Living, Real Estate

A Month in Patzcuaro – Property

Just a few years ago, Patzcuaro was a town that few foreign expatriates had heard of, and much less considered as a place to settle in Mexico. Today, the town is attracting an increasing amount of attention,...

Colonial Rooftops in Patzcuaro, Mexico

Just a few years ago, Patzcuaro was a town that few foreign expatriates had heard of, and much less considered as a place to settle in Mexico.   Today, the town is attracting an increasing amount of attention, especially from Baby Boomers eyeing-up a retirement home here.

Patzcuaro’s real estate market has experienced a considerable renaissance over recent years.  The town’s property fortunes have been transformed by foreign investors buying homes in Mexico as well as affluent Mexicans seeking second homes in the countryside.

Most of the homes which have been purchased by foreigners here are properties which had been left in disrepair (or ruin) after years of being uninhabited, neglected by the owners or heirs of same, or a combination of both.   Land values are still relatively low in this region of Mexico and construction costs are inexpensive by US-standards; however land costs have risen as the town gains popularity and demand rises.

The best value real estate in Mexico is always that which you build or restore yourself.  However, not everyone has the time, patience nor the inclination to embark upon a build or restoration project.   Fortunately, the market in Patzcuaro is diverse enough to satisfy those who want to build or restore an old colonial property as well as those who want a finished house, ready to move into and transform into a comfortable home.

If you decide that you do want to fix-up an old property in Mexico, be prepared for a steep learning curve; come armed with at least some Spanish language abilities, plenty of negotiating skills and know that you will have to dig deeper into your personal tenacity bank, if not your fiscal one, than you may have anticipated at the outset.  Try not to rush your purchase and undertake your homework diligently in regard to land prices and construction costs.  The best way to get a feel for the market and develop some friendships and contacts which will help you to secure best value, is to rent locally for a time and get yourself known and trusted locally. Wandering around the historic center, it seems that there remains a reasonable quantity of old houses in need of restoration; some are openly advertised for sale; others look abandoned and probably need inquiring about on a case-by-case basis.

The most expensive real estate in Patzcuaro is that which is situated within about two to three blocks of town’s main squares: the Plaza Grande and the Plaza Chica and more expensive still if the property has been fully restored and ‘ready to move in’.  Other factors which make the center attractive is that the topography is largely flat, access to all of the town’s services and amenities is within a stone’s throw, and the historic center of town offers the most picturesque backdrop for your home.

Land and property further up the hill/mountain may be lower priced, although it’s beginning to get more expensive; especially land which offers views across the valley and over Lake Patzcuaro.   Further out of town, in the nearby villages, local expats talk of land prices at very low prices with beautiful countryside views. However, you’ll need do your research before committing to such rural lands.  For example, ensure that permission to build a home on the land exists or may be obtained with certainty; you’ll need a car to get around properly, or be prepared to make extensive use of the local mini-buses and taxis.  These lands may not be served by utilities so you’ll have to arrange (pay) for these to be installed.  Talk with a local architect and lawyer and/or Notary Public about such matters before you commit to any transactions.

Since the start of the financial crunch that began around August 2007, Patzcuaro’s property sales market has lost a considerable amount of its buoyancy.   People who were planning to sell homes overseas have had their plans delayed by a fall in market values and the knock-on effects of those delays are being felt in places like Patzcuaro which hitherto have enjoyed a mini property boom due, in good part, to the influx of foreign investment.

However, there is a sector of the property market which continues to enjoy a good deal of movement here: vacation home rentals.  There continues to be a vigorous demand for short and medium term rentals of homes ‘ready to live in’ in Patzcuaro, especially well-appointed properties within easy reach of the town center.

Casa Espejo is an example of the kind of house that’s popular for vacation rentals in Patzcuaro.   The house is situated just two or three blocks (or about a five minute walk) from Patzcuaro’s main square, so it’s perfectly situated for access to all of the local services and amenities needed for your stay.   The homes are fully fitted-out with all of the furniture and home wares you need to arrive with suitcases, unpack, and start living comfortably in Patzcuaro.

Like most other vacation rentals in Patzcuaro, these two homes were purchased by non-resident foreign owners who invested in old colonial properties and had them beautifully restored into modern, comfortable, homes.

Turning your home into a vacation rental is a way to own property in Mexico when you can’t be here full-time to look after it.  The property needs to be marketed and you’ll need a house manager to take care of things locally.   Once all the costs and fees are paid, you may not turn a significant profit, but you will cover all of your costs, property taxes and maintenance, and you’ll have ‘free’ use of the house when you visit Mexico.   Renting out your home is also a good way to improve the security of your Mexican home while you’re away.

For extended visits to Patzcuaro, the ready-supply of vacation rentals provides an opportunity to set up a base here and explore the town, the area, and the region.   Whether you may be planning to live in Patzcuaro or anywhere else in Mexico, taking the time to explore before you commit to a location is a wise approach.

During the late fall, winter and early spring, you’ll need to book your vacation rental in advance, as this is a popular nesting ground for ‘snowbirds’ who flee the cold climates in their home countries and some owners, too, make personal use their homes during this time.

There are three other times of year when vacation rentals will be harder to come by if you have not booked well in advance: Easter Week (exact dates vary), Day of Dead (week leading up to and including the 1st and 2nd of November) and the period over Christmas and New Year.

Continued: A Month in Patzcuaro – Conclusion

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