Q&A: Group encourages Americans to live in Mexico
, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Published 05:30 a.m., Saturday, March 26, 2011
Chris Hill, a founder of the Mexico Real Estate Coalition, says
Americans and Canadians who live in Mexico aren't fleeing. Hill, a
Houstonian, is CEO of locally based Stewart Title Latin America.
Photo: Melissa Phillip:, Chronicle
retirement and vacation homes in Mexico has become a challenge. The
slowdown in the global economy, Mexico's highly publicized drug violence
and the swine flu outbreak, among other problems, have kept many
Americans from buying property south of the border.
Those promoting the market recently launched the Mexico Real Estate Coalition
to reassure investors that it's safe to buy houses in Mexico.
Houstonian Chris Hill, a founder of the coalition and CEO of Stewart
Title Latin America, discussed the Mexican market in an interview with
Chronicle reporter Jenalia Moreno. Edited excerpts:
Q: How many Americans live in Mexico?
There are several hundred thousand Americans retired and living either
full or part time in Mexico. No one has that specific number. It's very
fluid. Anyone that goes to Cabo or Puerto Vallarta, or the Riviera Maya
or San Miguel, Northern Baja — just walking in the streets, going into
the restaurants, you can see a very established presence of North
American residents. Canadians are typically 10 percent to 20 percent of
that. Since the economic crisis in the U.S., the Canadian percentage
Q: Are Americans in Mexico moving back to the U.S. because of the violence there?
No. That's the great contradiction with what the U.S. media are
representing and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have stayed
put. There are a few isolated areas in Mexico that are going through
some significant problems right now. Mexico is a massive country. The
vast majority of the victims of this are the same people who are
involved in that illicit drug trade. Otherwise, the Americans and the
Canadians who live throughout Mexico would have left. Most of them still
have residences back here in the U.S. There has been no exodus.
Q: How much have sales to Americans dropped in the last three years?
We've gone through the perfect storm. Depending on the market, sales
have dropped 50 percent to 70 percent. It has been devastating. In the
last three years, there was an earthquake in Mexico, this so-called drug
war. We're looking at the next 10 to 15 years. The baby boomers are
going to be retiring in record numbers. There is a segment that wants to
look outside the U.S. We think that Mexico is going to be a great
option for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Q: Where are they going instead of Mexico?
They are not going outside of the U.S. right now. Our markets in
Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, they are all equally
down. What that tells us is the drug war news is probably hurting
Mexico, but what's hurting Mexico more is the continued sluggishness of
the U.S. economy.
Q: Can you still get a loan to buy a home in Mexico?
To get a loan in Mexico, the terms are even better than they were three
or four years ago. BBVA Compass has a tremendous product. The terms are
almost like a U.S. interest rate. Scotiabank has a loan product as well.
Q: What are the differences in the cost of living between Houston and cities like San Miguel de Allende or Cabo San Lucas?
A: Depending on your lifestyle, 30 percent to 40 percent lower cost of living on average.
Q: What is the Mexico Real Estate Coalition?
This is the first time a national organization has come together to
promote retirement and resort living or second-home living in Mexico.
We're going to have to overcome some of these image problems that Mexico
has, which is very unfortunate. These issues will be resolved sooner or
later. We want Mexico to be in position as an option for Americans and
Canadians. The U.S. economy is going to need some time to recover. In
the meantime, we're getting our tools in place. We have a public
relations program in place. We have a website that will leverage
testimonials of Americans and Canadians living in Mexico. We think their
stories are far and away our greatest asset. We have a budget of less