At one time or another, visitors who come to our beautiful town with any regularity, think about staying for more than a few days. What with rental rates for available beach front, or even beach proximity, accommodations all over the board, the idea strikes some folks to purchase or build a beach house.
This idea usually arrives while in a euphoric, alcohol induced haze, while munching on tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole and sitting beach-side under a palapa while the gentle breezes caress your skin as your heart beats to the rhythm of the gentle lapping of waves on the sandy shore. The idea can be viewed in one of only two ways;
1- With a clear vision grounded in reality, or
2- Through ‘rose-colored glasses.’
There is very little ‘gray area’ when it comes to committing to owning a beach house.
While there are several options to acquiring a beach house, the first, and easiest, is buying a condominium. Owning a condo is quick and does not take much more than plopping down a chunk of cash, as financing has now become more ubiquitous in Peñasco over the past decade or so. To be sure, there are other things that need to be considered with a condo purchase, such as various condo fees, decorating or upgrading older units but, basically, once the ink is dry on your purchase contract you can hang up you towels and put your toothbrush on the bathroom vanity and you are ‘home.’ Almost all condos have some form of communal maintenance services, so expenses for repairs are shared and life is good…mostly. Simple, if privacy is not high on your list of priorities…and for some it is not.
The second option for owning a beach house is to purchase an existing one. This option is considerably more time and money consuming than the condo purchase, but many folks like the idea of owning a stand-alone house on one of our fine beaches and the privacy/freedom that it engenders. That’s all well and good but purchasing an existing beach home needs to be done with great caution and more than a little understanding of what you are buying.
First, no non-Mexican can ‘own’ beach front property in Mexico. Property is held in trust by Mexican banks though a “Bank Trust” that allows the non-Mexican owner rights and privileges as if they actually held a deed…for 50 years, renewable. For this you pay an annual fee to the bank that holds the trust for you. Make sure that there is a bank trust in place for the property you are thinking of buying. Without it, you own nothing.
You then have the ‘right’ to pay local property taxes and Federal Zone taxes. What are Federal Zone taxes? The area from your property line to the high tide line of the beach is known as the Federal Zone. You cannot own this land, but you can purchase a ‘concession’ to administer the property and prevent others from using it for things like taco stands.
So, once you have determined that the beach house you are buying has all the proper deeds and the taxes are paid current, which is very important, as many people have bought a house only to find out that the previous owner paid no property taxes for the previous ten or so years and they were now responsible…plus penalties…you can now take possession of your dream beachfront home.
Many people have only a passing understanding of what it takes to maintain a beach house. In a word…LOTS!! Maintenance and repairs are constant. If it’s not replacing window screens, it’s the water pump, or the water heater or repainting or resurfacing the roof or, if you are off the grid, solar problems…or…or…The combination of sand and salt are one of the most corrosive environments for structures that you can imagine.
You will notice that most homes are built out of concrete block and poured concrete…with a lot of ceramic and Saltillo tile. There is a reason for that. Those materials stand up the best against the marine environment. Wood is subject to decay as well as attacks by insects. Termites are everywhere and just waiting for the opportunity to dine on your door frames or roof beams. Metal oxidizes quickly and must be repainted often. It does not take long for door latches and hinges to freeze up or gates to rot through. So, if you are thinking about buying an existing beach home, do your homework!!! Understand what, exactly, you are getting and what, exactly, it will take to maintain your investment. If you can look at your decision objectively and it is still acceptable, do it!!
The third option is to buy a piece of beach and build a new house. This option requires much more commitment than the others that I’ve mentioned thus far, as well as a firm grasp of reality. Remember the “rose colored glasses” I mentioned before? Well, take those suckers off and throw them away if you are planning on building a beach house!
Anyone who wants to build on the beach…in Mexico, needs to have their act together! There are those who have enough money to simply say, “build me a house” and not worry about it further. If that is not you, then you need to pay close attention to what you are doing when building on the beach.
I’ll detail some do’s and don’ts learned from hard experience in next month’s column.