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Gringal

Jan 31, 2010, 11:45 AM

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NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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The thread on what you should think about BEFORE deciding inevitably wandered off into what you should do once you arrive. This is a good time to share our missteps and wise moves about what we did or didn't do:

The point about renting first before buying can't be stressed enough. The quaint plazas have magic dust sprinkled from the church towers on the newbies. They run headlong for a real estate office. This can work our wonderfully, or not.

Be real about who you are and what you really like in a place to live. It's great to visit the beaches, but can you handle the year round heat and humidity? Same with the higher altitudes, where it gets good and cold in the winter.
There are books out there that cover year around temps. We read them, and that ended our coastal fantasy, except for winter trips. Read them. Both heating and air conditioning are expensive in Mexico.

Do you enjoy an urban environment with the neighbors' walls attached to yours and their roof dogs guarding the area, noisily? Their pet rooster, Senor Comida, on the roof? Their partying? Or do you feel like having a lot of space around you (to take care of). Do you want to have space for a pet outdoor critter, or four? Do you like walking to shops and restaurants? What you preferred NOB is probably close to what you'll enjoy here. There are advantages and disadvantages to all the possibilities: Rural, gated communities, villages and big cities. People on Mexconnect are writing from all of those types of places, and furthermore, they like them.

Confession: We didn't rent long enough or look far enough. End result; we now live in a different town that where we started. Moving is a nightmare, so the more research you do up front......the less aggravation you'll have later.

Enough pontificating. I hope it helps someone who is still head-scratching.


(This post was edited by Gringal on Jan 31, 2010, 12:25 PM)



Rolly


Jan 31, 2010, 12:10 PM

Post #2 of 27 (7137 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Excellent start, Gringal. Thanks.

I have written a loooong piece on finding, renting, building a place to live in México that may be useful to newcomers.

http://rollybrook.com/finding_a_place.htm

Rolly Pirate


Gringal

Jan 31, 2010, 12:27 PM

Post #3 of 27 (7125 views)

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Re: [Rolly] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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I'd highly recommend Rolly's work for anyone who is contemplating a move. He covers all the nitty gritty issues, right down to the nightmare experiences of remodeling an old, old Mexican house (like we did). lol.


(This post was edited by Gringal on Jan 31, 2010, 12:28 PM)


NEOhio1


Feb 1, 2010, 11:54 AM

Post #4 of 27 (6990 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Can't focus enough attention on that renting idea.

We rent what is one of the best rental properties in Ajijic. A large home and yard on a terrific street. We rented this without looking around as it was being vacated by friends and I had told my husband it was exactly what I wanted so we rented it a year before we arrived permanently. We both love the house, but I am so glad I did not buy it. Not only did the owner have unrealistic price expectations, but I find now I miss the lake, and somewhat resent the fact that I only actually see it when I go out. I miss all the sunrises and sunsets everyone ohhs and ahhs over and it is too far removed from the cacaphony of village life and if I can't hear the village noise I want to at least see the village.

Now most people think I am crazy to be dissatisfied with the house, its location and our longterm arrangements.....and I would agree on the surface and I am not unhappy I just want soemthing different. After all its my time and I have decided I want to see the village and the lake all the time...so I have an agreement with the husband that if I find a place mountainside or lakeside that has room for a workshop for him we will move.

With the flat market recently having bought it at the high in 2005 would have meant not having the option to find out what I really wanted longterm - and its taken 4 years to figure that out.


frito

Feb 1, 2010, 1:53 PM

Post #5 of 27 (6959 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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As you've shown it's not easy to just up and move to Mexico. That's why I like RVing. There are campgrounds all over Mexico, most have English speaking owners or managers. You park in your space, hook up to electric and sewer, you're done. Stay for a day, a week, a month, or longer. Many parks have reduced monthly rates, and wi-fi is being offered, often for free, in many parks. Stay at a higher, cooler elevation in the summer, head to the coast in the winter. With the new highway system it's easier than ever. Might not be one's idea of immersing in local culture, but it's definitely a way to enjoy lower living costs and better weather without the intimidation of finding a place to live and get set up with utilities. Then doing it again if you decide that town isn't for you.


morgaine7


Feb 1, 2010, 2:53 PM

Post #6 of 27 (6941 views)

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Re: [NEOhio1] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Renting isn't for everyone, though. I have a close friend who has not only owned but built the three houses she has lived in during her 10 years in Mexico. She claims the current one is her last, but I wouldn't bet on it. If she's dissatisfied, she'll put this one on the market and start another one. She and I both feel strongly that renting is a total waste of money. Despite advice to the contrary, I bought my home before moving here and have absolutely no regrets. If I decide later that I'd rather be elsewhere, I'll have something to work with. If I'd started out by renting, I'd have no option but to continue renting, because I wouldn't have enough money left to buy.

Kate


Hound Dog

Feb 1, 2010, 3:11 PM

Post #7 of 27 (6927 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Well, Dawg has been sitting here at the dining table in the Spanish colonial in San Cristóbal de Las Casas we purchased in 2006 enjoying Gringal´s and NEOhio´s posts about renting for a time before buying because you can never be sure what you will want. They both agree that it takes time to decide that - often years. Even then you and your circumstances probably will change unless you have turned slowly into a rutabaga. We have a home in Ajijic we purchased in 2001 and planned to sell it when the house in San Cristóbal was move-in ready. We have yet to put it on the market and may or may not do so. When one is retired one can afford to procrastinate. Also, what the hell, Ajijic isn´t such a bad place if one minds one´s own business.

First of all, everyone´s circumstances are different. We were homeowners in Northern California since 1972. In the 80s, both suffering from wanderlust, we sold everything and decided to move back to Mobile where we had both formerly worked and which we had found to have been a beautiful and charming city. We also planned to spend awhile in Santa Fe and Taos on the way and in all three of those cities we were renters. Well to make a long story short we ended up back in California on Monterey Bay within a year buying a home in Santa Cruz and swearing never to be renters again after having been treated poorly by various landlords at whose mercy we found ourselves. So we opted out of renting. Period. At least for then.

The advantages of buying, especially in a very low-tax area such s Lakeside with no need for air conditioning or very much heat, is that, if things go bad, your shelter is paid for and no landlord can capriciously raise your rent. Not only that you can do any damn thing you desire with your property - at least in the village in Ajijic although not so everywhere as in colonial cities such as San Cristóbal. Furthermore, if you want to move you can sell or rent the place.

Now I should point out that we purchased in 2001 so we were not asked to pay the 2005 premium for the house. Therefore, even at currently discounted values we have no problem. Another reason to own if you come down and drive a good bargain.

Here is what we were thinking when we retired and left California in 2001:

* Live in the highlands which we had limited to one of; Lake Chapala, Guadalajara, Oaxaca City or Cuernavaca. Well, OK, maybe Merida at sea level despite the climate.
* The residence had to be in the flats and near public transportation so we would never be slaves to our cars. We had spent way too many years sacrificing convenience for spectacular views in San Francisco living on steep hills. That gets tiresome - especially as one gets older.

My wife flew off to visit all these cities and then fell in love with a house in Ajijic because if its large mature garden. That was that. Sold.

Now that we are getting older, all of a sudden that large garden in Ajijic is a pain and expensive to maintain. That´s one reason the garden in Chiapas is a small, minimal-upkeep patio garden in the Spanish style. Time changes values.

By 2004 we could not wait to get out of Lakeside and, after trying to find homes in Merida and Oaxaca City, we ended up in both Lakeside and San Cristóbal and now we like both places for different reasons but we like them both because we are stuck in neither place. Go figure.

What I am trying to say is, by all means do your due diligence and buy now while the market is soft but never invest more in Mexico than you can afford to lose.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Feb 1, 2010, 3:23 PM)


Hound Dog

Feb 1, 2010, 3:39 PM

Post #8 of 27 (6909 views)

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Re: [morgaine7] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Renting isn't for everyone, though. I have a close friend who has not only owned but built the three houses she has lived in during her 10 years in Mexico. She claims the current one is her last, but I wouldn't bet on it. If she's dissatisfied, she'll put this one on the market and start another one. She and I both feel strongly that renting is a total waste of money. Despite advice to the contrary, I bought my home before moving here and have absolutely no regrets. If I decide later that I'd rather be elsewhere, I'll have something to work with. If I'd started out by renting, I'd have no option but to continue renting, because I wouldn't have enough money left to buy.

Kate


Very well said, Kate:

Like your friend, my wife built our San Cristóbal house basically from scratch from a ruin in a great part of the historic centro and we have made serious modifications to the Ajijic house including a large new wing which has become our favorite part of the house, a brand new kitchen, installation of extensive colonial windows throughout in a house with virtually no windows when we purchased it. We have installed wall propane heaters in every room in a house that had historically been cold as a meat locker in the winter with no heat except a fireplace. We also built a new interior wall defining a carport and ensuring us privacy and increased the exterior wall size from four feet to eight feet and installed concertina wire on top of that plus an elaborate motion-detector, fully monitored alarm system to thwart burglars. Finally, we repainted the whole thing to our own taste.

Try all that with a landlord and even if they let you do it they will raise your rent because you improved their house or summarily kick you out at the end of your lease.

We have seen the results of capricious landlords in Mexico over and over again. If you rent be very careful and then some.

Finally, we, like your friend may put both the Ajijic and San Cristóbal houses on the market if we are not satisfied with what we have and buy or refurbish another house. Try that if you are a renter.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Feb 1, 2010, 3:46 PM)


esperanza

Feb 1, 2010, 3:59 PM

Post #9 of 27 (6898 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Now for yet another point of view: I've lived in Mexico for 30 years and have never owned a house here, nor do I plan to buy one.

In the USA, I owned several houses at different times. I bought a few previously owned houses and I built a house from the ground up. Each of those properties was wonderful at the time, and each of them sold readily when I was ready to move elsewhere. But each of them was a constant financial drain, and only two of them realized a modest profit when sold.

Frankly, I was tired of property ownership. When I moved permanently to Mexico, I vowed that I would never buy another house. I've been very, very fortunate in the landlords here: whether foreigners or Mexicans, they have to a person been willing to take excellent care of their properties. I have never been in the unfortunate situation of having a big repair expense that 'should' have belonged to the property owner.

My current landlord (Mexican) is generous in every respect: willing to tend to property maintenance, willing to make additions to the property that enhance its value, and willing to let Judy and me make changes in the house (at his expense) for our personal comfort. For example, about 18 months ago we remodeled both the master bath and the kitchen--and our landlord paid more than 3/4 of the costs. Last summer, he installed a solar water heating system for us rather than simply replace the existing gas-powered water heater. His reasoning? He was enjoying the savings in gas from the solar water heater system at his home, and thought we would like the same savings. During November, he emptied and cleaned the aljibe (cistern), resealed it, installed a filter system where the city water enters the property, and bought us a spare filter. Very recently, he had a monitored alarm system installed in the house.

This house, situated on a double lot in a beautiful residential area of Morelia, has two stories, three bedrooms, four full baths, living room, dining room, upstairs library/TV room, huge kitchen, terrace surrounding three sides of the house, laundry room, more closets and other indoor and outdoor storage than we need, gorgeous flower-filled garden, a two-car covered cochera with automatic doors, and terrific light and air from plate glass windows. Wanna see? http://www.flickr.com/...s/72157605980374473/. PS: the photos of the kitchen are post-remodel, the garden photos were taken just before we moved in 2007. The grass is not patchy anymore!

Our rent is extremely reasonable, even after three small annual increases. By law in Mexico, landlords are permitted to raise the rent no more than 10% per year. In the last three years, our landlord has raised the rent a total of about 12%. The change in the dollar/peso exchange rate means that although we are paying more rent in pesos, we pay less rent now (in dollars) than we were in 2007.

We do pay for some small repairs, but nothing that would break anyone's bank. This week, our handyman will do a few little chores in the house: repair the bolts on all the toilet seats, fix a couple of door knobs, a few small etceteras. Cost will be about 150 pesos.

Meantime, the money that we could have paid to buy a similar house sits in the bank and collects interest. For the life of me, I just can't figure out why I would want to put that banked money into real estate, especially in this economy. When I go to my reward, I'd rather leave my heirs the money rather than the headache of a house and its disposal in a country my heirs don't know, understand, or choose as their place to live.

YMMV, but I'm quite content.


http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









(This post was edited by esperanza on Feb 1, 2010, 4:52 PM)


Gringal

Feb 1, 2010, 4:24 PM

Post #10 of 27 (6881 views)

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Re: [esperanza] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Esperanza: thanks for sharing the pictures of your lovely home. No wonder you don't want to buy a house!
You made a very good point about leaving your heirs the money instead of a house Mexico. They will be grateful.

On the other hand.....(and there is always the other hand) a "safe" money investment at this point in time is getting zip interest. The value of our home, converted to money out at interest, would not get us much of a house in this area, though I realize this could change.

You are most fortunate in your landlord, as well. My first landlord experience was not so, and it remains burned in my brain. My very first rental, many years ago, was a roach infested apartment which, in my energetic and idealistic youth, I scrubbed and painted until it gleamed. The landlady appeared in the door as I was finishing up and said those immortal words: "My, you've done such a nice job. I'll have to raise your rent since it's worth more now." And she did. What a learning experience.... Not exactly a justification for investing in real estate, but something to think about.


Hound Dog

Feb 1, 2010, 4:40 PM

Post #11 of 27 (6871 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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The thread I just initiated reminded me of another issue one must consider when retiring down here and as one gets older, this issue comes to front and center. That is the issue of health care and is one of the reasons we have yet to move lock, stock and barrel to Chiapas. Someone has already dscussed this but my own personal experience may be instructive.

As i earlier stated, we live at Lake Chapala and in San Cristóbal de Las Casas splitting the year into more-or-less six month or quarterly segments. We have great health insurance with AXA but if you look at an AXA major medical policy you will see that there are many top-rated hospitals in places such as Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey among other major cities but the hospitals in Chiapas are not so good and are generally poorly rated. In fact, the hospitals in San Cristóbal are pretty primitive to say the least although there are some very good doctors here.

Now, here´s the thing, one´s gall bladder or other internal organ does not care where you are residing when it decides it must be removed most urgently so, last January (2009) I found myself in this utterly filthy and mismanaged hospital in San Cristóbal having that gall bladder removed and I came through all right but I learned a valuable lesson. Whatever the quality of the hospitals covered by your insurance company, if you are in the boonies when a health crisis occurs, there you are. Just because your health insurance covers a medivac flight to Mexico City or Guadalajara and mine did doesn´t mean that you can take that chance. Buming around in the Lacandon Forest when one is 25 is not the same when one is 67.

The more we contemplate that medical emergency last year the more we think the best thing to do is live in neither Lakeside nor Chiapas but move to a place such as Guadajalara where some of the best medical care on the planet is available and you are in town when anything overwhelming occurs.

Just a thought.


Gringal

Feb 1, 2010, 5:02 PM

Post #12 of 27 (6858 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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"the more we contemplate that medical emergency last year the more we think the best thing to do is live in neither Lakeside nor Chiapas but move to a place such as Guadajalara where some of the best medical care on the planet is available and you are in town when anything overwhelming occurs." (Hound dog)

Now, there's a disturbing thought. To follow that path would be to make health care the center of your decision making process. That's not necessarily wrong. Many people, as they get older and experience health problems, do exactly that.
I knew someone who slept better nights living near his oncologist since he had prostrate cancer. He died of a pulmonary embolism last June.

Somewhere, between spending time near the undesirable hospital serving San Cristobal and moving near the best hospital in Guadalajara lies a logical path. The most important issue, IMO, is enjoying the space between the dashes: you know, the one between the year you were born and.........you know.


(This post was edited by Gringal on Feb 1, 2010, 5:16 PM)


Hound Dog

Feb 1, 2010, 5:43 PM

Post #13 of 27 (6844 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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On the other hand, Gringal, we were not contemplating Metropolitan Guadalajara for anything other than a very pleasant alternative city in which to live with many great, leafy neighborhoods where pollution is less severe than in certain other districts, there are fine residential streets and parks in which to stroll with the dog(s), many of the urban amenities become more available without that horrendous drive back to the lake and public transportation can be very good or, once one learns the traffic patterns of the city, driving can be an acceptable and convenient alternative. It just happens that some of the city´s best hospitals are within easy reach of these often beautiful neighborhoods. Those hospitals and excellent physicians in the city are one of the amenities, not the primary reason for moving there.

One could buy or rent there as one chooses.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Feb 1, 2010, 5:46 PM)


Reefhound


Feb 1, 2010, 6:27 PM

Post #14 of 27 (6823 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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The landlady appeared in the door as I was finishing up and said those immortal words: "My, you've done such a nice job. I'll have to raise your rent since it's worth more now." And she did. What a learning experience....

You should have responded "in that case I'll restore it to it's original condition right away".


Gringal

Feb 1, 2010, 6:54 PM

Post #15 of 27 (6815 views)

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Re: [Reefhound] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Quite so, but those are the "great comebacks" we think of later. Usually much later. lol.


Hound Dog

Feb 1, 2010, 6:59 PM

Post #16 of 27 (6813 views)

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The landlady appeared in the door as I was finishing up and said those immortal words: "My, you've done such a nice job. I'll have to raise your rent since it's worth more now." And she did. What a learning experience....

You should have responded "in that case I'll restore it to it's original condition right away".

That would be illegal if it could be shown the tenant purposely laid waste to the landlord´s property.

The sort of thing that happened to Gringal elsewhere is not at all uncommon in Mexico. I know a number of horror stories but all are hearsay so I won´t relate them here.


Reefhound


Feb 1, 2010, 8:11 PM

Post #17 of 27 (6795 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Twas a steenkin' joke, dude. Maybe I shoulda used a smiley emoticon?


cristalhombre


Feb 1, 2010, 10:25 PM

Post #18 of 27 (6770 views)

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Re: [Gringal] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Regarding "housing" - my thoughts.

I like the idea of 'simplification'. Keep it small, sweet and well located - and besides you can be outdoors ALL the time! We bought years ago in Ajijic, GREAT view and we can walk to everything - no car needed. However, now that I see ALL that one can do and explore in Mexico, I would not BUY again....

I would join the ranks of the Vagabonding - and explore Mexico - untethered.

George Carlin sums up housing in the U-tube short attached.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac





"NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST...."


esperanza

Feb 1, 2010, 10:38 PM

Post #19 of 27 (6767 views)

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Re: [cristalhombre] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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Quote
...you can be outdoors ALL the time...
Hmmm...it's been raining steadily (and heavily) for the last 24+ hours, Neil, and it's cold--high today in Morelia was 57F. Your goose bumps would have drowned by now.


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Gringal

Feb 2, 2010, 7:46 AM

Post #20 of 27 (6710 views)

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Re: [esperanza] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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LOL. Poor goosebumps. Drowned, or frozen.

What we do here is this greatly varied country full of potential adventures is largely dependent on things over which we have little control, such as: age, health, disposable income, condition of significant other, and any number of other large and small factors. What is giving one person great joy may give another an excruciating pain in the patootie.

I read an hilarious story about a tour to the butterfly country where, if anything could go wrong, it did. Even the hotel had split the twin mattresses to make two beds, so the husband and wife took turns on the box spring. One lady, approaching 80, had this trip on her "bucket list" and by the time they reached the preserve....in bad weather, she was much closer to the bucket.

You do what you can, and what you feel like.


tashby


Feb 2, 2010, 11:16 AM

Post #21 of 27 (6660 views)

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Quote
...it's been raining steadily (and heavily) for the last 24+ hours, Neil, and it's cold--high today in Morelia was 57F. Your goose bumps would have drowned by now....


Heck, that's a bicycle weather in the Pacific Northwest of the US, which is where CristalHombre lives, I believe. An early June day, if I recall. Back to topic....

We very purposefully choose to rent for the simple/complicated reason that we're still not sure where we want to live long-term in Mexico. And we're getting close to two years here. Along with the other more obvious reasons, I'm just going to echo something mentioned upthread. What you think you want in a place when you first move down here may be very different than what you really want, or even need, after spending a good chunk of time in Mexico.

Maybe. Or perhaps I just have comittment issues and don't know what the heck I'm looking for. I certainly understand the benefits of homeownership and can relate to the need to preserve the capitol by investing it in a home, but for me, I'd rather toilet a couple of years worth of rent (at least) in order to keep my options open.


Traveler123


Feb 13, 2010, 5:02 PM

Post #22 of 27 (6310 views)

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Re: [cristalhombre] NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE: MORE ISSUES

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posted by cristalhombre --"I would join the ranks of the Vagabonding - and explore Mexico - untethered."


How is it possible to "vagabond" around mexico on an FM3? Don't you have to re-register the FM3 each time your address changes within Mexico (within any given year)?


(This post was edited by Traveler123 on Feb 13, 2010, 5:06 PM)


Rolly


Feb 13, 2010, 5:07 PM

Post #23 of 27 (6301 views)

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If you have an FM3 or FM2, you are supposed to register with INM each time you move - pain ih the... If you want to go Vagabonding around, do it with an FMT.

Rolly Pirate


Traveler123


Feb 13, 2010, 5:09 PM

Post #24 of 27 (6297 views)

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In Reply To
On the other hand, Gringal, we were not contemplating Metropolitan Guadalajara for anything other than a very pleasant alternative city in which to live with many great, leafy neighborhoods where pollution is less severe than in certain other districts, there are fine residential streets and parks... It just happens that some of the city´s best hospitals are within easy reach of these often beautiful neighborhoods. Those hospitals and excellent physicians in the city are one of the amenities, not the primary reason for moving there.

One could buy or rent there as one chooses.


Can you identify which GDL neighborhoods these are (beautiful, great leafy neighborhoods near excellent hospitals)?


(This post was edited by Traveler123 on Feb 13, 2010, 5:10 PM)


Traveler123


Feb 13, 2010, 5:12 PM

Post #25 of 27 (6293 views)

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If you have an FM3 or FM2, you are supposed to register with INM each time you move - pain ih the... If you want to go Vagabonding around, do it with an FMT.


I've read that many folks continuously renew their FMT every 6 months at the border, but I've also read recently that officials are watching more closely and can enforce the law which is technically that tourists from US can only stay in Mexico for 6 out of 12 months each year on an FMT.
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