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Thinking About Retiring in Mexico? The Yucatan Peninsula is a Fantastic Option!

By Elizabeth Dunkel June 26, 2016 Lifestyle

I’m a 25 year resident of Merida, Mexico in the Yucatan peninsula. I moved here for work and love and now I’m seeing a huge influx of expats joining the party here. I want to share some of my thoughts about retiring here with you.

First of all, the Yucatan Peninsula consists of three states: Yucatan, Quintana Roo (home of Cancun and Tulum) and Campeche. The area gets a lot of press as a dreamy vacation destination with its white sand beaches and crystal blue water, Maya archeological sites, colonial Mexican cities with colonial style architecture and delicious food.

Retiring in Mexico - Tulum

In the past ten years, many people have moved to Merida, the capital of Yucatan State, for lots of good reasons: low cost living, no winter, excellent health care, proximity to the U.S., friendly citizens, delicious food, abundant cultural life and amazing beaches.

It’s not just retirees who are falling in love with this area. Young people are moving their businesses and families here for a better quality of life.

First Things First!

Relax! Do your homework! Online and in person.

Don’t do what several of my acquaintances have done: come here on a vacation and buy a house on their first visit! Yes, this has happened! Many times! OMG – as the millennials say.

Here’s a good way to go about figuring out if you want to retire in the Yucatan.

First of all, come on a vacation. Spend two weeks. See if you even like it.

If you do like it, then come back for a longer period of time and rent a house, apartment, or Airbnb. What seems delightful on a vacation may turn out to be a different story when you have to live with certain realities on a day to day basis.

The Big Don’t

When you first arrive here you might be giddy with the real estate prices and want to snap up something immediately. Don’t. You need to get the lay of the land.

There are many living options. You can restore an old colonial house in Merida’s colonial downtown – with all the to-be-expected horror stories and delights of renovation in a foreign language.

You can buy an already restored colonial house in Merida’s centro. There are houses in the immediate surrounding areas of Merida, suburbs and fraccionamientos.

You can live in a gated community. You can live out in the jungle, or get a house at the beach. There are also apartments being built, which is a new thing for Merida.

So relax and take your time. Check out the various lifestyles and neighborhoods and see what appeals to you most.

I might add here that I’m the proud founder of the Merida English Library, which serves as a library and community center. The library hosts House and Garden Tours from October to March so that you can visit some renovated colonial beauties.

Welcome to Paradise

Take a look at Yucatan Today and Yucatan Living. They are filled with tourist and expat information about life in Merida. Here are a few things they won’t tell you about.

Retiring in Mexico

Realities About Real Estate and Realtors in Yucatan

Be aware that there is no licensing of realtors in Merida. If you decide you want to be a realtor… you can. So, be aware that you may be dealing with someone who doesn’t know the ropes, as it were.

There are many real estate websites that you can Google. There is no such thing as a single listing. All realtors list all houses and anyone can sell anything.

Your best bet is to research the real estate websites and interview realtors until you find someone you like and think you can work with. Because I know so many realtors, I cannot make a recommendation or express a personal preference for you.

Another thing to consider is that if you are not a Mexican citizen, you cannot own outright the house that you buy. This is an ancient Mexican law (dating back to the Conquest) to protect Mexican borders against invaders.

If you buy in the Yucatan peninsula, you will be required to have a fidecomiso, which is a trust agreement whereby a bank holds the title to your house. Your realtor will explain to you why this is perfectly safe and that all expats have this type of arrangement. But, if it freaks you out… well, maybe Yucatan is not for you.

Also, tropical house maintenance and housekeeping are… different!

Local Customs

Please! Learn Spanish! Do not think you can come here and get by on your English. It’s disrespectful to the local population. But mostly, your life will be easier and enriched. There are many excellent Spanish schools in Merida, such as this one. Again, you can explore more on Auntie Google.

Just because there’s a Costco in Merida doesn’t mean you’re in the U.S. Explore the local customs… such as the business hours, the fact that lunch is the main meal of the day, how holidays are celebrated and how to hire and treat domestic help.

Keep in mind that the driving rules are different – as are the gas stations.

Even the rules of sanitation and sewage are different. Do. Your. Homework.

Retiring in MexicoBugs and Heat?

Yes darling, there are scorpions, tarantulas, geckos, gila monsters (tolocs), mosquitos, flies, etc. But obviously expats have made peace with the bugs and are still moving here. This is another reason why it’s good to rent first, to see how you really feel about tropical bugs.

Secondly, you say you like hot weather… but can you cope with 100% humidity and months of 100F (40C) and white hot sun – so white hot, you cannot go out for a walk at midday – or many hours before or after? This is yet another reason to rent before you move!

The rainy season is from May to Sept. The hurricane season is from June to November. “Winter” is delightful, from October to March. April and May are the hottest months, just before the rains begin.

Despite all my good humored grousing in the links I’ve included… I’m still here! This is because there’s something magical in the air that makes people adjust to challenging circumstances. I just want you to have your eyes open so you welcome the challenges instead of turning around and moving home. Information is power!

Have you ever thought about retiring as an expat? Where? Or, are you already an expat? Tell us where! Tell us what you’ve learned in your expat experience that might help others in the Sixty and Me community!

Let's Have a Conversation!

The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. She is the Creative Director of www.campliza.com, her personal blog about stylish, creative and meaningful living. “A thoughtful life is a luxurious life.” Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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