House Hunting in … Mexico

By Kevin Brass
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/realestate/house-hunting-in-mexico.html

Home sales in the historic city of Oaxaca are “steady but slow,” with most of the focus downtown, where restaurants and hotels attract foreign money.

This three-bedroom, five-bathroom house is in an agricultural area about 10 miles from the colonial city of Oaxaca, the capital of the central Mexican state of the same name. Built from adobe in 2006 by the current owner, the home is about two miles from Highway 190, the main road connecting Oaxaca to Mitla, one of the country’s most important archaeological sites. Surrounded by farmland, the 39,800-square-foot property has a separate guesthouse, a two-car carport and landscaped grounds with flower gardens and orange, lime, avocado and mango trees.

A six-foot cinder-block wall topped with clay tiles encircles the property, which has a cobblestone driveway leading to the 6,750-square-foot, two-story house. Visitors enter through hand-carved cedar doors framed by Oaxacan tiles.

There are sitting areas on either side of the entryway, which leads to a hexagonal open-air courtyard decorated with a fountain and Talavera tiles. Many of the walls are exposed adobe brick, while others are covered with a light-green sandstone, a building material native to Oaxaca, said John Harvey Williams, an owner of Real Estate Oaxaca, which has the listing for this property.

There are two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms on the ground floor, as well as the kitchen, dining room and a study with built-in bookshelves. The ceilings in most of the rooms are between 12 and 15 feet, with exposed wood beams or concrete adorned with colorfully embossed leaf patterns.

The kitchen has a mobile island, a walk-in pantry and a laundry room. The kitchen counters are Mexican ceramic tile with a Talavera backsplash.

The dining room is round, with exposed adobe brick walls and large picture windows. There is also a covered outdoor patio with a dining table that can seat 12, Mr. Williams said. (The furniture is not included in the asking price, but is “negotiable,” he said.)

The master bedroom suite covers the second floor and includes an en suite bathroom with Jacuzzi tub, a walk-in closet and a 350-square-foot balcony with views of the surrounding mountains.

A separate one-bedroom guesthouse has a full bathroom and kitchen. There is a private well on the property and a 50,000-liter holding tank that supplements the water provided by the local utility. Sewage and wastewater are treated and cleaned by two biodigestor systems. There is no garage, but there is a covered carport that accommodates two cars.

The town of San Francisco Lachigolo, with several traditional Oaxacan restaurants and shops, is about a mile away. Several small villages in the area are known for their distinctive crafts, including baskets and rugs. There are also archaeological sites dating to the Zapotec era more than 2,000 years ago. Oaxaca International Airport is about a 45-minute drive from the house, and Mexico City is about 350 miles northeast.

International sales in Mexico have slowed in the last year, in the wake of tension between the United States and Mexico and uncertainly over the Mexican presidential election in July, said Glenn Ehrenberg, director of operations for Mexico Sotheby’s International Realty. “A lot of people were in pause,” he said.

In Oaxaca, home sales have been “steady but slow” this year, Mr. Williams said, with most of the activity in the historic city center.

Tourism is the main economic driver in the city of Oaxaca, as the colonial city center and nearby Monte Alban, the ruins of a city dating to 500 B.C., are Unesco World Heritage sites. In recent years, the expatriate community in the city has continued to grow, in large part thanks to the restaurant and art scenes, and the opening of new boutique hotels, agents said.

In the downtown area, where there is a shortage of quality homes and little new construction, sales prices are up 3.5 percent in the last year, said Dolores Perez Islas, the chief executive of SIL Mexico, in Oaxaca, which specializes in investment properties.

“Once we have a listing, it will sell in one or two months — very quick,” she said. “The little bit we have downtown really flies.” But a home priced at $250,000 or less in the city center is likely a fixer-upper, she said.

Houses in the countryside, like this property, tend to stay on the market longer, as buyers are scarce, agents said. One growth area has been buyers investing in property where they can grow agave for the production of tequila, a booming business in the area, Mr. Ehrenberg said.

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