For more than 50 years, the de facto world currency has been the US dollar with many of the world currencies being pegged against it (some countries have even eliminated their own currencies in favor of the US dollar). As an example, Canadians feel a sense of wealth when the Canadian dollar is on par with the US dollar; the opposite when the Canadian dollar devalues to .70 US dollar, i.e., when the Canadian dollar will purchase only 70 cents worth of US goods and services. The following graph shows how the Canadian dollar has strengthened from $.77 US to $.96 US or by 25% during just the past seven months.
Currently, the global economy is changing and as the US dollar continues to erode, many foreign currencies have strengthened significantly relative to the green back. Consequently, savvy Canadians should now be looking at currencies outside of the US and evaluating their own newfound purchasing power in those foreign countries. For instance, the Canadian dollar has virtually exploded in value recently relative to the Mexican peso. The graph below depicts how the Canadian dollar has risen in value from an equivalent of 7.1 Mexican pesos in 2003 to 12.6 pesos today in 2009.
Now, let’s compare this increase in the purchasing power of the Canadian dollar to the increase in purchasing power of the US dollar, both relative to the Mexican peso. The graph below clearly shows that during this 6 ½ year time frame the US dollar increased in value by a bit more than 20% relative to the Mexican peso whereas the Canadian dollar increased by a whopping 75%!
It’s quite understandable, that toward the end of 2007 when the Canadian dollar reached par with the US dollar, the Canadians were major buyers of real estate in Mexico. However, by March of 2009, the Canadian dollar had slipped to a low of $.77 US and Canadian buyers were virtually eliminated from the Mexican real estate market.
Next, let’s closely review the Canadian and US dollars relative to the Mexican peso during the past year. Because the recent strengthening of the Canadian dollar has far outpaced the US dollar relative to the Mexican peso, you’ll see that during the past year, the US dollar has barely appreciated in value over the Mexican peso while the Canadian dollar has exploded in value by nearly 25%. The ramifications that this phenomenon has had on the Canadian purchasing power in Mexico are addressed below.
During the past decade many tourist zones and retirement havens in the resort areas of Mexico experienced exponential growth. Along with this growth came significant real estate price appreciation; so much so that real estate prices in many Mexican resort cities were no longer within reach of many Canadian retirees, especially when the Canadian dollar plummeted in value in 2008. Well, we have good news for you fortunate Canadians holding those wonderfully strong Loonies; that’s no longer the case!
In Puerto Vallarta, real estate prices of recently built condos have dropped by anywhere from 20-35% during the past year alone. This reduction in value was caused mainly by the global recession, however the swine flu scare and the media hype over the border town drug war (1,200 miles away!) were also contributing factors. With the tremendous glut of unsold new condos recently introduced to the market by developers combined with the many condos that were purchased at pre-construction prices by speculators now just trying to recover their investment, PV is a true buyer’s market.
Last year you could buy a $400,000 condo with all the amenities and breathtaking views for 10% off list price or for $360,000. Today, you’ll have no problem finding that same condo offered at $300,000. Okay, that seems like a pretty nice savings of nearly 17% but remember, these Mexican condos are all priced in US dollars; Canadians must now evaluate these costs in terms of Canadian dollars! A year ago when the Canadian dollar was worth $.77 US, $360,000 US dollars was equivalent to $468,000 Canadian dollars. Today, with the same condo selling for $300,000 and the Canadian dollar worth $.96 US, it will cost only $315,000 Canadian dollars. That’s a savings of $153,000 Canadian or 32.7% (as opposed to the apparent 17%) in just one year!
Until as recently as 4 years ago there were no mortgages available to any North Americans buying resort property in Mexico. At that time, a number of US based mortgage companies introduced mortgages to US citizens buying property in Mexico but not to Canadians. That all changed a couple of years ago when the major mortgage companies finally made the same mortgages available to Canadians. These fixed and variable rate mortgages require at least 20% down and can have terms for as long as 30 years at rates generally about two points above those in the States or at approximately 7% at this time.
It is the opinion of many that the Canadian dollar will continue to strengthen. After all, the Canadian banks didn’t make all the foolish sub-prime no-doc loans that were made in the US, the Canadian unemployment rate is somewhat less than in the US, and Canada is rich with natural resources with worldwide demand. Knowing this, it seems only logical that having a mortgage in Mexico based on US dollars would be a very wise investment; it would be paid off with ever strengthening Canadian dollars.
Let’s assume we bought that condo for $300,000 US ($315,000 Canadian) and made a down payment of $100,000 US ($105,000 Canadian). A 30 year fixed rate 8% mortgage of $200,000US would result in payments of $1,467/month US ($1,528 Canadian). Of course, if and when the Canadian dollar again reaches par with the US dollar, your payments will be reduced from $1,528 to $1,467 Canadian. Now, let’s get a little aggressive and assume the Canadian dollar will reach $1.05US. At that exchange rate, your monthly mortgage payments would drop to $1,397 Canadian. It’s not too far a stretch to predict an annual savings of $2,000 Canadian or more based solely on the exchange rate differential. Of course, if the Canadian dollar were to plummet for some unforeseeable reason, these mortgages can be paid off after 2-5 years (depending upon the loan) with no pre-payment penalty.
Finally, let’s evaluate the cost of living in Mexico. For starters, let’s assume that a year ago we were considering a lifestyle in Vallarta based on a budget of $10,000 pesos per month. With the annual inflation rate in Mexico of 5%, the same goods and services in Mexico will be $10,500 pesos this year. A little more than a year ago, when the Canadian dollar would purchase 9.5 pesos, $10,000 pesos was equivalent to $1,052 Canadian. Today, with the favorable exchange rate of 12.7 pesos per Canadian dollar, the $10,500 peso budget will cost a mere $827 Canadian, i.e., a savings of $225/mo or a 22% reduction in the cost of living in just one year!
In summarizing, it’s obvious that the time has never been better for Canadians to explore the opportunities that exist in Mexico today. International monetary circumstances are ideal for Canadians concurrently with the condo supply and demand equation in Mexico heavily tilted in favor of the buyer. In terms of Canadian dollars, you can expect to find incredible condos at 30-35% lower prices than just a year ago and your cost of living will be 20-25% less than it was a year ago.
Of the nearly 50,000 expats living in Vallarta, we estimate that close to 30% of them are Canadians. Needless to say, the winter weather in Puerto Vallarta is more conducive to most outdoor activities (excluding snow boarding and ice hockey!) than anywhere in Canada. So, why hesitate? Come on down this winter and have some fun in the sun with your fellow countrymen and while doing so, save a significant portion of your nest egg on your retirement residence in Paradise. It’s now certainly well within your financial reach and as they say, “if you snooze, you lose”; you’ll never find a better time or place to invest those Loonies than now in Mexico!
About the author: Jim Scherrer has owned property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 25 years and resided there for the past eleven years. The mission of his series of 50 articles pertaining to retirement in Puerto Vallarta is to reveal the recent changes that have occurred in Vallarta while dispelling the misconceptions about living conditions in Mexico.
For the full series of articles regarding travel to and retirement in Vallarta as well as pertinent Puerto Vallarta links, please visit us at http://www.pvreba.com/.