When I have down time during my day, I enjoy window shopping as much as the next person. It was even more tantalizing to do before I had ever stepped foot in Mérida, and every listing seemed like an extraordinary bargain offered with the sound of a ticking clock in the background.
Before you visit a few times, you’ll find listings carry some assumptions that may or may not actually be true for you: That being near Parque Santiago is where the lucky gringos live. Being across from the Mérida English Language Library is essential. That a particular listing is the last good deal to be had. I believed all these things once, and it took a good deal of time to self-educate. You learn what you gain and what you give up in each neighborhood. You start to figure out whether size or location is more important. You soon learn about the tradeoffs — those larger, cheaper properties are in the south deprive you of quick access to the modern stores, and beachfront, of the north. Corner properties are problematic. Gulchy homes near the library tend to be on smaller lots with “martini pools,” a term popularized on the second of the “House Hunters International” shows. We can all see what houses are listed at, but finding out what they really sold for isn’t quite so easy, so few people in town really have a handle on the market. In some cities, being near public transportation is a plus, but you soon learn why a Mérida listing brags about being on a “non-bus street.” On top of learning about visas and the fideicomiso process, it’s helpful to learn the lay of the land.
If you’re used to U.S./Canadian suburban living, with decks and patios hanging off the edge of your houses, Centro floor plans seem inside-out. These homes offer much more privacy, but tend to lock in some rooms, blocked from any light or air. A definite design dilemma. Unless you’ve regularly toured old Colonial cities set in tropical conditions, you have a lot of figuring-out to do. (Hint: Think central courtyard.)
What I’ve learned is eye-opening, and little disenchanting after buying in to so much hype. Innocence lost, I still adore Mérida, and I’ll enjoy it all the more now that I have a more solid sense of my priorities, and a keener eye for property potential.
Do I wish I could just click on to an attractive Centro home, wire $350,000 USD on my lunch break, and jet down that weekend to see what I bought? People are, indeed, snapping up properties sight unseen, maybe after having someone local vet it for them. This happened to me — I flew down to see something that was new online, and someone beat me to the punch with just a few phone calls. I can relate. When I want something, I generally want it yesterday, so finding the patience and confidence to wait, wait, wait has been a real test for me.
One message of Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado’s book, Magic Made in Mexico is that surviving here means calling on your better angels. We are reminded of the virtues, from A to Z, that make all of us better people. P is for patience.