By Cheryl Weaver from the August 2011 Edition
How to Find them and Enjoy Doing So
OK – So you’ve decided to come to Mexico, or you’ve been here a little while and want to change addresses, but in neither case are you a buyer at this point. But you’re not a vacationer either – you sort of want to grow shallow roots to see how it fits or you’re here short term but longer than a couple months. How do you find that special place? How is renting long term different in Mexico than it is in the States? Properties for sale are easy to locate – vacation rentals at $ 800/week are as well. But if you are looking for a month to month rental or want to lease a place at a reasonable and competitive rate, there are few things to know that will make the right place easier to find.
In years past, property managers and landlords made all their money in the height of the season, and didn’t even care about leaving it empty the rest of the year, even enjoying it themselves when they needed a break. Regulars would return year after year wanting the same unit so it would feel more like home. Now with the dismal economy and publicity focusing on the narco wars, it has affected Mexico tourism so more and more vacationers are MIA these days or will not pay the exorbitant prices commanded in the past. Everyone seems to be waiting for things to get better on both sides of the border which, it appears, is going to be later rather than sooner.
An empty unit is a liability. From a security standpoint, it invites trouble. Closed up in a humid hot climate rapidly takes its toll, and even if a vacationer did come along, what shape are they going to find the place when they walk in? The maintenance of a vacation rental is high – people come to relax and enjoy their time away from responsibility. They may not be as careful as in their own home and justify a little looser attitude to the fact they are on vacation and paying a premium for their lodging. The last thing they will do is fix something minor that unattended, can grow into a significant problem. They most likely will not complain – after all they’re leaving shortly. If it’s a bad enough problem, though, they may call and want a refund, claiming they won’t stay with________________ not working/leaking/malfunctioning. Or they do stay and that pesky chronic off and on problem with the air conditioning justifies them asking for a discount or they’ll contribute to Trip Advisor with a negative review while they’re on the plane flying home with nothing better to do. And how many people do you think they will tell? Bad news spreads like wild fire.
As a result, many owners are converting their vacation places to month to month rentals, or even a year’s lease with option to renew. Although the monthly rent may be a fraction of what they would normally earn during the high season as a vacation rental, the predictable steady income matches their predictable bills associated with owning a place in Mexico and renting full time makes for one less pressure to come up with the money necessary to hang on to the property. A tenant is much more apt to report necessary maintenance before it becomes a major repair. Their presence secures the property from vandalism, burglary or even worse yet, squatters. With foreclosures at an all time high, homelessness has driven many people to desperate measures. And as far as I know, Trip Advisor does not take renter reviews….yet.
So how do you find the landlord that is willing to consider month-to-month rentals or leases for his former vacation rental?
First of all, what time of the year do you want to move in? How long will you stay? Approaching an owner during the low season or finding out the last time the unit was rented can be lead to possible negotiation for long term rental, even if it wasn’t on their mind. Do some research as to comparable properties and make them an offer. Mention the advantages to them having a long term tenant and do not be shy about suggesting terms. Many owners have no month to month rental experience and are skeptical that it will really benefit them. Come prepared with references and answers to their questions. Offer proof of income before they ask.
Contact vacation rental property managers and ask to see the unit. After the tour, ask how long it has been empty, if a long term rental is possible, make an offer as to how much you would pay if you could rent it. Get the owner’s contact info before you leave in case the agent tells you on the spot there’s no interest. Don’t believe it until you hear it from the owner.
In Mexico, many rentals are listed in Spanish and few quote a rent rate. That’s so there is room for negotiations but it makes it hard to know if you’re in the ballpark of something you can afford. Ask if it is under your ceiling amount. You’ll know from the answer if you should invest any more of your time. Be forthright about children/pets and see if you can find out if the owner lives locally to the property. How are repairs handled? In case of an emergency, how is that handled?
If you find the place that is just right and you really see yourself renting for a long time, MAKE SURE THE
OWNER UNDERSTANDS YOU MAY RENT FOR YEARS TO COME. It is too tempting for them to move you in and when the high rollers come along with cash, come to you saying “Mamacita” needs the apartment and they need you to move out. Rental disputes necessitate a lawyer so just because you have a signed contract doesn’t guarantee you anything. Owners traditionally keep the electricity in their name, even if you pay the bill, so they very easily (but not legally) can get you to move out.
Clarify exactly how maintenance will be handled and at what standard you expect – it may not be the same as you are used to. Mexican property owners most likely paid cash for the property and struggled to save enough to buy it. Fixing it up perfectly for you and keeping it that way may not be the priority – keeping ownership of it is. Taxes, utilities they pay, insurance, etc. are the first things they will pay before fixing your leaky faucet. It may drive you crazy to hear it “ploink” all night but they live with it all the time and it is more acceptable to waste the water than to be short their contribution to the church on Sunday. Report any problems you find when you first move in – don’t let it go. They very well may already know about it but their former tenant lived with it and never complained — maybe you will too and the money saved will surely be contributed to the church next Sunday.
If you rent from a property manager be very careful to get the owner’s contact information and include them on all communications including acknowledging rent paid each month. they may never acknowledge your communications but you have a record and will avoid the “He said, she said” game with the property manager in the middle. Be wary if you are refused this information – “the owner doesn’t want to be bothered – just deal with us.” This is a red flag that you do not want to get involved.
Happy Home Hunting!
Ask friends and acquaintances for leads. Ask the taxi driver and the clerk at the store. Ask the gardener. Word of mouth can get you the best information. Advertising in the paper or internet is expensive and many owners want to rent personally.