Try this for an analogy.
Renting is like shacking up. Responsibilities are minimal. Expectations are low. Commitment is non-existent. When it comes time to pull up stakes, there are no financial or emotional webs. A bachelor's dream come true.
But buying a house is very close to a marriage. You are adding a new entity to your life. A high maintenance entity. One that will suck up every extra peso for the equivalent of makeup, jewelry, and clothes. And when it comes time to part, there are all sorts of emotional and financial complications.
The fact that I rent is no surprise. Nor that I am happy living on my own.
But we all need a bit of responsibility in our lives. And home ownership may be mine.
You all know how the house acquisition mood got started. We can blame it all on Lake Pátzcuaro. And the fact that one of the houses that brought me to this area is just back on the market.
Keeping my marriage metaphor puttering along here, I would like to introduce you to the three houses I am considering betrothing. There are some other minor contenders.
But here is the first of the Big Three. I will tell you about about each in separate posts over the next three days.
Even before I knew I was retiring, I had started looking at houses in Mexico. Now and then at work I would open a random real estate site to look at houses in given areas.
First, it was Puerto Vallarta. Then some serious consideration to Pátzcuaro. And Morelia.
Somehow I opened the site for La Manzanilla -- a little village I had never heard of. But the photographs were exactly what I wanted in Mexico. Beach. Sun. No big hotels. Just a view of one of the most beautiful bays I had ever seen.
I scrolled through the listings until I found this house -- Joseph. One bedroom downstairs. A combination living room, kitchen, and dining area.
But it had a marvelous view of the bay.
So, down I flew to La Manzanilla to see it in 2007. I was a bit disappointed with the place when I saw it on that visit. (a travel log in search of an editor). It was about that point that I decided to look for rentals, rather than buying a house.
Then the price of the house started leisurely drifting down to a very tempting level. And I, once again, started thinking about buying. (little at feet on the sand).
So, off I went on Saturday to see the place. The realtor had very courteously had the jungle growth on the small lot trimmed to show off the view at its best.
It was still the same house. Perched on the hill above its garage. And with its 60-some stairs to climb to get what can be charitably called a partial ocean view. But what can be seen is spectacular.
Because it has not been occupied by an owner for a few years, it is in dire need of fresh paint and a very serious scrubbing.
It is the perfect retreat for a writer. The surrounding jungle gives the impression of living in the country even though neighbors are close by. I could easily see me sitting on the patio with that view in front of me and my creative juices churning out prose.
But the sense of isolation comes at a price. La Manzanilla's infrastructure is even more basic that Melaque's. Water is trucked in to the tinaca and then pumped up to the house.
Propane is provided by cylinder. A nuisance of a system -- as anyone knows who has ever wrestled with the cylinders. But it would be possible to install a large propane tank at the base of the stairs.
Living in Mexico is very similar to camping. It is just more so in La Manzanilla.
For most people, the next issue would be a deal killer. This is ejido land where all land must be acquired through a presta nombre -- a borrowed name. Most Anglo-Saxons have real trouble with this concept.
My advice is that if you cannot afford to walk away from the property, you are not going to feel secure with the purchase.
The listed price is $80,000 -- just about the level I would feel comfortable, if the ownership issue went bad, saying: "Sayonara, babe. Have a good life."
With some paint, a shiny new interior, and a new propane tank, Joseph is easily in the running as Steve's next personal commitment. But withhold your applause until you see the next two candidates.