House Hunting in … Mexico
International Real Estate
By MARCELLE SUSSMAN FISCHLER DEC. 7, 2016
A SEAFRONT VILLA WITH A POOL IN COZUMEL
This five-bedroom four-and-a-half-bath house sits on a 0.43-acre beachfront lot in an enclave of four villas in Cozumel, an island in the Caribbean off the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. A private one-bedroom caretaker’s cottage is at the driveway entrance. Behind the house, a cluster of palm trees provides a shady respite from the public beach beyond. The 5,395-square-foot house, built in 2004, is very close to the neighboring homes on both sides.
From a thatched roof covering the two-car carport, steps lead up to the house. Known as Villa Las Glorias, it is of painted concrete block with a red barrel-tiled roof. The front terrace has a concrete water feature; the broad wood front door is inset with glass squares.
The ceiling in the foyer is decorated with a backlit canopy of tree branches. Earth-tone ceramic tiles cover the floors throughout, and colorful abstract art adorns the walls. The house is being sold furnished, said Nancy Edwards, a broker at the Cozumel Living Real Estate Company, which has the listing. The rent is $4,000 a week, $6,000 a week at Christmas.
From the foyer, three steps lead to a sunken living room with built-in sofas, a fireplace, a vaulted ceiling and sliding glass doors that open to a pool deck with sea views. The dining room, separated from the living room by a low wall, also has a sliding glass door to the deck.
The kitchen, to the right of the foyer, has a colorful broken-tile mosaic countertop and breakfast bar, stainless steel appliances and a gas cooktop. The kitchen cabinet doors and the built-in cabinets in the bedrooms repeat the washboard-like branch motif. Light filters through glass blocks in the kitchen.
Two bedrooms are on the first floor. One opens through a sliding door to the front terrace; the other opens to the pool. One bedroom has its own bath; there is also a powder room in the hall. All the bathrooms have navy and white Mexican ceramic tile.
Upstairs, the master bedroom has a vaulted ceiling, a ceiling fan and a balcony with pool and sea views. The en-suite master bath has an enclosed toilet, a double vanity and a large skylit shower room with shower heads at each end. To the other side of the upstairs landing are two more bedrooms with en-suite baths and balconies. One faces the sea; the other has a thatched roof and faces the jungle.
A circular staircase leads from the master bedroom to a roof deck with sea views.
The concrete pool deck has a thatched roof for shade, an outdoor kitchen with a barbecue and an outdoor shower. The pool has a swimming section, a shallow lounging area and a plunge pool.
Steps beyond the neighboring house in Cozumel’s south hotel zone, a series of beach clubs draws day trippers from cruise ships with restaurants with beach service, bars, souvenir shops, swimming pools and inflatable water playgrounds. Jet Skis and other water sports equipment are also for rent. A supermarket and other shopping can be found along the coast road; tourist shops and restaurants abound in the downtown San Miguel area, about eight miles to the north.
Cozumel International Airport is about 20 minutes away. Cozumel can also be reached by ferry from Playa del Carmen on the mainland. The trip takes about 45 minutes.
The 2008 global economic downturn hit Cozumel hard, Ms. Edwards said. Real estate prices dropped about 35 percent, she said, but started to pick up about a year ago.
The United States economy “greatly affects” the Cozumel market, she added. “It’s still a buyer’s market, but it is rapidly changing.”
The prices of condominiums typically range from $300,000 for a two-bedroom to $450,000 to $565,000 for a three-bedroom unit, Ms. Edwards said. Four houses recently on the market were priced at over $1 million, including one at $2 million with substantial property.
Joseph Watts, the manager of Re/Max Complete in Cozumel, noted “a sharp increase in sales” this year, though he said it would “probably take more time for prices to go up, since there are still listings available from the slower period.” The markets for homes and condos on the island are equally strong, but the number is limited “because it is an island,” Mr. Watts said.
All but two units are sold at the new six-story condo Deck 12, Ms. Edwards said. The two-bedroom, two-bath units have sea views over a public park across the street. Presale prices are slightly under $300,000.
Mortgages are available but usually require a down payment of at least 40 percent, Mr. Watts said.
WHO BUYS IN COZUMEL
Ms. Edwards said that among her buyers, about a third are Mexican, a third are American and a third are Canadian. Buyers include large numbers of diving enthusiasts, snowbirds and expatriates.
As an island, all of Cozumel is in the Mexican government’s restricted coastal zone, requiring foreigners to buy property through a property trust managed by a bank, said Gisela Rodriguez, a lawyer in Cozumel. Trusts, and any real estate transactions in Mexico, must be done by a notary public. In Mexico, notary publics are licensed lawyers appointed by the government and are impartial, Ms. Rodriguez said.
Down payments are generally 10 percent of the purchase price, with closing about three months after an offer is accepted. A 3 percent transfer tax is charged on all real estate transactions.
Closing costs, standard among notaries, are 1 percent of the purchase price, Ms. Rodriguez said. Bank fees, including the federal permission for which the bank applies on behalf of foreign buyers through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, costs $1,300.
Because the notary is impartial, “it is advisable” for buyers to have their own lawyer, Ms. Rodriguez said, even before they make an offer on a property. The lawyer should check property records to make sure there is no lien; “sometimes the documents are not entirely in order,” Ms. Rodriguez said. The lawyer can also investigate future capital gains taxes, which can run 35 percent for foreign sellers. A lawyer’s fee of 1 percent of the purchase price is payable after closing and once the deed is registered.
Cozumel multiple listing service: ampicozumel.com
Tourism site: cozumel.travel
Tourism site: visitmexico.com/en/cozumel
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY
Spanish, Mexican peso (1 peso = 0.05 United States dollar)
TAXES AND FEES
The property taxes on Villa Las Glorias are about $2,000 a year.
Real estate commission, paid by the seller, ranges from 5 to 7 percent of the purchase price.
Nancy Edwards, Cozumel Living Real Estate Company, 011-52-987869-2345; cozumelliving.com