Three Mérida homes that deserve some love (updated)

Casa Santa Lucia

Beautifully designed Mérida homes, deprived of a loving buyer, are common in Yucatán. It seems every day there’s a new one, cold and alone, sitting idle in the streets of the Centro Historico. Won’t you adopt a deserving home today? Here are four:

1. Casa Santa Lucia. It’s a little small, but really smart looking, and check out the view from the roof patio. I thought for a while that I might have a view from my upper terrace, but it’s not the case. It’s a view of nothing; just there to catch a breeze, so I’m jealous

of anyone who can see church towers. Josh Ramos’ muted colors and restored beams simply still my heart. Having stayed in Santa Lucia a few times, I say it’s a good neighborhood to unpack your bags, and perfect to offer as a rental. When I balk at a property’s price and say that there’s so much on the market for much less, I’m thinking of houses like this one. ($325,000)

2. The Working Gringos’ House. If you’ve been following the blogs, you know its story, all documented in what resulted in a comprehensive “how-to” renovation guide — something I should be re-reading at this point. The Working Gringos’ house, down on a quiet stretch of 81, is enormous and has all the modern comforts, but was still designed with some sensible features that transcend time and trend: a central courtyard, grand corridor, and enough terraces to catch the breezes. A video was uploaded last May, and when “Agent Eric” stands in the middle of the yard and describes it as the “perfect tropical garden,” I believe him. ($445,000)

3. French Colonial in Mejorada. Such a beauty, and its price has been reduced. Dramatic entrance, a rear terrace that faces north, and the pool is lovely.  Is it the neighborhood? Are the photos misleadingly enchanting? What am I missing here. I keep hearing Mejorada will start really taking off, but if a gem like this (or this one, further west on 59) isn’t snapped up, maybe its time hasn’t come just yet. ($349,000)

This list could have been a lot longer, and come from two years of killing time on the real estate websites. But I’m mainly up north, and I could be dead wrong, especially since I haven’t seen any of these homes in person. I’d really like feedback on this post. Am I off base here?

June 20 update: Two of these homes (no. 1 and no. 2) are now under contract. I’ll be waiting for my commission check. 

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  1. Hola Lee,

    I am in Mérida for two weeks previewing homes and enjoying this lovely city. My preference thus far is to purchase a ruin with a remodel option. Like you, I would prefer to have my own design. There are many houses on the market, and like most places, many are very nice, many are not. I have toured the different districts and will refine my search to the ones that felt comfortable to me. I will avoid being near a mechanic, auto repair shop or bar and the advice that has been offered is very valuable.

    Thank you for the fun and informative posts. I always look forward to your next one!

    ¡Saludos desde Mérida!


    • Good luck, Ken, and keep in touch! It’s so true that many remodels are good, and many are not. It’s a shame so much money has been poured into (IMHO) ill-conceived projects. We interviewed six professionals, all of whom we trust, to do the job and our decision was difficult. But we respect the craft of design and architecture enough to know that we need an architect. We want to do our humble property justice.

  2. All these houses are lovely. Although, somehow, La Cocheria (The Garage) it just doesn’t seem practical even with the dramatic features. And I can’t get used to the idea of such dark rooms in the front of the home, I guess. And while some features look lovely, they might be maintenance headaches. Rough stone floors, for example, would be no fun to clean well regularly or would gather dirt if not.

    Here’s the main thing, though, about your question: There are extremely limited numbers of people in the world with $300,000 to $400,000 cold hard cash in hand. There are even more limited numbers who wish to live in Tropical Merida.

    The median net worth (1/2 above and 1/2 below) of American families is $120,000. The bottom 90% of Americans have an family annual income average of $31,244 per year. The next 10% move up to $164,647. Still not enough to buy one of these houses, unless they’ve been saving for a long time. (2008 data: )

    The top 1% moves up to over a million dollars per year. Now we’ve reached the people who can afford to lay out the cash! But do they want to move to Merida? Are they ready to retire? Any sales plan relying upon 1% or less of the population is tough. People do exist somewhere in the world willing to part with those sums. The odds of attracting them to any particular expensive house are not as bad as winning the lottery or being struck by lightning, but they aren’t great either.

    Yes, all four are lovely. But down to brass tacks: how many people in the world are willing to park hundreds of thousands in a non-income producing Merida home? Knock a $100,000 off each of them and they’d be closer to attracting a better sized market segment. Knock $150,000 to $200,000 off each and you’d be closer to the actual cost to build or refurbish them.

    The decision as to *how long to wait for how much profit* is in the hands of the owners/sellers. If they are happy waiting for a couple years or four, more power to them. Are the sellers interested in the “opportunity cost” to them of waiting for highed profits? Perhaps not.

    I love the beauty of three of these four and there are bits I do like about The Garage. I see the romanticism they inspire. Hell, I’d take one if you gave it to me. But it seems to me there are better ways to use those vast sums of money, including other houses located and personalized as the purchaser may desire — with money left over.

    Noise issues: there is noise everywhere, except perhaps in the artificial isolation of American suburbia. Even 20 miles from Merida sleeping in the country, the voices of a thousand frogs and shrieking birds can keep an unaccustomed person wide awake. As a child, we moved to a house 1/2 a block from train tracks with freight trains passing in the middle of the night, typically 2 and 4 am. Within a week, everyone slept right through the trains. People adapt.

    When looking at houses, buyers will hear sounds they’re not accustomed to. Once in the house and involved with a daily routine, outside sounds fade due to familiarity and the dwellers’ own sounds of living are more prominent. (in my experience)

    “Sound sensitive” people may not be well-suited for Mexico where raucous living and close quarters is fairly common. There are exceptions to every rule, of course.

    • I hear ya, YM. I never thought about what sweeping those floors might be like. The points you make point to why we bought a “ruin.” We want to put our own stamp on the house. The noise issue is a tough one, and at this point, our master bedroom will be alongside a neighboring rooster. We know it will never be the silent inner sanctum we enjoy NOB. We know that we’re taking a big chance.

  3. You are right about these homes. They are all very nice. I was in love with Santa Lucia from the very beginning, but the price was above our budget and the small (though lovely) kitchen was a disappointment. The master BR and baths are wonderful. If the price comes down to around $250K or a little less, I think it would go quickly. You just never know how much the owners actually have invested in a home. I still like Casa Vita Brevis, which now comes with an option to buy the adjacent lot and expand. It has been on the market forever.

    I will say, once again, if you want to live in the Centro, be prepared for some noise. Even on the “quiet” streets. Our little street is bustling during the day but at night is quite serene. I think it would be wise to avoid living close to a Bar. Otherwise, if your neighbor plays a radio too loud, my advice would be to put on Lady GaGa’s ‘Born This Way’ in a replay loop at full volume, leave for a couple of hours and see what happens. (Just kidding. I would never be that rude.)

    • I think blasting Gaga or anyone else would only encourage even more noise. I get the sense that some of these neighbors of mine like to party!

  4. Good morning Lee…

    I see that the weather in Merida plans on reaching a scorching 34 degrees today…I’m jealous.

    Regarding the four homes you have mentioned, I was in two of them during my last visit to Merida. Like many others, I think La Conchera was my first introduction to Merida on International House Hunters and also when I fell in love with Merida….After seeing that episode, I swore I’d own La Conchera one day, even if I had to beg, borrow or steal, to get it. When I was there in December, I had my realtor take us to La Conchera. Unfortunately, however, I was a bit disappointed to find that La Conchera seem to have fallen into a bit of disrepair but nothing a little TLC probably couldn’t have fixed.

    I also looked at a home called Casa Almendro,, while I was there….FABULOUS and only asking $279,000. If I were to compare the two, Casa Almendro (House of the Almond Tree) had far more to offer for the money. (The home also comes fully furnished) Check it out!!

    Perhaps that is why La Conchera isn’t moving…there’s alot of competition out there in Merida; alot of magnificant homes to choose from.

    Casa Santa Lucia was the other home that I viewed while I was there. You are right, it is a beautiful home with a great view from the rooftop, but it was a bit small in comparison to otheres I viewed. If memory serves me though, didn’t it have a sports bar next door to it? With all the open air living in these homes, perhaps any potential buyer had concerns as to the noise level at night living next to a sports bar….

    When looking for homes in Merida, I think one has to really to their homework. Be careful not to purchase your property next to a bar or an auto repair shop. While I was there, we rented a home next to a large antique store. Although there was no noise at night, during the day, however, we could smell the welding of irons and listened to a scratchy radio for most of the day. So, just be careful.


    • One blogger that I read said his neighbor on two sides, side and back, is an auto shop. It’s occasionally noisy, but by 5 p.m., they clear out, so he’s happy about that. Another house we saw, on 55, was nice but we could hear the juke box from Bar Chemas a block away. And there was another property that was gorgeous, only $100,000, but guess where it was. It was Chemas’ neighbor. The owner swears there’s no problems being next to the bar.

      • Bars are not so bad as neighbors because they don’t open until 10 am and have to close by 10pm or is it 9pm? neighbors can be noisy until 3 am and so can Salas de Fiesta (what we used to call “halls” as in they rented a hall for the party). We don’t live next to a bar or even close to one, but we do have a business next door. It’s great, they start work at 9 leave at 7, closed on Sundays and holidays. No smells only the occasional radio being played but not excessively loud.
        I have been in some very quiet houses with interior courtyards, you would never know about the outside noise.

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