Tag Archives: real estate

The cursed grass

Friday, before Saturday’s grass cutting by Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

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.

This large semicircle is the only grass I want to keep. About a third of it all.
This is the first grass that will go. It continues way off to the left.

* 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.

Change of scenery

houston
Where I lived for 15 years. Houston.
street
Where I’ve lived for 17 years.

THE FIRST five years of my life, I resided in the countryside, a farm not far from Sylvester, Georgia.

The latest census puts Sylvester’s population at about 6,000 souls. Lord knows what it was in the late 1940s when I was toddling around there in the dirt.

My current mountaintop pueblo is home to about 80,000 folks, dwarfing the population of Sylvester, but 80,000 is a far cry from the 6 million you’ll find in Houston’s metropolitan area or even the 2 million in the city itself.

Before moving to my mountaintop, Houston was where I lived and worked. I don’t work anymore unless you count pulling weeds and watering veranda potted plants.

I play and relax.

The switch from Houston to this mountaintop pueblo was a drastic move. I’m a big-city boy. And my child bride is a big-city girl. Why are we here?

Lack of communication.

One morning, about two years after constructing and moving into the Hacienda, we were sitting on the veranda in our wicker rockers, talking. We discovered that we’d both have preferred settling in a big city.

How did we not know this? Answer: I assumed she wanted to live here because relatives live here, especially her favorite sister. She assumed I wanted to live here because I was here and had moved here intentionally.

But we never discussed it specifically. Dumb, huh?

Why not sell the Hacienda and move elsewhere? Actually, about that time, I did advertise it online, and got an offer for twice what we had paid to build this place.

But I chickened out because I love our home, and there is a large city nearby, the capital down the mountainside. But, aside from weekly Costco shopping jaunts, we rarely go there.

We’ve become small-city folks. But every time I see a photo of Houston, I sigh. And she likely does the same when we make our twice-a-year visits to Mexico City, which is where she lived when I found her.

But we can stand in the yard on dark nights and see stars from horizon to horizon. And I never heard roosters at dawn or burros anytime in Houston.

Just occasional gunfire.

* * * *

(Note: We’ll be home this afternoon from San Miguel de Allende where we fled on Sunday to avoid the worst of Carnival in our hardscrabble neighborhood.)

Real estate baron

sala
Hacienda living room as seen from the dining room table this morning.

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.

* * * *

* 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.)

Home Sweet Home

house

THIS HOUSE sits directly across the street, and its upper reaches are clearly visible from our upstairs terraza, which is where I was standing as I snapped this shot.

It’s been sitting there, unpainted, unfinished, for years. I imagine it’s someone’s retirement home, down the line. Building homes, very slowly, bit by bit, is common in Mexico. Often the cash is being sent by illegals in the United States.

But I don’t think that’s the situation here. About two years ago, there was a snazzy sedan parked outside, and I spotted a middle-aged couple on the roof, looking our way. I waved, and they waved back. New neighbors, someday.

Maybe they work in Guadalajara or Mexico City.

Prior to that, for a year or so, construction was under way over there. It reached the point you see here, and stopped. Nothing has happened since, a couple of years now.

When it’s finished and painted, it will join the Hacienda as one of the nicest homes in our hardscrabble neighborhood.

Home Sweet Home — for them.

Recently, I learned of another Home Sweet Home, but it is being sold. It belongs to a cyber-amiga named Debi and her husband, Tom. They are selling their house in downtown Mérida in order to return to the United States.

You encounter this on occasion. Gringos or Canucks who move to Mexico but discover it’s too much for them, the changes.

What’s unusual in Debi and Tom’s case is the long time they’ve lived here. Most people, I believe, see the error of their ways rather rapidly, within a year or two — or even months. Debi and Tom have lived in Mexico almost a decade.

If you’re looking to move to Mexico, their Mérida home would be a nice choice. They even have a low-mileage, Mexican-plated 2002 Chevy Corsa that appears to come with the deal.

But returning to the United States after a decade in Mexico is an inexplicable move as I see it. A team of wild, angry burros could not drag me back across the Rio Bravo.

debi
Back yard with pool at Debi’s house.

 

Bits of existence

goodies

MY LOVELY WIFE, as some of you know, bakes and sells pastries most every Saturday afternoon on the main plaza downtown. This has been going on for more than four years. Her stuff is really good.

Street sales are common in Mexico, and tourists are warned away from it, primarily because there is no government quality control, the sort the Gringos love to impose on small merchants above the Rio Bravo. That sort of “quality control” results in few street sales up in that part of the world.

And a generally more boring urban environment.

Their loss. When is the last time you saw something like this on a street in Terre Haute?

By the way, I’ve been buying street food here for 15 years with little problem.

And that includes seafood.

* * * *

Let’s mosey on now to another topic. Again, as some of you know, we own what I call a downtown Casita. When my mother died in January of 2009, I inherited a bit of cash, and we used most of it to buy the downtown Casita. It’s “downtown” because it’s just a 10-minute walk from the main plaza downtown, not to be confused with the plaza near the Hacienda.

The downtown plaza is big, beautiful and famous. Our neighborhood plaza is also big and beautiful but not famous at all. We have this neighborhood plaza and its abutting church because the neighborhood used to be a separate town. But no more.

We have been devoured, municipally speaking. Many years ago, when we were a separate town, we had a nickname. The Village of the Damned. That’s a story for some other day.

The purpose of purchasing the downtown Casita over five years ago was less than fixed. It just seemed like a good idea at the time, and real estate is usually a good investment. Not always, of course, as has been demonstrated in recent years in the United States. Sometimes you get hosed.

We furnished the downtown Casita beautifully, as is our custom, and it sat vacant most always for the first three or so years. We passed by every week to tidy up, water the plants, and a maid did a better cleaning once a month. In the beginning, we spent an occasional night there.

A couple of years ago we began renting it to tourists for brief stays. That does not happen often, and it still sits vacant most of the time. Many people remain afraid of Mexico, which is arrant nonsense.

And now we’ve arrived at the reason for mentioning all this. It’s renovation time! Yes, we’ve hired the same crew that constructed the pastry workshop a couple of months ago at the Hacienda, and they will give the Casita a facelift. It was getting a little tatty around some edges.

Most of the work will be painting, but other things will be done too. It will take a couple of weeks, we’ve been told, which means it will take a month. That’s how stuff works here.

Here’s how the Casita looked a few years ago, nice and fresh, and soon it will look that way again. If any of you want a nice vacation home, I’ll rent it to you, perhaps with a special “Moon Discount.” It’s not really a casita. It’s a two-bedroom condo with off-street parking.

Looks a bit like Greece, doesn’t it?

100_0274

 

100_0279

Changing world

lovely
Child bride sits on love seat, a good place for her.

IMAGINE MY GLEE on seeing our high mountain lake through the window of the second-class (or was it third?) bus we took from the state capital to the Hacienda, the final leg of our return trip from Mexico City, on Friday.

I’m not a fan of Mexico City, but we must go there at least twice a year to air out and tidy up our tiny condo.

Things are changing. First off, we made some significant progress in wresting the deed from a government agency, and it appears now that all depends on a deed lawyer, who’s in private practice and, perhaps, a bit more efficient than the aforementioned government agency.

And our next-door neighbors, there on the fourth floor, appear quite interested in buying the place once we get the proper paperwork in hand. Perhaps in another year. I pray so.

If you want to get your bid in, the price is 500,000 pesos, fully furnished. That’s about $35,000 U.S. at the moment. Property tax is about 40 bucks a year. Staggering.

sink

Our world there is changing, but before I dive into that, here’s a photo of the condo’s sink area, which sits not inside, but outside, the little space that encloses the shower and john. That’s me snapping the shot.

But now, the changes. We’ll start with the photos just below. Right beside our condo complex is this uncompleted junk of a construction. It was there when my wife purchased the condo in the mid-1990s, and it’s never been anything but an eyesore, reducing our property values.

We have no clue what it was intended to be, but it was abandoned in mid-construction God knows how long ago. When we arrived on Monday we discovered it is being renovated and will become a “cultural center,” whatever that means. A sign says there will also be yoga and exercise classes.

The eyesore will be no more. We don’t know why the building sits on concrete pillars, but we suspect it was to park tractor-trailers below. The area used to be industrial, but that’s changing rapidly, and we’re going upscale.

old
The unfinished end.
new
The almost finished other end.

And there are other changes as well. When our tenants left in 2006, and we painted and furnished the condo in January of 2007, we brought books for the bookshelves. We purchased a DVD player for renting movies at the nearby Blockbuster.

Now, the books are decorations. We read Kindles.* The DVD player is unused. Evenings we watch movies on Netflix on the Samsung Tablet via wi-fi from our neighbor’s apartment.

In 2007, there was a dinky, dingy shopping center a long walk away. Now it’s a huge, modern complex with a snazzy Walmart, cineplex, food court, banks, restaurants, you name it.

* * * *

Speaking of that cineplex, we saw a movie on Thursday afternoon. Two of the current biggies were available: Fifty Shades of Grey and American Sniper. Which to choose?

Since I can bind my wife with rope for sessions with whips, feather dusters, oils and leather straps whenever the urge strikes me, but I cannot shoot Mohammedan terrorists, their enablers and dupes,** the choice was clear. We bought tickets to American Sniper.

Kyle

Great movie. It left me teary at the end. I admire Chris Kyle immensely, though clearly he was a little off-balance. No matter. He was a superlative soldier, and my hat is off to him. We need more of his caliber.

Especially in the White House.

* * * *

* Did you know that there are Mexican versions of eBooks?

** Alas.

Mexico City Blues

Traveling in style on the elegant ETN line.
Traveling in style on the elegant ETN bus line.

WE RETURNED from Mexico City yesterday. The visit was quite successful, and there were no blues in sight. I just like the title, which I stole from Jack Kerouac’s book of poetry.

The trip had a dual purpose: 1. Tidy up and air out the apartment, which we do at least twice a year. 2. Do something about getting the apartment’s deed since it was paid off more than three years ago.

We succeeded at both. The apartment is tidy, and the deed process is finally in motion. I said in a comment on the previous Mexico City post that we should have the deed by year’s end. That was wrong. It will take up to a full year to get the deed in our hands, we were were told. No matter. It’s in the pipeline at last.

So that gives you plenty of time to save your $38,000 (or whatever our getting $500,000 pesos will require, depending on the exchange rate). Here are some more photos.

outside
The grand view. We’re on the fourth floor.

The place is only about four miles from the Alameda, rapidly reached down one of two avenues, one named Cien Metros and the other Vallejo.

The Metrobus system passes one long block from our apartment, and a subway stop (Instituto del Petróleo) is a bit farther, but not much.

The place comes fully furnished and with a lovely rose carpet, wall to wall, in the living room/dining room area. There’s also a clothes washer.

Living room looking thataway. Two door lead to bedrooms.
Living room looking thataway.  Kitchen to the right.

Two people fit here well for visits. It’s too small for permanent living, to my way of thinking, but some of the neighbors have entire families stacked into one of the units, which are all identical.

The property tax this year was about $30 U.S., so you can see that it’s quite economical. There’s a hookup to Gas Natural, a Mexican company that provides propane to one and all.

I mentioned in the previous Mexico City post that the bathroom is very small, too small to even have the sink inside it.

Instead the sink is in a recessed area just outside. We replaced the humble sink my child bride had lived with for six years with something far more elegant that we purchased at Sears at the Plaza Lindavista. I took a photo, which included me.

A selfie!
A selfie!

This should suffice to inspire you to start saving your pennies or pesos to purchase this great deal in about a year’s time. You’ll have your home away from home in one of the grandest cities on earth.

One thing I do in the nation’s capital, which I rarely do while at home about 225 miles away on the rural mountaintop, is watch the local news on the telly. That was how I learned that our left-wing demagogue, the perennial candidate who goes by his initials AMLO, is starting a new political party.

No other party wants him anymore.

It is called the Moreno Party, which means the Brown People’s Party. Yes, he knows that people are quite quick to vote their race. He likely learned that from Barry. Since 90 percent of Mexicans are brown, it’s not difficult to see what AMLO has on his mind.

Were this turkey to ever win, Mexico City — all of Mexico — would learn what it means to sing the blues. A post about this revolting development will follow. Stay tuned.