I thought some of you might be interested in my house hunting considerations. There is a lot to consider and I know that my first place won’t be “perfect,” but I at least want to be comfortable for the first year!
Where I know for sure I don’t want to live:
- Where other expats congregate, like the Santiago neighbourhood in Centro. Expats drive up rental rates and attract businesses and services with inflated prices. Plus, I came here to live in Mexico!
- To live in one of the gated American-style car-oriented suburbs north of the Periférico, like La Ceiba (was shocked to learn I could afford to rent there) or Las Americas or in one of the newer subdivisions within the Periférico, like Gran Santa Fe.
I would consider living in any neighbourhood that:
- Is within the Periférico.
- Is easy to drive in and find parking (pretty much excludes Centro).
- Can let me walk to (in no particular order): a tortillería, pollería (chicken stand), produce stand, small grocery store, beer store, larger supermarket, a wide range of restaurants, a bank that would have me as a client, and a cinema. A mall with a Chedraui or other hypermarket, an Office Depot, and other big box stores (like Las Americas, Macroplaza, City Center, or Gran Plaza) within walking distance would be a bonus.
- Has good bus service.
- Is economically diverse.
- Is not near a nightclub or party hall.
- Is not near the airport (pretty much eliminates anything south of Centro).
Neighbourhoods that I have looked at and like, but are in no way the finite list are: Las Haciendas, Las Fuentes/Pensiones, Itzimná, México, Chuburna de Hidalgo, Altabrisas.
- At least three bedrooms and two full baths, ideally with one bedroom and bath being on the ground floor for guests and the other two upstairs.
- Private outdoor space.
- Older house built for this climate that will stay comfortable (to a point) without AC.
- A non-scary electrical panel.
- AC units in all the bedrooms (window or mini-split doesn’t matter).
- Working doorbell if I have a front gate.
Would be nice:
- Two stories.
- A half-bath for visitors.
- A pool.
- Rejas (bars on doors and windows) and/or fully enclosed house (not worried about my personal safety, but I had bars on the windows of the houses in Mazatlán and Almería and loved that I could go out for the day and keep the air circulating).
- Built-in closets with organisers (super common!).
- Traditional Mexican kitchen with only a ceramic countertop and maybe a few shelves — I’ve yet to see a single house with cabinets where the cabinets are logically installed. I’d rather design my own European-style kitchen with freestanding furniture.
- Window screens.
- A bright exterior colour or other distinguishing feature that would make my house stand out on the street and easy to find.
- Intercom if the front door is a mile from the front gate if I have a front gate.
Things that I’m flexible on:
- The neighbourhood.
- Having gas in the house. I’m shocked to say this, but I would now be okay with not having a gas stove as long as my electric range is the kind with the glass/ceramic top, but with manual controls. My parents have one of those and they make cleaning so much easier!
- Aesthetics — I would like a house with some architectural charm, like colourful tiles and dark wooden doors, but am ready to rely on paint to add personality.
- The layout of the bedrooms so long as the guests are separate from me. I rejected a house where my office would have had to be on the ground floor because of the lack of light and limited air circulation, but that might not be a problem in another house.
Not quite deal breakers, but will give me pause:
- Brand new construction that looks good but isn’t designed for this climate/will require AC to be comfortable.
- Houses with laminate cabinets (kitchen, bathrooms, closets).
- Super grungy tile grout (for some reason, grout is rarely sealed in Mexico and with there being so much tile in most houses, cleaning or replacing grout would be a huge undertaking).
- Very dark ground floor (problem with the closed in houses).
- Scary electrical panel.
I literally have not found a house I would want to live in that I couldn’t afford, other than the huge colonial mansions that would require a staff to maintain. So price is really not much of a concern. Based on what I’ve looked at so far, I expect to pay $5,000 to $7,000 a month. Less than $5,000 would mean I got a hell of a bargain and more than $7,000 would mean that I found a really special place worth splurging on.
At least one year, but since it costs so much to set up housekeeping and and it takes at least six months to get to know an area, I’d be willing to consider a two-year lease if I got a deal on the rent.