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My wife and I are very intent on moving to Mexico for retirement, which is hopefully in about 3-4 years. We are looking at the Lake Chapala area and I have explored the option of taking the informational tour offered by the Focus on Mexico group on the Internet. M question is: Has anyone taken this tour, and could we find out the information given on the tour by visiting on our own? I know that they present information on the area, cost of living, important facts to know before moving, legal papers needed, housing, etc. ALL of these are very important topics to know in order to prepare. The tour is pricey, but is it the best option for someone that has never been to the area and needs to know all of this before beginning the moving process? Thanks for your help in advance. I follow many of the threads here and have learned a lot, but also know that there is much more to learn before making it a permanent move. I look forward to the replies.
 

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Just Did it

My wife and I did the Focus course in January. It is pricey, as you note, but we treated it as a mini-vacation, and in many ways it is, seeing how well the Focus team pampers you. As someone who has lived overseas before, you could find the information on your own. You are paying a premium to have all the info you need collected and delivered to you in one place, along with great local connections to use in the future, and a ready-made set of new friends who are all interested in the same goal as you.
We found it very worthwhile; I had done all the internet research, but we were at the point we needed to go see what Chapala was all about.
The bottom line is it was well worth the price.
 

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I would never spend money on a tour like that as they are geared to people fairly anxious to move into something of their own ... as in buy a house. Why not take a two week vacation, stay in a nice place and check out the area by bus and taxi. Talk to expats on message boards and in person when you get here. You only need the "technical details" after you've decided an area is for you. 3-4 more years is plenty of time to look at it from all angles.
 

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I know nothing about the Focus group, but my question would be: do you really learn as much as you would having to do things for your own. It is very educational to struggle with learning things yourself as opposed to having it spoon fed to you by someone. Is it like the difference between listening to a lecture for an hour and doing all the homework exercises? One is easy but the other is educational.
 

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I would strongly advise that if you do take the Focus course you consider it an all expense paid vacation to the Chapala area with some real estate exposure thrown in and as an introduction to the intricacies of relocating. The information you will receive on the topics will be dated and rose colored. There will be a strong time share form of pressure to buy from their own real estate consultants and the properties they are involved with.

The meals, tours and events are first class. It is a very easy way to get a look at the area. But it is something you can do on your own much cheaper and the information you get should not be relied upon. You can learn more about immigration, health insurance, driving in Mx, vehicle permits, rentals or buying and areas of the lake from this or other online forums or from chatting with expats anywhere you find us in the area.

Add up the costs then check the cost of a week at a nice hotel or B&B, some great meals and the joy of meeting people with no agenda who are willing to share their experiences for free and decide if you need the course. Again if you do, research the important information for yourself afterwards.

PS If you want more info feel free to PM me.
 

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Just to clarify a few things:
I described Focus' efforts as "pampering" not only because they really do take care of everything, but also because I have been on all-inclusive vacations that had hidden costs. Focus had no hidden costs.
If you are adventurous, an extrovert, or someone who learns best by doing, Focus may not for you. Many expats apparently fall into those categories (not surprisingly). However, if you are introvert, not that adventurous, or prefer passive learning, Focus may be good for you.
Having just been through it in January, I can absolutely confirm there is no time-share type pressure. In the course of a week, we spent 4 hours one afternoon looking at a mix of resales in the area, and four hours the next day looking at planned developments;both tours were optional, and some participants did only one or the other.
I will confess that the Focus team is overwhelmingly positive about living in Mexico in general, and in the Lake Chapala area in particular. If that surprise anyone, I can't imagine why.
 

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Over my 15 years on Mexico Internet boards, most expats recommend not buying property until you live in Mexico at least two years. I have read sad tales of people who visit Chapala/Ajijic in the winter when the weather is horrid in the north, maybe several times a few weeks at a time. They buy an expensive house, and move, then in as short a time as two weeks realize it was a mistake.

And, they keep bailing up to two years, which is why the experienced recommend renting two years.

Just in the last few years, people to whom I communicate by e-mail, closer than fellow board members, two couples planned for years to move to Mexico, and in both cases went back within the two weeks I stated here.

When all your money is in a nice house, and you quickly realize it was a mistake, and you are stuck for several years while you sell that house, life can be miserable. Not a good idea at all.
 

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We visited, we came back, we bought a home in Ajijic two weeks later, we stayed there four happy years, others made an offer we couldn't refuse, we moved five miles to Chapala, bought another home and we're still here after more than a decade.
We've had prior experience in other countries and have owned many homes in many places, some built with my own hands. That sort of experience, or the lack of it, may make a difference in the choice to rent or buy. As such, I never make that sort of recommendation and trust that the individual knows himself well enough to make his own decision. Those, who constantly recommend renting for a year or two, seem to forget the expense and inconvenience entailed in moving. Others may look at it as providing a sort of freedom, while those who own property like the security and stability it provides. Then, there are people who need the help of landlords, 'supers', etc. and can't even change a faucet. Many don't even want them as tenants & they should probably never buy property unless they can afford to have everything done for them.
To each, his own.
 

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On The Cusp

As one's who have already chosen to move to Lakeside in Jan, we also looked over the FOM program. We nixed it as too costly (there are more comments on it if you use the search feature). We will, however go to the Thursday Morning "Judy"seminar - at $40USD per head, and four hours, that seems worth it, when we return the first week of April. (Can't wait!!!)

As pointed out, everybody is different. We've always just dropped in and spoke with people. This is especially easy at the Lake Chapala Society as we discovered last year. We had contacted a real esate agent over the internet (I'd recommend them if you want) and they showed us around, no pressure. A couple of days we were on our own, and we went to the Plaza to have a meal or coffee, went the the LCS and everywhere we went, people would talk with us.

This Forum is the non-verbal form of that. Those of us here who open up and ask questions will find answers and not have to pay for them. Sometimes the problem is not knowing what questions to ask, and for that you may need some guidance.

As an example: the Forum has convinced us that our plan of action needed changes. We were all prepared to buy a beautiful house in Ajijic after we left last year - it was not because or real estate people pressured us, it was just because we loved it. It took 8 months of discussion here to change our minds in that when we come down in April, we are now looking for a long term rental - for at least two years - maybe forever - and it was all because we listened and asked.
(In Lakeside there is an MLS for buying houses, it is easy. But for renting, while you can find some listings on the web, you must visit each listing agent, as there appears to be no MLS-type shared listings...there is no profit in it, so it makes it more difficult)

If you do not like exploring on your own, may not have the patience, if you are apprehensive to ask questions, to open yourself up so that people will help you, FOM, like a guided tour, may be the way to go - smooths the informational bumps. If you have the time then you can do it yourself, it just takes a lot of effort, bandwidth and patience. We enjoy guided tours, they are easy, but this decision is not a tour, it is a life passage...we do not want to delude ourselves that it will all be easy.

To be an expat, you have chosen an adventure, which means you can never, ever be sure that every step you take will be the correct one, that you will never make a mistake and you will always have that one person to guide you. I may be judegmental here, so excuse me, but if you are going down this path, FOM will not be there every step of your re-settlement. You are going to have to learn how to ask questions from perfect strangers, put your self "out there" and be prepared and get absorbed in, rather than padded from, the community you are moving to. Overcoming shyness (not introversy - they are two different things) is a large factor when moving. I am the type, as is my wife, who will smile and strike up a conversation on line in the supermarket, the theater, a reatuarant, with perfect strangers. That is us, that may not be you. But I feel that this adventure requires more of that, expecially in a foreign culture.

If you plan to make the rest of your life in a new place, in a new way, then you need individual courage. Having a support group, like FOM, is great, it is an instant network of information and that is great...if you can afford it.

Me, the ROI is not worth it - I am sure we will find the answers, as soon as we know the questions, and the only way to know the questions is experieinces, good and bad - and time is not a factor it may take us longer but, so what? Of course if it is life threatening, then that cavalier attitude does not apply. BUt we have a little saying on our refrigerator that reads:

RELAX-EXCEPT FOR A FEW LIFE OR DEATH SITUATIONS, NOTHING IS AS IMPORTANT AS IT FIRST APPEARS.
Peace out, let the discussion carry on.
 

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Broaden Horizons

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Chapala/Ajijic area. Being one of the largest and oldest American expat communities, you may never have a situation where your Spanish, however rudimentary, doesn't get you through.

There are lot's of other beautiful places in Mexico to retire to. It might take a real sense of adventure plus a lot more research and a prolonged looksee trip to find one that suits.

I had two advantages/disadvantages. I had worked for an American multinational in Saltillo between 1982 and 1985 that gave us plenty of opportunity to travel through Mexico, a lot of it by car. We covered most of the Pacific Coast, the Riviera Maya, and just about every region in the interior. I had lived in Spain prior to Saltillo and my Spanish was good enough to talk my way out of most "sticky" situations.

When I retired in 2008, I made a list of places I might want to live. I was on a shoestring and couldn't afford to buy, much less tour Mexico luxury class. I definitely needed a location where I could live comfortably without owning a car. I'd walk, take a taxi, or local bus. I didn't want a place too cold or too hot. Not too hot was more important than not too cold.

I ended up taking a low budget trip to Zacatecas by way of Monterrey. I wanted to see how the infrastructure had changed in 25 years. The drive wasn't bad and the highways had improved immensely, but so had the traffic. Being on a low budget I booked a room at a hostel. Not only was it clean and comfortable and cheap, the kind of people who stay at hostels are an interesting mixture of nationalities and the owner was an inexhaustible source of information.

I figured this was going to be the first quick trip, I would go home and plan another trip hitting maybe 10 locations, staying at hostels, travelling by bus and using whatever local resources I could find to pick a spot to retire.

I spent a week in Zacatecas exploring and getting to know people staying at the hostel or using it as a free/cheap place to get on the Internet including some long-term expats who had been in Zac three years or more. I fell in love with the place and decided to look no further.

Finding a decent place to rent was nearly impossible, not so if you want to buy. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. It just so happened that the hostel owner had 3 apartments he rented long-term. Far from luxurious, They were clean and functionally maintained. For the equivalent of $350/mo. including all utilities, cable and housekeeping service once a week and also on request, I didn't think I could go wrong. And I didn't.

My situation might be unique, but if you have the spirit of adventure to look for a place away from an expat Mecca you will open yourself to experience you of which you may never have dreamed.

I just wanted to hint at it might be worthwhile to look beyond expat concentrations. I'm not even sure this is appropriate on this forum so I'll cut it off here.
 

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Chapala/Ajijic area.

I just wanted to hint at it might be worthwhile to look beyond expat concentrations. I'm not even sure this is appropriate on this forum so I'll cut it off here.
Believe it or not, this Froum is not the Lake Chapala Chamber of Commerce, although sometimes it can sound like it. Moving beyond expat centers for some is too much, too soon and too fast. That only makes people different. For us, I think of we did the "native" route, we'd end up going back NOB - it is too much of a change, a shock, if you will.

Your experience in Zacatecas was exactly our experience in Ajijic. We came, we experienced and was said we didn't want to look further, it had everything we think we could want. I've read so much about other places, heard so many people ask, "Why did you stop looking?" Why? because we found what we were looking for: climate, proximity to Int'l Airport, large integrated (more than like PV or resort towns) community, slower quieter pace, five hours to the ocean. If we spent more time, looking at more places would we have found another spot like this...maybe, but why spend the time looking when you feel you have found your place. For us it is Lakeside - for others it is Guad, or SMA or Zacatecas, or DF.

This is why they invented chocolate ice cream and horse racing!

Vive la difference!
 

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Good point, but...

We visited, we came back, we bought a home in Ajijic two weeks later, we stayed there four happy years, others made an offer we couldn't refuse, we moved five miles to Chapala, bought another home and we're still here after more than a decade.
We've had prior experience in other countries and have owned many homes in many places, some built with my own hands. That sort of experience, or the lack of it, may make a difference in the choice to rent or buy. As such, I never make that sort of recommendation and trust that the individual knows himself well enough to make his own decision. Those, who constantly recommend renting for a year or two, seem to forget the expense and inconvenience entailed in moving. Others may look at it as providing a sort of freedom, while those who own property like the security and stability it provides. Then, there are people who need the help of landlords, 'supers', etc. and can't even change a faucet. Many don't even want them as tenants & they should probably never buy property unless they can afford to have everything done for them.
To each, his own.
The fact you have lived in many countries is an important difference, IMO. You already have learned you can adapt to another nation. My best guess is most retirement expats have never lived long-term in another nation. Over the many years I have been reading books about living in Mexico, and participating in Internet boards, the same figures keep being tossed out. Which is that most expat couples bail within two years.

IF that is true, and I personally suspect that it is, then it is not rational for most first-timers to buy a place until the two years have passed.

If that is not true, then my view would change. It is very hard to get solid figures, not only on how many leave after how long, but even how many true expats from the US and Canada live in Mexico. In past discussions over the years, someone will link a gov't page, and in a few days someone will link a different page with a different number.

In this case, you did very good, because you described your probably unusual circumstances, and your decision as based on long-term expatting in your background made all the sense in the world. For you or anyone else who has lived in other nations for a long time.

Notice another poster came to the same conclusion I have presented, based on his first time status. He really does not know how he will feel in two years.
 

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Believe it or not, this Froum is not the Lake Chapala Chamber of Commerce, although sometimes it can sound like it. Moving beyond expat centers for some is too much, too soon and too fast. That only makes people different. For us, I think of we did the "native" route, we'd end up going back NOB - it is too much of a change, a shock, if you will.

Your experience in Zacatecas was exactly our experience in Ajijic. We came, we experienced and was said we didn't want to look further, it had everything we think we could want. I've read so much about other places, heard so many people ask, "Why did you stop looking?" Why? because we found what we were looking for: climate, proximity to Int'l Airport, large integrated (more than like PV or resort towns) community, slower quieter pace, five hours to the ocean. If we spent more time, looking at more places would we have found another spot like this...maybe, but why spend the time looking when you feel you have found your place. For us it is Lakeside - for others it is Guad, or SMA or Zacatecas, or DF.

This is why they invented chocolate ice cream and horse racing!

Vive la difference!
Great posting, FHboy. That is exactly why I have recommended the general Guadalajara area as a STARTING PLACE for men wishing to try Mexico. If they like it fine, but during the first year or so, while they adapt, it offers so much more, based solely on the large number of expats over the years who have chosen to live there as you have done.

Since men are all different, I warn them that most of them will end up moving somewhere, whether into or out of the city, or to another place altogether, once they have somewhat adapted to the culture, and are qualified to evaluate other places.

I am very happy you found your perfect place on the first try. Excellent.

In our case, I expected to live in Mexico City, or Guadalajara. I would have questioned your sanity in 1997 if you had told me I would end up in this horrid, Third World village, and want to live here until I die, then be buried here. But, here I am.:D
 

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Statistics and 'damn lies' are often one and the same. The only ones that matter are your very own. I suspect the 'lasting only two years' statistic could be very misleading, since almost all expat employees and government & military personnel are assigned abroad for exactly two years; then they move on to another foreign post, or back to the USA for 'lateral transfers to the exit'. A consular employee, who I met last week, will soon finish his two years in Guadalajara and already knows that he's headed for Japan, for another language immersion and another two years. His toddlers are already comfortable in Spanish & will probably learn Japanese in the first six months. I hate kids!
Other than 'assigned people', the majority, of those we know here, are experienced travelers and/or have lived abroad in the past. All are just as confident as we are, and most of us have 'migrated' without the help of much research; definitely before all this internet stuff, which didn't hardly exist even a decade ago. Life before 'Google', you know? Maybe not!
 

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Great posting, FHboy... I would end up in this horrid, Third World village, and want to live here until I die, then be buried here. But, here I am.:D
In 1997 you may not have been able to survive in your "third world village" because you now have something that wasn't as readily available then...the internet. In fact, it may have been even harder to find it. Your isolation was more complete, as was RV's and any one else who moved down BI (before Internet) and just like Adam and Eve, maybe they were better off, less knowledge can be a good thing. If Edison knew more about tungsten, he'd never would have tried to use it in a light bulb.

If the key to comfort is communication then the following analogy to the way business is transacted through recent history may be relevant. Before telephones, to be successful you needed to place your business in the market you wanted to sell to. (Think local breweries, the corner store, a lawyers office). When the telephone came,you could move a bit away from that location, but you still needed to be somewhere where "the carriage trade" could find you. With the coming of FedEx, TV, and pre-Interent infomercials, the need to be in the "center of things" began to disappear. Finally in the age of the internet, your location has become a lot less important as the medium of communication has dissolved many physical barriers.

So, similarly, you have a large community even if you live in a one-horse town to provide a greater support system. I am not saying that you would not have ended up where you are, but you have to admit you are much more connected than you would have been in 1997.

True pioneers will disagree with this lengthy piece of theoretical bull, but it is one of those topics that deserve attention - I was a mass comm major in college [back when that meant radio and TV and newspapers], and have never given up viewing the world on a communication basis.
 

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True pioneers will disagree with this lengthy piece of theoretical bull, but it is one of those topics that deserve attention - I was a mass comm major in college [back when that meant radio and TV and newspapers], and have never given up viewing the world on a communication basis.
That part hit the nail on the head. Mexico is still a place of true neighborhoods, where you walk to everything you need. A few 'wants' may take you further afield by bike, bus, car or taxi; all of which are choices here. Communication is on the street and in the village square of an evening. Few Mexicans use internet at home & generally walk to a 'cyber' to do homework, or to use the internet; infrequently. One doesn't expect replies to e-mail, or to see too many Mexicans online; at least not unless they are teens. The change is slower here.
Many expats come, buy in a subdivision of some sort because it feels normal; somewhat like suburbia. It isn't normal here & they soon feel isolated & now have to drive everywhere. Everywhere in Mexico lacks parking! Then, they complain. It is an alien culture to them, but they soon become alien to the culture.:alien:
:ranger: is for us old folks, who have lost the energy to run about. It really is lousy, but it is what we have left. Remember, the Industrial Age built the world we know. The Information Age is interfering with individual productivity and industry here and we're seeing the rapid collapse, as a result. We've nothing to sell at affordable prices.:( All of our communication tools are now 'Made in China'.
 
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