Getting Closer to a Set of Keys

As I suspected, today’s appointment was not to sign the final documents for the house. It was to pay a deposit and to go over final details before making an appointment to sign the lease at a lawyer’s office at a later date. That date would depend on when I could pay the rest of the fees, which total four months of rent. I had expected to need no more than $30,000 by this date to rent a house, but the house is a bit more expensive than planned so I was a little short. If I’d had to, I could have cobbled together the whole amount, but there really was no pressure since the lawyer wasn’t available this week and I can’t get keys until September anyway. I would have had to pay that extra amount for furniture, so it really comes out in the wash. I would feel a little squeezed if I was spending all this money to get an empty house, but I actually feel less stressed than I would have renting a less expensive house!

So what I was paying and signing for today were the “apartado,” which is for the lawyer’s fees, and also a double deposit (which is entirely refundable as long as I return the house in the condition in which I got it). The final amount will be the first month’s rent.

The agent had me tell her the most important thing in each document to make sure that I really did know what I was signing and that we would not need an interpreter at the lawyer’s office. That something important is, not surprisingly, that if I back out, I lose all my money, but if the owners back out, I get it back. As we were finishing up, my agent confessed that she speaks fluent English, but that since the documents aren’t legal unless they’re in Spanish, there’s really no point in us doing any of the transaction in English since I’m clearly understanding everything correctly. She will send me an e-copy of the lease ahead of time to make sure I don’t feel pressured when it comes time to sign and that I can look up anything I don’t understand. The documents today were just one pagers and I didn’t encounter any words I didn’t know.

If anyone wants the contact details for a personable, helpful, English-speaking, and non-pushy real estate firm in Mérida that has listings outside of the expat areas at local market rates, please let me know. Someone actually asked me for them yesterday so she can’t be alone!

We wrapped up pretty quickly, but it was too early to go home since the cleaner was there. I found a yummy lunch and then went to Gran Plaza to do some window shopping. I checked out the movie listings, but nothing good was playing at a convenient time today (I had to be home around 3:30 for the cleaner).

My meeting with the lawyer is in exactly two weeks, the next time the cleaner is here. I can slow the pace down a tad now and will have more free time since I’m not going to spend hours a week looking at real estate listings. Oh, wait, I’m going to replace that time with looking at the classifieds in the hopes of finding my dream fridge. 😀

The owners of the house here have confirmed that they are returning on October 31st so I am now starting a 76-day countdown until I’m back in my own space. I’ve got a lot of pool enjoying and dog cuddling to do by then! 😀

I’m Signing a Lease!

After a second visit, I have decided to rent a house in Mérida’s Chuburna de Hidalgo neighbourhood. Unfortunately, there was no time to take pictures today, so this post is mostly a lot of bla bla bla.

I met the landlady and like her a lot. She took me through the house a second time and pointed out features — and whole rooms — that I wasn’t shown the first time around!

The house has a lot of very nice features. One is that it stands alone and has land all around it before the walls that surround it. I was expecting to rent a house stuck to other houses and with only a prison yard-like inner courtyard. It is going to be very private and quiet.

I love that the property has automatic gates. Getting my truck in and out of the yard in Maz and here has been such a production and it will be wonderful to be able to get in and out easily.

The yard will be easy to maintain. I thought it had grass, but the area is just overgrown with weeds. They will be cleared for me and then I just have to keep on top of it. The exterior entrance of the house is incredible, with flagstone, landscaping, and a freaking working wall fountain!

The side yard to the left of the house has a covered terrace where I can already see myself downing a bottle of wine while beating C&C at canasta. Behind that is an area for hanging laundry and beside it is a laundry room the agent forgot to show me! It is small, but has room for both a washer and dryer (not that I use the latter) and it has a cement sink with built-in scrub board.

The right side yard is a service corridor that leads to… a built-in dog house. Too funny, but with the property being totally walled, Puppy could come for a visit!

You enter the house into the living room. Included for that room are two new brown suede couches and two huge armoires (I think they might be meant as entertainment centres?). Off of the living room to the right are the dining room and the eat-in kitchen. In the kitchen, I get a large microwave cabinet (not one of those cheap Walmart things) and the landlady promised me a microwave! There is a door from the kitchen to the right side yard. The kitchen can be closed to the dining room by a door and a sliding window across the breakfast bar. I get a small table (but no chairs) in the kitchen as well.

The dining room comes with a large table and chairs and a gorgeous buffet imported from… France. Wow. I’ll have a place to display my Pyrex. 🙂 Sliding patio doors lead to the small covered courtyard. There’s also an RV-like awning I can roll out for extra shade.

Back in the living room, we can go left to my office, a huge space with a built-in desk and bookcase area where I can already see myself working on my journal. It has a door to outside. Next to it is the guest bathroom and next to that is the guest bedroom, with a huge closet with lots of shelves. It has a view to the laundry drying area, so the landlady had a wall built to hide that! That’s the kind of attention to detail that really impresses me. The guest room has two new twin beds, so sorry guests coming as couples, you’ll have to push the beds together. 😉

Last on the ground floor is the maid’s quarters. It’s currently full of the owner’s son’s possessions, so I only got a glimpse of it on Thursday and it was presented to me as a bodega (storage closet). Turns out that it has a full en suite bathroom, not a half bath as I’d been told. The room doesn’t have a window of its own, but the bathroom does and the room does have two doors to the rear courtyard, so there is the option of leaving the full door open and the door with mosquito netting closed for both light and air. The owner says her mother-in-law would sleep in that room so, really, it can’t be that uncomfortable! I think this room could end up being my den.

Back in the living room are the stairs to go up to the master suite. The landing upstairs is large and well lit. That’s where I’m going to take up painting again. 🙂 The master bedroom has a huge walk-in closet (sadly without as much built-in storage as the guest room!) plus, of course, an en suite bathroom.

The house is going to be a good size for me. The owners find it two big for the two of them, but they are not home much. She said that at first, she thought it was too much house for an active young single person, but when she learned that I work from home and am a homebody, she agreed with me that it’s probably going to be just right.

The whole house is super bright and airy. There are ceiling fans in every room. There are really good shades or blinds for every window and they all take into account how much sun comes in through that window. The open staircase with the double width ceiling will draw up the hot air. It really is a very well thought out house!

But what makes this house so special is its location. The Mérida of interest to most people is north of the cathedral in centro. South, you get into the rougher neighbourhoods and the airport. This map shows the northern part of Mérida. It’s clear that the house is almost right smack in the centre.

I prefer walking to driving, especially in a city, and my radius is 5KM. The circles represent radii of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5KM. I’d say that at least 90% of the Mérida within the periférico that could interest me fits within that 5KM radius. The cathedral downtown is just south of it.

Right around the house, in a radius of no more than a handful of blocks, I’ve got convenience and beer stores, a lavandaria (in case I don’t find a washer right away), a tortillería, a bunch of restaurants (I saw cocinas economicas, taquerías, pizzerias, and at least one Chinese restaurant), two small supermarkets (Aki, Willy), and, of course, the neighbourhood’s central market.

Within an easy walk of 2KM, I’ve got everything else I could possibly want — amazing restaurants, grocery stores (including Chedraui and Superama for hard to find ingredients), the Lebanese bakery, two cinemas, Office and Home Depot, and so much more.

If I want to go have a drink and enjoy live music at La Negrita, I can walk or bus the less than 3KM to it and have a cheap taxi ride home (or, if it’s a nice night, walk — Mérida is safe!). Centro will be easily accessible by bus in both directions and the landlady says that “even” she does it that way.

The location right off Calle 60 is going to be so easy to find. Addresses in Mérida can be confusing and repeat themselves in different parts of the city. I could tell the cab driver that I’m going to two blocks west of a certain major landmark instead of saying my address and making sure he gets the neighbourhood right.

Guests, whether friends/family or eventually Airbnb if I still choose to go that route, will also be well served by the public transportation options just a few blocks away. Like me, they’ll be able to take the bus south to centro, or north to Progreso’s beaches. And with such a central location, taxis will be cheap regardless of you’d want to go.

We’ve negotiated that I’m renting for two years. I will pay $500 less a month than advertised for the first year and then full price the second year. I get keys as soon as I’ve paid one month in advance, the lawyer’s fees, and a double deposit on the condition that I don’t start moving in (as in sleeping and living in the house — I can start bring my belongings over) until October. I am, however, free to have deliveries made directly to the house in September and to move in whenever I want in October.

The rental terms are standard. Normally, you plan to pay the equivalent of three months up front — the first month, legal fees equal to one month, and a refundable security deposit. You also have to provide an “aval de propriedad,” which is unique in Yucatán. It’s like having a co-signor, who has to be a homeowner in Mérida. If you don’t have one of those, the landlord can ask for an extra deposit, which is what happened in my case.

My hiccup was that I hadn’t expected to find something so soon, never mind at that price, and it would put me in a bind to pay four months’ up front right now. So I asked if I could pay three and then the fourth at the end of the month. To my surprise, instead of hemming and hawing I was told that I could pay just one month now and the rest on October 1st — but then I wouldn’t have any access in September. Fair enough! I still plan to get it all paid so that I can start shopping. 🙂 I want to go as much as possible with found treasures rather than going to, say, Liverpool and buying things full price, so furnishing my new house could take some time. The garage sale group is going to prove invaluable, I’m sure.

I do want to stress that while the house is quite a bit more than I expected to pay, it is still well within my budgetary comfort zone, especially since it comes with so much furniture, significantly reducing my move-in expenses (really, all I absolutely need is a fridge!). I’ve calculated that my expenses will be about 300CAD less a month than when I was paying for two homes my winters in Mazatlán. I did have the debate with myself about renting a shoebox with just two bedrooms and a bathroom, but I’m ready for a proper home, am not risking financial ruin with this one, and it’ll be amazing turning 40 in a house that truly shows the progress I’ve made at bettering my life over the last 20 years.

The utility bills on top of the rent will be small, probably no more than $1,500 a month all-in, depending on how much power I use. Power for the empty house with fans running 24/7 is the same as I paid in Maz, $550 every two months, so I’m expecting a power bill of around $800 when I don’t have guests running AC. Gas and water will be inconsequential amounts, as they were in Maz.

Internet is still a big question mark. I was highly recommended a new provider offering fibre service, but was told I might be shocked by the price since you have to bundle in either or both a landline or cable. A landline wouldn’t be a bad idea (there are numbers you can’t call from a cell). I’ve had a quick look at what I can find for that provider and if I’m reading everything correctly, I’m looking at roughly the same cost for internet plus a landline as what I paid in Canada for internet and cell service. But, of course, I’d be getting 200Mbps download speed instead of 10GB at 1Mbps and then 256KBs after throttling…

So that’s the scoop for today. I sign the lease Wednesday morning!

Mid-August

It’s incredible to be at mid-August and to know that these glorious hot and sunny days — a perpetual summer of sorts — are going to continue. After spending months hearing folks up north whine about how hot it is, I’ll soon get to hear them whine about how cold it is and how they want to go somewhere with better weather. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to host them by then. 🙂

I used to hate cold and snow and winter until I thought I was stuck with them for life and learned to embrace them. And then, I took a train ride to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, in late June of 2007. It was then that I first had the life altering realisation that not everyone in the world lives in difficult climates where you only get a few precious weeks of glorious sunny weather.

It was in Dawson City, Yukon, in 2009 that I first experienced living in a climate of unrelenting heat for an entire season. I was quite heavy back then and it was difficult to handle the heat, but all that sunshine revitalised me.

And it was in Mazatlán, Mexico, over the course of of the 2014-2015 winter that a rather lighter me discovered that she can thrive in a hot, humid, sunny climate. I learned from the locals how to keep my house comfortable and clean without air conditioning and how to keep myself from getting heat stroke walking upwards of 20KM in 30C/86F or higher temperatures at all times of day as I explored Mazatlán. I knew by the end of those first six months that while I have housekeeping-related issues with living in a humid tropical climate, it makes for a much healthier me. I make much better diet choices and I don’t have my skin issues here, plus the sunshine helps my mood tremendously.

So, really, I had no qualms in moving to Mérida no matter how many people — mostly Mexicans! — warned me about the heat here. But very surprisingly, I’ve been here since May and have yet to experience temperatures that come close to what I had to deal with in Bulgaria last year. I don’t think we’ve passed 35C/95F plus humidity here while it rarely dipped below 40C/104F plus humidity over there!

The construction of the house I’m minding and the owners’ wishes dictate that I keep the AC on 24/7 to keep humidity levels low. My compromise that I run the AC at about 28C/82F, which is still warm enough that if I’m doing something physical, like cleaning or exercising, I can still get overheated. This means that there is very little contrast with the temperature outside and I never have that moment of, oh, I don’t want to go out because it’s so much more comfortable in here.

The only time I have issues with the climate is the same as many Meridanos — spending time in my truck in the city. I’m sure there are idiots who don’t realise that cars get very hot in even a cooler climate, with temperatures reaching as high as 50C/122F (or more) if you are unable to park in the shade, and who would perceive my having a problem being in such an environment as being unable to handle the local climate.

Well, a very long day of running around like last Thursday could have been life threatening. I actually took my temperature when I got home and even with all the precautions I took to stay cool during the day — waiting in AC or on the sidewalk in the shade rather than my truck, drinking plenty of liquids, and enjoying the cool breeze on the long stretch of highway between Mérida and home — I was still hyperthermic (feverish) when I got in, with a temperature of almost 39C/102F.

The “truck days” are what wipe me out here because I’m spending time in temperatures of 20C/36F more than the actual ambient temperature. It’ll be nice when I live in town and can ditch the truck and walk almost everywhere. I also know from Bulgaria that even if I get the AC fixed on the truck, that doesn’t necessarily mean much if I’m stuck driving in full sun with no shade, but it’ll help and, of course, make it much easier to get groceries home. A cooler works great for a spell, but then turns into an oven!

I took yesterday off to catch up on my exterior chores. I did all the hard work before the sun got too high in the sky around 11:30AM, then retired to a lounge chair in partial shade with a book, a beer, and Puppy until the sun backed off a bit. Then, I got back to whipping the garden into shape. I probably spent more actual time outside than I did on Thursday and was comfortable and energetic all day. It was a really relaxing day that I really needed.

I’m heading back into Mérida first thing tomorrow for my first meeting with the owners of the house I’m hoping to rent. Thankfully, I’m going straight there so that I won’t look too crumpled. Let’s just say I wasn’t at my freshest by my 4PM on Thursday. 🙂

Here’s another teaser/hint about the house, an aerial view of it. Notice the incredible luxury of it not sharing any walls with neighbours:

Book vs. Real World Spanish

I spent a good part of the day chatting via Whatapp with the real estate agent for the house I’m thinking of renting. Negotiations have started and I’m meeting her and the owners for a second walk-through on Monday.

The texting experience is interesting. I experienced similar issues in Spain where there were times that the texts came in a wholly different language, the Spanish/Mexican version of text speak. She also uses a bunch of idiomatic phrases. I don’t know how long it took me yesterday to realise that “Don’t be evil/mean,” probably actually meant, “Don’t be mad,” since it was followed by a text requested some personal information, rather than my having put my foot in my mouth!

The texts were flying today and sometimes I wasn’t responding fast enough so I’d reply to her to give me a second, I was trying to figure out what the hell she said because a literal translation made no sense. At one point, she wrote, “Are you here?” and I thought she meant was I in Mérida, possibly to have a last minute appointment. I took that literally and said, “No, I’m in work hell in Chelem.” That earned me a “ja ja ja” and the laughing-crying emoticon and a note that if I Mexican asks me that again, it just means do I have time to chat!

I know that I have very little boots on the ground street speak experience and that I’m not going to break that barrier without being willing to make a fool of myself. So if something doesn’t make sense, I admit it and ask for a rephrasing. I can only think of one person who has ever rolled their eyes for me at that, and it was in Barcelona. Mexicans are just so considerate of non-native speakers, especially when they are making a valiant effort to communicate in Spanish even if things often get garbled in translation.

I really can’t wait to share more details of the house. I have a firm grasp now of exactly where it is in relation to everything else I’m interested in in Mérida and just how much of the city will be walkable. The location is beyond perfect. I’m going to have that village within a village feel that I wanted, being minutes (a few blocks) from the neighbourhood’s central square and market.

Price negotiations have begun. I know that the house is well within my comfort zone, but I do want to know roughly how much I might expect to pay for utilities to get a better idea of what I’m getting into. I never once used AC in Maz and my power was about $550 for two months ($275 a month) running fans 24/7, so I imagine that unless power in Yucatán is much more than that, my bills should be only a tad higher, accounting for more ceiling fans going and my planning to run a huge fridge. I’m sure guests will use AC and drive up the power bill, but that’s only fair considering how often I plugged in at other people’s homes when I was RVing! Internet (fibre optic, woot, woot) shouldn’t be more than $500 a month. I have no idea about water or if the house has gas, little details to iron out on Monday.

Once I get to the lease stage, I’ll talk a bit about the legalities and the process here in Yucatán. I’m glad I’d done a ton of homework ahead of time and read through a bunch of legalese because renting long-term with a contract is nothing like renting month-to-month. The couple of expats I asked about something called an aval de propriedad had no clue. It is a very important thing here in Mérida and I’m so glad that when the agents bring it up, I know what they mean and how to answer the question.

These are very exciting and educational times for me. I can’t believe that I went from feeling like I was blathering in Spanish just two and a half years ago to having done the majority of my immigration stuff in Spanish and now I’m negotiating a real rent contract, not just a verbal agreement. I have to say that there are a lot more rental options in Mérida if you don’t need an English speaking agent and/or landlord and I look forward to discovering and sharing with you an area that I’ve yet to see discussed on expat forums and blogs.