Sunday, May 22, 2005

In a quandry

Jamie and I have been going back and forth and back and forth trying to decide what we want to do. The place we’re staying at has very slowly, over the years, morphed from a dive shop and campground to an RV park to now a dive shop/restaurant/cabanas/rooms/RV park. There are many many “permanent” palapas here and seeing the ocean-front ones, it is easy to see why. Most of the ex-pats living here are 6 month-ers - they arrive in November and stay until April. The weather gets hotter here then, and some residents go back to the states to earn some money, while others are simply “Snowbirds”.

You cannot own land in Mexico which is within 50 miles of coastline, so everyone leases their palapa spot on a yearly basis. PaaMul is a turtle sanctuary and as such, no permanent structures (hotels, 4-walled structures) may be built. The restaurant is completely open air and all palapa interior rooms can only have 3 walls. With the weather never dipping below 70, it isn’t a problem. The owner of the property lives in a mansion-style house here on the property. Don’t ask how he got his 4 walls, but I’m sure it has something to do with being a Mexican national and owning the property. 

All the palapas are 6.5 meters by 13 meters and you then have about 3 meters of buffer between you and the next site. Unless you wrangle a site with buffer. Like a site next to the water tower (that no-one can build on) or a site on a curve (giving you a large wedge between your site and the next). There are 3 sites left on the property that have such a “buffer”. We are terribly tempted to invest here but the clincher is that we aren’t particularly interested in staying here. The area holds no interest for us, but is heaven to the divers and snorkelers and cave divers who frequent the area. Many of the retired folk are divers and this is their idea of heaven.

There is absolutely NO sales staff; as a matter of fact, it is next to impossible to talk to “Don Pepe” about leasing a lot; he is so very busy. It will cost about $4000 to build the palapa (which could, in the future be expanded upwards to include a second floor for an additional $4000). It will cost about $20-25K to build the palapa (one-story), put in a floor, tile, bathroom, appliances, etc. It is incredibly affordable. It seems like such a small investment ($25K plus $4K/year rent) with good return.
You cannot rent out the palapa in any way, shape or form, but family members can live in it. We would really like to find a “family member” who would like to live here at least 6 months of the year. We would pay for everything; they would be responsible for the $400/mo rent (all utilities) and in 5 years we’d look at selling. We would probably want to use the palapa a few months out of the year.
The property here is full of kids. It is amazing how many families have moved down here either permanently (all year) or part time (6 months). You’d expect it to be fully retired folk, and while they do out-number the families enormously, it is incredibly rare to see families on the road. The community is well represented by both Canadians and Americans but (and this is the rub for us) is a very isolated “English” community. If we were to put down roots in Mexico, I’d MUCH rather it be in a Mexican community. It just doesn’t feel like Mexico here. The nearby town, Playa del Carmen is growing rapidly and fueled by many tourist dollars. Great for someone relying on the tourist dollar to drive their business, but lousy for anyone looking for a real taste of Mexico.

So, that is our quandry. I think we’ll be kicking ourselves should we not select a site, but I just don’t want to live here the 5 years it would probably take to realize a large return on our investment.

Hey Jon and Mariluz - ever think about leaving Hawaii?

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