Choosing to Buy Mexico Real Estate

I wasn’t planning to move to Mexico.  It never occurred to me, working away at my swell job in Washington, DC, living in the lovely house where we raised our children - for thirty years.  At age 59 I was restless, sure, but in a formless kind of way, as in, “I wonder what’s next?”

There was one thing though.  I’d been thinking for a while about the fact that I had lived my entire life in Washington - a great city, but still, my whole life!  I had an amazing career, including eight fabulous years in the Clinton White House, but that was over now, and work was just, well, work.  I thought it might be fun to live outside the U.S., at least for a while, but where?  And, when?  Was I going to wait until I was so old I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it?  That seemed like a mistake, but I had no idea what to do about it.

My boyfriend and I discussed a number of places - Panama?  Too far away.  Italy?  Gorgeous, but too far and too expensive.  Costa Rica?  A little too primitive, and too far away.  We wanted a place from which we could reach the U.S. easily.  Maybe the choice of Mexico is obvious here - if you’re from the West Coast.  But it wasn’t on our radar.

Then one Sunday a couple of years ago we saw a CBS program about buying property in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico.  Video of wide, sandy beaches and blue, blue waves flashed by.  “Hey!  Come look at this!” I said to the BF.  “Isn’t that the same ocean that millionaires live by in Santa Monica?  And they’re saying it’s really affordable in Mexico.”  We watched them interview a lot of Americans who seemed to be deliriously happy to be living on those beaches.  And the clincher?  All of this was just 45 minutes south of downtown San Diego!  We looked at each other.  I said, “I’ll call tomorrow,” and did.  I called the realtor featured in the video and then I bought two plane tickets.  Two weeks later we were in Baja, just south of Rosarito Beach, hooked up with an American realtor who knew the market, knew the area and was happy to show us, not push us, into available properties in our price range - and we could see immediately that our price range was going to buy us a whole lot more house than it would in the States.

We looked at several properties that were nice, but resistible, and then came to a little villa in the community of Calafia Condos, Resort and Villas.  It had a large patio overlooking that blue, blue ocean, with room to garden.  I stood on the patio, looked around, and said, “This is it.  I’m moving here.”  BF was appropriately horrified.  “Have you lost your mind?  You’re gonna quit your job, sell your house and move to a place where you don’t know a soul?  You don’t even know if I’ll go with you!”  “Well, I love you,” I said, “and I really hope you come with me, but I just know I’ve got to do this.  And if we don’t like it, or if we need to work, we’ll be just 30 minutes from the U.S. border - it’s not as if we’d be moving to China!” So, we went home, BF slowly came around, I put my house on the market, quit my job, and started to pack.  That was August of 2005.  It took longer than I expected to settle everything in Washington, so we arrived in April 2006.  We almost gutted the little house to make it perfect for us.  We found artists and craftsmen in every field - woodworkers, stone layers, tile guys, painters, gardeners.  And Mexican labor is much less costly than American, so our dollars went a lot farther.  My house is the house I wanted all my life - and right outside the patio is the Pacific.  There’s nothing like that back in Washington - and you’d have to be a multimillionaire to have a property like this in the U.S.  Think Malibu, and $5 million.

Good neighbors and a happy community are just as important as the location of a house, and we have them both.  Lovely people, mostly from San Diego, a few from Los Angeles or Arizona, live in the Calafia Condos or Villas and other communities like Las Gaviotas in Rosarito and nearby Club Marena.  Some of our friends live in town in Mexican neighborhoods.  We joined the Baja Writers’ Workshop, and made more friends with interests like ours.  It’s a very social place - people stop by to visit, we often have dinner parties or join our friends at their houses.  We have lawyers, corporate designers, authors, airline pilots, teachers, doctors and university professors to socialize with.  If we wanted to act, or direct, there’s an active theater group in town.  People play bridge, knit for charity, golf, surf (bring your wetsuit - the Pacific is chilly!), volunteer at the Red Cross (Cruz Roja).  You name the interest and there’s likely already a group of Americans doing that, or people who’d be happy to join you in starting one.  If you prefer to just read a book by the edge of the ocean, in the cool breeze, that’s fine too - Mexico invented the laid back lifestyle.

Living in Baja content is written by Melinda Bates, a native of Washington, DC, and former Special Assistant to President Clinton, and Director of the White House Visitor’s Office from 1993 - 2001, who is now retired in Baja California, Mexico.