On April 1st, I bought a new condo as a rental. That should have been a warning. Fool! If you’ve been reading my columns you know what I went through to gut out my own house and rebuild it, and you’ve read some of the problems of remodeling that I’m in the midst of.
Buying a new condo would, I thought, be a piece of cake.
I bought from one of the most reputable agencies at the Lakeside.
What I didn’t do, is research the builder.
Dumb. I should have gone back and read my own advice from a couple of years ago.
My friend Betty and I bought the last two units and made a joint offer with the listing agent, believing if she was both buying and listing agent, there’d be more room for negotiation within her commission. That turned out to be good logic. There are seven and one half units in this complex with a beautiful swimming pool and well-landscaped common area in the middle of the units.
The condos look great. The units include dishwasher, refrigerator, stove and garbage disposal. We had to buy our own gas tanks, which I’d never heard of.
The marketing material promised grounded electricity, hardwood doors, all exterior lighting, potable water, $50 US monthly association fees, 24-hour security, one year warranty, and a studio apartment available for the exclusive use of tenants and their guests at a rate of $10 US per night.
Ah, here’s the sticky wicket. Who’s responsible for delivering what’s promised — the listing agency or the builder?
Fortunately, because the electricity could not be turned on until I had copies of the closing papers, I withheld $1,000 USD until I could check out the electricity, the appliances, the plumbing, etc. As I began to form friendships with the other owners, I learned there was no grounding except for one kitchen outlet and even that was suspect, because there was no visible grounding rod from the electric meter outside.
Once wiring and plumbing is cemented into a wall, it’s not easy to see what was used inside. Of course, all new housing development at the Lakeside has used grounded wiring since 1995.
All of the outlets are three-pronged, designed for grounded wiring. I borrowed a tester which showed that the one outlet in the kitchen had three wires, but they were wired incorrectly. All the other outlets had only two wires. He opened up the kitchen outlet and said, “See, you have grounded wiring!” He speaketh from both sides of his mouth.
In my unit, all the kitchen’s electricity circumvented the circuit breakers. An electrician I hired to check out the unit, said it was the worst wiring he’d ever seen. My toilets were not bolted down, merely caulked around the edges.
I sat lightly.
The hot water faucet in the upstairs shower didn’t function, the front door lock didn’t function and the downstairs toilet wouldn’t flush.
The marketing material promised “ready for washer and dryer installation”. I purchased a new washer and dryer and when the installers came, they said they needed a gas line available and an air vent installed. It cost me another $40 USD to get the parts for that installation and have a hole chipped through my kitchen tile and the cement wall.
It’s now three weeks after closing and none of the repairs are completed. I prefer dealing with the listing agency, so I called and said, Please release the $1,000 to me so I can get these repairs completed and rent my new condo.
He told me, “We’ll meet with the builders.” We did that yesterday. I’ve learned to compromise. The builder promises to provide grounded wiring throughout the house, rewire the circuit breakers, fix the toilets, the shower handle and the front door lock, as well as clean up paint spills and touch-up the paint where needed. I accept that the definition of potable is not drinkable but rather, water you can shower in and brush your teeth with. I give in on several smaller items that I can inexpensively take care of myself. I solicit a promise of no later than next week.
That takes care of making my unit rentable. However, as an owner, I have other problems. As soon as we took over responsibility of the Association and started putting numbers on spreadsheets, it became apparent that 24-hour security and $50 monthly association dues were mutually exclusive. We had to raise our fees to $75 and eliminate the 24-hour security guard who slept in a one-room manager’s office which included a separate bathroom. He also served as handyman and gardener during the day. We’ve hired him for only three days a week, which is sufficient to maintain the grounds, the pool, and the water filtration system.
The studio apartment, owned by the builders, is now up for sale. Once all the condos were sold, he no longer needed that carrot. None of the owners have been able to get the builder back to make any repairs under the one-year warranty. I have, because I’ve withheld money from the closing.
Buyers of the last unit arrived to find the wrong tile had been installed. They refused to close until the right tile was installed. They’ve been living in the small studio and using the lounge chairs poolside as their living room. They have the patience of Job. They’re going to close next week before returning to Canada for a couple of months, but are holding back 25% until they approve the final electricity and other work that needs to be done.
Buyer, beware. Buyer, be informed. Buyer, cover your arse. Even those of us who live here can be duped.
On Renting a New Condo
Now that I have all the problems in my beautiful new condo fixed, I have replaced human protection with wrought-iron protection, I have furnished and decorated the home beautifully and completely, from dishes to linens, and I have provided cable TV service. It is available for rent.
The neighbors are wonderful. Poolside BBQs and evening margaritas are a common occurence. The patios and common areas invite the birds and butterflies. Swallows are nesting at this time of year and the humming birds drink lustily of the sweet cactus flowers and frangipani blossoms. The clear blue pool reflects the humongous antique cement arches, proudly displaying their dresses of bougainvillea. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings, tenants are greeted with the gentle sounds of the choir from a nearby church. Roosters can often be heard in the distance.
These Coto Palma Real condos are located two miles east of Ajijic Village, on the way to Chapala, and just one block from the bus stop. There is off-street parking and the common area is gated for security.
I would prefer, of course, long-term renters, but am open to shorter stays of at least one month.
Contact me at: [email protected]