Whether you are searching for your perfect beachfront home in Mexico or dreaming about it, these tips will help you discover and plan your purchase. From erosion to government improvements know what to look for when buying a beachfront home in Mexico.
1. The “Beachfront” Trap.
Don’t be fooled into purchasing a back lot at beachfront prices. The key to any purchase is to be certain there is plenty of space between the ‘beach road’ (road running parallel to the sea line) and the shore. Take into consideration the ‘federal zone” , the public beach area, and government building restrictions, to be sure the ‘lot’ is on the beach, and not located on a back lot with beachfront prices.
2. Erosion is the Enemy.
You have found the lot on the beach, now what? The next step is to make certain that it will still be there in the future. Seek high elevation from the sea level. Obviously the higher the better but if you are on the windward or receiving end of a storm channel, seek at least 7 feet. This will help defend against erosion. (Erosion is the enemy – think Cancun and the hotel zone)
3. Long Live the Sand.
Beachfront vitality is important. Obviously when purchasing a beachfront home, you want to be sure there will be sand or beach for years to come, making a lot selection with evidence of a swash zone, a beach face, a wrack line, and a berm important.
1-The swash zone is where the waves usually break in normal weather.
2-The beach face would represent the area that is flat and often the place where you would put a towel down to tan on.
3-The wrack line is where the ‘high watermark’ can reach.. The latter would be in the case of foul weather or storm.
4-The berm is where you would see the rise of the elevation. Ideally this would have green plants growing on it, seeking to encroach the wrack line, showing strengths of little or no erosion. (Green can’t grow where sea water is dumped.)
All four zones are important, however for price, you may consider sacrificing one or more at your own peril.
4. Run from the Wind.
If you should come across that perfect white sandy beach on the windward side of the current, RUN! If nature can clean it, nature can take it. Look for trash; the more the better. This you can easily handle.
But the former, means having to fight Mother Nature and more often than not you will lose. Erosion is a S.O.B. Unfortunately a large percentage of the Mexican Caribbean is like this.
5. Skipping Rocks.
Rocks on the beach are not a beach. It’s a coastline. Seek a ‘rock-less’ beach and a rock free sea floor in the immediate sea line.
First, rocks are not fun to navigate and second, exposed rock is a sign of erosion at some point.
6. Offshore Reef Protection.
If you are lucky enough to discover a beach with a protective reef offshore, this will aid in the fight against erosion, and in certain cases assist in providing some accretion.
I’ve been on beaches that had corner stones marked 40+ years ago and upon the rectification survey, the beach grew more than 20 meters. (that’s free money in my book…) It’s simply amazing what can happen on a class 10 beach. But not all reefs are the same. Costa Maya, the second largest reef system in the world, runs off that coast but it tends to hinder more beach than help.
7. Trouble in the Reef.
A reef exposed or just below the ocean surface will cause the sea to become stagnant on certain days, while reefs deep below the surface will not work well in the battle of erosion. A dead or dying reef is a one-way ticket to future troubles of keeping your sand. Ask divers about Cozumel and they will tell you that it once was a thriving reef, but not anymore…
8. Hitting the Jackpot With Wetlands.
Finding all of the above with a major wetland or mangrove area behind, is like hitting the jackpot. Buy all you can afford. The ideal location would have wetlands behind, to clean and fertilize or feed the underground water system that flows beneath your lot. The Government protects wetlands, because these areas provide the nutrients to support a thriving reef system.
Filling in wetlands will eventually kill the reef that protects the beach from erosion.
In addition, wetlands behind the beachfront will limit future development, keeping the beach privacy, after all, that is most likely why you are buying. In Playa del Carmen, crowds of streets (60) now exist behind the beach. The first buyers knew of three streets, how do you think they feel about their private beachfront now?
9. Snoop Around.
It is now time to start checking out the neighbors. Like minds usually fit best next to each other. If your goal is to build a quiet little beach house someday, make sure the next ‘all-inclusive party resort’ is not scheduled to be built next or close to the lot you have chosen.
Often, what you don’t see is most concerning. If you are buying 50 meters and intend to put a $400,000 USD house on it, don’t buy next to a lot that has only 10 or 15 meters. A smaller house next to you will not help your property value once improved, even if it will be 10-15 years from time of purchase. Some have seen this happen in sections of Puerto Morelos or even Playacar.
10. Don’t Be Fooled At Closing.
Title issues remain an area of concern when buying property in Mexico, it is recommended to close with a notary or a government attorney that is tasked with overseeing the transaction. In addition, it would be a good idea to have your own attorney who represents you and exclusively you. Ask for a government certified translation of everything that they ask you to sign, this way you are not signing a blank check.
Many companies have you sign a big proxy or power of attorney at closing, then close legally without you.
Don’t be fooled. Bring your brain and your wallet when crossing the border.
Check the numbers, including the lot numbers and dollar amount. Be certain you have a cadastral number (lot number) in both English and Spanish. If there is not a cadastral (lot) number, you are only spending money on dirt, not title to the property. Parcels included in your ‘meets and bounds’ description need to conform with previous title. When in doubt.. wait and ask questions.
In a perfect world you should not be more than 10 a minutes drive by car to a small town with a general store or simple restaurant.
This way you won’t be driving more than an hour for the simple necessities like beer or milk – which is often the case in Mexico when beachfront prices are most affordable/attractive.
Further, if the closest international airport is over an hour away, the price of the lot should reflect such.
Finding a lot that is close enough to the airport is the most important as most lots with the above characteristics are in the middle of nowhere and the drive from the lot to the international airport is over 2 hours.
Lastly, ask about electricity. Some lots may not have the infrastructure to accommodate comfortable living.
Rural beachfront properties may not have access to everyday electricity for years.