Friday, February 4, 2011

Changing Housing Situation

After a snowy, cold trip north to Maine and Indiana, we are now back home in Ajijic, in our small Mexican casa (this is a photo of the little guy atop our roof), ready to crank up the search for more suitable digs.   However, as we have been meeting with rental agents this week, we have been discovering that the entire housing economy here has changed.

People are no longer buying houses in large numbers.  Perhaps this is because they cannot sell their homes in the US, or perhaps it is because they don’t want to make the long term commitment to home-ownership at this stage of their lives.  Whatever the reason, the bottom seems to be dropping out of the housing market here, both in terms of price and in terms of finding a buyer at all.  We were very lucky to sell our home so quickly in Riberas where, it seems, half the houses are for sale.  I spoke to a friend the other day at the outdoor market who was a neighbor of ours in Riberas, who has had his house on the market since last spring.  He was despairing that he hasn’t even had any one look at his house since November.  He mentioned that he is beginning to feel trapped here, since he is hoping to move back to Texas to be closer to his family.  On the other hand, for those looking to buy property here, bargains are easy to find.  Some people are desperate to sell and will accept low offers.  This is all much different than the situation we were in four short years ago, when we got here. 

The rental market has changed as well.  We have been able to look at very few rentals available before April.  We were hoping to be out of this place by March, but it’s increasingly looking as though we’ll be here longer.   More people are renting and not buying which puts more pressure on the rental market.  Plus, the winter people are here through March, so there just isn’t much out there now.  Even people who want to guarantee a rental for next winter are having problems; landlords are reluctant to have their houses vacant over the summer when they might be able to get long term rent income. 

Another concern which is becoming increasingly worrisome is the level of drug-related violence in this area.  Here at Lakeside, there have been several incidents during the last year, although all have been very targeted on law-enforcement officials or drug dealers themselves.  In Guadalajara, however, there have been a series of incidents where drug cartels have stopped buses and other vehicles with gunfire, escorted the passengers off the vehicles, and set the vehicles on fire.  The increasing violence in Guadalajara has caused the US Consulate to issue warnings for US citizens advising people to avoid making trips to Guadalajara at night, at least for now.  It is interesting how people are reacting to the reports of increased violence.  While many are concerned and paying attention to these reports, many I have spoken to deny the truth of these reports altogether.  I think there is a tendency of people to be in denial about any danger here because they don’t want to consider it.  The increase in violence is not affecting us here directly, but I think it would be foolish not to be concerned about Mexico’s apparent inability to control this violence.  It has definitely increased and occurred closer to home since we’ve been here.  For those of you considering relocating here, here is a link to a site which exists to keep people informed about the crime occurring here:

Nevertheless, life goes on.  Fred Harland and I are in the midst of conducting weekly learning seminars at the Lake Chapala Society.  Here is a photo of Fred and I last week, and one of me leading the session on world poverty. 

As we look at houses to rent, I’ll be bringing my camera to take some photos and sharing them on the blog.  It’s interesting to see the inside of these houses, and I think some of you might be interested on seeing these homes.   Not many photos this week, but I have a few more.

Here are  photos of Pixie working in the kitchen with Chuy keeping a lookout by the door to our terrace, in his little bed.  He likes being near us, whatever we’re doing.  

Here is one of Pixie with Marylin, her fellow ESL teacher for Mexican children at the orphanage: 

 I was glad to return to find that fresh figs were again in season.  Hard to find these in Maine!

And, finally, I can’t resist a few extra photos of our granddaughter, Isabelle:

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