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Uncovering High End Properties in Mexico – A Comprehensive Look

Today we're going to learn how to uncover more of the high-end homes here in San Miguel de Allende. I'm going to try to give you a comprehensive look at how to find and discover these fantastic bargains, even at the luxury level.

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Greg Gunter:

So, team, today we're going to learn how to uncover more of the high-end homes here in San Miguel de Allende. I'm going to try to give you a comprehensive look at how to find and discover these fantastic bargains, even at the luxury level.

Maya:

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another video. I am Maya, your interview host for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services here in San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico. And today, we have a very, very special guest with us, Greg Gunter, broker and co-owner of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Colonial Homes San Miguel. Hi, Greg. How are you doing?

Greg Gunter:

Hey, Maya, how are you? I love that red today. You're glowing today. That's fantastic.

Maya:

Thank you so much, Greg. I'm actually very happy about today's video. And we're going to talk about uncovering high-end properties in Mexico. And Greg will give us a comprehensive look into the luxury real estate market in San Miguel de Allende and help us see how it compares to the market in Coastal Mexico. Greg, let's give viewers a brief overview of the luxury real estate market in 2024 for San Miguel de Allende.

Greg Gunter:

Sure. We're in a new year. By the way, it's mid-January, team. For those of you that are watching, if you're watching from snow country, I don't want to rub it in, but it's 81 degrees today and it's mid-January. We're loving it. That has nothing to do with the luxury. Well, I guess it does have something to do with the luxury market, doesn't it? That's why people love to buy homes down here. They want to get away from the cold. It doesn't matter whether you buy a luxury home or a more mid-priced home, it's a great way to get away from the cold moving to San Miguel de Allende.

Well, listen, team, if we're going to talk about the current state of the luxury real estate market in San Miguel de Allende, the good thing is from the luxury level standpoint, we have continued really through all of 2023, doing pretty strong volume at the luxury level. So, like the seven figure price range. To give my viewers a little bit of insight into that, prior to the pandemic, we would only sell about one... We, being the entire city, would only sell about one seven figure home a month. So, we only sold about a dozen million dollar homes in our little town of 150,000 people every year.

Post-pandemic, since we have picked up in '21 and '22, and even in '23, we're at about triple that volume still. So, we're selling about 35 to $37 million homes a year. So, the luxury market has still maintained pretty good volume here in San Miguel de Allende, even though 2023 was a slower market overall. So, of course, that would make sense, wouldn't it? That demographic, they can afford a seven figure home, have less concerns about interest rates in the United States. They have less concern about somewhat of the volatility in the banking industry, generally they'll have a lot less concerns about the commercial real estate market, things like that.

So, they're more willing to go ahead and move forward on our purchase in San Miguel de Allende. So, our current state of the luxury real estate market is still doing pretty good. I can't complain too much. Now, if we're going to highlight key trends and factors that influence the market. Well, today, this year is an election year. So, I don't even want to go there. That's why many of us love living in Mexico. We can distance ourself from the politics. We can not worry about who won the Iowa Caucus last night, if you heard that. We don't have to be quite so concerned about that, because we live down here where we can distance ourself from that. I don't have CNN running in the background all the time like I used to have in the United States when I lived there.

I never have CNN on in the background. For instance, I can distance myself and dole out the headlines as I wish. I catch up with headlines on Sunday mornings. And many of us love that aspect of living down here and having more peaceful and calm lifestyles. More and more people are looking for that. Especially post-COVID, they're realizing how short life is. And gosh, let's enjoy life while we can. So, moving to Mexico and enjoying the warm weather and the slower pace of life, the great culture down here, that affects our market by just having more demand down here. Now, if we were to talk about popular locations for luxury properties, in Mexico in general, for instance, obviously San Miguel de Allende ranks way up there high on the list.

Now, from a volume perspective, the interesting thing is we have about a million and a half Americans that literally own a home in Mexico, okay, team? A million and a half people. So, you're not alone if you're thinking about buying a home in Mexico. A million and a half Americans already own a home here. But the overwhelming majority of those owners own a condo in the coastal areas. So, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, the Tulum, Cancun, Riviera, Maya area. Sometimes in Mazatlan, those kinds of coastal areas, they'll often own a... Generally it's a condo down in those areas because they're more affordable. Those certainly can be considered luxury markets. Our Cabo cohorts that are with Berkshire Hathaway and Cabo will often sell $10 million our homes in Cabo, and here you could buy half of San Miguel for $10 million. We never have a home for $10 million in San Miguel de Allende.

That's probably another reason though, why we do maintain or continue that status as a luxury destination in Mexico, because we're much more affordable. Properties here, they almost never exceed $400 a square foot for instance. Whereas properties in Cabo San Lucas will exceed $1,600 a square foot. More than four times what our market is. So those may be good luxury markets, but they're at a much higher end of the spectrum. San Miguel de Allende remains popular because it's a much more affordable market and we can run about a fifth of values in, for instance, California or about a third of values in Texas and Florida. So we remain very popular for a good reason because we're much more affordable. That's a lot of the effect of our market here.

Maya:

Yeah, definitely. And I really like that you used the word peaceful. It truly describes San Miguel. Peaceful, safe, and well. Now let's help our viewers understand how to uncover the high-end properties in San Miguel de Allende.

Greg Gunter:

Sure, let's talk about that. Let's showcase a few examples of some of our high-end homes in San Miguel de Allende. I happen to have the most expensive listing in the entire city, for instance, which is a $7 million Starchitect home by Ricardo Legorreta. He commands big prices, just like a Frank Lloyd Wright would in the United States. In fact, the other Ricardo Legorreta that's on the market in the United States is on the market for $52 million in Beverly Hills or the Beverly Hills area because it's owned by a famous movie producer. Mine's only 7 million. Great value by comparison, but that's at the very top end of our market. For instance, 7 million. Our luxury homes here can run from the million to about 3 million. That's sort of the general price range for luxury. We seldom break the $3 million mark. I sold a home about four months ago for $3.2 million dollars for instance.

And by the way, to kind of give you a feel for the value of yours, that home sold for about $317 a square foot. It had a solar heated saltwater pool with a hot water jacuzzi of course, outdoor kitchen elevator, wine cellar, all GE profile, kitchen, maid's quarters, two car garage, its own transformer, 16 mini splits. I mean, there's not a bell and whistle that was missing from that home. $3.2 million at the very top of the market. Was about the fifth-largest recorded transaction in San Miguel history. So that'll give you a feel for the very high end. But if you don't have $3 million, that's fine. We have some phenomenal options that'll run about the million dollar range. Even down as low as 750, you can get some incredible options for this 752 million and a half dollars mark.

A good way to find those. Well, let's get to that in just a little second. Let's discuss some of the unique features, architecture and amenities of some of those homes. I just mentioned the one in that one specific home. Another really good feature, I guess is the way to put it about homes, especially luxury homes in San Miguel de Allende is nothing comes from a box. Everything here is hand crafted. We have phenomenal craftsmanship here. The stone masons that do the carved canterra stone, detailing around the doors and windows and the fireplaces. Great stone masons that will put real stone walls into the wall, sometimes on the outside as well. Great handcrafted wrought iron work around the windows and the doors and windows themselves will be handcrafted. But that detailing iron work that you see on the outside of the windows, that's all handcrafted as well. The railings are just amazing here.

So the craftsmanship involved in a home here is just amazing. That's one of the bigger features of the homes here. Is nothing is from Home Depot, nothing's from a box. People love to learn about the Spanish colonial style. And so a couple of things to look for in Spanish colonial style are those big boveda ceilings that you see, the brick domes that go over the room. It's like a dome, although we have long ones that can be like a canyon boveda. We call them a canyon boveda because they're long and narrow like a canyon. So boveda ceilings are really good details to look for in these luxury homes. And then you'll see a woven wood ceiling, and if you don't have a curved boveda, then you'll have a flat ceiling with the Viga wood beams. And another very traditional Spanish colonial style that you see in some of the upper end homes is that woven wood ceiling that we call a Teja Menil ceiling. So that's a great feature to look for in these luxury homes as well.

Now, if we were going to talk about price range and investment returns for the luxury market here, I kind of touched on the price ranges. It's very easy to find something in the million to 3 million range. We rarely exceed 3 million, so you're in really good shape there. I just had clients that bought a home for a million and a quarter as an investment property. So they were looking honestly, both at the ROI, which is a little lower for this level. When you get into the million and a quarter range, our rooms don't rent for $2,000 a night here, so our rental rates are a little bit lower, but that investor was specifically looking... Excuse me, I need some more coffee. Was specifically looking for their internal rate of return. Forgive me, I have an MBA in finance, so I kind of tend to talk numbers a little bit here.

But that internal rate of return takes into account your appreciation over the holding period. So the home that they purchased, for instance, had appreciated 52% in the three years prior to them purchasing it. They really enjoyed that sort of appreciation. They're expecting the same level of appreciation over their holding period. Of course, they'll get a small ROI from the rental income that they hold it in the meantime, but when they get ready to sell it, they know they're going to have a substantial appreciation and gain when they finally do sell it. So great returns here, mostly from an appreciation and capitalization standpoint. Little lower on the return ROI standpoint, but you certainly can get double-digit ROIs here. So I can show you properties it can have from a 10 to 12, sometimes even a 14% ROI. So those are still pretty good here as well, from a rental income perspective.

Maya:

Thank you you for the very, very thorough explanation Greg. Why don't we give our viewers, now that you are added some insight into the benefits in investing in high-end properties and luxury homes in San Miguel de Allende, Greg?

Greg Gunter:

Well, we kind of touched on the benefits there. I mean, that's one of the biggest benefits, of course is getting a double-digit appreciation. Our central homes that are within that fifteen-minute walking radius of our town square, they can appreciate 20% in good years. So you're always going to get that 15 to 20% appreciation. I always tell buyers in my Q&A handbook that we send people... We have a Q&A info handbook that we send everybody when we first connect. And I talk about how property values are based on your sight line and your walking distance to the parochial because that's our iconic Eiffel Tower of San Miguel. It marks the very center of town right there on the town square, and so people like to be within a walking radius of that, generally about a 15-minute radius. Those properties will appreciate a lot more. So that's obviously a big benefit in investing in a luxury home here in San Miguel is a great appreciation.

It's a great investment, but the wonderful thing of course is enjoying the lifestyle and the luxury amenities of a home like that physically while you're living here. Now, if we were to highlight the potential for rental income and capital appreciation, again, I sort of touched on that, capital appreciation can run 15 to 20%. Your rental income here can run anywhere from... We'll have condo properties, for instance, that will have lock off and you can rent perhaps a studio 99 bucks a night, for instance, for a small studio apartment up to truly our luxury in markets can be eight to $1,200 a night for something that has a staff of three. They'll cook you breakfast, there's a swimming pool. They'll have all the amenities there, they'll drive you around. Those can run up in the four digits on a nightly basis. But generally speaking, you're going to be in the 2 to $300 a night range for a luxury property that may not even have a swimming pool, but it's still considered a luxury home within the walking distance of the Hardin. So good returns, really good appreciation returns.

Now, if we were to discuss the lifestyle benefits and that appeal to our high net worth individuals that are watching today, boy, that lifestyle again, that's what really sells homes here. I've lived here for 15 years and I love it. I'm never leaving. I moved here from Denver and San Diego. I love the weather appeal for instance that we have here in San Miguel. I just mentioned at the beginning of the video. It's 81 today and sunny, and it's mid-January. So can't do any better than that. Can you? Remember, team, we're in 6,400 feet in altitude, so we never have any humidity. So when we do videos later in the summer, keep watching. Look for me for a video in July and I'll mention how wonderful the weather is in July as well.

At 6400 feet, we have no humidity. So our Texans and the folks coming from the high humidity areas love to come down in the summertime because the weather is so phenomenal. Again from a high net worth individual sort of looking at the appeal of investing down here as well, no one knows that you have a home in San Miguel. It's not recorded, so it's not like someone can look you up in the high net worth database that I have available to me. If I'm researching a high net worth individual, I can see every property they own in the United States, but I'll never know what they own in Mexico. There's a lot of appeal to the high net worth individuals. So come down and take a look at San Miguel de Allende with me.

Maya:

Of course, I think as you already said, quality of life is the biggest appeal. And you also mentioned in one of our previous interviews how it's always great to invest in a place where you love to be. So I think that's just the biggest appeal in general. Now, Greg, can you share with our audience any tips for investing in high-end homes in San Miguel de Allende?

Greg Gunter:

Well, it's really important to understand the local market, and typically we would say conduct thorough market research. Well, that is really impossible to do on your own in San Miguel de Allende. We don't have a American style MLS here in Mexico. Well, at least not in San Miguel de Allende. We don't. A market like Cabo San Lucas has a regular American style MLS, but most of Mexico does not. We certainly don't have one here in San Miguel de Allende. So it's really important to work with a really qualified realtor that has a lot of history in the market. They can tell you what homes have sold for in the past. They can tell you the time on the market, the general time on the market for a home, what the history has been, what kind of appreciation to expect, what kind of rental rates you might get if you're looking to rent the property if you're not here full time.

So it's important to work with someone that can give you that insight into the local market and the history of a particular home. It is also important to discuss the significance of location, the property type and the amenities because that's going to affect your appreciation as well. One of the features that a lot of my buyers are looking for that our buyers are looking for are ground floor master suite for instance. We have an older demographic that comes to live here, and so even if you are a younger buyer, it's great to have a ground floor master for appreciation purposes. Those homes will always sell faster and they generally have a little better appreciation, depending on where they're located, of course.

Property types. Of course, single family homes are always very popular. So homes with larger yards can be more popular in some cases. In all honesty, that walking distance equation is sort of the biggest thing. So those homes that are close to the center of town, will appreciate a little bit more, but we still have a lot of interest for homes a little further away from that walking distance, maybe a 15 to 20 minute walk for instance, that might have a larger yard. We have a lot of people that move down with dogs and they go, "Hey, I've got three great Danes. They need room to run around." So our neighborhoods that are on the eastern periphery of town, like a Atascadero, and Balcones and Ojoragua, they'll all have larger yards. So those are good amenities to look for too. Phenomenal gardens in many of these places. The landscaping here is just amazing.

Now, if we were to highlight the importance of professional advice and the consultation that you'll get from a realtor, again, learning the history of a particular neighborhood, a property, the city in general, from an appreciation standpoint, what years are good, what years are not so good, what kind of appreciation you can expect on a particular home that you're looking for. That's where it comes in handy to have a very knowledgeable realtor. Best really in our market here, to work with someone that works with a franchise, because they're held to a higher level of standards.

Also, very good, obviously to work with a licensed realtor. And I know that might sound kind of funny to say that because every realtor in the United States is licensed. That's not true in Mexico. The taxi drivers here will try to sell you a home. They won't tell you anything about the history or that the fact that their uncle is selling a home for three times the market value, they're just going to try to sell you a home. So very important to work with a licensed realtor that has lots of good history. I joke with my clients, sometimes real estate in San Miguel de Allende can be a little bit like it was probably in the 1950s in the United States when there was less information available, less professionalism in the industry, less rules and regulations. It's a little bit like that down in San Miguel. So working with a very good licensed realtor is critical.

Maya:

Yeah, I totally agree. And that's the first step viewers might want to take when visiting San Miguel de Allende, just contacting an expert in the field. And Greg, well, now that we're at it, let's talk about the legal considerations and the process of buying a home here. I think that's really important to discuss.

Greg Gunter:

Sure, yeah. If we're going to talk about discussing the legal aspects of buying a home in San Miguel de Allende, one key point to mention, if you've heard in my of the videos, we like to stress the point that here in San Miguel de Allende, you own your home fee simple, just like in the United States. So that's a big difference. All those condo owners that own condos down on the coast, they don't really own the property. It's held through a bank trust. That's a different kind of ownership. It's called fideicomiso. But here in San Miguel de Allende, you get a a title, a deed, really with your name on it. So no one's taking that away from you. The government can't change, nothing is going to change that. It's just like having a property in the United States. It's a very easy process.

Here in San Miguel de Allende, we operate the real estate industry here, very much like in the US, everyone uses escrow, at least all the franchises, all the professional agencies all use escrow, because most people are buying all cash down here. It's a short 30 day closing typically. Use escrow, there's a legal team involved. There's a Notario, which is the same as a title company and closing company all rolled into one entity. He's a federally appointed position. It's a real estate attorney that has a federally appointed lifetime position. And they manage the closing. Which Notario you choose, of course is going to be coming from the recommendation from your realtor. Another good reason to have a really good and experienced realtor. They're going to recommend the best legal team who also works with the best Notario. So that's a critical aspect about looking at homes in San Miguel de Allende.

Now, if I were going to share tips on how to navigate the paperwork and bureaucratic processes, you can't stress the realtor part enough, right? Because some of the bureaucratic paperwork you have to go through foreigners, whether you're Canadian or American or European, any foreigner has to apply for what's called an SRE permit to purchase property as a foreigner in Mexico. You need to work with a team that's going to coordinate that quickly for you, because now that we're post pandemic. The offices that process that paperwork have never really fully restaffed. And so what used to take two or three days can now take two weeks. So you need to get started on that process. And of course, your realtor and legal team is going to be the ones that coordinate all that for you. So you need to make sure you're working with people that are on the ball for all that paperwork.

You're going to want to work with a good realtor that has great recommendations for a property inspector because you're going to want to do that immediately. We have 10 calendar days. Typically, most contracts here are 10 calendar days to do an inspection. You do a full inspection on our property before you even put money into escrow. So you're getting a very safe property that's very habitable and very sound before you even put a dime into escrow, because of course, once you put money into escrow, it's non refundable.

But that's the nice thing. We have a slow process to get into that. And so it's 10 days before you put money into escrow, and then typically we're closing about two weeks later. So again, as I mentioned, the whole process is very much like it is in the United States. It's important to highlight the importance of having a really good local real estate attorney. That attorney or legal team... Really, because it's a team, not just one person, will be a referral again from the realtor. But they're the ones that will do all of the legal research, the title research to make sure that you're getting a title.

It's free and clear of any kind of encumbrances. They will do all that research for you. They'll give you a heads-up. That's another important thing on that sort of bureaucratic process I mentioned. A good realtor will let you know within twenty-four hours of getting a dual signed offer that's accepted by the seller, whether the property has any leans and encumbrance against that. Every time I put a buyer into contract, my legal team lets them know within 24 to 48 hours, hey, we've got a property that's completely free and clear of encumbrances. You know that it's a comfortable property to invest before you even put a dime into escrow. So that's the importance of a legal team.

They'll also be the ones that manage the paperwork I just talked about the SRE permit. They'll manage doing a will for you because you need to have a will in Mexico for your Mexican property. They will be the ones that can build a right of survivorship into the deed for you so that surviving spouse can automatically inherit the whole property. But for instance, if you have children that you want to designate as heirs for the property, that needs to be done with the will with legal team. And again, that's going to be the recommendation coming from your excellent realtor. Preferably a realtor from Berkshire Hathaway Home Services because we work with the best legal teams in town.

Maya:

Thank you, Greg, for this great conversation. We covered so many topics. You gave us an overview of the Luxor real estate market here in Mexico, and also helped us uncover high-end properties in San Miguel de Allende and mentioned why it's a great idea to invest in high-end properties. We talked about legal considerations and the whole legal process of purchasing a home here in San Miguel. So viewers, Greg's done a great job summarizing the potential benefits and challenges of investing in high-end properties and luxury homes in San Miguel de Allende. But we would love to pursue that conversation further. So please give us a call or email and let us discuss your needs and requirements specifically. We'll get down to the nitty-gritty with you and help you throughout the whole process. Am I right, Greg?

Greg Gunter:

Yes. Very good. I'd love to discuss the specifics. One, me or one of my team will be happy to go through the specific needs that you might have, the specific steps, anything that's unique for you, if you have kids that you're worried about being able to inherit the property. If you have a spouse that's not sure she wants to move to San Miguel de Allende and needs a little encouragement or more insight into the process, we would be happy to get on a Zoom with you and chat with you and walk you through that process. So yeah, give us a ring. Let us do a Zoom with you. You're going to love learning more about it. One of one, it's always a better way to learn more about the process.

Maya:

Exactly. So viewers, we want to hear from you. So comment below with your experiences or thoughts or questions about purchasing high-end properties in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. And also don't forget to like, share and subscribe to our channel for more valuable content like this. We release videos about all your real estate questions on a weekly basis. So thank you so, so much for watching, and thank you, Greg, for your time.

Greg Gunter:

Thanks so much Maya. Look great in that red. And viewers, come on down. It's 81 degrees today. You're going to love it. Come on down and spend Valentine's.

 

 

 

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