Buy or Build, or “Fixer-Upper”?
Buying land and commissioning a house on it will provide you with much better value for your money: The price of land and construction will be less than an equivalent house bought built.
The downside of this, of course, is that you have the additional time, effort and expense of project managing a build. You would do well to be in Mexico for the duration. Architectural firms can be hired who will design, build and finish your house for you. They usually work on a multi-stage payment basis, and guarantee that the price they have quoted you is the price you’ll pay, or within 10% (either way) min/max.
The choice of whether to buy or build will again be a personal one, and probably also based on what you are looking for and what is available: you may need to build in order to get what you want!
When you do the maths, you’ll probably find that you’ll get more for your money than by buying something built, but keep in mind the additional effort you’ll need to invest.
A special note about buying land: Be sure, if you buy land, that it served by a reliable water source. Ideally, your plot should have a mains feed, but if not, it could include a well, or water from a neighbouring plot – if it does, make certain that this arrangement is in writing and that the additional costs, if any, are clearly stated. Land without water has very little value.
The Fixer Upper (an American English term, now used as “Spanglish” in Mexican estate agent speak) is a shell house in need of serious maintenance. These enable you to buy the property at the ‘shell’ value, and create a home, almost from scratch. Some “Fixer Uppers” include old colonial buildings, that can polish up into magnificent homes – if you have the time and resources to dedicate to them. These days, the people who own these ‘shell’ homes do not underestimate the value of the property once it is renovated – they have learned from previous experience – so unless the seller is desperate to sell, you may not be able to buy your ‘shell’ property as inexpensively as you may think or hope! Shop around and think carefully about the costs you don’t know that you don’t know about when embarking on this kind of project.
Building Regulations & Standards
There are no official “builder’s guild mark” or similar standards for buildings and property in Mexico.
If you are buying a property that’s built, then you should hire a good surveyor to check the place out thoroughly before agreeing to buy or handing over any money.
If you are having your house built, ask the architects to show you examples of their previous work – and go to the places to see them – don’t just look at the photographs. Once again, a professional survey to assess the quality and state of the architect’s previous buildings will b shrewd.
In areas near to the coast, and in regions containing a large proportion of volcanic rock, a soil survey may also be a good investment – especially if you are buying land to build on… your architect may provide assistance in this area.