San Miguel de Allende

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San Miguel de Allende


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Old 2nd July 2012, 04:31 PM
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We are in the process of researching where we will live when we move from Seattle to Mexico. I am retiring a little earlier then average but plan to continue working in some way after making the move. We are considering Guadalajara, because my partners family lives there, Merida, because it sounds interesting, San Cristobal, again family connections, and now my partner has planted the seed to consider living in San Miguel de Allende.

Finding accurate information about life in San Miguel de Allende on the internet is challenging. Some who are heavily invested in real estate, commerce don't seem to share an accurate perspective on the cost of real estate and status of the expat community there. I have read that the value of real estate has plummeted in the last few years and that Se Vende signs are everywhere. I wonder what this means for the future? Does anyone have thoughts on this? Is this also true for Merida?

Our plan is to arrive in GDL and live for a month with relatives; we will have access to modern house near the Buganvilias neighborhood in Zapopan. Then spend a month looking at rentals in San Miguel, and Merida to set up base camp and live for a year or so. If we like the experience we will buy a house.

I'm trying to glean a sense of the economies in these areas, stability of the expat communities, demographics, and real estate trends. My partners family, like many Mexicans, owns various small businesses in GDL and we would probably follow suit wherever we land.

I keep telling myself to enjoy the adventure of determining where we will live but at the same time continue to try to hedge my bets by doing research and asking for the perspectives of the wise who post on the blog. So much knowledge can't be ignored.

Thanks for any ideas and I would appreciate people sharing their experiences and perspectives.

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Old 2nd July 2012, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by grotton View Post
We are in the process of researching where we will live when we move from Seattle to Mexico. I am retiring a little earlier then average but plan to continue working in some way after making the move. We are considering Guadalajara, because my partners family lives there, Merida, because it sounds interesting, San Cristobal, again family connections, and now my partner has planted the seed to consider living in San Miguel de Allende.

Finding accurate information about life in San Miguel de Allende on the internet is challenging. Some who are heavily invested in real estate, commerce don't seem to share an accurate perspective on the cost of real estate and status of the expat community there. I have read that the value of real estate has plummeted in the last few years and that Se Vende signs are everywhere. I wonder what this means for the future? Does anyone have thoughts on this? Is this also true for Merida?

Our plan is to arrive in GDL and live for a month with relatives; we will have access to modern house near the Buganvilias neighborhood in Zapopan. Then spend a month looking at rentals in San Miguel, and Merida to set up base camp and live for a year or so. If we like the experience we will buy a house.

I'm trying to glean a sense of the economies in these areas, stability of the expat communities, demographics, and real estate trends. My partners family, like many Mexicans, owns various small businesses in GDL and we would probably follow suit wherever we land.

I keep telling myself to enjoy the adventure of determining where we will live but at the same time continue to try to hedge my bets by doing research and asking for the perspectives of the wise who post on the blog. So much knowledge can't be ignored.

Thanks for any ideas and I would appreciate people sharing their experiences and perspectives.
I like San Miguel de Allende very much. I find it a wonderful community. There are at least two excellent web forums focusing specifically on San Miguel de Allende. You can live there, as anywhere in Mexico, expensively or at a more moderate, inexpensive level. There are trade-offs. The terms of participation of this website do not permit the linking to other such websites so I cannot provide the information here. If it's not a violation of the rules you can send me a PM, email or use your ISP search engine to find these other expats-in-SMA forums. Regarding the real estate value question: I don't believe the decline in Mexico, to the extent there may have been one, is or has been as dramatic as the decline we're seeing in so many parts of the USA and parts of Europe. Best of luck with your search and planning.
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Old 2nd July 2012, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by grotton View Post
We are in the process of researching where we will live when we move from Seattle to Mexico. I am retiring a little earlier then average but plan to continue working in some way after making the move. We are considering Guadalajara, because my partners family lives there, Merida, because it sounds interesting, San Cristobal, again family connections, and now my partner has planted the seed to consider living in San Miguel de Allende.

Finding accurate information about life in San Miguel de Allende on the internet is challenging. Some who are heavily invested in real estate, commerce don't seem to share an accurate perspective on the cost of real estate and status of the expat community there. I have read that the value of real estate has plummeted in the last few years and that Se Vende signs are everywhere. I wonder what this means for the future? Does anyone have thoughts on this? Is this also true for Merida?

Our plan is to arrive in GDL and live for a month with relatives; we will have access to modern house near the Buganvilias neighborhood in Zapopan. Then spend a month looking at rentals in San Miguel, and Merida to set up base camp and live for a year or so. If we like the experience we will buy a house.

I'm trying to glean a sense of the economies in these areas, stability of the expat communities, demographics, and real estate trends. My partners family, like many Mexicans, owns various small businesses in GDL and we would probably follow suit wherever we land.

I keep telling myself to enjoy the adventure of determining where we will live but at the same time continue to try to hedge my bets by doing research and asking for the perspectives of the wise who post on the blog. So much knowledge can't be ignored.

Thanks for any ideas and I would appreciate people sharing their experiences and perspectives.
We moved from Seattle to San Miguel de Allende 10 years ago and have not regretted it for a minute. Send me an email when you arrive in San Miguel and we can have a coffee and I would be delighted to tell you why I like it here.
Gordon Logan
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Old 2nd July 2012, 09:42 PM
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Thanks Gordon, I will do that.

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Old 2nd July 2012, 11:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grotton View Post
We are in the process of researching where we will live when we move from Seattle to Mexico. I am retiring a little earlier then average but plan to continue working in some way after making the move. We are considering Guadalajara, because my partners family lives there, Merida, because it sounds interesting, San Cristobal, again family connections, and now my partner has planted the seed to consider living in San Miguel de Allende.

Finding accurate information about life in San Miguel de Allende on the internet is challenging. Some who are heavily invested in real estate, commerce don't seem to share an accurate perspective on the cost of real estate and status of the expat community there. I have read that the value of real estate has plummeted in the last few years and that Se Vende signs are everywhere. I wonder what this means for the future? Does anyone have thoughts on this? Is this also true for Merida?

Our plan is to arrive in GDL and live for a month with relatives; we will have access to modern house near the Buganvilias neighborhood in Zapopan. Then spend a month looking at rentals in San Miguel, and Merida to set up base camp and live for a year or so. If we like the experience we will buy a house.

I'm trying to glean a sense of the economies in these areas, stability of the expat communities, demographics, and real estate trends. My partners family, like many Mexicans, owns various small businesses in GDL and we would probably follow suit wherever we land.

I keep telling myself to enjoy the adventure of determining where we will live but at the same time continue to try to hedge my bets by doing research and asking for the perspectives of the wise who post on the blog. So much knowledge can't be ignored.

Thanks for any ideas and I would appreciate people sharing their experiences and perspectives.

Hi Restless in Seattle;

Actually, I would say that you have embarked on a very sound plan of attach, and yes I would explore San Miguel de Allende (SMA) for living there for a year or two.

A little background on where my and my wife's advice is coming from. My wife of 37 years and I have lived or worked in 41 States in USA. Living with her family her Dad was a Director of Tubos de Aceros in D.F. and they had a ranch in Vera Cruz State and home in Vera Cruz, a house in D.F. and her's mom's home from the 1750's in Tepic, Nayarit and she had traveled or lived on short assignments with her dad in many major cities in Mexico. Oh, while single one time I worked for NOAAA on MS Fairweather in Alaska and ended up in Seattle, later renting with some buddies a floating house on Lake Union in Seattle. I helped open a Restaurant at White Pass Ski areas. So, we've been around the block 1 or 2 times.

I put off going to SMA for over 30-40 years, thinking we Gringo's had probably ruined the place after 40-50 years of infiltration? Last year we went for 5 days after reading that delightful book about a couple of young Architects from L.A. went on vacations to visit their friends in SMA and basically bought a 200 year old run down house, fixed it up and never went home (so to speak). That's how SMA can effect you. By the way go on the Official SMA City Website and you will find the book there. Buy it and read it before you go, it will help you a lot. Unfortunately it's listed on my LapTop who's motherboard just went south. If we didn't have business and personal interests in Tepic, Nayarit my wife would demand that we relocated to SMA.

Here's the life style in a quick synophis;
1.) It's a World Heritage City and THE Jewel of Mexico. It takes quaint and pushes the word off
the scale.
2.) Great Cafe Society, very educated populace, great tough Police Force, that can get the job
done. Several strategic Camera's in the Sky around town to keep security tight
3.) Now it even has two great new Golf Courses outside of town with spectacular views of the
downtown.
4.) A smaller/walking town. Most things are 12-13 blocks from the main town square, excepting
the homes up on the hill overlooking downtown.
5.) There are familes from 70 different nationalities that keep homes/villas here.
6.) Great Restaurants.
7.) Village type night life, as you cruise from bar/night club to the next.
8.) You or your wife can take Cooking Classes of Mexican Cuisine from 4 hours to 7 day classes
and learn to cook with some of the over 120 types of Chile in Mexico.
9.) Have Great/Fantastic Art Institutes (one huge one on outskirts of town) to learn Art.
10.)A couple of Good Museums.
11.) You'd be living in the Heart of the Revolution Belts with Hildalgo just 30 kms north and
a one in a kind city on this whole planet "Guanajuato" about 1 hour west.
12.) All this surrounded by wild rangeland, pretty much how the Spanish discovered it 400 years
ago.
13.) Discover all 3; Hildalgo, SMA, and Guanajuato and you too might love the life style in
SMA the best.
14,) Security wise? It's off the main migration path for the Cartels to move major shipments of
of Drugs, so the violence is whole lot less there. That and only 2-3 ways in or out of town
so the Police/Military can lock the whole town down quickly if any bad action occurs.

Downsides;
1.) It's 170 miles +/- from D.F. and Mexican National Holidays and some Fiestas can become
crowed from people coming from D.F.
2.) It's up high in elevation and cool in the winter (no, that's probably a plus for people coming
from Seattle.?

Real Estate:
1.) Well you got the right game plan; 1.) Find the City/Village you know for sure you want to
live in and rent first making sure you are right - get plugged into the locals and find the best
real deals to buy.
2.) Generally speaking R.E. in North America will not hit bottom in prices until we hit bottom of
this 240+ Year SuperCycle Depression event - around 2016-2017. So, don't get in any
hurry, rent in various Cities/Villages and get your lifestyle down pat, then buy.
3.) Europe is in a whole World of Hurt Right now. Can probably rent an incredible Villa, keep
it up for the owners in SMA and allow them to show it to sell it. R.E. Sells SLOWLY in
Mexico? First few people have access to the US Mortgage Market for Mexico, bigger down
payments, and most people pay cash for their homes. That takes time. Figures what ever
you buy in Mexico (homes) might take you 2-4 years to finalize a sell.

My advice; Go for it! Like your gut said. Just step off the Planet into Mexico, absorb, enjoy,
laugh a lot, enjoy and slowly get imersed in the culture, language, cuisine and explore, explore, explore. There are so many treasures in Mexico, it's almost mind bogglying to make a choice where to live. Until you're down there here from locals, you'll never even have an inkling of an idea of such fantasic little places to explore and might want to live. Run, as if you're over 30 there's not enough time to see all the Treasures of Mexico!

Oh, I remember the good ole days when Guadalajara was only 400-500k inhabitants, now with all the suburbs it's over 9 million - too big for us.

I hope this helps.

Cuyler

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Old 3rd July 2012, 02:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cuylers5746 View Post
Hi Restless in Seattle;

Actually, I would say that you have embarked on a very sound plan of attach, and yes I would explore San Miguel de Allende (SMA) for living there for a year or two.

A little background on where my and my wife's advice is coming from. My wife of 37 years and I have lived or worked in 41 States in USA. Living with her family her Dad was a Director of Tubos de Aceros in D.F. and they had a ranch in Vera Cruz State and home in Vera Cruz, a house in D.F. and her's mom's home from the 1750's in Tepic, Nayarit and she had traveled or lived on short assignments with her dad in many major cities in Mexico. Oh, while single one time I worked for NOAAA on MS Fairweather in Alaska and ended up in Seattle, later renting with some buddies a floating house on Lake Union in Seattle. I helped open a Restaurant at White Pass Ski areas. So, we've been around the block 1 or 2 times.

I put off going to SMA for over 30-40 years, thinking we Gringo's had probably ruined the place after 40-50 years of infiltration? Last year we went for 5 days after reading that delightful book about a couple of young Architects from L.A. went on vacations to visit their friends in SMA and basically bought a 200 year old run down house, fixed it up and never went home (so to speak). That's how SMA can effect you. By the way go on the Official SMA City Website and you will find the book there. Buy it and read it before you go, it will help you a lot. Unfortunately it's listed on my LapTop who's motherboard just went south. If we didn't have business and personal interests in Tepic, Nayarit my wife would demand that we relocated to SMA.

Here's the life style in a quick synophis;
1.) It's a World Heritage City and THE Jewel of Mexico. It takes quaint and pushes the word off
the scale.
2.) Great Cafe Society, very educated populace, great tough Police Force, that can get the job
done. Several strategic Camera's in the Sky around town to keep security tight
3.) Now it even has two great new Golf Courses outside of town with spectacular views of the
downtown.
4.) A smaller/walking town. Most things are 12-13 blocks from the main town square, excepting
the homes up on the hill overlooking downtown.
5.) There are familes from 70 different nationalities that keep homes/villas here.
6.) Great Restaurants.
7.) Village type night life, as you cruise from bar/night club to the next.
8.) You or your wife can take Cooking Classes of Mexican Cuisine from 4 hours to 7 day classes
and learn to cook with some of the over 120 types of Chile in Mexico.
9.) Have Great/Fantastic Art Institutes (one huge one on outskirts of town) to learn Art.
10.)A couple of Good Museums.
11.) You'd be living in the Heart of the Revolution Belts with Hildalgo just 30 kms north and
a one in a kind city on this whole planet "Guanajuato" about 1 hour west.
12.) All this surrounded by wild rangeland, pretty much how the Spanish discovered it 400 years
ago.
13.) Discover all 3; Hildalgo, SMA, and Guanajuato and you too might love the life style in
SMA the best.
14,) Security wise? It's off the main migration path for the Cartels to move major shipments of
of Drugs, so the violence is whole lot less there. That and only 2-3 ways in or out of town
so the Police/Military can lock the whole town down quickly if any bad action occurs.

Downsides;
1.) It's 170 miles +/- from D.F. and Mexican National Holidays and some Fiestas can become
crowed from people coming from D.F.
2.) It's up high in elevation and cool in the winter (no, that's probably a plus for people coming
from Seattle.?

Real Estate:
1.) Well you got the right game plan; 1.) Find the City/Village you know for sure you want to
live in and rent first making sure you are right - get plugged into the locals and find the best
real deals to buy.
2.) Generally speaking R.E. in North America will not hit bottom in prices until we hit bottom of
this 240+ Year SuperCycle Depression event - around 2016-2017. So, don't get in any
hurry, rent in various Cities/Villages and get your lifestyle down pat, then buy.
3.) Europe is in a whole World of Hurt Right now. Can probably rent an incredible Villa, keep
it up for the owners in SMA and allow them to show it to sell it. R.E. Sells SLOWLY in
Mexico? First few people have access to the US Mortgage Market for Mexico, bigger down
payments, and most people pay cash for their homes. That takes time. Figures what ever
you buy in Mexico (homes) might take you 2-4 years to finalize a sell.

My advice; Go for it! Like your gut said. Just step off the Planet into Mexico, absorb, enjoy,
laugh a lot, enjoy and slowly get imersed in the culture, language, cuisine and explore, explore, explore. There are so many treasures in Mexico, it's almost mind bogglying to make a choice where to live. Until you're down there here from locals, you'll never even have an inkling of an idea of such fantasic little places to explore and might want to live. Run, as if you're over 30 there's not enough time to see all the Treasures of Mexico!

Oh, I remember the good ole days when Guadalajara was only 400-500k inhabitants, now with all the suburbs it's over 9 million - too big for us.

I hope this helps.

Cuyler
Thank you Cuyler for your thoughtful response. You've given me a great deal to think about and I appreciate your advice especially considering you have experienced so many different places and things in your life. I read the second book by the author you wrote about, Tony Cohan, called Mexican Days. I need to read his first for some inspiration I think.

Interesting your comments on the Police. I have been a cop for 22 years and am wrapping up my career; I'm encouraged to hear you say positive things about the force there.

We will go slow and enjoy the process. We plan to move January 2013 and are excitedly planning the details. Best regards and I hope we cross paths someday.

Glenn

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Old 3rd July 2012, 03:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grotton View Post
Thank you Cuyler for your thoughtful response. You've given me a great deal to think about and I appreciate your advice especially considering you have experienced so many different places and things in your life. I read the second book by the author you wrote about, Tony Cohan, called Mexican Days. I need to read his first for some inspiration I think.

Interesting your comments on the Police. I have been a cop for 22 years and am wrapping up my career; I'm encouraged to hear you say positive things about the force there.

We will go slow and enjoy the process. We plan to move January 2013 and are excitedly planning the details. Best regards and I hope we cross paths someday.

Glenn
Hi Glen;

You'll have a great time in SMA. Oh, I forgot to say; it's very clean city, very little grafiti.
Actually, with your background, I'd check in with the Chief of Police take him to breakfast or something and introduce yourself, also to the General in Charge of the Local Battalion.

You see with an FM-3 Visa you can get a gun permit, and even waivers signed off by the
General on what you might want to keep in your house (since your used to that kind of Security).
Generally speaking you can keep a 38 caliber or less pistol in your house and a Shotgun, but check with the Chief of Police and General as you will need permits. Anything of Military caliber
is highly illegal and can land you in jail for a long time. Don't bring any iron south with you!

Next, I wouldn't be surprised with your background they might want to use you for some consulting. Many cities and states are migrating from a "show of force" type Police Force with little Detective Work and real little training and experience to quickly trying to get types of Police Forces like in USA. I think you should only consider it on a minor, local level. Anything above
that might get you too well known, and put you and your family at risk with some Cartel people.

Oh, and while in Guadalajara, have your business partner take you and your wife out to Tonala, a suburb. It's about a 9-10 square block of artisians, crafts people to blow your mind on the possibilities of furnishing your rental house with about anything you could dream up for where ever you go. It's has the major types of crafts from all over Mexico there, at the cheapest prices. Once you see some of the Villas, and Bed-n-Breakasts in SMA you will get an excellent idea on how you want to furnish your home.

You don't need to move all your furniture south with you, just key pieces and top of the line US Appliances - the rest you'll have a ball buying stuff all over Mexico and Tonala to furnish your new rental home. That's what we did as after we knew that after awhile all that dark classic furniture from the USA gets to be boring along side all the colorful stuff from Mexico. You get into bright colors and highly seasoned food after awhile.

Since you already read Tony Cohan's book buy this one; In a Mexican Garden, courtyards, pools, and open-air living rooms by Melba Levik, Gina Hyams ISBN 0-8118-4130-8
It's 176 color pages from Haciendas, Casonas, Villas - a number from SMA. You might even ask to see some of those houses when you visit? I've lent it to friends redoing their houses and have just used it for color ideas on painting the houses, to doing gardens, fountains, etc.

Once you decide where your going to live and get an address, get on the IMMS "Seguro Social" Medical System ASAP after you have an address, and they're now turning down retiree's with some prior Medical Conditions. For around $500.00 USD/year including for the both of you for full Medical Care including free generic medicines, $0 co-payment, $0 deductibles, $0 for Lab Tests no life time limits. Think if nothing else as cheap travel insurance as it's good in every little Pueblo, and City in Mexico. Get on it early. They built a couple of years ago a top of the line
Cardiac Center Hospital in Guadalajara too.

I hope this helps. If coming by Tepic you and your wife stop buy; cuylers5746@gmail.com.

Cuyler
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Old 3rd July 2012, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by grotton View Post
I have read that the value of real estate has plummeted in the last few years and that Se Vende signs are everywhere. I wonder what this means for the future? Does anyone have thoughts on this.
Real Estate in expat communities like San Miguel de Allende, have price cycles that are sensitive to the choices of the marginal American retiring or purchasing a vacation home abroad. 9/11 was followed by a steep drop in prices in upper end (Gringo) housing in San Miguel as Americans chose the safety of familiar domestic residences. The second election of George Bush was followed by a limited but noticeable increase in prices as some were ready to exit the US.

This year the level of vacationing Americans in San Miguel is sharply down again. Many who own homes here are not visiting as frequently. While existing residents are more comfortable than the average tourist with the levels of crime and violence, economic factors are causing many to offer their homes for sale.

Real Estate here is purchased in cash. Typically a home in the states was mortgaged to purchase a home here. That is not as easy as it was when mortgages were available to anyone that had breath. This high level of cash equity creates price discrepancies in a down market. Some sellers hold out for unrealistic prices. Sellers looking for a quick sale of high end homes are pricing at about 40% of the market highs. Pricing of housing under $300,000 is more stable. Housing is not particularly inexpensive relative to the US. In prior years an American could come here, buy a lot, build a house then sell it for a substantial profit. Many did this. Currently the supply of homes is such that new development is likely to be unprofitable. The market for lower end housing is still firm as locals struggle to compete in the market with foreigners to find shelter.

The future is notoriously hard to predict. International politics, the economy, the prospects of war and terrorism, all effect the decisions of Americans to relocate abroad. Expat communities are particularly sensitive to the adventurism of American buyers. Mexico's economy is strong. There is a real desire by the Mexican people to pursue prosperity and reduce violence. It is always possible that in the short run there will be less demand for real estate in this expat community. Longer run prospects remain favorable due to the demographics, the retirement needs of Americans and the beauty of San Miguel's natural environment and people.

Disclosure: Long San Miguel Real Estate for past 10 years.

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Old 3rd July 2012, 02:35 PM
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Real Estate in expat communities like San Miguel de Allende, have price cycles that are sensitive to the choices of the marginal American retiring or purchasing a vacation home abroad. 9/11 was followed by a steep drop in prices in upper end (Gringo) housing in San Miguel as Americans chose the safety of familiar domestic residences. The second election of George Bush was followed by a limited but noticeable increase in prices as some were ready to exit the US.

This year the level of vacationing Americans in San Miguel is sharply down again. Many who own homes here are not visiting as frequently. While existing residents are more comfortable than the average tourist with the levels of crime and violence, economic factors are causing many to offer their homes for sale.

Real Estate here is purchased in cash. Typically a home in the states was mortgaged to purchase a home here. That is not as easy as it was when mortgages were available to anyone that had breath. This high level of cash equity creates price discrepancies in a down market. Some sellers hold out for unrealistic prices. Sellers looking for a quick sale of high end homes are pricing at about 40% of the market highs. Pricing of housing under $300,000 is more stable. Housing is not particularly inexpensive relative to the US. In prior years an American could come here, buy a lot, build a house then sell it for a substantial profit. Many did this. Currently the supply of homes is such that new development is likely to be unprofitable. The market for lower end housing is still firm as locals struggle to compete in the market with foreigners to find shelter.

The future is notoriously hard to predict. International politics, the economy, the prospects of war and terrorism, all effect the decisions of Americans to relocate abroad. Expat communities are particularly sensitive to the adventurism of American buyers. Mexico's economy is strong. There is a real desire by the Mexican people to pursue prosperity and reduce violence. It is always possible that in the short run there will be less demand for real estate in this expat community. Longer run prospects remain favorable due to the demographics, the retirement needs of Americans and the beauty of San Miguel's natural environment and people.

Disclosure: Long San Miguel Real Estate for past 10 years.
Your post confirms an assumption that we've been developing as we do our research. That buying a house that is in a market saturated by expatriate (gringo) buyers leaves you more vulnerable to the patterns of the American buyer who have in the last few years not been buying real estate like they used to. But buy a house that a Mexican might also want to buy creates more security. Well off or middle class Mexicans aren't able to abandon the market/country because of political change or increased instability and will always want to buy in good solid markets. Our price range we are comfortable with is in the $150,000 to $200,000 range, (safely outside the category of wealthy gringo) and we suspect is a range that Mexicans from Mexico City or GDL might also be targeting. It seems there is ample inventory in this category and I (my partner has visited SMA several times and already knows he finds it attractive) suspect I will like the city.

You mentioned in your post that you don't believe new development would be profitable. Does this mean one would end up with more house if they bought from existing inventory then if they built new or did a full remodel of an existing house?

PS thanks for your disclosure. I feel confident you assessment is without bias ; )

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Old 3rd July 2012, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by grotton View Post
... That buying a house that is in a market saturated by expatriate (gringo) buyers leaves you more vulnerable to the patterns of the American buyer who have in the last few years not been buying real estate like they used to. But buy a house that a Mexican might also want to buy creates more security. ....

You mentioned in your post that you don't believe new development would be profitable. Does this mean one would end up with more house if they bought from existing inventory then if they built new or did a full remodel of an existing house?

PS thanks for your disclosure. I feel confident you assessment is without bias ; )
San Miguel's real estate market is being held up by Mexico City folk but their demand typically does not go over $400k even in this top end gringo dominated town. Just 3 or 4 years ago one could sell a high end house for about twice its lot and construction price, resulting in neighborhoods of million dollar houses. As the market has trended down, buyers get much more for the buck from existing construction but remodeling costs have also fallen. Care must be taken to obtain and supervise quality construction, it is not as easy or risk free as one might think. Better value is now available from existing inventory. Your original question is correct in that Se Vende signs are everywhere. Many houses that do not have signs have been taken off the market because sellers are unwilling to show their houses when the chances of getting a good price are so low. This market is suffering from lack of gringo demand, a condition shared with expat communities across Mexico, in proportion to the percentage of gringos. An increase in cartel violence, terrorism or war is likely to make the situtation worse. America's fiscal cliff and stalemate in governing could make things better.

San Miguel is not the place for one looking to minimize expenses but more for one seeking an established expat community with little crime or violence. A beer at one of the cafes around the square will be one of the most expensive beers available in Mexico, but you can order it and talk with the next table in English about poetry readings and art gallery openings.

Mike
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