If you want to build a non-luxurious house in Chapala and Ajijic, but of good quality, it's going to be between 9,000 to 10,000 pesos per square meter ($46 to $51 per square foot).
Here in Chapala and Ajijic, the construction system is very different than in the United States, for example. In Chapala and Ajijic, you have rock formations; mortar, a mix of cement with sand and rocks; and then, you have rebar slabs with concrete.
The foundation is the same. The walls are made with bricks, which could be solid clay or cement bricks; and then, the walls are plaster and then painted. Then you have another concrete slab and metal beams on top of the walls. We use clay bricks for ceilings; or you can have concrete ceilings with rebar and big, empty lightweight blocks.
The difference in construction cost and quality lies in the finishing and carpentry. You can get high quality carpentry using solid doors or panel doors. You can buy tile for 120 pesos per square meter ($0.60 per square foot) or 500 to 700 pesos per meter ($2.50 to $3.50 per square foot). You can have granite countertops, as well as light, faucet, and bathroom fixtures of different qualities.
For 10,000 pesos per square meter ($51 per square foot), you can have tile for 170 to 200 pesos per square meter ($0.85 to $1 per square foot); hollow panels, not solid for doors; and, use the MDF material for the kitchen. Even expensive houses nowadays are using MDF instead of real wood, which is good because you would have problems with termites in Chapala and Ajijic if you used wood and MDF is good for that. The faucets and light fixtures are of not luxurious, but of good quality; countertops could be granite because they have lowered the price of granite here in Chapala and Ajijic; single-pane windows using other materials like aluminum and simple glass; and, no more than nine feet high from floor to ceiling.
For 12,000 pesos per square meter ($61 per square foot), you can get a very nice tile that costs between 400 to 500 pesos per square meter ($2 to $2.50 per square foot); good granite or marble in the kitchen and bathrooms; good quality faucet and light fixtures; double-pane windows in PVC, which is the better material; and high ceilings at three meters (10 feet) or more from floor to ceiling.
Most PVCs in Mexico that are of very good quality are made in Germany and sold by some companies in Guadalajara. There is a company that does high quality construction in Cabo San Lucas. The clients in Cabo San Lucas demand quality work so the construction has to be good because they construct hotels and big residences there. This company sometimes gives me some work here in Ajijic and we use PVC for double-pane windows for expensive houses.
Having a second story in your house would be the same price per square foot to construct and not add to costs.
These prices given above assume that the land is basically level and is rough grade without any problems.
When we talk about topography, the additional cost to build a house if the land is not flat would depend on the slope gradient and the variations in design.
Some houses in the Raquet Club are built on stilts and you walk over a little bridge to the house from the street because the lot goes straight down. These houses are more expensive because you are contouring and working around the topography.
If the land is sloping, the easy way is to build the main level above street level, which can have the kitchen, living room, and maybe a master's bedroom or den; and then, the lower level can be the night area and have the other bedrooms. However, if you want the main area to be at street level, it can be done by putting a retainer wall with a beam on top; or just put concrete columns and build from street level up. There will be some restrictions though because of height restrictions and laws of the fraccionamiento (housing development).
(Custom home designed by Roberto Millan, near Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)