Hey guys! Guest post from Ashley here, Mexico expat behind Tulum Traveler & Make the Move to Mexico. Since my husband, Frank & I moved to Tulum two years ago, I’ve fielded lots of questions from people planning their move to Mexico. Naturally, finding a place to live in Mexico is one of the first questions to come up!
Finding a place to live in Mexico is very different from what most of us are used to in the U.S. or Canada. There are factors at play here in Mexico that can make finding a reasonably priced long-term rental online much more challenging. For this reason, I always recommend that once you are getting serious about finding a place to live, book a flight if you can. Spend a few days in town on a reconnaissance mission as finding a place to live in Mexico is best done once you are here.
Now I know that doesn’t help you as you are trying to plan from your desk halfway around the world. But, don’t worry! I’ve got some tips to help get your housing situation under control.
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Download Your Free Workbook Now!
One of the first things you can do to start finding a place to live in Mexico, even while still back at home, is to download my Move to Mexico Workbook. It’s a timeline and checklist all rolled into one and is a great place to keep track of your notes and progress as you go. (And it’s totally free!) You can download the workbook at www.makethemovetomexico.com.
There are some nuances to finding a rental that will be unique to different regions in Mexico but there are other factors that come into play no matter where you are moving in the country.
Join Facebook Expat Groups for Mexico
While your best bet is to spend some time in town before signing a long-term contract, there are other things that you can begin to do from afar to get started in your search. Join some of the facebook expat groups such as Life in Mexico – Move to Mexico. Search the group history to see if anyone has posted things about a budget or what to expect for a rental in the area. Here in Tulum and the Maya Riviera, with real estate such a hot commodity these days, you’ve gotta be checking in on those groups daily because things go quick! If you are already in town then you might have already seen the “Se Renta” (For Rent) signs. Simply stopping in to inquire may be your best chance to get ahold of the landlord and see the property.
Start With a Short-Term Rental
Because of the need to be here, “boots on the ground” and ready to jump on the right offer when it comes up, I often recommend people get started with a short-term rental when they arrive. Now yes, these are typically more expensive but you need to build that into the budget and understand that it is part of the process. If you are moving to a touristy area, I highly recommend arriving during the low season. This alone will save you a HUGE amount of money and heartache when finding a place to live in Mexico. For example, if you arrive in Tulum in January looking for availability or a decent priced rental, you’re going to have a tough time finding it! But if you arrive in August or September looking for a rental, you’ll have much more luck. These dates will be different for each region so again, doing a little homework in advance will be hugely helpful for you when you arrive.
On the short term rental front – I recommend checking out Airbnb (Get $35 in travel credit here!) or VRBO. Airbnb is typically going to be pricier but, sometimes, depending on the season, you can reach out to the owner and explain your situation, that you’d like to rent for a few weeks over the low season while you get situated, and you can get a deal from them. Sometimes not but it’s a good way to begin communication with people in the area. Who knows, maybe they don’t have something but maybe they know someone that does. My biggest tip is to be extra respectful, after all its someone’s house so undercutting the price might get a little personal.
Beyond doing some homework in advance and making connections through Airbnb & VRBO hosts in the area, here is another topic to keep in mind when finding a place to live in Mexico.
The key factors in the price of a rental are going to be similar to what you’re used to in other parts of the world: If the place is furnished or unfurnished; Location (you’re gonna pay for that killer view or beach house); The duration of your rental (again, short-term rentals are going to typically have higher rates); The high/low season and; The utilities.
A few thoughts on those particular nuances of finding a place to live in Mexico:
High/Low season: Many towns that attract expatriates from around the world are touristy and thus have a high season where the cost of just about everything will go up significantly. Speaking from experience as we live in one of these towns, look for a rental in the low season! For us here in Tulum, that means you are going to find the best deals and most options for long-term rentals throughout the summer and fall. Waiting until December to try to find a place to live is a huge (and very costly) rookie mistake.
Utilities: Utilities (especially electricity) are expensive here in the Maya Riviera and as such, most long-term rentals will ask you to pay the utilities separately. If you happen to come across a rental that includes the utilities, (that right there is a huge plus) make sure it has air-conditioning!
Tips to Find Your Dream Home
Once you find your dream place in Mexico, you’ve still got to do a little more thinking before you sign on the dotted line. One tip is to visit the house at different times of the day and week to check out what the neighborhood is like. (Particularly important to check out how noisy it gets at night.) Do the neighbors have dogs? Most do and barking dogs might take some time to get used to.
Security: This is a hot topic and one of the most asked by expats over and over again. As with anyplace in the world, you need to be smart about it. When it comes to homes or apartments it’s a good idea to inspect the entry points to ensure the locks or gates work. Also, change up your patterns from time to time, lock away valuables, and be smart with your belongings.
Internet: With SO many people working remotely nowadays, high-speed internet has become a necessity. If you need to make video calls or run programs which require a lot of speed, make sure you verify with a speed test before committing to a rental. Fiber or speeds over 10 megs are not as common as one would hope, but the infrastructure is slowly being installed so don’t lose hope.
Last tip, a reminder to make sure you understand your rental lease and be sure that everything is clearly spelled out. I have known people who have had a lease translated and notarized to ensure transparency. And of course, be careful with scams. Same as anywhere in the world, don’t “deposit” or wire money to anyone prior to taking possession and meeting the owners or property managers.
Have Fun Finding a Place to Live in Mexico!
Deciding to make the move to Mexico and looking for a place to stay is an exciting time! I know it can feel stressful at times but don’t forget to take a break every now and again to enjoy the journey! Stick to the checklist in my Move to Mexico Workbook and you’ll be off to a great start!
Enjoy your time in Mexico… it’s an amazing place.
Originally published June 28, 2018
Ashley Campo moved to Mexico with her husband Frank and 12-year-old Shih-Tzu Miko two years ago to escape the rat race of the U.S. and live a more enriched life abroad. Since moving to Mexico she has founded Tulum Traveler & Make The Move To Mexico to help others in their journey to living a more fulfilled life in Mexico. You can follow Ashley on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.