Investing in warmer weather

Tom Kelly (center) in his natural environment: courtside for Spartan basketball. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Tom Kelly (center) in his natural environment: courtside for Spartan basketball.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

Tom Kelly can put you in a second home – in Mexico.

Record-breaking or not, steady rains spark longings for a warmer clime.

Increasingly, American “boomers” are heading to Mexico. They’ve found that buying a second home amid sunny beaches and scenic towns is within their reach and a good investment.

“A lot of baby boomers are reminded of their spring breaks,” said Tom Kelly, syndicated real estate columnist and award-winning radio talk show host. “Mexico is this coast’s Florida.”

Although anything near the water is expensive, buyers can still get a pretty good deal there, compared with waterfront property in the United States, Kelly said. Further inland, the deals get better, from lakeside resort properties to small town dwellings.

Kelly and Mitch Creekmore, a real estate broker and senior vice president/director of international business development at Stewart Information International, pooled their respective knowledge to write “Cashing in on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit From Property South of the Border.”

As enticing as the idea is, many Americans are put off by the business end of a foreign real estate deal. Here’s where Kelly and Creekmore shine.

They explain the fideicomiso (the Mexican trust that provides ownership opportunities) and the restricted zone (the area 100 kilometers from any border and 50 kilometers from any coastline) and break down all areas of a real estate purchase: finding the right property; foreign ownership requirements; Mexican laws; financing; finding tenants; and tax benefits.

And they explore real estate ownership through an investor’s eyes.

Kelly spent some time in Mexico while growing up and during college. Creekmore owns properties south of the border and visits often.

The idea for the book hatched a couple of years ago, when Kelly heard a talk by a Mexican homebuilder. Hungry for American dollars, the Mexican government found a way to hold title through a trust that most American title companies insure, cutting through the old system that shut out foreign buyers. With this title comes security and that set buyers’ minds at ease.

“This is (Mexican president Vicente) Fox’s last year in office. He made this a priority in the government,” Kelly said. “They need some money for their infrastructure. The trust really did that.”

Americans are welcome in Mexico, he added, because there’s going to be better service and more dollars spent in the local communities.

“It’s like the Super Bowl in Seattle,” Kelly said. “Everybody benefits.”

The growth and popularity of Mexico’s real estate industry has exploded compared to a decade ago, he said. And values in some Mexican markets have tripled in five years.

“A lot of Americans look at (owning a home in Mexico) as a bargain,” Kelly said. “A sunshine alternative.”

The book’s nuts-and-bolts approach examines well-known and up-and-coming locales; preparing and planning; mortgages in Mexico; and real estate resources, tips and terms. The varied first-person accounts give practical information about daily life and healthcare issues. Understanding renting out a home is important, Kelly said, because “you’re never able to get there as much as you think. You can help offset expenses by renting to people that you know.”

Mexico’s varied topography offers a range of options – from the beaches of Los Cabos to the artsy town of San Miguel de Allende to Manzanillo, where gated communities offer golf, tennis and health clubs. Lake Chapala is another draw. It’s the largest natural lake in the country and a short drive from Mexico’s second-largest city, Guadalajara.

To make this wealth of information easier to digest, the book includes maps, checklists, helpful websites and an English-Spanish dictionary of common real estate terms. The “Helpful Sources” section lists realtors on both sides of the border.

Because a second home can be a boat or a recreational vehicle, the authors talk about that, too. In Mexico, the boat and yacht component is on the upswing because the country believes it is a way to promote tourism.

“It’s the makeup of the baby boomers. They’re more exotic,” Kelly said. “They want to go to places they’ve gone before on vacation and ask, “What does it take to buy there?’”

* * * * *

Hasta luego

Bainbridge Island’s syndicated real estate columnist/talk show host and author Tom Kelly will discuss his latest book, “Cashing in on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit From Property South of the Border,” at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Eagle Harbor Books. For more information, call 842-5332.

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