Home Sweet Home

Well, you know us, we don’t really fool around much. This past weekend we went out and bought a house. A fixer-upper (surprise, surprise). I have interior photos but I’m going to wait to do the before/after for most of them. I was thinking that this time, I should walk you through the whole process – which apparently keeps changing. We’re buying freehold here in the center of the country, just like up north – no fideicomiso (deed held in trust) required. With a non-Mexican citizen purchase, a fideicomiso is required for coastal land (50 km, 30 m), as well as land a certain distance from the border (100 km, 60 m). More info at Mexonline.com. But here in the middle of the country, it’s all normal. Relatively speaking, of course.

Up north, we kept buyer and seller totally apart. Totally. Never the twain shall meet. Not once. Here, it’s not quite like that. I don’t care to meet the owners of the houses we buy. But when you view it – they are there and you see them multiple times before signing the closing papers in the Notario’s office. Here, by the way, a notario is one step above a lawyer. It’s reversed.

The next thing – no escrow. None. You pay your deposit directly to the owner. And you pay the closing funds directly to them in the notario’s office. It’s just weird to me. I’m thinking that there possibly a market here for a gringo-style escrow service. But getting into financial businesses like that probably wouldn’t be any fun so maybe not. Oh yeah, the other thing. You wait about six months normally for the properly vetted title, called an escritura. It looks like something out of medieval times – its very large legal shaped paper, bound and covered in heavy plastic and with seals and stamps everywhere. Quite impressive, actually.

Use a reputable real estate agent, always. They know the notarios to use and this is so important for buying in any country that’s not your own. Having the right notario and the right information from the start can save you a great deal of money when you do sell and a great deal of headaches in between. There are very strict tax laws in Mexico for buying and selling property if not a citizen and they do change frequently, so make sure you are well-versed on the current law.

And a good real estate agent, who has been in the area for a good length of time, generally will be your ally. But also never forget that they aren’t licensed, and there are no protected, exclusive listings. That makes for a bit of a shark tank, so do your research. (I can say that, I’ve been one.)

The house we bought was empty, so it’s a quick close and renovations start right away. Phase I is taking the kitchen right back to the bare walls and in the case of one wall – back to the brick (or volcanic stone, which is what we are hoping for – that’s volcanic stone on the exterior). And we are combining two rooms – the kitchen and breakfast nook, which will now be one kitchen approximately 25 ft x 11 ft. And we’re cutting a hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining area – for an 8 ft. breakfast bar. Wait until you see it.

Most Mexican kitchens are closed in, because Mexican ladies don’t cook. The maids do. Cooking in Mexico has not traditionally been part and parcel of the dinner party experience as it has been up north. But it will be in this house, as it has been in all of them.

The Vancouver Island house was a fantastic house for having dinners – there was a cooking area with a bar that looked out over the harbor. We’re hoping this will be as good. The view is quite different, but equally as spectacular. Oh yeah, I haven’t told you ‘where’ the house is yet. Maybe this picture will help. It’s a picture of the volcano, Popocatepetl, from our covered terrace.

Yes, boys and girls, we’ve returned under the volcano, to Cuernavaca. When we analyzed all the pros and cons, it truly is the best year-round weather we’ve found anywhere. It has views. We have friends there (who speak Spanish). There’s no street dog problem. And it’s an hour and a half to Mexico City door to door. And because the climate is ‘tropical with mitigating altitude’ – we have most of the tropical plants. It’s very lush in Cuernavaca, and it looks tropical. We have lots of work to do, especially the gardens, but it will be great fun. Wasn’t I just putting “another house to do” on my bucket list?

So that’s it, now I have many projects. Starting with the kitchen but then a natural swimming pool – it cleans itself with water plants.  That will be next spring, but I really like the idea. And we need to tropic up the place a bit. I’ve already ordered seeds from Renee’s Garden store for the fragrance garden (which is where the Japanese Oturo will go). And I ordered a whack more basil because the broad leaf type is hard to find here (J, I ordered you some also). And I’ve been in touch with some master gardeners to help with the plantings. But mostly, we’ll be staring at that view for a while. There’s a great covered terrace where we will be living most of the time, no doubt. Staring at Popo. So, that’s my news for today. And this is the house we plan to spend 10 years in. I suppose time will tell and all that. But we’re both very happy to be going back. All who wander are not lost – maybe they’re just looking.


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  1. Linda Jackson

    Just home from Houston with no time to see old Tom boyo….
    Congratulations on your new casa. I look forward to before and aft pics…
    Back to unpacking. Buggar how I hate that…

  2. Steve/Julie Melbye

    Your new place looks great. The view is way cool! How many people have a volcano to look at? I would like to see a photo at sunset…
    I know there is a lot to do I’m sure to get it the way you want it but your plan sounds great . We did something similar with our Minnesota house.
    Glad you found a place to settle. You have agonized over this via blog for so long. We can virtually identify what we will do by hearing your experiences .
    Keep it up-All the best in your endeavors!
    Steve and Julie