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To build or buy a house in Mexico

J. Brad Grieve

Should I be building my new home here in Mexico or should I be purchasing an existing home whether new or used? It is a common question, especially if you are not finding the property that meets your expectations of location, amenities and price.

Before investigating the building option, take a moment to analyze how you are looking for the dream property and reflect on what your expectations are. The local real estate agencies are part of a Multiple Listing Service where agents have access to all of the properties listed by the members. Of course, the agent will be most familiar with and would prefer to sell one of the properties listed for sale within their own office, however a hard working and scrupulous agent will become familiar with the listings from other offices and find the best value for you as the buyer. They can search the lists of homes for sale based on price, location, size, amenities and various other criteria. There are more than 470 properties currently for sale on this listing service.

Still you have not found what you are looking for and you decide to investigate whether it is worth building your dream home here at Lake Chapala? One fundamental question is this - before coming to Mexico, have you ever built a home? You may have a romantic image of one of the home building or remodeling programs where the homeowner after several weeks of the program, is smiling and bursting with joy about the new creation that they have completed. Hold it! Turn off the TV, throw some cold water on yourself and remember that program is about a house in North American where you are familiar with the type of construction and the host is speaking English. The houses here are distinctly different to those where you come from and, on top of that, the person(s) constructing your house are speaking another language.

In both situations, whether you continue to search for an existing home or decide to build a house, you will need to improve your communication skills and test the limit of your patience. Tell your professional realtor what is good and bad about each house you look at so they can understand better what it is that you are looking for. Push your realtor to find the right property and check all sources to find your home.

Again, if you are building your home, communication with your architect, engineer or contractor will be critical for the success of the project. Schedule weekly meetings to talk about the project's finances, cash flow, design issues, schedule, standards of construction and overall quality. These issues will need to be clearly communicated, rehashed, and any changes in scope or cost should be put down in writing. Setting intermediate goals will help avoid problems and will be mutually beneficial to the homeowner and builder.

And finally, here's a little philosophical talk about negotiating whether to purchase an existing home or contract someone to build a house. Remember, the three concepts that you will be negotiating will be price, quality and time.

 

When it comes to an existing home, typically your agent will be helping you to determine a fair market price and will try to set a time of closing that will be fair to you and the seller. However, quality is something that many consider a fixed and unchangeable element; both sides of the contract usually do not understand what the quality or condition of the home is, the legal services used and any implied or contingent guarantees. A real estate professional will help guide you through this process.

When building a home, the three negotiating concepts still apply and most people are focused on price and schedule (time). The concept of quality is not inspected by a municipal authority like it is in the rest of North America, and there generally is not a guide or code by which to measure the minimum standard of quality unless there are predetermined and detailed construction specifications. With a mutually agreed upon set of standards, the buyer (and the builder) can understand when the specifications are attained. Some builders are not prepared or are not able to provide specifications and will rely only on general accepted standards of practice.

Published or Updated on: December 19, 2008 by J. Brad Grieve © 2008
Contact J. Brad Grieve

J. Brad Grieve is a professional civil engineer who has lived and worked in the Lake Chapala area since 1994. He is the owner of Ajijic Home Inspections and you can be reach him by phone: (376) 766-2836 or e-mail.

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