Provincial towns and cities across Mexico, like neighborhoods in its large cities, tend to pass through cycles, and when a certain place gets very popular —through keen interest from foreign investors, Mexicans buyers, or a combination of both— demand can quickly escalate and prices can begin to swell, notwithstanding any practical aspects related to living at that location.
Taking a step back to consider your real lifestyle needs and giving importance to them as you short-list locations for your home in Mexico —and not the bubbles of enthusiasm that may surround any location— will help you to choose a place that serves your intentions while protecting your budget and long-term investment.
This article highlights some key practical aspects to consider when you’re preparing your short-list of potential places to live in Mexico.
Accessibility, transport, and telecom links
Mexico has excellent transport links including roads, tolled highways, bus stations and airports; most Mexican towns and cities where foreign residents invest are well served by these. If you’re dependent on internet services for work, then you should check the availability of internet services if you’re scouting for a home situated in (semi)rural or remote areas. Small towns and villages in rural areas may appear like idyllic lifestyle choices, but local roads may be challenging to navigate; street lighting may be limited or non-existent, and a remote rural home requires you to consider your security arrangements as these houses can make easy pickings for burglars—especially when you’re away.
The effects of local topography
Mexico is a mountainous country, and some excellent places to live in are built —quite literally— into the side of a mountain. The colonial cities of Taxco and Guanajuato are good examples of this. Consider how you will negotiate walking up and down steep, possibly cobbled, streets—sometimes wet from the rains. Some beautiful colonial homes may be built on several levels due to the local mountain topography they are situated on. If your current health requires you to live in a relatively flat area, or you sense that steep hills and cobblestones may pose physical challenges as you age, consider the location’s topography in your deliberations.
Coping with the year-round climate
There’s a significant difference between going somewhere for a short vacation and living in that location’s climate throughout the year. Some places that are warm in the summer can get quite cool or cold in the winter; and others which offer perfect weather in the winter can become oppressively hot and humid in the summer. Consider the differences between the sea-level coastal and high-altitude mountain climates Mexico offers—and consider the year-round climate cycles, not just those experienced in any given month or season. Climate is one of the things that influences us every day: it would be a pity to invest in a property and discover afterwards that you’re just not suited to its location’s climate.
Assess the local services and amenities
Consider what local amenities exist (or may exist soon) like shops, markets, restaurants, cafés, cultural centers, and leisure facilities. Small rural towns with few amenities are not likely to attract many future buyers (foreign residents or Mexicans) without a significant shift in demography or large infrastructure investment. Unless you purposely seek a reclusive lifestyle, paying attention to local amenities —not just in quantity but in quality— will share clues as to the attractiveness to others of a place. Ready access to local amenities provides practical support every day, and meeting local people and developing new friendships requires spaces and venues to facilitate those opportunities.
Consider your life stage and everyday needs
Our needs evolve as we grow older and our life situations change. It’s a good idea to pause and take stock of your present lifestyle needs as well as likely needs in the years ahead. It’s easy to mistakenly assume that what you needed yesterday you will need tomorrow, and it’s also easy to overlook emerging new needs when you are in the throes of choosing a different place to live. Beware also of the trap of placing false importance on features, amenities and services which you are not likely to make proper use of, or only use very occasionally. Your location should provide you with the things that are most important to you and your life situation every day; as the saying goes, “the most important thing is to know what is most important.”
Probe the social and community aspects
Local amenities and civic organizations are among the fundamental building blocks which define any thriving local community. Take some time to explore and discover the local community scenes and ask yourself whether their character and composition are likely to chime with yours. Property prices in Mexican towns and cities with well-established communities of foreign residents tend to be higher than places where foreign residents are less concentrated, or where the social community is less-well developed. If you seek an established community but you don’t want (or can’t afford) to pay a premium for it, consider locations where the community is still fledgling, or the location in terms of the potential it may have for growing a community—and consider also how you could be part of the catalyst that helps to develop it. Our series, Essential Skills for Expats in Mexico, can help you form a social integration plan.
Consider your health and medical care needs
Very small rural towns and villages won’t have medical facilities on-hand. Small towns may have a local clinic offering basic services; some towns may have a choice of local doctors and dentists; but if you choose to live in a rural or semi-rural setting, then a trip to the nearest large town or city will be required when you have significant medical care needs. Some gated communities specially tailored and marketed to foreign retirees offer professionally managed medical facilities on-site, but you’ll pay a premium for this. If you have a medical condition that may require immediate medical attention at any time, you should choose your location accordingly and avoid any places that will require a long road trip to the nearest hospital. See our guide to healthcare in Mexico for general information and read this article on medical insurance options when you’re planning to be in Mexico longer-term.
Undertake your own local house price research
A common mistake made by foreign renters and buyers is comparing the price of a house they see in Mexico with the price of an equivalent-sized property in their home country. Without comparison to the local market, a monthly rental or purchase price you think is reasonable may actually be an inflated price aimed at foreign buyers who have not undertaken sufficient market research. When considering price value, be mindful that your property will be situated in Mexico, it will be surrounded by Mexican amenities, and the investment will be subject to local market trends. You can use local property portals like MetrosCubicos, VivaAnuncios and InMuebles24 to gauge current market prices; it’s common to negotiate price and most property sales close between 10%-15% lower than the market list price; and rentals too are subject to negotiation. Our guide to buying and selling real estate in Mexico provides further insights and the guide to the cost of living in Mexico provides a wider perspective on housing costs here.
Rent first if you don’t know the area
Unless you’re familiar with the area and know that you’ll feel comfortable there, we recommend you rent first. Renting a home will enable you to enjoy a settled presence locally so that you can get a feel for the location, discover the local amenities, neighborhoods, and community aspects, as well as get a handle on the local property market and its price nuances. Renting also enables you to search for your new home purchase without the pressures of a time-limited scouting visit. Locations that have few property rentals offered, or where rentals are so limited that rent prices are much higher than average are a disincentive to potential foreign buyers who want to rent before they buy. Read our guide to renting property in Mexico for details and useful insights.
Schooling for your children
If you have children of school age, consider what schooling is available in the localities you research. Many smaller towns have adequate kindergartens and primary schools situated in the locale, but if you live in a (semi)rural area schooling arrangements can become more complex when your children move up to secondary and tertiary education. If your children are still young, take into consideration how the locations you short-list will serve your family’s changing schooling requirements as the children grow-up. (Some families choose to home school, but this poses its own set of challenges.) Read more about schooling your children in Mexico.
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