Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Selling a house, Mexican style, Part 3

Subtitle: The best-laid plans of mice and men...

Here we are, two weeks from the scheduled closing, and I got a call from the buyer yesterday afternoon. It seems that the buyer of the property that they are selling in Guanajuato has not yet come up with the money for their closing, so, of course, that means that my buyers also can’t come up with the total for our closing. My first reaction is panic, but no one is backing out of anything. It is just going to take a bit longer. The notario will draw up a contract to extend the deal until February and we will use the appointment scheduled for the closing to sign the extension. All will be well.

So now I have to figure out what I’m going to do in the meantime. When I thought I would be homeless two weeks from now, I planned to take a long, slow trip around the Yucatán peninsula until I could rent an apartment in Puerto Vallarta after the snowbirds leave in April. Then I found my condo, but it looked like it wouldn’t be ready for a few months, so I could still take my trip. But my landlord has been hustling to get it done. He’ll be in Mexico City for Christmas but plans to leave the keys with my friend so I can get into my new home right away, even if it’s not yet totally furnished. And now I have no reason to leave on the 16th.

So I’m sitting here trying to figure out what my options are.

Should I go on down to Puerto Vallarta anyway? Should I take my previously-planned trip to Yucatán until the condo is completely done? Shall I just stay in Chapala until February? Are there other options that I haven’t even seen yet?

I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out myself.

But first, I’m leaving in less than an hour for a long-ago scheduled trip to Chiapas. Im determined to enjoy myself.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I Found an Apartment!

Third floor - three windows on the left

I found an apartment this morning! It is owned by my friend Judy’s landlord and is only about a kilometer from her apartment. It is being completely remodeled, so I will get to choose cabinets, colors, furniture, etc. It is two bedrooms, but it is small, about 550 sq. feet - almost like a tiny house on the third floor. One bedroom will be set up to accommodate my quilting and art and the other will be for sleeping. I’ll have a sofa bed in the living room for guests.

The remodel is still in process, but this allows them to take their time to get it done while I am wandering around the Yucatán Peninsula. It will help me to know I have a place to come home to and it will help the landlord to know that he already has a long-term renter lined up.

This isn’t any thing fancy; it’s rather simple and minimalist - just what I want. Even the rent is minimalist: $400 US per month. I don’t have a pool, but if I want to swim, I can visit Judy. It has safe parking for regular use but not secure enough to leave my car while traveling. Again, Judy will save the day. I can park in her very secure space while I travel. And, at sea level, those two flights of stairs aren’t bothering me one bit! I’m not even out of breath when I reach my door!

I thought for sure I would rent in Old Town, but when I spent four hours walking those streets on Sunday, looking for “for rent” signs, I realized just how bad the roads are, how difficult it is to walk the sidewalks, how dirty and crowded it is, and how full of tourists. I recognized just how different it is a bit farther north, near the marina. I will be quite near Costco, Sam’s, Mega and La Comer, and yet I will live in an apartment complex that is almost all Mexicans (and, interestingly, almost all women.)

So now I have my house sold, almost all my stuff moved and in storage, and I have a place to live. I feel like I’m on a roll!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

My Bags are packed; I’m ready to go...

All my worldly possessions (well, almost):

I have everything packed and stacked and ready to go. The movers are due to arrive in two hours to load up the truck, then we will head to Puerto Vallarta in the morning.

I sold the house furnished because I intend to rent furnished, but this is still too much stuff to be moving around. I will continue to work on purging the  excess and try to avoid buying anything that is not consumable.

Actually, over half of this huge stack is quilt-related. I’ve always been a better artist than salesperson, but I think sales will come easier in the larger population of Puerto Vallarta.

I have a few items that I will take in my car. My grandmother’s cedar chest that she promised to give me when I was a child and then made sure it would get to me after she died, and her Martha Washington sewing cabinet. My trusty sewing machine and my cutting boards, which would warp in the heat. And my meditation pillow.

I’ve been working pretty much seven days a week since late June to get the house all fixed up and then to go through every drawer and cupboard and closet to decide what to get rid of. I never realized what a hard job that would be! I hired professionals to handle my yard sale in September because I knew that I would think things were worth more than other people would. I didn’t even allow myself to check their prices; I just hid out in my casita next door.

Once that was all cleaned up and my pocket was full of money, I started doing the same thing with my fabrics and quilting supplies. I did sell lots of fabric, books, patterns, quilting supplies, etc. - it was just like I had my quilt shop again. I had hoped to sell lots of quilts, but that didn’t happen. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble selling them in Puerto Vallarta because there are so many more potential buyers there.

Anyway, once everything is safely stored away in Puerto Vallarta, I will enjoy a week of relaxation at my friend Judy’s house. She is fixing me up with some rental agents to see what might be available in  March or April. I’m hoping this will work out so when this year’s flock of snowbirds heads north, I’ll be able to move into my new apartment.

I’ll let you know how that comes out when I write again in a week or so.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Selling a House, Mexican Style, Part 2

I feel as if I’ve been on a roller coaster since I last wrote. I wanted an adventure....

The buyers were a bit slow in coming up with the Contrato de Compra-Venta that laid out the terms of the sale, and when it came, I was surprised that I understood so little of it. I’ve signed three of these since I’ve been down here, usually a form from a realtor, but one was private, and they were pretty clear. This one was very confusing, so it is a good thing that the notario had offered to check it out for me before I signed.

He told me that the reason I couldn’t understand it was that it was written with very archaic language that would even confuse a Mexican who wasn’t a lawyer. Who knows where they got it from, but it was crazy!

It said they would deposit 10% in my bank account and then bring me a receipt to prove it had been paid. Then I would sign the contract. That part was pretty standard. But then it went on to say that the buyers would take possession of the house at that point. It allowed either the buyer or the seller to back out for a mere $20,000 peso penalty. That’s about $1,000US. The way the notario explained it, the buyers got to move in upon payment of the 10%, but then they could back out of the deal and we would never close. Eviction laws protect the person in the house, so it was likely to take years of court battles to get them out. Eventually, they would lose and would have to leave and then would have to pay me the $20,000 penalty - and nothing more, even though I’d spent years fighting the case in court.

I sent the buyers a message stating that their contract was totally unacceptable and carefully explained why. Up to that point, I had been communicating with the nephew because he understood some English. That night the señora called me to say that all communication was to be directly with her from then on.  I guess the nephew was responsible for that contract. Although the buyers are responsible for all the closing costs, I offered to have the notario draw up a contract and I said I would pay for it. I wanted to be sure that I was protected in this deal.

I was worried that they would change their minds in the week it took to get the new contract, but, no, they deposited the 10% in my bank account before I even had a contract for us to sign. I sent them a copy but I still didn’t have it signed quite a few days later. I finally explained to the señora that without that contract signed by both of us, if I was less than honest or if something happened to me, they had no proof of any agreement and I had both the house and the money. They got the signatures and got it back to me the next morning and I got my signature witnessed and back to them right away.

I don’t think there was any bad intention with the crazy contract. My guess is that someone copied it from a very old document which required 10% down and then the rest on payments over time. A $20,000 peso penalty would have been very substantial in those days.

So this is where things stand right now. The current contract has a penalty of 20% if  either party decides to back out. I know I won’t change my mind, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t even be too upset if they backed out and I ended up with the house and 20% for my trouble. But that’s not going to happen. The closing date is December 16, five days after I get back from my trip to Chiapas.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Selling a House, Mexican Style

This post is nothing like I’d planned. I’ve taken lots of photos of my house and was planning to write an ad to try to sell it.  I expected that the house would sell fast because it is in a really good area and there just aren’t any other houses in this area for sale. My good friend owns a printing company, and they made me a big sign to hang on the front of the house. It very simply said “For Sale” in English and Spanish and included my phone number. I had a feeling that I could sell it without a realtor, just as I did my house in Portland before I came here.

The sign went up last Saturday, just after my last post. Within 30 minutes, I had a call requesting a showing. I continued getting daily calls, about half of them from realtors wanting me sign a contract with them. Everyone who saw the house loved it, but most said they needed to sell another house before they could buy this one. No, I was not willing to wait.

I received another call this last Saturday night. I was actually already in bed, but I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. Normally, I wouldn’t have answered, but this time I did. It was a Spanish-speaking lady wanting to make an appointment to see the house on Sunday. I was glad I had answered.

Time in Mexico is kind of a relative thing, and a one o’clock appointment could end up being any time within the next few hours. I was surprised when my bell rang at exactly one. The young man named Jonathan told me his family was coming down the street and as we waited, he seemed to test my Spanish ability. I was surprised when ten adults and two children filed in my gate!

I got them all into the house and proceeded to give the tour. It seemed that the interested parties were the older couple, but I wasn’t sure. Sometimes parents buy houses for their kids. It was kind of strange.  I gave my whole shpiel in Spanish, and I don’t remember being asked a single question. I figured they didn’t like it for whatever reason and led the group back toward the front door.

As we returned to the front room, Jonathan sat down at the table with his cell phone in front of him. For a few minutes no one said anything, and then the older man stepped forward and asked Jonathan to figure out the exchange rate, since I was thinking in dollars and they were thinking in pesos. Jonathan told him what it was , and he turned to me and asked if I would accepted an amount 25% less. Without hesitating, I cut the difference in half, which was conveniently exactly what I thought I’d get. He hesitated for just a minute and then told me that they had some other property that they were selling - but this time, they already had a buyer. Honestly, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if they were agreeing to my price or not. He shook my hand, said something about talking about it, and led the family out the door. But Jonathan and the señora stayed behind. She asked if I would accept 10% down and close in 30 days. I finally turned to Jonathan to be sure I was understanding what she was saying. Yes! With lots of hand-shaking and many “gracias”s from both sides, They left, saying they would call me today.

I was still afraid to get my hopes too high. They could easily back out. I told a very few people because I still didn’t trust that it could be true. We aren’t even done with the touch-up work!

This afternoon, again about one o’clock, the señora returned with Jonathan and one of the young women. They asked me to show it to the young woman because she hadn’t seen much in the crowd. Then the señora asked if I would be willing to sign a private sale contract without a lawyer involved. (The buyers are responsible for costs here.) She asked for my bank account information so they can deposit the 10% in my account and bring me a receipt to prove that they had done so. (That is a very typical way of paying here.) Then we will sign the sales contract with witnesses.

My friends, both Mexican and American, are trying to watch out for my interests. The bartender at the American Legion next door says that I also have to call the bank to verify the deposit. The notario (who is also my lawyer) says he would like to review the contract before I sign just to be sure all is good. I will take their advice, but I honestly don’t think these precautions are necessary. I feel like I’m dealing with a family whose handshake on a deal is as good as a contract, just like I think. Today, the señora told me they are from Irapuato, in the state of Guanajuato. I told her that I love Guanajuato and she told me I have a home there. I told here that I have a small problem in that I have a tour booked for early December that leaves from here and if we close before that, it will make things a bit difficult for me. They offered to wait until January, but we settled on mid-December for the closing.

So it looks like I’ve sold my house and will soon be on my way to my new adventure. Since I have realized that my road trip will take place during the winter, I’ve made some changes in my plans. Winter in the highlands of Mexico can get pretty cold and it is probably not a good time for car camping. So I’m going to fly to Chetumal, just north of Belize on the Yucatán peninsula. From there, I will take my time (I’m thinking three months) traveling by bus around the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz - all those places that are too hot (and hurricane season) during the summer. I’ll save the car camping in the highlands for the summer when it is too hot and humid in Puerto Vallarta.

Until next week!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Has it really been three years since I last posted?

Yep! I guess I abandoned all my faithful readers a long time ago, and I am sorry about that, but I just kind of moved on to genealogy, became totally engrossed in that, started a new blog, and left you all behind. I’m sorry! Please forgive me. I think you will be happy you did.

I’m still here in Chapala, and life is still wonderful, but I have some serious changes coming! I’ve lived in Chapala for fifteen years - at least five years longer than I’ve ever lived in one place before. I’m ready for some changes, and I would be happy to bring you along with me.

I’ve decided that I’ve become too stuck in one place, so I’m ready to become unstuck. After all this time in a relatively small town (I think the population is about 22,000, but that might include the whole county), I think I would enjoy some place larger. I also want to move to a lower elevation where breathing comes easier to my asthmatic lungs. So I’ve decided to move to Puerto Vallarta. Sun, sand, the beach, and apartments with air conditioning for the very hot and humid summer.

I’m seriously downsizing my “stuff” so that I can easily lock the door and go or put it all in storage and take off for even longer trips. I’m planning to rent a furnished apartment close enough to the beach that I can take a walk along the malecón early each morning. There’s only one problem with that: by the time I sell my house, all of the best apartments will be rented to people who come down for the winter. But I’ve got a plan for that.

When I rudely left you three years ago, I had been carless for over three years, but I came to realize how much that limited my ability to head out on a road trip. The buses are wonderful here, and I used them a lot, but I kept getting bronchitis and realized that it was usually after long bus trips. So in December of 2016, I bought a Honda Fit. What a great little car! I love it!

Another big change since I wrote is that I became a Mexican citizen in April. Now I have dual citizenship with the US and Mexico. I guess I’m an American-Mexican, but that certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue like Mexican-American. (Yes, I know very well that Mexico is part of North America. I didn’t have anything to do with the common language usages, so please don’t hassle me about it.) During the year I was studying for the exams and jumping through government hoops, I told myself that I would celebrate becoming a citizen by traveling around Mexico, revisiting favorite places and discovering others that are new to me.

Since fall is the best time to sell a house down here (that’s when new retirees coming looking) but spring is the best time to find a good long-term apartment in Puerto Vallarta, I’m going to end up with a few months without a home. Don’t worry; I know there are a bazillion ways to solve that issue, but I’ve decided to solve it by taking that trip around Mexico that I’ve been looking forward to.

I don’t want to be tied down to a strict schedule and reservations, so my little Honda Fit is about to become a Car Camper. This way, I’ll be free to follow up on suggestions from other travelers and to change my plans at the last minute. When I get to the town I want to stay in, I will look for a hotel. But if I don’t find one, and there is no campground, no problem! I’ll just park next to the village plaza, climb into my comfy bed in the back, close my privacy curtains, and go to sleep.

I don’t know when all this will happen. I’ve shown my house four times, and three of the people say they love it and say they are working on figuring out the finances. It could go quick or it could take a while. My next post will be a blatant ad to try to sell the house. If you’re not interested, don’t read it. But wish me luck for a quick sale.

In the meantime, the sun is setting on my relationship with Chapala.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Organic Gardening Revisited

Quite a few posts ago (a year or two?) I had big plans for my garden. I wanted to grow heirloom veggies so they would taste like they did 40 or 50 years ago. I ordered seeds from Seed Savers and had them delivered to my friend's house in California. Then I stashed them in between my clothes and hoped I wouldn't get caught at the airport. (I didn't!)

Back in Mexico, I planted all kinds of goodies in my small back yard - French green beans, eggplant, red peppers, Sicilian tomatoes, a bunch of herbs, some edible flowers - I can't even remember them all now. And I was determined to keep my garden organic.

Everything started off with a bang. Almost 100% of the seeds grew. I was really excited and looked forward to the treats I would have at harvest time. The French green beans came first. They were delicious! But right about the time I started picking the beans, I noticed that something was nibbling on the leaves. I wasn't too worried about it; I had plenty to share.

As the days went by, I noticed more and more of my garden showed signs of some critter munching on the leaves. Then I realized that I had an awful lots of pill bugs (aka rolypolies and doodle bugs). Normally, they are helpful garden residents that eat dead leaves and (I assume) turn them into fertilizer. Everything I found online said they were good bugs. Then I started finding comments from a few people having the same problem as I was - the damned things were eating the healthy, live plants.

I hate using garden chemicals and I really wanted to keep this organic. Besides, I don't think I ever found a chemical that was recommended to kill them. I read that they like beer so much that they will climb in a container of it and drown. I put containers of cheap beer all over my garden. And they did like it and did climb in and drown by the hundreds. But the abstainers seemed to be producing replacements faster than the others drowned.

I was really excited to harvest my first red peppers and eggplants, but as I cut off each ripe fruit, I discovered that the bugs had beat me to them. They had eaten holes in the ripe fruit and were eating them from the inside out! Every time one of them got close to ripening, the bugs invaded. I never got a single red pepper or eggplant! Then the same thing happened to my beautiful, ugly, lumpy Sicilian tomatoes. I got to eat two small tomatoes because I picked them before they were ripe.

Eventually, I just gave up and pulled up everything that the pill bugs seemed to like. I decided that there must be too many critters in Mexico to garden organically. But I never got around to using any chemicals on my garden. I planted other plants - things that pill bugs don't seem to like, as long as I could get them past the young and tender stage. If the bugs ate something, I just tried something else. I kept doing the beer traps until I got tired of dumping the hundreds of dead bugs every day.

This year my garden is again full of plants. It is also still full of pill bugs, but I don't really see any damage from them. Most of the dirt is covered with dichondra (a ground cover) between the larger plants and the bugs are hiding in their own miniature forest of green. Now I feel like I am winning the battle because I have help - lots of help. Starting early this spring, I began to notice that my garden is full of birds. All kinds of birds, from hummingbirds and sparrows to doves and Orioles and lots more that I have no idea what they are. When I open my back door to go out, they all panic and fly away. There are so many in my tiny yard that they often startle me when they all fly up at the same time.

I see pill bugs eating overripe limes that fall off the tree, but they aren't bothering any of my herbs and stay completely away from my blackberries. So I guess I've got things balanced out  - for now. I just love to stand at the back door and watch as the birds walk through the dichondra, ducking their heads down between the leaves and come up happily munching on pill bugs. (Hmmm... do birds munch or just swallow whole?) I don't have red peppers or eggplants, but my blackberry plant has presented me with a generous handful of beautiful ripe berries for my breakfast every single day for almost three months now - and it shows no sign of slowing down.