Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Yesterday, I showed you one of the ways of getting into Mexican real estate market with as little as $25,000 of investment money. Today, I'm going to tell you about a more advanced method that will only work in larger cities, such as Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterray...

If your budget allows it, a very profitable way of investing in Mexican real estate is to buy remates bancarios, which are similar to REOs, or real estate owned (by the bank) in the United States. These are houses in the medium to high price range, which can be bought with a significant discount, but unlike REOs, they don’t come with a clear title.

Because of the laws favoring the homeowner, it may take years for the bank to get the house back from an owner who stopped paying his mortgage. In other words, despite lack of payment, the homeowner cannot be easily evicted and the banks leave this task to the new buyer. If you decide to get into this market, you have to be prepared to pay the previous owner several thousands of dollars for his cooperation, or in the case of tenants, wait until their lease expires.

Also, be advised to do thorough research before buying any remate bancario, and enlist the help of both a real estate lawyer and a local real estate agent. However complicated this may sound, keep in mind that the reward justifies all the effort, as the net profit on a $200,000 house could be as high as $30,000-$40,000 realized within a six months period.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


If you dream about becoming an international investor but think that you’d need at least $200,000 to start, you will be pleasantly surprised with what the real estate market in Mexico has to offer. It is still possible to find undervalued properties in need of some TLC in less affluent parts of Guadalajara and Zapopan, and unlike in the United States, the blue collar areas of these cities are perfectly safe and very attractive to the buyers.

Even with the home loan market growing, and mortgages readily available and heavily advertised by the banks, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and mistrust among the lower and middle class, and therefore the majority of the purchase and sale transactions are exclusively cash deals. This is why the houses within the $20,000-$30,000 price range are extremely popular and are usually sold within days through newspaper ads and the word of mouth.

The small, two bedroom townhouses often need electrical updates, paint, flooring and a few kitchen cabinets, but if the materials are bought in local stores, they are much less expensive than in the States. Plus, the labor cost is minimal, which should not be surprising taking into consideration that the minimum wage in Mexico oscillates around $5 a day.

After the repairs, there are two basic exit strategies: sell the house for a profit of about $5,000 or rent it for about $250 a month unfurnished or $300 furnished. With so many out-of-town and international students, there is high demand for furnished bedrooms and apartments. It is customary to ask for a deposit in the amount of two month’s rent if the prospective tenant does not have a non-related cosigner but ultimately the decision is yours. The tenants usually take a good care of the apartment but you want to protect yourself by making sure that all the lease paperwork is filled out properly, signed, and notarized in a rare case that you do need to take them to the court.

Tomorrow, I will show you how you can profit in the Mexican real estate market if you can afford a bigger initial investment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


In Mexico, one can encounter public bathrooms in all states of comfort, cleanliness and repair--or disrepair. The nicest ones are usually found in the best hotels, resorts and fancy restaurants, but there are no rules. Some restaurants will let you walk in and use their facilities, others reserve them strictly for customers. In hotels, there is usually a bathroom near the bar or restaurant area, and it is relatively easy to sneak in.

And then there are the other public restrooms.

At gas stations. Some can be quite unusable: dirty, smelly, no toilet paper, no soap, no water… others can be surprisingly clean and equipped with all necessities. I had the best luck with restrooms located in convenience stores like Oxxo, and they are free of charge.

In long-distance buses. Only the higher-end bus lines offer restrooms. They are usually at least somewhat cleaned before departure, but very soon they run out of toilet paper and water. If your bus is not direct and has a few stops before reaching the final destination, a better option may be to use…

Bus station restrooms. To enter, you will have to deposit 2-3 pesos in the coin operated passage opener, so remember to have some change with you. The state of cleanliness varies greatly, but generally you can count on toilet paper and water. IMPORTANT: sometimes toilet paper is only available at the entrance, either distributed by an attendant or on a roll, and there is none in the stalls.

Airport restrooms. Those aren’t as large as in other parts of the world. Even at the Mexico City airport, the restrooms only have 2-3 stalls. They are usually very clean and have all the necessary supplies, but the lines can be really long, so if you think you might have to go soon, don’t wait until the last minute :)

Street restrooms. Those are few and far between. In San Miguel de Allende, a city of almost 100,000 inhabitants, there is only one.

General rules. When you are on the go, especially when traveling or visiting a new location, expect the worst and come prepared. Since many Mexican towns don’t have adequate water supply, and the standard of many public facilities leaves much to be desired, check the reservoir before using the toilet to see if you will be able to flush it. Also, check for toilet paper before it’s too late. The majority of stalls don’t have hooks, so unless you travel alone, leave your purse with your companions. Do not assume that if there is a sink you will be able to wash your hands afterwards. And always make sure that there is running water before covering your hands with soap. So to avoid public restroom mishaps and disasters, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer and a package of Kleenex with you at all times…just in case.

And another important thing: Mexican plumbing, except in newly constructed or updated buildings, cannot handle paper, even toilet paper. For whatever reason, the pipes clog very easily. So please, don’t add to the problem; deposit all the paper in a basket that you will invariably find next to the toilet, instead of flushing it down.

Friday, May 18, 2007

WHEN YOU GOTTA a public bathroom (written by a woman)

My mother was a regular visitor of the public bathrooms. Even when I was still very small, she was taking me to a bathroom, teaching me to clean the seat of the toilet with toilet paper and to carefully put strips of paper on the perimeter of the seat. Finally she was instructing me: "Never, never sit on a toilet in a public bathroom". And then she was showing me "the position" of balancing the body in a “sitting position” without it making any contact with the toilet seat.

That was long ago, and today in our more mature years, "the position" is painfully difficult to maintain when your bladder is about to burst. When you "must go" to a public bathroom, you find a line of women so long it makes you think that Brad Pitt’s skivvies are on sale and at half price. So you wait patiently and you smile amiably to the others that also are discreetly crossing their legs, and about the kind of stupid things that only single women in a line to pee can talk about.

Finally it’s your turn, you check underneath each stall door to see if there are any legs. All are occupied, finally one opens and you throw yourself in, almost pushing into the person who is leaving. You enter and realize that the bolt on the door isn’t working; no problem... you will keep it closed with your hand. When you want to hang your purse on a hook that should be on the door....., there is no hook, so you hang it on your neck trying to balance it underneath your breasts, trying not to concentrate on the strap breaking your neck because of all the stuff you had been throwing inside the purse. Relief...... Ahhhhhh..... More relief... but suddenly you have a desire to fart, yet you resist out of fear of making a sound like a whistle of an old locomotive that would be heard in stalls on both sides. So on the one hand, you are emptying your bladder and on the other you keep your ass tightened so you don’t fart.... suddenly your cell phone rings – and, obviously, it’s in the purse. Now is when your thighs begin to shake.... you would love to sit down, but you didn’t have time to clean the toilet seat nor cover it with paper, so you remain in "the position" while your legs shake so hard that they would register 8 on the Richter scale, without counting the fine drizzle of the spurt that bounces off the stoneware floor and drenches your socks, AND THAT OTHERS WILL SURELY NOTICE!!!

Luckily the telephone stopped ringing. To move your mind away of the misfortune, you look for the roll of toilet paper, but nooooooo! the roll is empty.... Your legs are shaking even more. You remember that small piece of paper with which you cleaned your nose a while ago. That would have to be sufficient. You try to puff it up but it is smaller than the nail of your finger and in addition it’s still covered with snot...

At that moment, somebody pushes the door of your stall and as the bolt doesn’t work and your hands are occupied, you receive a tremendous blow in the head. You scream like crazy:


While you continue pushing the door with your free hand, the cell phone rings again and in an attempt to turn it off, the small piece of "kleenex" that you had in your hand it falls precisely into that small pool on the floor and you are not sure if it is water or hmmmm... piss....ha! Your legs can no longer hold you, you back up a step and you fall, sitting on the toilet. You rise quickly and with disgust, but it is too late; your ass has already made contact with the enemy, with all the germs and life forms living on the seat, because you never covered it with toilet paper, that wasn’t there anyway, even if you had had time to do it. Not counting the blow in the head, the neck almost broken with the purse strap, the splashes of pee on the legs and the socks, which......... shoot! are still wet.... a memory of your mother comes to your mind telling you "what a disgrace!!!... don’t you know about all the kinds of diseases you could catch here.......".

But the story doesn’t end here... now the automatic sensor of the toilet is so confused with all your movements that it lets out all the water there was in the reservoir with such force that you have to grab the tube that holds the toilet paper (when there is some) for fear of being sucked into the toilet and appearing in China.

Here is when you finally surrender. You are soaked by the water that came from the toilet like from a fountain, you are exhausted, you try to dry yourself with a cellophane wrap of Adams bubblegum; and then you proceed to the sink. You don’t know how the automatic sensors work so you clean your hands with saliva, you dry them with a paper towel, you go toward the exit passing the line of women waiting with the legs crossed, and at the moment you are incapable of smiling nicely.

A compassionate soul at the end of the line tells you that you are dragging toilet paper the length of the Mississippi river stuck your shoe...! You tear it off of the shoe, you shove it in the hand of the woman who told you about the paper and you say to her smoothly: "Here, take it... you may need it!!!" and leave.

At this moment you look at your husband who has entered, used and left the men’s bathroom and who had more than enough time to read War and Peace while he was waiting for you. “What took you so long?” he asks you in an alarmed voice... "I was worried... I even called your cell twice in case something had happened to you... and you didn’t answer!!!!” Here it is when once and for all you tell him to piss off and go to hell.

The person who sent it to me has dedicated it to all the women who have ever had to use a public bathroom. Finally, this explains to men, why the women take so much time in the bathroom.

Adela Micha, Entertainer of Mexican TV
(Translated from Spanish by Marzena)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


- I’m not feeling very social tonight, said L. Let’s go out and get some tacos.

It was around 10 pm, and we were sitting in Planta Baja, a recently opened restaurant in the center of San Miguel de Allende. We’d had some drinks but no food, except some free popcorn to accompany the liquor.

The night was cool and breezy; fortunately we didn’t have to walk far. The warm orange glow of the taco stand was beaconing from just a few blocks away. Remembering how crowded the place usually is, I was pleasantly surprised to see only a few people gathered around it.

I reached it first. My hunger intensified by the sight and aroma of freshly prepared food, I couldn’t wait for L and S approaching slowly, immersed in a dialogue.

- Dos tacos al pastor con mucho queso, por favor.

Only then did I realize that the four young men standing next to me were speaking German. Two of them were wearing typical Bavarian lederhosen made of brown suede. L, contrary to his earlier statement, immediately struck a conversation with them, and within a few minutes the show began. To the recorded sound of some Bavarian folk music, the young Germans performed a well rehearsed dance. Almost without moving the upper bodies, they gracefully followed a sequence of steps, clapping their thighs, shins, and feet with the palms of their hands. We were watching the spectacle with delight; even the Mexicans were mesmerized by the dance so different from the familiar salsa.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Mexico has made a decision to simplify its immigration laws in recognition of human rights, the dignity of the immigrants, and the cultural richness that they bring to the country.

Many of over five million foreigners currently living in Mexico will soon have a chance to apply for permanent residency. According to the official announcement by the Commissioner of the Mexican National Migration Institute (INM), Cecilia Romero, all those who came to Mexico before January 1, 1995, and satisfy the requirements, will be able to apply for an FM2 visa, a document that grants legal residency in Mexico.

Until now, one had to maintain a temporary resident status (any FM3 variety) for 5 years before becoming eligible to upgrade the status to permanent.
So if you have been in Mexico for about two and a half years and would like to stay there indefinitely, you can apply for an FM2 if you:

• are related by blood or marriage to a Mexican national;
• are employed;
• are engaged in a profitable business activity benefiting the country;
• can prove monthly passive income of 400 times minimum daily regional wage (currently US $1,900-$2,000 a month) or half that amount if you own your home in Mexico.

For more information please DO NOT contact a Mexican Consulate near you. Call at least five of them, and you will likely receive five different sets of FM2 requirements.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


What I love about Mexico is the multitude of tiny mom and pop stores (tiendas) located on every corner and popping out of every crevice. They are usually open from 8 am until 10 pm, even on major holidays. So if you run out of milk, eggs, coffee or other basic product, no problem. There’s no need to get in a car and drive to a supermarket. Help is around the corner…literally.

Just remember to have plenty of coins or small bills, otherwise you may find yourself forced to buying much more than you need, or walking from store to store until you find one that has enough money to give you change. Also, tiendas tend to have the shelves filled mostly with junk foods and sweets, so they are not likely to fulfill all your grocery needs.

In any case, don’t get too comfortable, and don’t even try to figure out the Mexican way of doing business. As soon you get used to a particular brand, the store will switch to another. As soon as you find a store carrying your favorite product, they will discontinue it. When you have a shopping emergency, all the stores will likely be out of whatever you need. And when you finally give up, go to the local supermarket, and fill your shopping cart to the brim…you may learn that the supply of plastic bags did not arrive that day.

So, next time you go shopping, keep a spare plastic bag in your pocket, and keep smiling.