a american homeowner in mexico

Today has been a water day. From the moment I put my two feet on my Mexican tile floor in Puerto Escondido,Mexico, some part of my body was covered in cool,fresh moving water. Commited not to sit in the hammock and watch the palms,I was on my five km beach walk by 8 am. Returning by 10 am, I attacked the moldy tiles on the patio with a basic cleaning solution of Clorox and Comet. After several hours, drenched in sweat and standing in Clorox, I turned the hose on myself to cool off and clean off before I jumped completely nude into our cold hot tub. My next water stop was up to the palapa terrace to rinse off under the dragon shower, one of many Mexican alebrijes sculptures that were left at the house we bought here in Puerto. It was still early afternoon but it was Sunday so the beach, cluttered with extended Mexican families swimming in their street clothes,was not an option. I decided to play tourist for the afternoon at Villa Mar beachclub,a elegant option at the edge of town on the Pacific Ocean with a giant turquoise blue swimming pool and cushy chaise lounges. This lovely pool, surrounded by tall palm trees and large green lawns on one side and the endless ocean on the other, rarely busy,is a great escape. Jumping in the sparkling blue pool, letting go of all my problems and responsibilities, I savored a few hours of something akin to a vacation.
Unfortunately this is not a typical day in the tropics if one owns their own home. As nieve Americans, a friend and myself were overwhelmed with the concept of owning a home in a tropical climate. We unfortunately found ourselves in the same town in Mexico in March of 2006. I am not sure who arrived first,but I was the one who made the appointment with an infamous real estate broker in Puerto Escondido. She arrived the next morning, a large middleaged woman in a large 4 wheel drive vehicle with a cigarette in her mouth and a distinct Southern drawl. She had a nasty charm about her as she commanded us to get her a cappucino while she sat waiting in her all terrain vehicle. We made many mistakes that day but the most serious one to haunt us for the next several years, was trusting the woman who showed us the house. Within a few hours we had commited to buying a ocean front lot and an exchanting adobe style house in town. The prices seemed reasonable for these amazing purchases so we didnt bother to check with other brokers to see what was available. The house was owned by an expat American named Brent Berry,68,originally from Brooklyn, who was moving to Hawaii so his girl friend could be near her family. We had been told that his wife of many years had died in 2002, so we assumed he wanted to leave the past behind. To reinforce this fact, the house would remain as if they had never left,except for their clothes and momentos. We were elated and as the French say, we had been hit by a coupe de foudre,(lightning bolt).
Afraid to lose our tropical dream, we signed a purchase contract,without a notary and agreed to transfer as a down payment, $40,000 to his girl friends bank account in Colorado.(did we ever question why we would pay his girl friend and not him). Our second blunder was to use the lawyer who was also representing Berry. He had given her power of attorney to sign for him at the closing since he was moving to Hawaii in September and we were planning on arriving in November to sign the transfer of ownership which involoved a document known as a Fideicomiso. We made our final payment to Berry in care of his girl friend in September 2006 for a total of $185,000.
I arrived in Puerto in October,a few days before El Dio del Los Muertos(day of the dead). I had decided to go down earlier and get everything in order before the partners arrived. Within a day,typical of love at first sight, I started to fall out of love very quickly. The phone didnt work,the propane tank was empty so there was no hot water or gas for the stove, and I had no idea how to service our small cold pool in the back garden. I spent the next several days trying to hire people to fix everything that wasnt working. Hunting down our Mexican lawyer,I discovered that the house documents were not ready to sign but she promised we would sign before we left in Demember. By the end of the first week, the car we had bought from Berrys girl friend had a blown engine and I had Dengue fever. When my partners,Faith and Doug arrived a week later, I had nay a good word to speak about Puerto Escondido,the house we had paid for or the people I had met. Doug was put off by the insects and Faith did not want to deal with hassels. She made it clear this was suppose to be a vacation for her.. So I was nominated
to deal with the problems with a guarantee of financial compensation.
To cover the monthly expenses,which included the house cleaner Justina who had worked for the previous owner for 8 years, as well as electric,water, pool maintenance and other hidden costs, we would do short term holiday rentals. We hired a manager to pay bills,and keep the house in working order. She was German so we believed we would be well represented. Before Faith and Doug ended their short three week stay, we spent another $200 to give our managers husband the power of attorney to sign the house transfer which was promised to be ready by the end of December.
I ended up spending almost seven weeks at the house the first year, becoming more disillusioned by the end of my visit. The foreign community, even though it was international, was a cross between the country club set, the retired urban intellectuals and middle age bohemians scraping together enough to survive in Mexico. The Americans and Canadians were in the majority, but French, Germans, British and Italians had also chosen Puerto as a vacation escape or a permanent residence. Many of the restaurants were owned by southern Italian men with less than stellar pasts. They had all married young Mexican village women at least twenty years their junior. But at least we had great coffee,pastries and delicious pasta. As I was a traveler rather than an expat,I found it hard to find people of like mind and spirit so I spent lots of time on my own.
Before I left in December, I found out that the house we had bought from Brent Berry was included in a huge parcel of land who ownership was in question.. An infamous Mexican named Bruciaga had sold many foreigners land which he did not own and then built houses for them on this stolen land. So we had been sold land and a house that had liens on it as well as discovering that Brent Berry had never paid the yearly tax on his fideicomiso document for thirteen years. The end of my first visit to the house in the tropics.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply