Stunning Puerto Escondido Mexico
The Observer Guardian Unlimited
By Gareth Rubin
Sunday April 8, 2007
And over the border in Guatemala the casas are beautiful, traditional and cheap.
The sunrise over Puerto Escondido, the swish former fishing town on Mexico's southern coast with a booming trade in upmarket tourism, is almost reminiscent of a symphony. Delicate spots of light play across the blue waves, occasionally picking out turtles, while the sun's yellow beams stream over the beach. It is no surprise that 'Puerto' has become the Mexican retreat of choice for wealthier European and American settlers.
Despite average price rises of 20 to 30 per cent per year over the last three years, property here is still reasonable. While most gringos choose to buy a plot of land and build a modern high-design villa to their own specification, there are also a number of developers producing good-quality housing quickly and at low cost. Nashville-born Nancye Radmin from Puerto Real Estate explains: 'It's always sunny here, so we have no downtime; no frozen ground means we can build continually.'
Don Goyo is one of Puerto Escondido's new developments. It is made up of 16 goodsized homes circled around a central communal space with two swimming pools. Each house has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a roof terrace looking out over the sea, and comes with a price tag of £65,000. There's an additional £25 per month service charge for gardening, pool maintenance and so on.
The estimated weekly rental value for the houses is £250, with average occupancy expected to be between six and eight months per year. Tenants are likely to be families on holiday or young surfers drawn to Mexico's most famous surfing town.
Puerto Escondido has about 60,000 residents. Getting to it by road can be an ordeal, but there is an airport with daily services to Mexico City and other major towns.
The sunset over Antigua, the former colonial capital of Guatemala, is an altogether moodier aff air. As the orange glow falls on blue, yellow and ochre-coloured houses - many of which have survived 200 years and three major earthquakes - silhouetted against the sky are the three volcanoes that stand sentinel over the city. One, Pacaya, has been in constant eruption for 40 years; you can pick out the stream of red lava from miles away.
The charming town is Guatemala's biggest tourist draw and also Central America's biggest centre for teaching Spanish, with hundreds of American and European students here at any one time.
The town was established by the conquistadors and many of its older properties are in the Spanish hacienda style, with a central courtyard and the odd Moorish touch. Much of the new construction retains this style; the town is a Unesco world heritage site, so building is strictly limited to certain areas and certain forms.
In most areas you can only build a traditional single-storey home. But in the upmarket Castilla de Belen ('Bethlehem Castle') development, two-storey homes are going up. Three- or four-bedroom properties go for about £140,000, renting for about £220 per week year-round. Buyers can choose exactly what rooms they want constructed and where, with most people opting for the traditional courtyard and open-plan living areas. Most also have a light-well in the kitchen, developed from the central fireplace that local houses would once have had.
Houses here are still sold with reference to the var a - the traditional Spanish measurement that is the distance between the nose and the thumb on an outstretched arm. Plots are sold by the manzana , which is the area enclosed by 100 nose -to-thum b measurements squared. In Antigua, 40 per cent of the area of any development, most of which are gated, must be given over to common area, resulting in breezy, open developments with plenty of green space.
Additional extras such as a small flat for a gardener or maid (domestic staff usually cost about £10 per day) and a pool are common. And virtually everyone opts to have a roof terrace. 'The thing about the roof terrace is you can only really use it at sunset,' says Casa Nova Real Estate's Brian Wilson, a Canadian who settled here. 'It's too hot during the day. But at night, sitting up here and watching the lava flow on Pacaya is something else.'
But the biggest draw? Simply the weather. 'We get our rainy season here, but I haven't had to shovel snow from a driveway since I left Canada,' says Wilson.
Original article at Puerto Escondido
Come visit us - you may decide you want to retire here.