Chapter 30 I Am Thinking Of Buying This Place!

January 31, 2019

Moving to Mexico:

Chapter 30:  I Am Thinking Of Buying This Place!

     *If you like photos and data more than words, this article is for you.  And me.

     Recently, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about some of my favorite things like food and entertainment while also discussing necessities like health and transportation.  These topics are all important but the main thing we need to review is where you will live.  We are talking real estate and I think we may get stuck on this topic for a while.  Why?  For most people, a home is the number one most expensive purchase (and the longest-term investment) they will ever make.  It’s also the number one question I get so here we go.

     Since we are selling our home in Walnut Creek, California, we are considering investing the proceeds of the sale into more real estate, not the market.  I just don’t trust it right now and I am very concerned about what America will look like in the next ten years.  It does not look good.  Sure, the rich will continue to make money.  They always do.  However, the middle class is shrinking and being taxed into extinction.  Small businesses, the largest sector of business in America, are being legislated and taxed to razor-thin profit margins.  What the government doesn’t take, bloodthirsty attorneys circle like vultures devouring roadkill.  Being in business is costly and very risky.  When the rewards do not outweigh the costs and risks, most people just close shop.

     I am not alone in my concerns about the USA.  I actually believe that we are getting off this train just before it derails…again.  It is no secret that our nation is divided into two political factions.  But it is worse than that.  It is much worse than the old red versus blue.  America is rapidly being split up by people who believe in diametrically opposing paths. 

Many millennials believe that the Land of the Free really means Land of the Free Stuff.

While millennials don’t want to just pay old people for “being old”, many hopeful baby boomers depend on Social Security, a system they paid into their entire lives.

     And one more link here to the comic book news that most of us have tripped over when exiting our hotel room in a hungover stupor as we head for day two of a three-day corporate meeting: USA Today.  This article lists the cost to live as a retiree in all 50 states, starting with the cheapest (Arkansas) and the most expensive (Alaska).  My beloved Texas came in at #37 and my exit state of California came in at #4 (behind Alaska, Hawaii and New York.)  This article suggests that for Betty and me to retire in Arkansas, it will cost us $35,378.00 per year.  California came in at $49,640.00 per year, and that may be possible in more remote parts of the state but the Bay Area costs about $4,750.00 per month just for housing so even if you don’t eat, move or breathe, $49,640.00 a year won’t cut it here.

     This is not going to be a political rant.  I don’t do that.  I have beliefs, but I don’t have a party.  I have a code and a moral compass.  I do not have a whip or a stump.  I have a calculator, a computer and a spreadsheet.  I am an English major who loves numbers because they tell the absolute truth.  With math, it either works or it doesn’t.  *Damn, I screwed up in college.  I should have been an accountant.

     I think I have stated if before, but I will do so here again:  I think we should all be able to live how we wish, as long as we don’t force others to live like us or tell them to pay for how we live.

Example:  You want an abortion?  Get one.  But please pay for it.  Pregnancy is not a condition or a disease.  It is a choice.  Yes…that was a choice you made.  Pregnancy does not “just happen” similarly to how auto accidents do not “just happen.” 

     “Yeah, well she was on the pill and I used a condom!  It was an accident!”

     Guess what.  The pill and condoms are not 100% guaranteed to work.  Just like how you can keep your car in tip-top shape, drive safely, only in good weather, etc….and still have an accident.  Want to know how to ensure that you never wreck your car?  Don’t drive.  Otherwise, things happen.  And when you turned that key, you took the risk.  If you wreck your car, it’s on you.  *If someone crashes into you…they can pay. 

     Maybe you should have danced all night.  I mean…like the song says, you could have.

So much for not ranting!  J

     Whether the words above have you nodding your head or raising your middle finger, remember this:  it is just an opinion.  We are allowed to have them and discussing our differing perspectives is what makes us human.  We can talk things over.  We don’t have to argue or fight.  I am one of those odd folks who actually listens to my fellow human beings.  Perhaps that is why I do just fine when I travel or live in a foreign land.  I listen, and I am respectful.  And I can change my mind to see someone else’s perspective so radically that I change my own opinion.

     Have you ever changed your opinion about something?  Something that was so intrinsic to your own code that it shocked you to learn you could completely change your mind?  I hope so.  Doing that means that you are still growing, learning and evolving.  Living in Mexico will require us to adapt our views and accept a different mindset about a lot of things.  We are not going to successfully change Mexico.  On the contrary, I am hoping that Mexico changes us.  Spoiler alert:  that is why we travel.  We love seeing the world through different eyes and having our own eyes opened just a little wider.  You might think you know everything because you have believed it for so long.  However, you may just be believing your own B.S.  You may be caught in a mental mud rut, stuck in a pattern that a week-long Cancun hotel jolt of tequila, tacos and sunburns won’t change.  Most tourists go home just as narrow-minded as they were when they arrived.  We are not tourists.  We are travelers and we are working to be promoted to Expat.

     Back to changing our minds.  I was raised as a Pentecostal Christian.  Yes, I grew up in an Assembly of God church, surrounded by people being baptized in water, communing with the Spirit and speaking in tongues.  Guess what that means—no abortions.  Period. 

     I spoke about this one night after imbibing a few too many beers with my best friend.  My best friend.  A guy who was so liberal that he believed 100% of what Bill Clinton said at his deposition.  He believed that OJ was looking for the real killer.  When Nancy Pelosi said that 500 million Americans a month were losing their jobs, he agreed with her math.  He was a true believer.  My buddy, RIP.

     This guy and I would stay up late and discuss how we would change the world.  He was an atheist, a geek and a drama student.  I was a Christian, a veteran and a law student.  Our political and credo conversations sometimes flowed like a glass falling down a flight of stairs.  But we respected each other.  There was a give-and-take to our arguments.  We acted like men who cared about each other instead of just trying to win.  We acted like people who, given the right information, just might change their mind.

     One night, he convinced me to change my opinion about abortion; an opinion that was ingrained in me since birth.  How did he do that?  It was simple. 

  • He spoke.
  • I spoke.
  • He listened.
  • I listened. 
  • I thought. 
  • And…I changed my mind. 

     It happens. 

     But to get to the last part, you must complete the first part.  Few people do that anymore and it’s one of the main reasons I am getting the heck out of California.  My state used to be the bastion of free speech.  “Be yourself and live your life in free-spirited California.”  Not so much anymore.

     My state always controlled what we could do.  Now, they are legislating against what we can say, labelling anything they disagree with as “hate-speech.”  Soon, they will try to legislate what we think. 

     I changed my mind on a very difficult subject by listening to another person, truly searching within myself and ultimately being honest about not only what I believed, but what I would practice in my own life.  Truthfully, I have only gotten one woman pregnant in my life, my wife Betty.  And it was only after we had agreed that we wanted a child.  Still, I had to be honest and truthful with myself.  What would we have done if she accidentally got pregnant while I was in law school?  Simple answer: we were not ready then.  And what would we do now at age 53?  Simple answer:  we are not willing now.  I may be a lot of things, but I try not to be a hypocrite.  *Hmm.  I just had a thought:  What would we have done if we were dirt poor and Betty got pregnant?  What if we could not afford a child or an abortion.  Then what?  That never entered my mind because even during the salad days, we were not that broke.  We worked, paid rent, ate, drank and took care of ourselves.  Some people cannot do any of those things.  Some people simply refuse.  Looks like I need to keep thinking about this.  We all do.




     The idea is to take some of the profits from the sale of our house and invest in what we know best:  real estate.  I have also always liked that fact that an investment in real estate can be used, rented and insured.  Try that with the stock market.  When was the last time you got together with some good friends and spent the weekend in your 401k?  And if the stock market crashes, can you just call your insurance agent?  Nope.  Real estate is, in my opinion, the best investment available for many reasons.

     Take a look at this place:

     This is an absolutely stunning beachfront home in Salinas, Ecuador.  Five bedrooms in the main house (yes, there is a guest house, too) so you can sleep 14+ people here.  It’s almost 5,000 SF!  I won’t even give you the price because it is so unbelievable, I may buy it myself!  OK, just kidding.  It’s just under a half million USD.  I cannot imagine what that would cost in Mexico, much less California.

     There are so many different options around the world, but since Mexico is going to be my new back yard, I have been doing some research and I have found some other nearby places that look amazing.  Take a look at these:

Puerta Azul/Aldea Zama/Tulum:  These are big condos going for less than $500K USD.  Clubhouse, kids’ area, pool, amphitheater, view tower, etc.  Lots going on in this new development.  I’m not a condo-guy anymore.  But most people like the simplicity of common grounds and amenities.  As I age, I may join their ranks.  Update:  there were nine for sale but five of them have sold already.  This area is booming.  *Sorry, I could not find any good photos of this one.  I’m working on that now.

Aguasanta/Aldea Premium/Tulum:  Similar to Puerta Azul (above) price and size-wise, but there looked to be a lot more amenities (12 pools in total…each unit also has its own private pool…wow!)  There is beach club access, too.  I like the look of this place a lot.

Bambu and Starlight in Playa Del Carmen: 

Bambu is 15 minutes from downtown, but these are single family houses…not condos, so you have some separation from your neighbor.  No common walls are definitely more my style.  J  You can get 3-4 bedrooms, 1,700-2,300 SF.  Perfect size for me.  Since it is a planned development, they are including common amenities like a clubhouse, pool, garden, security, kids’ area, etc.  These houses are below $250K USD. 

*I paid $265K for my condo in Belize 14 years ago and my contractor used drywall in place of metal for our HVAC!  Jeez.  What a chump I was!

Take a look at this:

Starlight is similar distance from downtown Playa, but these are large condos (2 bed/3 bath) about 1,500-1,600 SF, again with lots of amenities (pool, gym, clubhouse, security, etc.)  This is a pet-friendly area, too. 

     I don’t know about you, but my problem is that anytime I look at a real estate investment I always imagine myself there, so I wind up only looking at things that I like personally.  That’s a mistake I have to change.  I am being too narrow-minded.

     Just because it’s a condo, does not mean I can’t invest in it.  Like I said, I am AGING.  We all are.  I can rent the condo out for now and sell it later.  Or, when I am tired of the stairway at my house in Bahia Principe, I can use the elevator at the condo. 

Gotta think ahead.  Stairs are not for everyone.  I already hate them.

     Let me know what you think of my thought process here.  Is it better to buy real estate that you love and know you will probably use, or is it OK to buy real estate that is more of a pure investment?  I believe I mentioned previously that we plan to live on our second floor and rent out the lower two units.  If someone wanted to rent our out whole house, we would figure it out.  We could go stay someplace cheap downtown or even on the resort and enjoy the profit differential.  Why not?  Flexibility is key to a retirement like ours.  It is probably key to yours, too.  And if it is not…perhaps you should start limbering up.

     There are a LOT of opportunities out there.  The more I look, the more I find.  And I plan on finding a LOT more.  I don’t mind sharing my research with you here. 

     If you or someone you know has questions, just have them email me at  I may be buying again soon so we can pick each other’s brains. 

     In the meantime, I’ll close here by saying that the last thing I plan on doing is taking the hard-earned money we earned in real estate here in California and investing it in an uncertain stock market where the downside is, we suffer another decade of zero gain (2008-2018) and the upside is that Uncle Sam takes more of my money.

I salute you, Uncle. 

You gave me a lot and you continue to take a lot from me. 

We are even.

Tom Collins

US Army Basic Training

Fort Jackson, South Carolina

May 1984

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