House Hunting in Mérida 2016

Morning came quickly and I couldn't sleep long. I was up early and went for a dip in the little pool at Casa Koala and then got ready for Isaac to pick me up so we could start our house hunting.

I was using the iPhone app, Galileo, to track each place we stopped to look at a house. I wanted to be prepared this time.

Last time we were just along for the ride and all of the twists and turns down the one-way streets of Mérida often left me unsure of where we were when we got out. This time I would know where each house was located, no matter how many turns we made.

I paced around Casa Koala. I pace a lot, it helps me think and relieves my stress. I also looked out the front door frequently, hoping Isaac wouldn't have any trouble finding the house like the taxi driver and I had the night before. Eventually he pulled up and I waved him over. I pointed out the house across the street and said with disappointment "That was the one I came for."

He acknowledged it and assured me we would find the right one in its time. He also pointed out that the architect of that house, as well as Casa Koala lived right next door. Maybe in the future we would work with him.

We looked at a number of houses. Some were already remodeled and they were nice, but they lacked a certain character charm that I was looking for, or if they had that charm they were too expensive or a little farther outside the area I preferred to be in. Yes, by this time, I had become location fussy. And after this trip, I would become even fussier.

We also looked at some houses in need of remodel. Some were too narrow, some were too short. Some were too narrow and too short.

One property was wonderful and I felt like it had amazing potential at a great price. Unfortunately, it was right next to an auto repair garage and they had their radio cranked and air tools buzzing. There was no way I could see making a relaxing backyard with that noise. So, that was a pass. I've gone back to looking at it online in times since, it's still for sale, but I just can't discount the noise I heard that day. I guess it pays to house hunt during a weekday afternoon to really understand the typical sounds of a neighborhood.

One house that I loved was in the area of Paseo de Montejo. It had some of the best and most tasteful woodwork I had ever seen. The outside was stunning and the pool looked so relaxing. This was the one that was out of my current price range. Unless we were willing to sell everything we owned and move now, we couldn't make it work. Like my grandma always tells me, I have champagne taste on a beer budget. She's not wrong.

One house was in the middle of being built from the ground up. And the price was very reasonable. But, later that night, looking over the plans the builder had given me as a handout I saw a lot of things I wasn't quite keen on. It didn't feel right telling him that I didn't like his designs in the middle of his build. So I let that one pass.

One house was difficult to get into, thanks to a rusty lock. Isaac fought with it for a bit, and then gave it to me to try. Eventually, we rattled it open. This house was pretty decent, if a little small. Months later it was a house I would make an offer on, but the owner and myself were pretty far apart on what we each thought the value was. So, it still sits on the market waiting for someone with a better eye or a bigger wallet.

It was a fun day, reconnecting with Isaac and chatting about Mérida and life in general. He dropped me off and I told him I'd keep in touch and hopefully we'd find something for us.

After Isaac had gone I walked over to Hennessy's Irish Pub to get something to eat and have a beer. I sat alone at the bar and unwittingly underneath the air conditioner which drip, drip, dripped on my neck. It took me a few times before I realized this cold dripping wasn't my own sweat dripping from my hair and I moved over a seat.

An American couple came in and sat at the bar next to me. I cautioned them about the dripping and that struck up a conversation with them. They told me they lived in Mérida which really got me curious. Without wanting to be too much of a bother I told them I was house hunting and asked if they had any tips. Had they bought their house and renovated it or bought an already renovated house. Both, he told me.

They had bought a newly renovated house, only to realize they had to do more renovating to bring it up to "American standards." He said there was no hot water in the kitchen and various other things like the electrical system that just didn't suit them. His suggestion was to buy something and just have it remodeled to our standards right off the bat.

And that would become advice that I would pursue. Plus, it would be much easier for us to buy a house in need of a remodel, pay it off as quick as we could, and then start the remodel years after that if need be.

The next day, I used the Galileo app and the positions of the houses I pinpointed while house hunting with Isaac and walked to each of the homes I still considered to have potential. Then to different points of interest in the city. I tracked how long it took me to get from a certain house to a certain park.

One thing that settled in on me was that house hunting online, using a map, is far different than being there street level. You look on the map, and you count the blocks or just visually something seems pretty close. So, yeah, that location is fine, you think.

But then when you're out there walking around things can be much farther apart. That might just be the Midwesterner in me talking, though. It seems like anything farther than two blocks and we get in a car and drive. Your experience may vary.

Either way it made me rethink what was an acceptable zone for buying a house. Partially because if we buy something and fix it up we'd like to rent it as a vacation rental when we're not there. The best chance for rental income, in my mind, is location. Also, when I'm older, I want to be able to easily walk to my favorite places.

Other things that people consider are things like being on a non-bus street. Those buses are loud as they come rumbling down the street, but I live on a busy street in a city currently, with trucks driving by and trains not too far away. I'm fairly used to the sounds and it doesn't affect me quite as much. So, as long as there isn't an auto repair shop or bar next door, I guess we're good.

I also spent time that day and the next, the only days I'd have in Mérida, walking up and down the blocks of my favorite areas, looking for houses for sale by owner. Then I'd snap a photo with the info and send it to Isaac to check on at a later point.

We didn't find the "right" house that day, but I was sure that day would come.