Condominium or Villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Invariably, when North Americans visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, they have such a good time under absolutely ideal conditions that they hate to leave. Upon returning home, many immediately begin planning their next trip to Vallarta and can only dream about retiring here someday. The fortunate ones, either currently retired or about to retire, often start thinking about how they can own a piece of Vallarta and spend at least a part of their retirement time in Paradise.

Many visitors interested in pursuing the idea of retiring in Vallarta will rent a condominium during their first extended stay, and while doing so, will experience all the benefits Vallarta has to offer and will explore the market for condos and/or villas. Once they have determined that Vallarta will be their full time or part time retirement destination, they are ready to start considering which is most appropriate for them, a condo or villa.
There are certain aspects of condo and villa ownership that are constant; for seven months from November through May, the climate will be ideal, there will be numerous activities to enjoy and an abundance of friends to enjoy them with, and most every condo or villa will have a panoramic, breathtaking view of the Banderas Bay and the Sierra Madre mountains.

The following discussion is to address the differences between condo and villa ownership.

The first variable that most consider is the percentage of time expected to be spent in Vallarta each year. For those planning full retirement in Paradise, a villa with staff might be the best choice; association fees are minimal, there are no neighbors or renters upstairs, value appreciation is most favorable, furniture and personal items can be shipped into Mexico making living conditions more similar to back home, and most importantly, the old house in the US or Canada can be liquidated, thus freeing up the capital for retirement and travel. Those planning part time residency in PV might favor condo ownership; they will be close to many of the restaurants, shopping areas, various activities, they will be able to turn the key and forget about the condo at the end of the “high season”, they will have an opportunity to generate rental income while away, their maintenance expenses will be minimal, and they will retain their permanent family residence back home.

The second variable to consider would be the number of friends & family that might be expected to visit each year. When you live in Paradise, you’ll be amazed at how many “dear friends” you had back home! Of course, the smaller the condo, the fewer “dear friends” you’ll have. Whereas, if you own a grand villa, you’ll have more “dear friends” than you ever knew you had.

The third variable has to do with the age and health of the retiree. A younger retiree might favor a villa where he can call it home, living there as he would in any permanent residence, without having that temporary or transient feeling. Also, since most of the villas are located on the mountainside, they are usually multi-story and involve stairs, thus presenting obstacles for those less fit. Maintenance of a villa requires much more time, effort, and money and therefore, to many of the older or less healthy retirees, it alone might rule out villa ownership. Typically, the older retirees find the advantages of condo life outnumber those of villa ownership, whereas the younger retirees with many healthy years ahead of them prefer villa ownership.

A fourth variable would be the amount of “privacy” the retirees want in while in Vallarta. When living in a condo complex, most of the neighbors and security personnel are knowledgeable regarding you presence and possibly your activities while in the condo. On the other hand, living in a casa or villa much is more “private” and neighbors may or may not know when you´re even in town.

Due to the ever increasing cost of land, as a “rule of thumb”, you can use an average cost per square foot for a villa of $250, whereas the average cost for a condo would be a little less, at $200 per square foot. Of course, there are many properties in Vallarta that sell for substantially less, however, we’re only considering those with magnificent views and all of the modern amenities. On the surface, these prices may seem a bit high; however, similar properties with comparable views would be two to three times as much in the States. Furthermore, association fees are much less and property taxes are negligible in Mexico. If you need to be on the beach, increase it by $100 per square foot! If you need to be located in the center of Old Town, count on your condo being much smaller, the view perhaps compromised, and the cost as much as $400 per square foot. If the panoramic bay view is not critical, you can find a very nice, almost new, furnished two story three bedroom casita in Fluvial for not much more than $100 per square foot.

An additional consideration that every retiree must have relates to real estate future values. In Mexico in general, and in Puerto Vallarta specifically, there is no housing slump or fear of recession, as prices continue to escalate at a rate of 10% or more per year.

All properties in Vallarta, whether condos or villas, that are purchased by foreigners, are done so through 50 year trusts held by a designated bank. These trusts give the foreign owner exclusive right to property usage for 50 years and can be renewed after 50 years, can be given to a designated beneficiary upon death and then renewed for another 50 years, or can be sold, allowing the buyer to renew the trust for new 50 year term or continue with the existing trust. These bank trusts are as safe as the title and deed used in the States or Canada; plus, since they are Mexican bank trusts, they are virtually untouchable by any outside entity.

Since all real estate legal transactions in Mexico are done in Spanish, it is imperative that the buyer is represented by a qualified attorney. Also, much of the Mexican coastal land is classified as ejido land, and as such, was designated by the Mexican government many years ago to be used by the natives as farm land. North Americans are unable to purchase some of this beautiful coastal land and therefore, any North American retiree considering real estate ownership in the Vallarta area, must have competent representation to assure them that the land is appropriate for foreign ownership.

Due to the differences in laws and language, an exclusive buyer’s agent is a prerequisite in order to avoid the potential pitfalls associated with real estate purchases in Mexico. Having a truly professional agent with 100% buyer dedication and loyalty will assure you a safe and pleasant real estate purchase, regardless of whether you’re buying a condo or villa in Paradise.