After a month at a less than ideal place we have finally moved and are getting settled into our longer term apartment we are renting in Playa del Carmen. We can’t thank you enough for the opinions and insight you shared about what we should consider when picking out our new place.
Starting our home search we had several things working against us. We possibly picked the worst time of year to move to Mexico (smart decision-making not always being our forte). It’s high season here. That means places are at full capacity so demand and rents are higher. Also, since we first started researching housing costs in Playa del Carmen the growth and development here has really exploded which means rents have steadily increased as well. Our expectations on planned budget plus desired location had to be adjusted.
There are for rent signs up on almost every building and post. We soon found out, though, that for the most part those signs never come down. Whether or not there is a vacancy they leave the signs up so that you’ll call, but then they try to get you interested in someplace a bit less desirable. And with our limited Spanish speaking skills we haven’t yet braved calling for food home delivery let alone trying to have a phone conversation about an apartment for rent.
So, finally, a smart decision. We found a local ‘broker’ who helped us navigate the Mexican real estate market. Some requirements if you’re looking for a broker, find someone who knows the ins and outs, how to negotiate and most importantly speaks Spanish plus your native language fluently. I’m not sure how other brokers work here, but I’m going to say Liz from Renting Playa del Carmen went above and beyond. She held our hands, answered our stupid questions, introduced us to some great people and let us into her own apartment and helped us interpret and fill out an immigration form. And oh yeah, she also helped find us a place to live.
Many people in Playa will apartment hunt with a deposit in their pocket. You can say you’ll take an apartment but until you put the money down it’s still up for grabs. If it’s a really hot property it can be gone by the time you get to the ATM and back. As with most things here, cash is king and rent is paid in cash. Most people do not carry cards and many places, especially away from the more touristy areas, just don’t accept cards. We now understand the long lines that we’ve seen at the ATMs. On the last day of the month when everyone gets paid they typically line up to withdraw cash to pay the bills. As typical Americans this has been a huge adjustment for us since we used debit cards back home for everything from cups of coffee to car payments. But we’re making the transition and looking forward to taking our tight monthly budget out each month and living off of that.
We’ve ended up in a part of town that is primarily occupied by working-class locals called Colosio. It’s a bit further north from the downtown area than we would have preferred, but the growth and development in Playa is happening right outside our front door. Our apartment building sits on the famous La Quinta Avenida which is being expanded further and further north. They are currently paving the street directly in front of our apartment which means very shortly we’ll be able to hop on our bikes and in 5 minutes be in the middle of downtown. I think they’ll eventually build up the shops and restaurants all the way to us and beyond. Which means we got in to this apartment while the getting is good.
As with many things in Playa, outward appearances can be deceiving. Pulling up outside our apartment building you pass so many cinder block buildings that you’d never realize the beauty that is inside.
Our landlords have taken great care to build an amazing oasis in the middle of an urban area. I think it’s a reminder to us that we need to push ourselves to explore our new home and look deep into the crevices of this beautiful country to find more hidden gems like this apartment.
The apartment is two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an alcove area perfect for an office (ugh, work), kitchen, washing machine, covered gated parking and all utilities included except electricity which we’ve learned is expensive and why you learn very quickly to turn the air conditioning off when leaving. It’s also fully furnished which, although it limited our options, was necessary since we didn’t strap a bed to the top of our car. It’s not really our taste in furnishings, but it’s comfortable and we brought just enough mementos to give it a taste of home. And did I mention the ocean view? Which also means an ocean breeze? Unless you’re paying high dollar or are staying at a hotel on the beach that kind of perk just doesn’t happen much around here anymore.
Before moving in, we went late last week to sign the rental agreement. Another day, another learning experience. The laws here in Mexico tend to favor renters more than landlords so it’s in everyone’s best interest to have everything laid out and legalized which means almost everything here is notarized, including our rental agreement. Once again having Liz on hand was a benefit because she translated paragraph by paragraph the rental agreement for us so that we knew exactly what we were signing. Well actually, what Jason was signing. Only one person is on the lease which I guess means I’m free to skip town.
So we’re legal, we’re in and we’re working on getting everything unpacked. For the past month we’ve been living in a temporary state and now we feel like we’re finally in a place we can call home. We’ve already figured out the important things like how to get water, where to take the trash and which is the best path to the beach.
We’ve also already had some unexpected surprises. Remember this post that included a note about wanting to check a place out in person before signing a long term lease because what if the next door neighbors are raising roosters? Yeah, well, come to find out you don’t always notice things like that when viewing an apartment. You usually figure that out on your first morning in the apartment when it’s already too late…
I’m putting the finishing touches to this post with a coffee cup in hand, sitting on our terrace with a view of the ocean in front of me and a rooster crowing behind me. Come to find out, it’s not so bad after all.
So what do you think of our new digs? I realize most of you don’t have exposure to the real estate market here in Playa, but do you think we made the right decision?