AS I’VE MENTIONED here on occasion, we own a townhouse downtown, and we rent it to vacationers, mostly Gringos.
Shuffling through internet files today, I happened upon this photo taken six years ago, a photo I had forgotten. Our place is one of those white buildings. They almost look like they belong in Greece, I think. Nice mountains too.
We bought the townhouse in 2010 with money I inherited after my mother’s death in 2009. We purchased it as an investment with no intention of renting it, but after about two years of its sitting there, furnished and pretty, we decided to share the joy.
Turned out to be a good investment. We would have paid much less now than we paid in 2010. The dollar equivalent then was about $76,000. Now it would be about $20,000 less. Oh well, you buy your condos, and you take your chances.
But it’s worth more now than we paid, and it’s fun to have.
We also have a condo in Mexico City, which is far smaller. It was where my child bride was living when we met lo these many years ago. We just recently got the deed to that place, so we own three, free and clear.
IF IT’S NOT raining, I might sit around noon on a web chair by the glass-top table, shaded by the big, brown umbrella, feet atop another chair, for no better reason than pleasure.
I did that on Friday past.
I usually bring my Kindle and camera too in case a hummingbird sits a spell atop a nearby bloom. I’ve been hunting a shot, but when the hummers spot the camera, they zip away. When I don’t have the camera, they’ll come stare in my face.
The top shot was taken Friday when the yard needed a mow. The bottom two shots were taken yesterday after a mow.
I’ve had people ask me, “What’s up with the lawn? It doesn’t look like Mexico.” Well, the grass was mostly here when we bought the double lot. There’s wasn’t much else, but there was plenty of grass, an endless, freaking headache.
I’ve been telling myself for years that I’m uprooting all of it, or most of it, and laying down concrete and rock, but I never do it. Two reasons: the cost and the (temporary) mess.
But I feel steel in my spine. I’m more determined. Alas, the rainy season started last month, so the work cannot begin till November at the earliest, giving me months to change my mind.
But I’m not going to change my mind!
I’ve even worked out a plan. Do it gradually.
When the rains end, we’ll do most of the section in the photo at the very bottom, empedrado* only up to the Jesus Patio. Beyond the Jesus Patio — that’s the Jesus Patio where you see chairs and a table — a larger and far more elegant patio will be dreamed up to eliminate all of the grass in that area. Next year.
The yard is too large to be included in one photo. From the upstairs terraza, I can see more of it but not all, even from up there. It’s absurdly big. There is no backyard because the house is built against a corner of the double lot.
If I had been smarter, I would have built our house on half the space, facing the main drag, and another, a rental, facing the back street. There are two entries. But I was not smart.
I was a dumb Gringo in over his head.
But at least, gradually, I am now determined to resolve this grass curse.** Pray the steel stays in my spine till November.
I want to sit on the (much enlarged) Jesus Patio, which will need a new name, and gaze upon stone and cement, less grass.
Like the Reverend King: I have a dream.
* A surface of concrete and stone, very common in Mexico. The sidewalk is empedrado.
** A curse due to its lunatic growth during the five-month rainy season. You can never turn your back. You surely cannot travel anywhere more than a week.
(Note: Another grass section is to the right of the middle photo. It’s sizable but the smallest of the three sections. It’s where sit the monster bougainvillea and the towering nopal tree. It will be filled with stone and cement too, but not this year. The bougainvillea and nopal will stay in place.
Now it’s my turn. I will state prices in U.S. dollars using the current exchange rate of about 21/1.
The post office box: This set us back $16. Mail comes down here slowly, but it arrives. Be patient.
Water: We pay annually at City Hall for the downtown Casita. It was $90.* Here in the hardscrabble outskirts of town where the Hacienda sits, we pay at an office on our local plaza. I usually pay four months in advance. The monthly price for unlimited water is $2.38. The Mexico City condo is about $1.60.
Property tax: We own three homes. I’ll add them together and announce the total of (drum roll) $84. If you need smelling salts, I’ll mail some to you. Be patient.
We pay property tax for the Hacienda and the Downtown Casita, plus the Casita’s water bill at City Hall. See photo. It’s efficient. We were in and out in 15 minutes. I pay the Mexico City condo’s property tax online.
Garbage pickup: Whatever you want to tip the guys.
I suggest 50 cents.
Car tax: We have two cars. Up until a few years ago, this was pretty steep for late-model cars, but then they canceled the tax. I never understood exactly why. Now we just pay for window stickers. The total for the 2009 Honda and the 2014 Nissan was $78. That was last year. It will be about the same this year. We have until March 1 to pay. I do it online.
Bank Trust Deed: I mention this only because Steve Cotton has it on his list. He lives on the sweaty, bug-infested coast, and there are laws about foreigners buying coastal property. He doesn’t own the land where Casa Cotton sits.
We own the land on which our Hacienda sits. There is no bank trust deed to mess with. He paid $522. We paid squat. In fact, the sum of all our payments — property tax, water, trash pickup, etc., on three homes, car taxes — is about half of Steve’s bank trust deed alone.
Remember those old tour books titled Mexico on $5 a Day? Of course, you can’t do Mexico on $5 a day anymore, but it’s still inexpensive to visit — and to live here too.
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* This one thing, the Casita water bill, is by far the highest single payment we owe every year.
Note: Steve Cotton and two family members will drive to the mountaintop next week. They’ll stay a week in the Downtown Casita for free. If you’re nice to me, you might be able to stay there free too.
WE OWN three homes. One is the Hacienda where we live. Another is the Downtown Casita* where nobody lives. The third is the condo in Mexico City where nobody lives either.
All are stylishly furnished.
If we had to pay Gringo-level property taxes on those babies, we’d dump them fast as a flash.
My second ex-wife still lives in the Ranch-style home we purchased in 1986 in Houston for about $65,000. It’s valued far more now, and she pays way more in property tax than we pay for our three Mexican addresses combined.
We’re likely going to add a fourth address to our real estate empire. It’s a new development of just 11 off-street lots downtown here in a fantastic location.
And all utilities are ready to go, buried underground.
It’s just the lot. We’re not going to build a house, so it will be an investment, nothing more. And with the peso-dollar exchange rate what it is, the price is stupendo!
More on this later, I suppose.
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* Available to vacationers for a quite reasonable price!
(Note: Actually, we will own five properties if you believe our electricity provider which lists my wife’s pastry kitchen as a commercial storefront, a separate account. Its bimonthly bill is usually a bit higher than the entire Hacienda bill.)
THE VIEW OUT the back window, the upstairs bathroom window, changes often, and it’s always interesting. I have photographed and presented the scene before, of course. Here’s today’s version, the one with the pink bedspread hanging out to dry.
We too hang our clothes on a line to dry, so in that respect we’re like the neighbors. One day perhaps we’ll buy a dryer to go along with our washer, but I doubt it. It would be a gas dryer because when we constructed the Hacienda we had the guys install a gas line for that purpose.
Let’s see. What can we talk about today? Well, it’s been raining quite a bit, which is totally out of character for March, normally a bone-dry month. Last week, it rained 72 hours nonstop if you don’t count occasional, 15-minute pauses to regroup. But now it’s blue, cool and beautiful.
We have vacationers, a Canadian threesome, through the end of the month in our downtown Casita. And the Casita’s neighbors, going uphill, also Canadians, are here for another week or so. They don’t live here, just visit a couple times a year from their sailboat where they hang out off the British Columbian coast.
I noticed this morning on a Yahoo forum that focuses on our area that other Casita neighbors, down the hill a bit, have put their place on the market for $139,000 U.S., including all furnishings, not a bad price.* If you decide to take advantage of this great opportunity, tell them that Felipe sent you. I’ll get a prize.
At first, I figured they were moving back above the Rio Bravo, but no. The owner told me they are moving to the Gringo-infested Lake Chapala area where there’s more stuff going on. Seems they lived there before and are missing it. Since I favor fewer Gringos around here, their departure is a plus, which is not to say they’re not nice people because they are. I just favor fewer Gringos as a general rule.
I don’t want my mountaintop to be like San Miguel de Allende.
But they likely will sell to other Gringos, making it a wash. Mexicans might buy the place, but due to the current exchange rate, it would set them back over 2 million pesos. I’m betting on more Gringos, which I favor in our little housing development for the sole reason that Mexicans can be very noisy.
Yes, I am sorta contradicting myself, but I don’t care.
So that’s what we’ve talked about today. It decided itself. The neighbors out back with the pink bedspread, and then we moved on to the tenants at our downtown Casita, the Canadians next door, and then the other couple selling their property. It’s nice to have neighbors and tenants. Gives one something to ramble on about.
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* We paid just under 1 million pesos for our Casita five years ago, which was about $77,000 U.S. due to the exchange rate at that time. Pretty sweet deal.