After a decade of reverse immigration to Mexico by retirees and rising home prices in North America, can you still find a cheap beach house in Mexico to buy? In most of the places you have probably heard of, not really, but if you know where to look, there are plenty of Mexican beach house bargains south of the border.
When I sold a condo across the Hudson River from New York City back in the early ’00s, I already owned the house I lived in elsewhere and was leery about putting my equity into the U.S. housing market. (That turned out to be an early, but valid fear of the coming financial crisis.) We were living in landlocked Nashville, missing the ocean, so we bought a little beach house in Mexico for $35K, put another $10K into it, and had a nice casita to stay in for vacations that was one house back from the beach. That’s it at the top.
From an investment standpoint, it didn’t turn out to be some stroke of genius: we sold it around a decade later for only $55K. But hey, we used it a fair bit and rented it out a fair bit, so at worst it was a house we had for a decade at no cost—a wash. Prices have gone up in that Progreso region near Merida a bit since then with more gringos moving in. There are still plenty of bargains around though, so I’ll start there in the suggestions of where to look. The other examples are on the Pacific Coast, however. All the desirable beach areas on the Caribbean side are either super-developed with resorts or they’re part of a biosphere preserve that can’t be touched.
One note on Mexican real estate: there are different laws inland than there are near the coast. My house in Guanajuato I own free and clear, including the land it sits on. In beach areas, however, you own the house but you technically lease the land in a bank trust arrangement. If you buy a condo this is a moot point, of course, since you don’t own the land anyway no matter where you are.
You pay a fee to a bank each year for a 50-year land trust that can be renewed at least once and in theory anyway, longer–the laws haven’t been on the books long enough to be tested for a century. Since few people live that long anyway, it only matters if you’re planning on leaving the house to your heirs. Otherwise, the next buyer starts the process over again. The legalese is a lot more complicated than this, but the end result for most is just more paperwork since few people keep their house for a century anyway. The only noticeable downside is the annoying annual fee, which will be much higher than your property taxes. Bottom line: don’t get hung up on this technicality.
With that out of the way, here are the best places to find cheap Mexico beach houses for sale.
Progreso Coast in Yucatan State (Chelem, Chuburna, Chicxulub, Telchac Puerto)
This area has long been one of the best beach house bargain areas of Mexico because these towns are only 40-50 minutes from the international airport in Merida, the major capital city of Yucatan state. If you can’t find a good flight deal to there, it’s also about four hours by rental car from Cancun.
You can still find a small house or a decent-sized building lot on this stretch of Gulf Coast beach for less than $50K, though if it’s a house it will be tiny and need some work or add-ons. Most of these homes are weekend getaways for middle-class Mexicans in Merida, so sometimes they’re literally one big room: everyone strings up a hammock when it’s time to go to sleep!
If you want the kind of dream retirement home you’re picturing in your head, you’ll probably spend at least $90K for a place with multiple bedrooms and air conditioning, maybe a nice patio or roof deck. You could pay $150K and up for one with a swimming pool or right by the beach. Some recent sales have topped $300K, but that’s for a huge villa right on the beach with panoramic views from the swimming pool. What will that amount get you in a beach area anywhere in the USA or Canada?
Actual listings change all the time, though the prime buying season is when it’s cold up north.
To see what’s available, check out Mayan World Real Estate, Tierra Yucatan, and some of the multi-city services at the end of this post. It’s kind of sleepy here, especially in the winter, but this coast still has some of the cheapest beachfront property in Mexico.
Huatulco, Oaxaca State Real Estate Bargains
The beaches of Oaxaca State are gorgeous, but they’re not all that well-known outside of Mexico. Huatulco was designed as a major planned development area with government backing so there are some big hotel developments and some luxury home communities there. Since it only has a smattering of international flights though and not much name recognition with foreigners, there are still plenty of bargains here. Unlike the pancake-flat Yucatan area mentioned above, Huatulco has lots of mountains and coves, so it’s easy to get a gorgeous view without directly facing the sand.
Huatulco real estate listings right now have lots in a gated community for $63K and 2BR condos for less than $100K. You don’t have to spend much more to get more space as there are a lot of 3BR and up condos for sale in the $110K to $150K range, some with a terrific ocean view. The single home market here is pricier as you’re competing with wealthy Mexicans for a vacation showpiece. For those homes, figure on a Malibu-type beach mansion for $600K instead of a few million like it would be in California.
For listings see BaysideRealEstateHuatulco.com and the general ones at the end of this post.
Puerto Escondido Homes for Sale, Oaxaca State
I’ve sung the praises of Puerto Escondido before as a town that still offers a bargain Mexican beach vacation without massive resort crowds and overdevelopment. The main stretch of beach here has giant waves that surfers love, but you can find some mellower spots that are okay for swimming. The town itself is very Mexican, so it doesn’t feel like you’re in a total gringo community here. Prices are a reflection of that atmosphere and the difficulty of getting here without connecting in Mexico City first.
Most of the building lots in the area range from $16K (inland) to $230K (large beachfront) and most of the 2BR condos are under $200K. I found a furnished 2BR condo with a common infinity pool for $140K and a couple ocean-view houses with a pool for around $160K. You can spend more than a million bucks to be right on the main beach, but even there you’ll find some oceanfront houses for under $400K.
For listings see PuertoRealEstate.com or BlueHorizon.com.mx.
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo Home Deals
Ixtapa is another government-planned beach community that never took off like Cancun did. Zihuatanejo is its older sister city that is a mix of fishermen and quick-visit tourists on the town waterfront, but is a real Mexican city otherwise and has some nicer beaches just over the hills. The region has been plagued by occasional Guerrero state violence and diminishing international air connections, which has created some good buying opportunities for retirees or vacation homeowners who don’t need to get in and out frequently.
As in most of these spots, there are plenty of high-end mansions for those with lots of money to spend, but they’re great values compared to what you would get for that amount in Florida, California, or Vancouver Island. Here the water’s warm enough to swim all year.
You won’t find a lot of detached houses listed here for under $100K, but some of them do indeed go for that if the seller really needs to get the deal done. There are some in the $100K to $200K range though and lots of condos to choose from with those prices. You’ll get an especially good deal if you don’t care much about an ocean view: inland gated community villas and golf course homes are as little as 1/5 of what you would pay for the same size where you live now. Most have access to a community swimming pool.
Barra de Navidad and Melaque Real Estate in Jalisco State
Everyone has heard of Puerto Vallarta and a lot know about the nearby Nayarit beach towns like Sayulita and San Pancho, but head south toward Manzanillo and you eventually get to a secret spot: the beach towns of Melaque and Barra de Navidad. This area is a favorite for Canadians, with a lot of word-of-mouth growth leading to this becoming a Canadian satellite city in the winter months.
This is a rather sleepy beach area, the kind of place to go if beers in a bucket while your toes are in the sand makes up your perfect mind’s eye picture of paradise. You’re not far from the city of Manzanillo though, which has a decent-sized airport and modern hospitals.
A lot of snowbirds who come here for the winter are just renting, so there’s good income potential if you’re not going to use your house all the time. It’s relatively easy to find property near the beach to build on for $30K to $50K if you want to get your dream Mexican house with your ideal layout. Otherwise, there are plenty of houses available between $85K and $200K, with some as low as $45K a few blocks back from the water. One listed for sale at the first agency below is showing a 3BR/2 bath house with a pool for $149K.
For Barra de Navidad and Melaque house listings see Monaco Mexico Real Estate or CostaAlegreProperties.com.
Mazatlan Beach City Real Estate, Sinaloa
I’ve been to nearly all the beach resort areas of Mexico that attract foreigners and although this one is rather large, it feels the most Mexican to me. If you want the Goldilocks “just right” mix of local culture but hundreds of foreigners to converse with, Mazatlan may be the best resort area choice. It doesn’t offer the absolute cheapest beachfront property in Mexico since much of that has been filled in by resorts, but in exchange you get a real city to live in with lots of restaurants and entertainment.
You’re starting to get closer to the USA in Mazatlan than the other choices I’ve listed so far, so the Sea of Cortez water can get chillier here in the winter. The beaches go from okay to fantastic though, from downtown to the Golden Zone and beyond. There’s a little bit of a colonial center here, plus lots of great places where you can eat and drink with a water view.
If you don’t insist on having that same view from your own house, there are a lot of good values here. There’s a wide range of homes on the market, from older colonials to golf course homes to modern high-rise condos. You can find building lots and even simple fixer-uppers for $60K and under, with a lot of houses for sale with two bedrooms or more in the range of $100K to $200K. The house shown here, from the local RE/Max office, is $149K for 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, parking, and this pool.
For local listings, see REMax Sunset Eagle or MazatlanRealEstateGuides.com.
Playas de Rosarito Real Estate Close to California
Can’t afford to be near the beach in Los Angeles or San Diego? Head to Tijuana and keep going to reach the beaches of Rosarito.
Back before I had ever invested in real estate in Mexico, an acquaintance told me she had a beach house in Rosarito and that she had paid $55K for it. “What?!” I replied. “Send me a photo!” She did and it was gorgeous, a cool little casita that even back then was a tiny fraction of what the house would have cost her in California.
The secret is out now, but there are still plenty of bargains since most visitors from California are zooming right past it to head to the wine country around Ensenada or are making their way further south on a Baja road trip. You’ll find a range of lots for sale for less than $30K and I saw one double lot right on the ocean going for $65K. The sweet spot for houses is $150K to $200K, with a big selection in that range. Naturally you can spend more and prices go down as you get more than a few blocks from the water.
Right now the median sale price of a house in the entire city of San Diego, California is $619,200 according to Zillow. If you spend that in Rosarito, you’ll get a 5-bedroom luxury penthouse with marble and granite throughout and a view from the Jacuzzi like this:
For listings in the area, check Baja123 or MLSBajaProperties.com.
Puerto Penasco Homes and Rocky Point in Sonora State
There’s an old George Strait country song where he says he doesn’t really miss his ex and if you believe that, he’s got some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you. There’s no such thing of course, but Puerto Peñasco is a shade more than four hours from Phoenix or Tuscon. That makes it close enough from those cities to serve as a holiday weekend getaway home, or a retirement alternative that’s not in the desert.
Naturally, this ease of access means it’s going to be a little more costly here than in places you have to fly to, but this town at the top of the Sea of Cortez is still reasonably priced compared to the USA or Canada. You have a wide range of building lots to choose from here for less than $60K—sometimes a lot less. Building costs in Mexico are a fraction of the labor costs on the other side of the border.
You can find a ready-to-go house in town for under $100K still, maybe a 10-minute walk to the beach. The prices are much higher right on the beach of course and you could pay the price of a Phoenix house to get that 180-degree ocean view from a detached home patio. There are plenty of condos for sale for less than $250K though, most in a nice facility with a swimming pool and maybe a gym.
Check out listings at the local RE/Max office site or RockyPointHouses.com.
Have you found another spot for bargain beach homes in Mexico? Leave it in the comments.