Thursday, May 11, 2017

A New Casa In 2017 - How Did We Get Here? Part 1

It is not possible to be brief about this.  How we got to this point is only something that could really be understood by someone who has been through it, sweat it out and felt it.  The journey is generally different now but some still live in the world I will describe.

Spring 2005 was our first visit to Sayulita and Ashley and I both looked at what this little pueblo was at the time and could become.  The town was really starting to be on the radar as a hip, surf destination though opinions differ when this actually began.  We saw what was happening and asked ourselves "Why couldn't we have a piece of this"?  It reminded me a lot of Park City in the early/mid 90's.  Cool town on the rise, easy to get to, great food, vibe and the environment!  An international real estate investment?  Really?  I did not even want to come down here originally to be honest.  Ok, let's look into it.

What we learned is that there are basically three classifications of property here for non-Mexican citizens on the coast.   No, I will not have all the details exactly correct so please forgive my dumbing down of the specifics and omitting official names.  This in NOT an real estate investment lesson after all(disclaimer).  The general classifications we dealt with were.  Ejido, Ejido titled and Titled land in a Bank Trust.

Listing photo from 2005

Ejido land is land without title that only a Mexican national can have in his or her name.  Wikipedia defines it as,

"an area of communal land used for agriculture, on which community members individually farm designated parcels and collectively maintain communal holdings."

This is where we started.  After a second visit to Sayulita, meeting the right people and looking at some properties we decided to "purchase" a property that was the cheapest ocean view in town.  Our investment in a house in Park City, Utah in 2004 had produced some equity and the rates to borrow on it were favorable so our first venture in to Mexican real estate began.

At this time, now 2006, most of the properties in town did not have "title" and were not even eligible to have one.  In other words, most of the properties in Sayulita had not been surveyed and documented in an official capacity and recorded.  Mostly the downtown area and a sprinkling of other properties actually had an official "title".  The rumor mill at that time was circulating that the agency that would do this was moving forward but where exactly and in what part of town this "titling" would begin was anybody's guess.

Listing photo from 2005 from top of property

So, most of the property in Sayulita was what was called "Ejido" land that was only available to Mexican nationals to "own" and it didn't even have a title associated with it.  (Actually, Ejido property cannot even really be owned since it is communal land but we won't get into that here.)   The question is how do you do such a transaction?  Well, you make an arrangement with a Mexican national to own/possess the property in your name.  This person is called a "Presta Nombre".  Since we could not have possession of Ejido property we needed a trusted person to act as the owner in name only and have an arrangement with that person.  What kind of arrangement?  This person would be the name on the documents and would need to allow us to do what we wanted to do with the land like build a home, sell it or grow corn if we wanted.

This is the core of the nightmare scenarios that you hear about investing in Mexico.  People investing in property in someone else's name only to have that trusted person take possession and sell it, occupy it and possibly leave the foreign investor with nothing.  Our choice for a "Presta Nombre" was the person already acting in that role for the previous "owner" of the lot plus she was employed by several friends.  She agreed, a fee structure per year for her services was set and we did a deal for the property with the owner.  At that time, 2006, prices were high and looked to be going higher so we bought at the height of the market.  We had our piece of Sayulita.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A New Casa In 2017 - Final Design

So what is this place going to look like?  Below are the plans and elevations.  As I do updates this will be a reference to follow as things get done.  The lot measures about 30 feet wide by 100 feet deep.  There will be three levels.  Bodega, Apartment and Family Living.  The bodega level(not shown) will be identical to the apartment level as far as footprint goes.  It just will not have living space.  We are only allowed three living levels so we do not want to waste one of them on a walkout basement.  I am just fine having a "man-cave" that we can lock things away in and shut the door.
The Family Living Level will have a master with two bedrooms sharing a bath, laundry/pantry, kitchen and living area.  The large X in the plan is actually an open to the sky interior courtyard that will help with air flow and light.  The living room ended up being shortened by a meter or so due to a HUGE tree that we did not want to remove or risk damaging.  The plan incorrectly shows a garden in front of the car which has since been removed to allow entry into the bodega level.

The lot is steeply sloped so the lower two levels actually hold up the top floor Living Level.  The computer rendering on the right isn't exactly what we expect to achieve but it's what the program kicked out.  Lots of things to figure out like keeping it secure.  Ashley's big desire was to have a very indoor/outdoor living style.  If we close it all up to lock it up then we lose that so we have to figure out a way to solve that.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Roosters - Neighborhood Sounds

Almost three years ago we move across town from the hill on the north end of town called Nanzal and began renting a place on the south end of town just off the Punta Mita Highway.  We gave up our ocean views and sunsets for next door neighbors, easier commutes to school and work and level walking distance into town.  The North end generally is full of nightly rentals, larger accommodations and less traffic.  The South end is generally more local.  The sites and sounds of life coming from local residents neighborhoods vs  the sounds of life coming from nightly resident neighborhoods is totally different.  One of the biggest differences is what animals you hear.

When you live where we do now you can generally get a good idea what time it is base on whether you can hear the local roosters.  If I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and do not hear any crowing yet then I know it is not 4:30 am just yet and have time to get a couple hours more sleep.  The crowing can be deafening sometimes.  I just attributed it to living in a more local neighborhood where so many roosters and chickens roamed free.  Over the last 6 months or so, several trees have been removed from the neighborhood that we see from our back yard.  I never was able to see any of these buildings before and then suddenly they were there.  One of them is a full fledged Rooster Condominium complex.  I always knew there were roosters and we see them everyday but I had no idea that most of the roosters that I had been hearing for so long actually had accommodations.  Am I surprised?  No, not really.  It just kind of confirms what I may have suspect all along but just couldn't see it.  Sounds like "Home".  The complex pictured is on some appreciating real estate.  I wonder how long the owner will keep it that way.  Times are changing.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trace's New Ride - McLaren 2015

We came home one night from circus practice as usual and Trace asked if I had seen the "Corvette" in front of our neighbor's house.  I looked out the window and nodded that I had seen it and continued to do whatever I was doing at the time.  Little did I know Trace's Corvette was actually a McLaren.  To tell you the truth I had never heard of a McLaren before and Trace had not either.  Trace is the automobile fan in the family.  We are not sure where that comes from but he loves fast cars.

The owner was visiting our next door neighbor and was very willing to tell us about it and let Trace sit in it.  Amazing machine!  The price tag on this particular model and year was in the several hundreds of thousands of dollars!  "You can buy a house or you can buy and live in this car" I said to the kids.  They chose a house.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A New Casa in 2017 - Week One

It has begun!  We came back from Semana Santa break and saw that a back hoe had been working on our lot.  Exciting stuff and glad to see our deposit money at work.  We removed a large tree on the lot a few months ago and it brought a bunch of natural light and totally changed the feel of the property.  Excavation has been done back to a point to accommodate the large retaining wall for the lower levels as well as footing locations.  In the photo, the height of the existing cut will be the floor level of our family living level.  This level will be just above the building to the right.  Better learn how to climb stairs again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Semana Santa 2017

We managed to escape the crowds in Sayulita for Semana Santa again this year.  I kept up on the social media posts talking about the crowds but more importantly about the substantial volunteer effort that was organized this year to handle a holiday crowd.  This aerial shot of the beach during the holiday break was taken by Curt Barter gives you a good idea of just how packed it can get.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Circo de los Niños 2017 - Behind the Scenes

The Circus de los Niños program the kids have been participating in once again had their annual series of shows in March.  This is the program's big fundraiser production.  With the exception of  summer the kids train eagerly 2-5 days a week with the program.  This year's performance, the kid's 3rd, was spectacular as usual.

The amount of time and energy all the children, organizers, trainers, volunteers and parents need to put into this show is totally nuts.  This year's commitment was bigger than year's passed which I complained about often since it dominated our lives week after week after week. So much so that the kids had to give up their other interests and activities.  This session "Circo" did not even have space for new children to join the program.  Waiting list only.

This video follows the final practice days leading up to the performance and the action during performance week.  Really kind of enlightening seeing things behind the scenes.  Once spring break is over the kids will be back at it for 10 more weeks of Circo before summer vacation begins.  Such is life in small town Mexico.

Making Of_Sueño de una noche de verano_2017 from Monique Voyer on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sayulita Scenes - Oz Sayulita?

I was out early this morning and looked up to see this.  The largest project going up on the south end received it's sign this week.  It is called "Oz Sayulita".  Crazy what you see in the morning and you can take the time to look up.  Not really sure how anyone will see the sign from the street level.  I guess we will have to consider a different name for our new casa here.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Driver's License Mexico Style

My Utah license was expiring this month so I needed a new one.  Since I no longer have anything that has my name on it with a Utah address I had to go to the local "DMV" to get signed up for one here.  So, here it is.  The latest document to add to my wallet that is all Mexico.  Interesting that the photo in the Utah license was one taken just before our first ever trip to Sayulita.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sayulita Scenes - The New Boulevard Update - March 2017

The New Boulevard project continues to progress and is nearing "functionality".  I say "functionality" because it appears to be close to being able to handle car traffic in the near future.  I might even say that it may be able to handle traffic in another 6 weeks or so.  But...."it's Mexico" as they say so who knows.  At this time there seems to be a lot of other detail type things going on outside the general roadway like burying conduit and hooking up light posts etc.  Some of the businesses on the entry corridor are actually accessible to car traffic now but it is a dead end once you reach the mid point in the roadway.  Locally owned businesses along the corridor have been essentially cut off for months from the easy access and drive by traffic they were so dependent on.

Ashley and I went for a walk yesterday, 3/3/17, to check it out and I shot a handful of photos beginning from the old bus stop and walking toward the intersection with the Punta Mita highway.
My impressions?  It looks to be very "grand" and "tidy" but drab and a bit lack luster.  When town received it's new updated sidewalks and plaza improvements 5 years ago it was all slated to be grey stamped concrete.  Some locals got involved and were able to get the stamped concrete colored to the terra cotta color for the sidewalks we have now.  An improvement over plain grey in my opinion.  Sayulita is so very colorful and is part if it's character.  I love the bold and sometimes gaudy colors of Sayulita.  The new entry is just kind of "blah".  I am guessing there will be landscaping of sorts to be added before the end of the project which may help.  Yes, it will be functional but as a "welcome corridor" to Sayulita it just does not quite fit as it appears now.  We will now have three different looks in town when completed.  Three different puzzle pieces stuck together.  The entry corridor, the north end and then the downtown/south end.  All have their own look and character.

Town and I am sure visitors will be so thankful this project is done and more normal traffic flows can happen once again.  Completion still to come.

In front of the bus stop.

Approaching the bomberos office and Animal Love.

Approaching the old Esteva Clinic.  Bomberos on the right.

Near the Sayulita Car Wash

Looking towards the Punt Mita Highway intersection.

UPDATE: 3/21/2017
Some color arrives.  The new sidewalks that will frame the new boulevard appear to be colored the same terra cotta color as the stamped concrete sidewalks that were completed in town a few years back.  Happy to see this.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A New Casa in 2017- Building A Place Of Our Own

We are now into year 6 renting in Sayulita.  I don't think a single person who comes here to live would question just how difficult and expensive it can be to find housing.  We are a family of 4 who is growing up and it is time for our kids , 9 and 11 years old, to have their own personal space.  Even for a fairly well connected family here year round finding a decent 3 bedroom, 2 bath home for long term rental is hard.

We spent three years in a great house on the north end until our landlord decided to remodel and rent the unit we were in nightly.  We are now in our third year on the south end of town and our landlord has also decided he wants to fix up and sell or rent the house nightly.  Such is the way of things.  There is money to be made with vacation rentals.  Less so with long term tenants.  Nearby towns like San Pancho and Higuera Blanca are the same scenario.

It is a very familiar story coming from a high end ski town up north.  A destination sees an increase in popularity and visitation.  Real estate prices go up, rents go up and the ability to find full time housing goes down driving people to find housing elsewhere or leave.

So what is a family to do?  We have a life here now.  We want to stay.  Do we take our chances every season trying to find a place to live?  No.  We build a place of our own.

2017 will be the year when we will break ground on our own house here in Sayulita.

...details to come.