With so many outstanding lots available, ranging from funky urban nooks to expansive country ranches, it’s no wonder that we get inquiries every day about building instead of buying existing homes. For some, taking our design ideas from a napkin sketch to the house of our dreams is an exhilarating experience, but it does require patience and vision, and only you can decide if you’ve got the right stuff to oversee such a project. When I was building, I had heard the urban legends (let’s call them horror stories) about unexpected delays and busted budgets, but I’m here to tell you that these things that can be avoided if you follow a few simple steps.
1. Find an architect you trust and enjoy as a human being. Here in Mexico, your architect will likely be your general contractor so you’re going to be spending a lot of time with him or her. For me, being “easy to work with” was every bit as important as his architectural style. I was drawn to a particular architect with a solid reputation for being organized, on-time and on-budget, but while I admired his modern homes I really preferred a more “contemporary rustic” approach. I was honest with him about this, and together we went through a dozen design books to see if we could find common ground. In the end, it was obvious that he was flexible enough to make MY vision come true, while bringing his much-needed skills and experience to the game.
2. Decide where you want to live. This is a little more complex than buying an existing house, since you and your architect have the option of placing your home anywhere you want on your lot. Really get to know your property. Whether your deck faces north or south is really only the beginning—shifting your building site even a few feet in either direction can open up vistas you might have missed.
3. Stay involved during the building process. Some might find this too nerve-racking, but I visited the construction site nearly every day. Get to know your foreman and his key workers—after all, they’ll be spending the better part of a year building your home. There is always the danger that you’ll be meddling or getting in the way, but the flip side is that if you catch problems early, it’s relatively inexpensive to correct them.
4. Breathe. If you’ve chosen the right team, then you can trust that everyone is doing his best. But cultural differences and communication mix-ups are inevitable when you’re doing business in a land far from your place of birth. Think of these as learning experiences and always keep your cool–as long as you are patient and gracious, you’ll get past them. Practice your Spanish and remember that “perfection” can be a flexible goal: many things here are done by hand, as opposed to the cookie-cutter precision you see in U.S. construction. This method might take a little longer, but it guarantees your house will be made truly unique with lots of artisanal touches. (You didn’t really want your casa Mexicana to feature doors from Home Depot, did you?)
To Build or Buy?
This is a great topic to talk over with your CDR/Christie’s International Real Estate agent. In the end, whether you buy an existing turn-key home or build one from the ground up, you’re certain to have many rich and unforgettable experiences here in San Miguel de Allende.
Search for Lots
> Click here to search for available lots in San Miguel de Allende….
MEET THE AUTHOR
Doug Robinson is a California-born ex-pat who has lived in San Miguel for 11 years. In addition to his work with CDR San Miguel/Christie’s International Real Estate with his fiancé Denise, Doug is a professional jazz musician and composer who can be seen performing after hours all around town.