By Suzan Haskins | International Living
No matter the season, it always feels like spring to me here on the sunny shores of Lake Chapala in the heart of Mexico.
It’s the colors, I think. The robin’s egg blue sky, the soft green leaves on the trees and vines, the violet jacarandas, yellow primaveras, and the omnipresent bougainvillea in brilliant hues of purple, fuschia, and coral.
Here at Lakeside, as it’s called, we enjoy this scene every day of the year. The average daily high temperature ranges between 76 F in January, the coldest month and 86 F in May, warmest month.
It’s no wonder this area is home to the largest overseas population of U.S. and Canadian retirees—somewhere close to 20,000 are said to reside here during high season, with between 12,000 to 15,000 living here year-round.
Because U.S. and Canadian retirees have been flocking to Lakeside for 100 years now, this is a “mature” expat destination. Every product and service you might want or need is available. English is widely spoken by doctors, shopkeepers, and vendors in the local tianguis (farmers markets) and you’ll find restaurants offering a vast variety of international fare.
With today’s favorable peso to dollar exchange (about 20 pesos to US$1 and 15 pesos to CA$1), this an affordable time to be in Mexico.
I was explaining all this to friends who’ve been toying with the idea of retiring here. But they’re on something of a budget and they’d been led to believe that Mexico can be expensive.
That might be true if you live in a resort community…on the coast where you’ll need air conditioning most of the year and where most everything is priced with tourists in mind. But here in Lake Chapala, you likely won’t feel the need for either heat or air conditioning, and the economy depends on local clientele so most everything is priced accordingly.
I shared some property examples with my friends to whet their appetites…
To set the stage, foreign retirees mostly live along a 20-mile section of the northern shore of the lake—50 miles long in total and about 11 miles wide—from the town of Jocotopec in the west to the town of Chapala farther east. In the middle of that stretch is the picturesque village of Ajijic, where most expat-centered activities take place.
Because Ajijic is a desirable community to live in—close to the action—real estate prices tend to be higher. A three-bedroom, two-bathroom, Mexican-style home (think exposed brick walls and Talavera tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms) with a small, enclosed garden—easy walking distance to the central town plaza—just sold for $149,000.
If you’re looking for something similar in size but more modern and perhaps with a view of the lake, you can expect to spend $200,000 and up.
For my budget-minded friends, who prefer to live in a more Mexican-centric neighborhood and in a smaller home, I suggested a couple of options in Chapala.
The first is a charming, 720-square-foot, one-bedroom, lock-and-leave home—perfect for travelers or snowbirds, just two blocks from Chapala’s new malecon (lakeside walkway) and close to all services including coffee shops, restaurants, medical clinics, a bus stop, and more. It’s being sold fully furnished, including tasteful handcrafted Mexican furniture and appliances. Best of all, it has both an enclosed terrace and an outdoor mirador, with gorgeous views of the lake and its stunning sunsets. The price tag for this beauty is just $69,500.
But since my friends can also be partial to a more rural setting, I found another, more modern home—nearly 1,500 square feet on a beautifully landscaped 4,000-square-foot lot. It’s high on the mountain above the lake (you’d want a car here) and features an open-floor plan with a bright, cheerful kitchen. There are two large bedrooms and two full bathrooms. This one, too, is being sold fully furnished with all appliances. And it’s priced at just $109,000.
Needless to say, our friends have booked their flights and will be arriving soon for a reconnaissance visit. We expect they’ll be our neighbors soon.