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  • Michaela

Building A Home In Lake Chapala

Updated: Apr 16, 2022

House under construction in Ajijic, Mexico

Are you considering building your dream home in the retirement haven of Lake Chapala?

Building a home in Lake Chapala is still a great deal with proper management and controls of the project. Amazingly, prices for the U.S. home builder have not gone up in the past 15 years due to the escalation in the value of the U.S. greenback compared to the Mexican Peso. I uncovered an article recently from 2004 quoting the exact same prices per square foot as we are paying today! The exchange rate at the time was given as 10.75 pesos per U.S. dollar whereas right now you get 19 pesos per U.S. dollar.

Construction costs in 2004 were quoted as $45-50 U.S. per square foot for mid range construction, $60-80 U.S. for high end, and $35-40 for low end. Our current construction project for our home is estimated to be $50-60 U.S. per square foot and is considered mid range. Keep in mind that this is just for the construction of the house on a level lot. Work to the lot, retaining walls, steep slopes, perimeter walls, garage doors on perimeter walls, pools, landscaping, sidewalks, security, solar panels, etc are all extra.

There is, however, lots to learn about building in Mexico and building with concrete and brick. Almost everything is different from the way we are used to back in the U.S. or Canada where most homes are built from wood. Here, things are still very much hands on with very little mechanization or mass produced material. The end result is a home truly custom built and built by hand. From the iron 'rayas' (ornate bars on windows and doors) specially crafted just for you in a local welders shop 'herreria' , to the specially crafted brick vaulted ceilings 'bovedas' and 'cupulas' (tall domes with or without windows for ventilation).

Another thing that you will find different in Mexico compared to north of the border is the need for water storage. There are two types of water storage. First (and most common) is the 'aljibe' (cistern) made with concrete or (often nowadays) plastic tanks. The second is the 'tinaco' (a plastic tank placed on the roof of the house). Sometimes both are used in conjunction with each other. The water is released by the municipality or pumped from a well 1-6 times per week into the aljibe. It is then pumped up to the tinaco for water storage and gravity fed into the house. This serves a twofold purpose of providing water even during power outages and heats the water via solar energy. The other method when not using the tinaco is to pump the water from the aljibe and feed it through a pressure tank and then through a gas fired 'on demand' heater, or gas fired hot water reservoir tank.

Building can be challenging at the best of times but building in a different country and different language requires the help of a good local architect and builder. He will be instrumental in helping to bring your conceptualization of the home to agree with something that can be built in Mexico and with the materials and ways of construction common in Lake Chapala.

Another challenge, if you are from the U.S., is the fact that you'll need to get used to the metric system or otherwise disastrous mistakes can happen. Again, a great architect will help you along the way but it is good to start thinking in metric.

To help you get started with your building journey in another language, here are some more common building items to help you when you're on the job site:

azulejo – tile

varilla – rebar

alambre recocido – heavy wire

cal - powdered lime

piedra - stone

arena rio – river sand

grava - gravel

jal - pea gravel

viga – steel beam

talavera – Mexican ceramic tile

teja – roof

impermiablizantes – sealant for roofs

saltio – Mexican tile

Stay in touch with our building project on our Facebook Page “Retire In Lake Chapala” #buildinginlakechapala and be sure to 'Like Us'.

Also, if you need help in locating materials or need information on building we're here to help. Just Contact Us.

Thanks for reading!

Michaela & Ricardo are your FULL SERVICE Real Estate Agents. Along with our Retirement Seminars, our over 20 years of combined experience Lakeside, and our network of area Professionals, we help guide you to from beginning to forever in your Retirement Journey to Lake Chapala, Mexico.

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