Real Estate FYI / Building Our House

Building Our House

Building Our House

11 May 2006 Real Estate FYI 14

Buying, restoring and building houses is a favorite gringo pastime in Merida, and the Working Gringos are no exception. When we moved here, we had just finished restoring a home in California, so restoration was not something we wanted to do right away. We bought a house designed and restored by one of the Yucatan's (and Mexico's) most famous and brilliant architects, Salvador Reyes-Rios. It was one of two colonial homes that Salvador had restored on "spec", and we were thrilled to be able to buy something so beautiful. Our house was called Casa del Panadero and it has been turned into a lovely vacation rental.

At the same time we bought Panadero, we also bought a ruin of a house three blocks away to be our office. We asked Salvador if he would design it too, and he consented. Later that year we hired a contractor to renovate it and we named it Cho'hol, which we understand means "Mouse Hole" in Mayan. We don't know why houses have names in Mexico... well, we used to not know why. Now we don't know why houses in the States *don't* have names. Although Cho'hol is our office, it was designed to have all the amenities of a smaller two-bedroom, two-bath house.

While we have loved every minute of our lives in Casa del Panadero (which means House of the Baker, by the way, as it was once a bakery), we now have two dogs, URL and Mali, and the house is just too small. We think it would be more convenient to have our house and office on the same property. A large property. For the dogs, you know. So we have decided to sell Panadero (you can see the listings at Tierra Yucatan, Real Estate Yucatan and Hacienda Mexico) and move into a much larger place.

Last summer, we were lucky to find an inexpensive plot of land in Colonia San Sebastian, about 8 blocks south-west of the main plaza. It's a rather expansive lot with a little bit of house on it. So we bought it and are now in the process of designing a combined house/office that will be mostly new construction, remodeling only the facade and the two front rooms of the original structure.

Since many of our readers are either living here or thinking of living here, we felt it might be helpful (or at least interesting) to track our progress over the next nine months or so as we design, build and move in to our new home. The plan is that we will move in by Christmas... vamos a ver! (We'll see!). But that's the plan.

Now that Salvador is an architect to the stars, he's not available to help the likes of us. But we have selected two wonderful "working gringo" guys from New York to be our designers/contractors. They have lived here for four years, renovated a few houses during that time, and have committed to designing and building us a great house within our budget.

Many people come down to Merida to buy inexpensive houses, and while that can be done, we have found that it is important to balance the desire to buy everything for less with the knowledge that you get what you pay for. If you follow our process over the next few months, something tells us you will get to watch that balancing act more than once.

So, here is where we are: We own a piece of property that is about 10,000 square feet in an "L" shaped configuration. We are in the process of buying an additional piece of land from the neighbors next door to form a "T" shaped piece of land. Our challenge (and our designers' challenge) is to design a house that is about 3,500 square feet that will include an office and a home with a swimming pool, a courtyard and a *big* garden... or what we have begun referring to as a "tropical park". All of this for around $200,000 US.

We're not going fancy, but we want something informed by Mexican sensibilities but with a monastic edge. We want it cool, airy and easy to keep clean (with two dogs!). Can it be done?? Stay tuned! We'll keep you updated on our progress.

Follow along with the Working Gringos as they build their house here:


  • CasiYucateco 12 years ago

    Joe, it is not far to beach areas with limited or no electricity. The skies are fantastic! Plan a beach outing at night for a meteor shower or other event. Or just go any night and see so many more stars than you would have thought possible! Enjoy!

  • Working Gringos 12 years ago

    Joe, please read this article on the website:

    Also, there is ambient light from Merida inside the city. It is also easy to go outside of the city to the beach, to a hacienda or just to a small village and enjoy a beautiful night without light pollution.

  • Joe Mc 12 years ago

    Can you tell me how you transport your dogs to/from Merida? From the articles, I gather that some people are 'snow birds' and make the commute, with the dogs, each year.
    Also, several articles have mentioned enjoying the stars at night. Is there much interference from Merida's ambient light? (We live in a suburb of San Francisco, CA, and stars are certainly visible, but when we go camping, away from the ambient light, it is as though we are on a different planet!)

  • Arnaldo 15 years ago

    Well, we just read on one of the other articles regarding building your house that the property was not included in the price (which is now over $300,000), so no need to answer the question, which of course was asked at the spur of the moment without reading further.

    Love your articles and will continue to check in to the progress of your house.

  • Arnaldo 15 years ago

    We've been reading your article with great interest. We plan on visiting Merida and it's surrounding area next month, and we can't wait. We are hoping to retire in that area and in readng this particular article were wondering if when you indicate the building of your new house was around $200,000, if that included the purchasing of the existing property. If it does not include the property, would you mind telling me how much the house/land cost so I can get a "total" figure in my mind.

    Thank you for your great articles and for the help you provide those of us who have interest in Merida/Yucatan.

  • Yucatan Living - Mortgages in Merida, Yucatan 15 years ago

    [...] Certainly, buying our house four years ago was a good investment (we’ve since sold it and built a much bigger house with the profits) and we’ve even been inspired to buy a few more. Leverage Your Assets Why [...]

  • Karen Rauch 15 years ago

    I have been doing a lot of research on what one would have to do in order to purchase a home in the Yucatan and what it would take to do a renovation. All of the information I came across has been very knowledgable, but I have not come across information on A/C systems & tankless waterheaters. What can you tell me about those? What would it take to put an A/C system in and are there tankless waterheaters in use in Mexico? Also, what can you tell me about pools? What would it take to put a small one in.

  • Building Our House V 16 years ago

    [...] Building Our House [...]

  • Working Gringos 16 years ago

    We have visited Campeche more than once. Its a lovely town, but we thought it was still too small for us to be able to make a living there. At least that was true 5 years ago when we moved here.

    For the best sandy swimming beaches, we like Sisal. But really, it all depends on the weather. Any of those beaches can have clear water on a good day and muddy water when the weather is acting up.

    And don't worry, all our readers will definitely know when our house is finished!!

  • Stanley Waugh 16 years ago

    I enjoyed reading House to House IV. You are really experiencing and living la vida loca in Merida!

    Have you had a chance to visit Campeche yet?
    How does it compare to Merida? Where are the best sandy, swimming beaches in the western Yucatan located?

    Thank you very much for your response and I wish you eventual success and satisfaction in your completed house. Let me know when the moving-in fiesta will take place!

  • Building Our House IV 16 years ago

    [...] **** To read the progress of our house project (something we find a bit painful, but you might find interesting…), here are the links: Building Our House III Building Our House II Building Our House (Please rate this article)  Loading ... [...]

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