Real Estate FYI / Be It Ever So Humble...

Be It Ever So Humble...

Be It Ever So Humble...

21 December 2009 REAL ESTATE, Real Estate FYI 29

There's No Place Like Home

We've had many requests to show you what lies behind some of the less magnificent facades of Merida. We all know there are some pretty spectacular houses with sweeping vistas, tall ceilings, columns, arcades, reflecting pools and more here in this colonial city. But many of us can't afford that kind of home. And some of us don't even WANT that kind of home (after all, those big houses can be a lot of work to maintain and keep clean).

Episode Five of The Houses of Merida brings us to the humble abode of a single woman who moved here from the cold and grey city of Seattle. While she loved (and still loves) Seattle, one of the reasons she came to Merida was to live in sunshine and to enjoy the colorful life of the Yucatan. She is retired, and travels to visit family or friends regularly, so she also wanted a home she could lock up and leave for weeks at a time. And being on a fixed income, she wanted a home that wouldn't break the bank when it came to utility bills and upkeep.

The house opens onto a busy street, but has one of the owner's requirements, a garage. It is a two-story house, with two of the three bedrooms upstairs to take advantage of the prevailing breezes. There's also a private deck upstairs, which now boasts a shaded roof since we video taped there (see the upper left corner of the facade photo below), and the owner tells us that the space is much more enjoyable that way and she uses it a lot more now. The room in the back that was originally a neglected laundry room has been turned into a lovely guest cottage with its own kitchenette. And between the guest cottage and the house is a small garden and a plunge pool, both easy to care for.

As you will see, the furnishings and design of the home are simple... nothing fancy here. On the other hand, there is plenty of color, a definite statement made by someone who was used to the cold, grey weather of the Northwest. The owner was her own contractor, and besides getting the house done exactly the way she wanted it with minimum fuss, she enjoyed the experience of working with and getting to know the alba├▒iles, some of whom have become friends.

The overall effect is a simple house that is easy to live in, big enough for parties and gatherings and with enough rooms and space to accommodate multiple guests. This house is bigger than it seems, and can accommodate up to six guests, in addition to the owner.

The Neighborhood

When she bought the home, the basic structure was what attracted her. The house had everything she had put on her list that she wanted. Like many of us, however, she knew nothing about the neighborhood that she moved into. This house is in the Centennario neighborhood, named after the Parque Centennario Zoo which is about four blocks away. Just outside of the historic centro, the neighborhood only has a smattering of colonial homes. The rest of the homes are like this one... built mostly of cement block (except for the garden walls) and built in the mid to late 20th century. The neighborhood is not filled with expats. On the contrary, this house is one of the few in the neighborhood owned by a foreigner, and so the owner is able to enjoy the unadulterated Merida neighborhood experience, from children coming door-to-door looking for school donations to the neighborly experience of sitting out on the street chatting after dark.

What she found after moving in was that, besides the neighbors, there was a lot that the area has to offer. It is walking distance to a major grocery store (Chedraui on Itzaes), the Zoo, the Bellas Artes building complex and Parque de La Paz, and to Avenida Itzaes, which in that area is a good place to walk a dog (or a human!). In the opposite direction, the heart of downtown is about twelve blocks away, walking distance as long as it isn't too hot. Easy for taxis to reach and find, and yet far enough away from the centro historico to have plenty of parking on the streets and less traffic.

Suffice it to say, the owner feels she made a good choice and is extremely happy with her humble and happy abode.


  • Brenda Thornton 13 years ago

    I have noticed that the Working Gringos and others mention that double walls, at least on the exterior, are often used to recreate the "colonial" feeling of the homes and for sound and thermal insulation. We have discussed this with several individuals in the Houston area in the building industy and an architect, who admittedly does things normally in the U. S. manner, but have come up with the idea that if they are going to use two block walls, that perhaps it would be wise to leave four to six inches between the blocks and to use the spray-in eco friendly, soy insulation. The stuff is sprayed in, is mold and moisture impervious, and has an R factor far above the concrete blocks. For those gringos who like their cool houses, the payback, with the electric costs, could be just a few years, and the insulation may make air-conditioning unnecessary during much of the year, anyway. It also is not effected and does not permit moisture to enter the home via the walls and seals any and all leaks. It could be sprayed into the cavity after piping and electrical systems were run through the cavity and then through holes in the interior walls so no chiseling would be required in the plaster.

    I believe the working gringos convinced their architect and workers to install their plumbing and wiring prior to the plastering and had success with it. This is just a thought, and the insulation is not cheap, but it is ideal for a tropical environment because of the lack of a problem with moisture, because it seals any leaks or holes and makes them impervious, termites and insects hate it, and it also is an excellent sound muffler for those areas where there are busy streets. The fact that it is soy based and non-toxic was a big plus for me, as well.

  • leywok 13 years ago

    Water source heat pumps are not used for cooking. They're used for AC cooling/heating. Plastic tubing is run into the ground and water is circulated thru the Heat pump. The heat pumps require ductwork to distribute the air, and it has to be heavily insulated to keep the mold from growing and to allow the ductwork to sweat. That's why in hot humid climates, it's a bad idea to use ductwork; think of "smelly sock syndrome" throughout your entire house. Ductless mini-splits are cheaper and easier to install.

  • Brenda Thornton 13 years ago

    Does anyone know whether there are geothermal pumps used for cooking in the Yucatan? I know they can be used via drilling holes into the ground and running tubes of the refrigerant through them, but the relatively shallow water to find a cenote in the Yucatan would seem to be the ideal situation for this form of cooling. If anyone knows, please post about it.

  • Brenda Thornton 13 years ago

    I know the mosaico floors are beautiful, but have porcelain tiles become common in the Merida region? We installed them in a bathroom and the tile men prefer to work with them instead of ceramic. The color is solid throughout the tile, so chips are not so readily visible and the ones we used are so real stone-like that it is amazing and for one fourth the cost of real stone.

  • TONI 13 years ago

    PLEASE!!!were can i contact her "albaniles" mom is having a hard time finding a good group of "albaniles" to do the job she needs.....the ones she hired made a mess....and disapeared, she doesn't know were to find them. Really if you can get me these "albaniles " referals i would really ...really appreciate it.

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    Maria, we can assure you that the neighborhood is not dangerous. However, point well taken. We will try, in the future, to show a bit more of the neighborhood surrounding the house.

  • maria rebolloso 13 years ago

    good information but, the video shows too much the man...and what I want to see is the house, and the neighbourhood also, how dangerous is etc etc.

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    Rick, there are many real estate websites where you can start looking. Check out our Real Estate section (at the top of the page on the right, in the navigation list)

  • rick baer 13 years ago

    I am interested in buying or renting in the inner city.

  • Allen Trottier 13 years ago

    Thank you for the video. Very informative.

  • Beryl 13 years ago

    I love the colors and the basic white ceramic tiles. The house seems airy and extremely pleasant. And how appropriate that her first piece of furniture was a reclining chair! It fits our lifestyle so well.

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