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Old 04-05-2010, 01:45 PM   #41
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Coldwell Banker Chapala Realty "Rentals"

gives you a pretty good idea of the rental rate for the area. It's definitely cheaper than the already low-cost Houston.
Yeah, looks to be roughly 30-50% cheaper than my area for what furnished places would go for. Plenty of decent, if small-ish, places in the $500-600 range from that link you posted. $800 gets you a pretty nice larger place. Hard to do an apples to apples comparison because I'm more familiar with unfurnished rentals, and the Chapala rentals include a lot of free extras in some of the listings (like maid, gardener, water, etc). $600 would get me a 1-2 bedroom average unfurnished apartment in a below average neighborhood here.

And I imagine someone who had spent some time there could find something locally without going through an expat oriented real estate agency that would be a better value.
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:51 PM   #42
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And I imagine someone who had spent some time there could find something locally without going through an expat oriented real estate agency that would be a better value.
Yep. Unfortunately (from what I learned on various forums) most Americans prefer to live in their "own communities". In other words, they prefer not to have local Mexicans as neighbors. There are exceptions of course.
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Old 04-05-2010, 01:55 PM   #43
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Yep. Unfortunately (from what I learned on various forums) most Americans prefer to live in their "own communities". In other words, they prefer not to have local Mexicans as neighbors. There are exceptions of course.
I guess if you just want a higher standard of living and can't afford it stateside, then that model of seeking out an inexpensive expat community works. They aren't REALLY going there to immerse themselves in the culture. Just to eat some good comida and drink some cheap cerveza while living the good life. Cheap. Nothing wrong with that!
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Old 04-05-2010, 02:04 PM   #44
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Of course not. I was simply saying it's tough (or tougher) to find better value if you're limiting yourself to certain communities.
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Old 04-05-2010, 02:11 PM   #45
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Of course not. I was simply saying it's tough (or tougher) to find better value if you're limiting yourself to certain communities.
I know what you mean. I have had that first hand experience with hotels in Mexico. There's the kind that caters to Mexican nationals that might be $20 a night and decent. Then there's the international (or mostly American) targeted hotels that offers a higher standard for $50+. I would assume the same thing is true in Chapala with the monthly or long term rental market.
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Old 04-05-2010, 03:04 PM   #46
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Regarding real estate prices down here: just as with renting, it's very much a "you must be present to win" situation. A lot of the best deals are in the Mexican papers, priced in pesos, and you need fluent Spanish or to hire someone with same to help you. The stuff on MLS here is higher-end, gringo-owned mostly, priced in dollars.

You also need to know that buying a house here is a cash transaction - mortgages are nearly unheard-of. There's a glut of inventory, but at the same time many can afford to wait to get their price.

Ballpark, you can get a decent 1-2 BR condo for $90-150K, a nice house for 200K, a palace for 400K. Property taxes on a 300K place are less than $300 a year.

That said, anyone thinking of moving down here ought to rent for at least a year, and more likely forever. Appreciation is negative to minimal at the moment, construction standards are nothing like the U.S., and any problems, from title issues to cracking walls, are the buyer's to deal with, with no recourse. Plus, there are any number of things that could call you back to the U.S. on short notice, from a crime spike to a family or health care emergency to simply finding out that Mexico is just too far or too difficult culturally (life away from the tourist resorts is very, very different).

On the subject of blogs about this area, I do have one but it's all over the place in terms of content. Instead I'd recommend one by some friends of ours who live at Lake Chapala and have done a fantastic job of chronicling life both here and in fun places to visit around the country. Plus, they're way better photographers than I'll ever be!

Jim & Carole's Mexico Adventure
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Old 04-05-2010, 03:19 PM   #47
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On the subject of blogs about this area, I do have one but it's all over the place in terms of content. Instead I'd recommend one by some friends of ours who live at Lake Chapala and have done a fantastic job of chronicling life both here and in fun places to visit around the country. Plus, they're way better photographers than I'll ever be!

Jim & Carole's Mexico Adventure
Thanks kevink.
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Old 04-05-2010, 09:02 PM   #48
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Coldwell Banker Chapala Realty "Rentals"

gives you a pretty good idea of the rental rate for the area.
Those Chapala rentals look nice and really cheap. Do any of you know what kind of boating and fishing is possible on the lake? Tell me it's full of largemouth bass, and you may soon have a new neighbor!
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Old 04-05-2010, 09:38 PM   #49
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Those Chapala rentals look nice and really cheap. Do any of you know what kind of boating and fishing is possible on the lake? Tell me it's full of largemouth bass, and you may soon have a new neighbor!
Really cheap? Yep, I had to check - you're from California. It's all relative!
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Old 04-05-2010, 10:27 PM   #50
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This is a great thread, y'all! Twice when I googled what I was looking for ("early retirement Costa Rica"), this thread came up. I would appreciate a little advice on where to go for my question, and I apologize if it's been asked a million times but I didn't find the answer.
Here goes: I'm 50, and want to retire before 55 so I can FINALLY pursue a music and writing business and not be tied to the US employer for benefits. I have plenty of funds to live modestly (not luxuriously) until the pension and SS kick in. It's still not clear to me what the required minimum bank deposit is in Costa Rica to qualify to be a resident and become part of the health care system. I lived in CR for a year in the 1990s while researching my doctoral dissertation, and I absolutely love it. I love the history, the people, the social democracy, and the music scene in San Josť. Seriously, I will have the funds to live for $1,500 a month (conservatively) for the 6-8 years until the SS and pension kick in. Is this "doughnut hole" situation discussed anywhere but I'm just not finding it?

Another way of framing my question: how much money does one need to legally live in Costa Rica or Panama for a few years (and have access to health care) before the US retirement funds kick in? Many thanks!
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Old 04-05-2010, 11:27 PM   #51
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Really cheap? Yep, I had to check - you're from California. It's all relative!
Yeah, just about anything looks cheap from here. Even so, the Chapala rentals look much cheaper than comparable places in any remotely desireable place in the US. Or am I out of touch with US prices? I'm looking at listing 083, the 3BR 2.5B house in Las Redes for $460/mo, including water.

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Old 04-06-2010, 07:06 AM   #52
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Costa Rica: If you stick to the central valley and avoid the beach, you can live moderately on $1,500/mo. Many expats live on less. For government health care however, you will need to be a resident requiring a pension/SS of $1,000/mo or $150k in a CR bank. I've been researching the country and have visited 3x in the last six months.
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Old 04-06-2010, 07:24 AM   #53
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A few people I have talked to from my area have moved to San Miguel de Allende. They were either ex diplomatic core or arty/gay crowd.


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Old 04-06-2010, 07:46 AM   #54
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We spent New Year's at San Miguel a couple of years ago and it is a charming place, but yea gods, the real estate prices! Lots of rich Texans have a "place" there.
There is something to be said for such "discovered" places. They still retain a the charm of central Mexico, and many things are available there just because of the high concentration of wealthy Americans, restaurants, shops, etc.
Here are a couple of pics.
The cathedral is a charmer. The story is that it was designed by a Mexican artist/architect who had only seen picture of European cathedrals. It is lovely, and from a distance, does indeed look like a European cathedral. Up close however, all the details are completely the imagination of a colonial-era Mexican. Regrettably, I didn't photograph any of those details, but we were enjoying ourselves too much to fiddle with photography.
IMG_2772.jpg

IMG_2786.jpg
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Old 04-06-2010, 08:42 AM   #55
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Yeah, just about anything looks cheap from here. Even so, the Chapala rentals look much cheaper than comparable places in any remotely desireable place in the US. Or am I out of touch with US prices? I'm looking at listing 083, the 3BR 2.5B house in Las Redes for $460/mo, including water.

That listing 083 was unfurnished, so it is cheaper than most of the other ones I was looking at on the rental listing page.

I was thinking the Chapala area was pretty cheap too, then I checked out my local craigslist. Plenty of decent looking 2-3 BR apartments and townhouses in what is usually considered a desirable metro area for around $600 and these places are in decent areas too. I found a 3 BR single family house that looked very nice for $550, but that is the exception, not the rule. And it is craigslist, so may be a scam of some sort. On the flip side, my area has plenty of upscale rentals for $1000+ for a 3br apartment, and houses can be even more. I think some of those higher end places in Chapala seem to be where the most money can be saved vs US prices. $1200-$1500 in Chapala would probably be double that stateside for similar amenities, interior finish and scenic views (in town).

It is sort of hard to compare the real estate since I have no clue how desirable the specific areas of Chapala are, and what the square footage of these houses are. I lived in a Mexican family's house one summer while doing study abroad, and the bedrooms were tiny! So a 3 BR down there may be more like a 2 BR stateside where one BR has a walk in closet or storage nook that could be used as a 3rd bedroom.

Overall though, I'm sure the cost of living is still very affordable there. And other less expat-oriented places in Mexico are even better bargains I bet!

Edit to add: A $500 place in Chapala may get you into an exclusive expat oriented community that has other amenities and is considered upscale. Not sure. $600 or so in my home city in the US would definitely not get you into housing that is exclusive, luxury, or in a country club community. So again, hard to compare what that $500 place in Chapala gets you vs. what you get in the US (if luxury, status, prestige is important to you).
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Old 04-06-2010, 11:44 AM   #56
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Thanks, Dranoel. I'm thinking Desamparados, San Josť or perhaps Palmares, Alajuela (less than an hour by bus to S.J.) My impression from visiting both is that these are among the more affordable options that are decent. To your knowledge, does the $150K bank deposit have to be maintained, or can one make withdrawals from it? I will easily be able to deposit $150K by then, but might struggle a bit to come up with the extra living expenses for 6-7 years before the SS and pension kick in.
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:02 PM   #57
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So a 3 BR down there may be more like a 2 BR stateside
Good point. Maybe I'll use that as an excuse to go down there and check it out.
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Old 04-06-2010, 12:33 PM   #58
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These sites will give you a good rundown on residency requirements et al: The Real Costa Rica and ARCR
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Old 04-14-2010, 10:37 AM   #59
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For those interested in the cost of living in Chapala. The Kaderlis have just published a detailed report on their website.

Chapala Costs

Thank you Akaisha and Billy
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:02 PM   #60
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For those interested in the cost of living in Chapala. The Kaderlis have just published a detailed report on their website.

Chapala Costs

Thank you Akaisha and Billy
Small apartment = $200/month, house = $450 a month. As suspected, renting from locals means cheaper rent price.
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