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Paul Clark of East Cape Homes – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Home with concrete walls  and styrofoam wiring and insulation, Baja California Sur, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn Los Cabos and La Paz, it is required to get a building permit and a licensed engineer to supervise the construction of anything. However, there are building inspections along the process that are not that well-done, so you really want to have a known and reputable builder or inspector watching when you build a home here. 
 
There are two types that dominate Los Cabos and La Paz constructions: block construction, which is basically a post and beam construction with blocks as the pillar, the roof usually a structure of a reinforced concrete with Styrofoam insulation which makes the roof lighter; and the other is the W panel which has a couple of different styles, but is basically a Styrofoam sheet laced with a steel bridge so that the bridge protrudes in either side of the Styrofoam by 1- 1 ½ inches. In this case the whole structure is erected, and then they pass over it with 1 ½ inch of concrete on the inside and outside.  The W panel is a very strong building technique, and it’s easier and less expensive.
 
Any construction done here in Los Cabos requires having an inspector, whether it’s a builder friend or some architect you hire. I would recommend having a third-party inspector just to make sure the house is properly constructed. 
 
(Concrete home made with Styrofoam insulation, Baja California Sur, Mexico pictured. )
Pepe Acosta of Ventanas Hotel and Residences – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
2000 square foot house, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingBefore construction starts, a permit from the local government of Los Cabos is needed. To secure this permit, the project plans must be presented indicating what is going to be built. The plans must be approved by engineers. In the whole area of Los Cabos, everything is built with concrete. 
 
My experience during tours with some clients tells me that most are concerned about fires. The buildings are concrete. There could be a big fire, but the damage is not as big as to those in the United States because buildings in Los Cabos are not made of wood. Los Cabos can have hurricanes and earthquakes sometimes, but there is little damage to the structures because they are made of strong materials. One or two-level houses or even five-level condo towers in Los Cabos are very resistant and last almost forever because these structures are made of concrete. 
 
There are local government inspectors who come at least twice during the construction process to check on the progress of the construction in Los Cabos.
 
In San Diego, the houses are built with wood and plaster and the architecture is different, whereas the houses in Los Cabos are built with concrete. 
 
A realty agent doing a tour with a client who was asking a lot of questions about construction standards in Los Cabos has a story. This agent turned to his client and asked him, "Do you remember the story about the three little pigs and the wolf? The first house is built with hay or "palapa" (pulpous leaf). The second one is built with wood. Lastly, the third one is built with blocks and concrete. The wolf comes and blows the houses down. The first two houses were destroyed, but the concrete one was not damaged. Houses in Cabo San Lucas are like the third house in the story."
 
The agent knocked on the wall and said, "See, nothing happens to this house."
 
The client said, "Okay, you got me. I'm going to buy one."
 
(2000 square foot house, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, pictured.)
Bill Edsell of Ventana Bay Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Casa Jamin, Ventana Bay Resort, La Ventana Bay Resort, Baja California Sur, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe government in the area has very strict codes about soil testing, structural integrity and so on. What I find overall in Mexico is that they set the bar very high for everything. But in reality, what do they actually do?  Maybe they tipped the guy to maybe not check the job or they have all these laws but a lot of times they don’t have the manpower or the inspectors to go and check the jobs. That’s at all levels.
 
We’ve seen where a guy had to come out here to check something and he had to get a bus or hitchhike. They didn’t even have a car. This type of thing is not unusual.  For example, the guy who sets up our banking machine doesn’t have a car, and he comes out here. 
 
The codes are high but you had better be careful because not everything may be up to code. It doesn’t mean your contractor’s going to do that. We have seen that happen that a contractor may cut corners to save money; not put in the right steel and cement and foundations or instead of concrete they use plaster. Don’t rely that the building inspectors are going to come and check that the construction is how you want to be.  You need to be comfortable with your contractor or you have somebody that’s going to do that for you. Usually, here, what happens is the architect you work with or the engineer will be the guy responsible to check the work. But again, you have to be comfortable with that guy you’re working with that he’s going to do it.
 
(Casa Jamin, Ventana Bay Resort, La Ventana Bay Resort, Baja California Sur, Mexico, pictured.)
Ana Maria Carranza of Diamante Associates – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
House in La Ventana Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingWhen you build here in Los Cabos and La Paz, you have to pull permits but it’s not that difficult.
 
You have to have your blueprints for what you’re going to build. You only have to have permits if you’re building over a certain amount of square meters. If you’re going to build just a garage, for example, then you don’t need to pull a permit but if it’s anything that is a little more involved then you have to pull a permit.
 
You also have to present them a copy of your deed, identification, and the plans for what you’re going to do.  In this area in La Ventana (a small fishing village 40 minutes south of La Paz), you have to pull your permits in La Paz, where you will have to go to the city offices. It will take a couple of weeks to get the permits but you could start construction just as long as you have proof that you have already submitted the request. Your deed does have to be registered.
 
So from the time you close on a property to the time it gets registered, it could be 3 months because they are taking a long time to register deeds right now. People have to take that into account. It would take 3 or 4 months after you close for you to get the deed and be able to submit for the construction.
 
As far as the quality of the construction, for the most part, everything is built with block, cement, and rebar. It is not made of lightweight material and as long as your foundations are deep enough then you don’t have anything to worry about.
 
There are certain things that you have to make sure your construction has, such as sections that have to be done with the reinforced rebar, which are called castillos or columnas. The government will designate an engineer who will be in charge of coming out and doing an inspection every periodically. The inspector will make certain that you are building up to code. So if you have a house constructed here, you don’t have to be overly concerned that something is going to fall apart. You could also get a home inspection before you buy the house. There aren’t any home inspectors in La Ventana but there is a home inspector in Cabo who will come out here and who doesn’t charge very much. I have had clients that had home inspections in this area for US $400. He’ll provide you with a report and he’s very thorough. He really goes through the whole house.
 
(House in La Ventana Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico, pictured.)
Alfonso Reynoso of Jabre Construcción – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
House designed and built by Jabre construction, La Ventana Bay, Baja Mexico Sur, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe first thing to do if you are going to build in Los Cabos and La Paz is to get the property. A foreigner who comes to the country and buys a property close to the beach should have a fideicomiso because that is a legal requirement. If you are building close to the ocean and you are a foreigner, you cannot own land within 50 meters of the ocean but you can buy it through fideicomiso, which is a trust. Never start with your construction until you get every legal document that is required. (You don’t need a fideicomiso if you are a Mexican.)
 
Once you have all your documents and you have legal ownership of the property, have an idea of what you are looking for. Think of the concept of the home that you want to build. Get a rough estimate of the construction cost and work the budget. When you have done that then you can start with the design process. Once that is done then you can proceed with the construction plan and getting the permits.
 
In Los Cabos and La Paz and in La Ventana (a small village about 40 minutes from La Paz), you need to have permits and legal documents before you can build. It is important to have everything under your name once you start this stage of the process because once your name is on the permits, then every office in the area will assume that you are the legal owner of your property. Your name should appear on everything and not just on your fideicomiso. You should have your power contract and water contract under your name. It will make things easier for you.
 
(House designed and built by Jabre construction, La Ventana Bay, Baja Mexico Sur, Mexico, pictured.)
 
In La Ventana, there are some restrictions for construction. Cabo also has construction restrictions and they have architectural restrictions as well. However, in La Paz, you would only have construction restrictions if you are building downtown but all the other areas are very open. You can build anything you want. If you want a traditional American, you can build that. If you want Santa Fe style, you can do that, too.
 
There are also inspections done by the government to make sure that you are building what you said you will build. In Mexico, I am proud to say that we build fine construction. The buildings here are made to withstand earthquakes. Construction inspections are done by DRO (Director Responsable de Obra). They check the construction style of all the houses and buildings here. Not a lot of people know about the quality of beams, bars, etc. so it is the responsibility of the DRO to check that these things are up to standard. What most people check for quality are the obvious things like the flooring, the walls, the tiles. This is the responsibility of the builder. So it is always my suggestion to go with good builders so you get good quality. Do not go for the cheap ones. In Mexico, we say, “lo barato, sale caro”, which roughly translates to, “cheap things turn out expensive in the end”.  
 
(House designed and constructed by Jabre Construction, La Ventana Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico,  pictured.)
Victoria Moate of Close It Fast – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingOverall, the way they build here in Los Cabos is very similar to Florida. Most of the buildings in Los Cabos and La Paz are block brick and built in a Mexican Southwest style. We have a lot of the pueblo style homes like you would see in the Santa Fe area.
 
There is one resort that also has condominiums called Mico’s where everything is Greek architecture. You will see construction with beautiful tile floors, granite; you name it, because those materials are cheaper here than in the US. To install granite countertops is probably 1/3 the cost down here in the Los Cabos – La Paz area than it would cost in the US.
 
The construction here is less expensive for the most part and well built. The only thing that I have found, because I am a carpenter’s daughter and I worked in the real estate construction industry for many years, is the older homes do not have ground wiring; they just have a single plug in. So I always tell everybody, “Anything that you have plugged in that is important like your TV, your refrigerator, or your computer, make sure that you have a regulator or a surge protector for them.”
 
Our electricity grid is much different than what it is in the US and they do have spikes. If it spikes high, it could damage your electrical products, but that happens in the US, too.
 
As far as construction, recently I was in a single-family home that is actually going to be featured on HGTV that is a fantastic three-story house close to the ocean with amazing views. It has seven bedrooms, three studio-type apartments in the downstairs, a whole upstairs, and a parking area. They were asking US $625,000 for it.
 
There are also what they call “palapa homes,” which have concrete walls but then they put a weed or a palm roof on it. It is still well constructed. However, if we get high winds or a major hurricane like Hurricane Katrina, like the one we had 2 years ago, some of the palm roofs blew off but that was to be expected. Maybe it is easier to have your roof blow off than to have an attached roof blow off and take with it the walls and everything else. There are homes that are made of very tropical materials like bamboo down here. Those are not made to last 100 years but they are more ecologically friendly because you are using natural materials to even construct the walls. 
 
If you are going to build here you also need to pull permits just like in the US. The difference is, here, if you are building on a city lot or something like that, of course you would need to get your permits for your water hookups, electrical hookups, etc. Some of the buildings and new construction down here are Mexican-owned and some are foreign-owned, so the construction is always pretty much up to US standards.
 
Let’s say for example, you bought a lot near La Paz, so you ask the question, “Are you supposed to be permitted?” Maybe. “Is everybody permitted?” Probably not. “Is that something that could be concern if you go to buy a property?” Yes, you should definitely check into it.
 
You see all kinds of construction as you go to the rural areas. There are a lot of people who have just motor homes that they put down on a lot. They are using solar and they truck the water in because we are a desert, so to drill a well, you could go way down and maybe never find water for 300 feet. It just depends on location, so trucking in the water would not be unusual. But we also do that even in the US. In Colorado, where I come from, there are people who have their water trucked in because they may be sitting on a pile of rock and you would not be able to go down 300 feet, so it is actually cheaper for them to have a water cistern or a holding tank and the water truck comes and fills it. You will see motor homes and smaller homes that have been put up supposedly as a temporary house and they changed it. Unless somebody is complaining, I don’t think anybody is too worried about it.
 
(Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico, pictured.)
John K. Glaab of the settlement company® – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Hillside homes in Cabos San Lucas, Los Cabos, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingConstruction in Los Cabos and La Paz is regulated and you need construction permits. Most of the construction here is made of cinder blocks. Most recently, they have gone more to using particleboards, foam boards, and all of the other modern building techniques from North America.
 
The construction standards here are very high and the industry is rather competitive. I met a man from the airport who was coming back from the mainland recently who is a contractor, building and repairing homes. 
 
There are a lot of building supplies here. We have places like Home Depot and the traditional lumberyards but still most of the construction here are made of cinder block. It is not difficult to buy US appliances because you can just go to Costco and buy them. The newer condominiums and the newly-built homes have marble kitchen tops, tile floors, etc. There is a lot of tile here and it is very accessible. Mexicans are very good at doing work with tile and cement.
 
The quality of construction here depends on the price point. The construction standards of a medium-priced house would compare to a house in Montreal, New York, or Cincinnati, Ohio. There are inspections and building permits. Recently, there are a couple of companies that have come to this state who are building inspectors from the States. If you are going to sell your house or condominium you can engage them to take a look and make sure that everything is in first class shape.
 
(Hillside homes in Cabos San Lucas, Los Cabos, Mexico, pictured.)

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