Aug 1, 2004, 11:17 AM
Post #2 of 8
Outright home ownership is what makes it high here--you can rent for far less than what you'd get for the same price in the US, while homes cost as much as in any luxury area of the US. I have friends paying as little as $270 a month for a two bedroom apt walking distance from Centro in a Mexican-owned complex, though you can pay $2000 a week if you want luxury.
To buy a house, however, is out of our options, since the cheapest condo we've seen lately anywhere near close to Centro is $160,000 now, and many homes are over $1 million. We know a couple who rented a three-bedroom, two bath house for $400 a month, were first told by a neighbor that it would probably sell for $45,000, and then they fixed it up the way gringos usually do anywhere they move. They then offered $45,000, the guy said no, they offered $75,000, he said no, they're negotiating, and the price is far, far higher already. In the two years since they moved there and began fixing it up, prices soared. Yet two of their friends are still renting a very nice house that was in excellent move-in condition near them for $250 a month. Some of it is luck. It's too far for us to walk from there to Centro but some people do. Depends on hills, too, when you're considering walking distances.
The Jack Nicklaus golf resort going up outside of town will undoubtedly have very expensive homes, and there's another golf course and a film studio complex going on outside of town, too, which may raise prices more, though it may be that the people who come for a Jack Nicklaus golf resort may stay out there primarily and only come in to town for the variety of restaurants and entertainment.
It may be that those of us living on the lower end of gringo living may not be affected. Or maybe we will. The Mexican families who are selling their family homes for high prices and then have to move way out to afford anything new for themselves are certainly affected, but they could keep their homes forever. The idea of making a half million dollars is tempting, to say the least, but their whole style of living changes when they leave luscious Centro for the campo.
You can live really cheaply in SMA if you live closer to what Mexicans live like, or you can live like a Malibu millionaire in SMA and pay Malibu prices for much of your daily living if you want. Many gringos get by on the $1100 minimum amount one needs to qualify for an FM3 (half that if you own Mexican property) and we'd be living in a dump in poverty on that amount in the US, or in a rural area without any of the amenities of a cultural mecca.
Shop at Tuesday Market for your produce, meats and poultry and fish, and daily living items and clothing, and you can live very cheaply indeed. We get a ton of fresh food for under $20 US a week, supplemented by a once-a-month ride to Costco to stock up on many kinds of foods and cleaning stuff, and an occasional visit to El Tomate for organic lettuce and inported delicacies like pickle relish and Thai food seasonings and Bisquick, etc. to fill in the gaps. At Tuesday Market, you may have to paw through a pile of clothing to find a bargain or a style you like or your size, but a friend once found an Anne Klein silk skirt for $2.50 US.
We go to Gigante once in a while for Diet Pepsi, milk and eggs and a wider range of Mexican canned foods that are very equivalent to US products--Campbell's soups that include the most common favorites like mushroom and cream of tomato but don't include chicken gumbo and split pea, and four kinds of catsup but no Heinz, for example. But you adjust or order online and pay the duty.
Cabs are still about $1.35 within city limits before 10 pm, city buses are around 35 cents, and deluxe buses to Mexico City and other areas of Mexico are very reasonable. Most gringos here don't keep a car, which is a huge savings. We keep ours but put 40,000 miles a year on it in Phoenix and only 150 miles a month here. We want to stay in Centro, and even within the closest-in four or five neighborhoods, everything is within walking distance. Our biggest luxury--we can afford to have a housekeeper come in three times a week!
Movies at the Gemelos are $1.45 before 6 pm and all day Wednesdays, and we get the most popular first-run US movies in English (not the smaller-run or artsy films, though they might show up at Villa Jacaranda or Teatro Santa Ana for around $4-5.50 later.) A really, really first-class concert might be $17 US that would cost $75 in Phoenix and $150 in New York City. Most concerts are around $9 US for the best seats, and the entertainers are top notch, from around the world.
There is so much to do here that doesn't cost a peso--just going down to the Jardin and people-watching is the greatest entertainment of all, and you'll probably stumble upon a parade or a roving band of musicians.
It's up to you on how you want to or are willing to live. We hear SMA is the second most expensive Mexican city after Cancun, but we live here on SS far better than we did in Phoenix. But the days of finding a hacienda in Centro for $50,000 are long gone.