Nov 132009

Building in MexicoWhen I tell people that I have built two homes in San Carlos a conversation usually ensues that involves questions about what it is like to build in Mexico and how much it costs.  I am familiar with building and remodeling in the U.S. and Canada and I have found some things similar and others very different.

In Mexico, as in the U.S. or Canada it is important to find a quality-building contractor.  By quality I mean a person who is established, has many homes to show you that he has built, and has a good reputation.  These criteria can eliminate many contractors early in the process.  San Carlos has been “discovered” in the last several years and many new construction companies have arisen to service the demand.  It is even more important now to do your research when selecting your contractor.  I was fortunate enough to work with a quality builder and my experience was a pleasure.  My builder, true to his reputation, was on time and on budget.

There is not a simple formula for answering the question about building costs in San Carlos because it is dependent on so many issues.  The terrain of the building lot can make a big difference in the cost.  If you are building on the side of a mountain vs. a flat lot on the golf course can clearly affect the price.  The “obra negra” as it is called in Mexico, which is the rough building of brick, plaster, rough plumbing and electrical is somewhat dependent on the square meters.  However, where the costs then diverge is the finish work.  Will you be using pine or cedar for your cabinets?  The difference can be 40-50% more for cedar but, in an area rich with termites cedar is a good long-lasting solution.  Are you going to use single pane windows or double pane windows?  With our extreme heat and humidity in the summer along with high electricity rates, double pane windows are worth the extra cost.  Are you going to use a natural stone such as travertine on your floors or ceramic tile?  The list is quite extensive and will have a definite impact on your total project cost.  A quality builder can provide you with a solid quote based on a proper drawing and a review of your building site.   Experienced builders will have an architect on staff or one that they work with to help you define your house plans.
Although the labor costs are less in San Carlos than the U.S. or Canada, the costs of materials continues to increase.  Costs of concrete and steel continue to rise with worldwide demand.  There is also a 15% IVA tax and the social security taxes paid for all workers that increase the overall costs.  In my experience, a general range of building per square foot runs from $70.00 to $100.00 under roof  (US$).  That per square footage price is likely to run approximately $125.00 if you are building on a hillside lot.  Again, this is with a top notch Mexican builder who has a proven track record of building quality homes in this area and familiar with this terrain.

The higher end price range would include most of the costs for upgraded items referenced above.  Keep in mind that most builders do not include the cost of appliances or lighting fixtures in their bids.  You will need to consider those separately as well as the cost of furniture for your home.

Another item to consider when building in San Carlos is communication between you and your builder.  When I first began construction of my home in San Carlos my Spanish was limited.  Until my language skills improved I hired a translator to attend the weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) meetings I had with my contractor.  It is imperative that you are both on the same page and good communication is critical.  Home construction is a much longer process than many foreigners are used to and a minimum of eight months is not unusual with much longer time frames for homes being constructed on more demanding building lots.  All in all, building your dream home should be a creative and fun process.  And when you have a builder that you trust and with whom you share good communication you can enjoy the journey as you see your dream home develop.