time when tourism is suffering badly. Air pollution, trash, noise and congestion are daily occurrences that we deal with. So are fabulous free classical and jazz concerts, movies, dance performances and museums and galleries, and an abundance of wonderful foods in the mercado. The Mexican people are warm and gentle, and we think we have much to learn from them. After much discussion, we think the rewards outweigh the risks.

We have no idea what this means for our future. Do we stay as snowbirds, part-timing it for the winter and then going back to Colorado for the summer? Summer is the perfect time in Salida, after all, but the old farmhouse is hardly a "lock-and-leave" affair. We'd like to experience the summer rainy season here, when the countryside turns from drab tan to brilliant green. We have no answers right now--we're feeling our way in the dark, quite frankly. At least for the near future we will be part-timers, but we both believe that there's no time like the present, and why not try something new?

Click here for photos of the house.


  1. B and I approve in spades! (Not that you need anyone's approval....). The house looks great. See you next month!

  2. I look forward to the rainy season each year, but then, Salida in sumer must also be nice.

    Don Cuevas