Some time back, Billy and I shared one of our hidden Mexican discoveries – you know, that one particular safe harbor, that majestic place where life is simple and straightforward, a location where you can kick back and let the world turn without you.
If the placid pleasures of unassuming towns and the simple maritime life and landscapes appeal to you, nothing could be better than a visit through the southern Costa Alegre (Happy Coast) of western Mexico. Little has changed in the last four or five decades along a very tranquil strand of white sand beaches lying between Manzanillo to the north and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo to the south. Even guidebooks hardly give it a mention – and in our view – this is an excellent sign.
Not found on most maps of Mexico, tiny Caleta de Campos is a stunning cliff-side town about 45 minutes north of Lazaro Cardenas on the rugged Michoacan coast. If you have your health and the spirit of adventure on your side, this would be the perfect place to live a semi-rustic lifestyle in paradise.
I say ‘semi-rustic’ because while Caleta is a small community without the parasailing boats and noisy jet skis in the harbor, access to telephone and internet services are readily available. Instead of seasonal tickets to the theater, you’ll be substituting tranquil, mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. And if what you find fulfilling is the simple life of community, perhaps contributing some volunteer work, starting a local business and the delights of gardening, artistic expression or the pursuit of the perfect surfer’s wave, you have met your match.
Building a life in Caleta would be affordable enough. Water service is about $5 a month and a 30 kilo propane gas cylinder is $35. Having your own transport in Caleta isn’t necessary either, because you can walk everywhere you need to go. There are local grocery stores in the center of town – actually a larger version of a sundry shop – where you can get your stock of basic products. Anything fancier than that or to fulfill your banking needs will require a trip to the regional service center city of Lazaro, a 47 peso bus trip, currently about $3.60. If you want to have your own car or truck, I am assured that there are plenty of mechanics in town, including those who are able to work on electric cars!
So what would an English speaking Expat do with their time in Caleta? Most north Americans who live here are surfers, business owners, or those who love catching their own seafood. Getting involved in the local community by teaching English as a second language in the public schools would not only be welcomed, but it’s an excellent way to place yourself in a respectful position in the society here. If a larger project appeals to you, say, hydroponic gardening to grow vegetables for sale to the locals, or the desire to build a library or start a business, I’m told you’ll have to get permission from the Sheriff.
There is a Centro de Salud or health center in town that people visit for common illnesses, and a dentist. And there are three drug stores – one of which has a clinic type atmosphere offering services such as ultrasound and more. However, if you are feeling very ill and need further attention, that will require travel to Lazaro for hospital care.
So if the unpretentious lifestyle and startling beach beauty of Caleta is your perfect paradise, what do you do then? There is no real estate directory or real estate offices in Caleta and you won‘t find much information online. To purchase property here you will need to come in person and contact the locals who have land for sale. I am told that a good variety of land choices exist with prices ranging from $15,000 to $300,000 USD. Most properties here are near the beach or with ocean views. Some pieces are available right in town with the ones closer to the ocean having a higher price.
Foreigners can buy or invest in real estate in Mexico without any restriction, except for border areas and coastal locations like Caleta. These areas are known as the “restricted zone” – an area within 100 kilometers of any Mexican border and within 50 miles of any Mexican coastline. If you want to buy land here you will have to go through a real estate bank trust. These types of trusts are called fideicomiso and last for 50 years. While the land is in the trust it can be sold and inherited, and in the last year of the trust, it can be renewed for an additional 50 years. This can go on indefinitely. These new rules governing foreign investment through Real Estate Trust were put into effect in 1993, and provide for the stability and protection of legal certainty for foreign investors.
Property taxes in Mexico are almost non-existent and you can sell without paying Mexican capital gains if you own the home for twenty four months while having an FM3 or FM2 Visa. Homes here are usually purchased with cash, because until recently, financing a home was not an option due to the high Mexican interest rates.
Keep in mind that real estate is not regulated in Mexico. There is no type of real estate license required, and there are very few consumer protection laws in this country. Anyone can sell real estate and there isn’t any type of regulated code of ethics. You will want to work with someone trust worthy, and unless you build your home, you buy a house “as is”. There are no disclosure requirements, there are no mandatory inspections and you are responsible to be an informed buyer.
You can hire civil architects to design and oversee the building process. Then pay them in cash as each phase of the construction is completed. Speaking with the towns folk will direct you to these civil architects and you can meet them in person, compare the work they do, the fees they charge and see whom you want to perform your construction. Common civil architects charge per square meter, so depending on the materials used, this will affect your price.
If you purchase or build in Mexico, be ready to accept the fact that you’ll learn as you go. Don’t let a few surprises sour your attitude or you‘ll manufacture your own personal hell in this paradise. To create a life in this stunning country among the warm people, an adventurous attitude and flexibility is required. A working knowledge of Spanish is a plus.
Caleta is about 45 mins. north of Lazaro Cardenas on the rugged Michoacan coast (about 1.5 hours north of Zihuataneho). From Morelia, coastal Highway 200 is a five- or six-hour drive on the autopista (toll road). From Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Playa Azul is about 75 miles or two hours’ drive.
For a local connection ask anyone in town for Alberto Camacho Solis, or write to him directly at email@example.com
About the authors: Akaisha and Billy Kaderli retired almost 2 decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. They wrote the popular book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement which has sold in 40 countries. Read more of the wisdom, creative lifestyle options and information they share on their website http://RetireEarlyLifestyle.com
For more information on the topic of traveling in Mexico with links to helpful sites, visit RetireEarlyLifestyleMexicoTravel