Norman Estates, Los Cabos

Photos and renderings courtesy of Rancho San Lucas

Golfers with Baja-leaning souls listen up: a stellar oceanfront golf resort with a luxury residential component in Cabo San Lucas is on the horizon, a partnership between famed golfer Greg Norman and the Solmar Group, longtime developers of award-winning resorts.

In early 2016, Rancho San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula broke ground. Phase one, the Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas Resort and The Residences at Rancho San Lucas is expected to open in winter 2017. Soon to follow is an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course, and announced just today, Norman Estates at Rancho San Lucas is opening in 2018, the first community in Mexico under the umbrella of the lauded golfer’s global residential brand.

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Photo: Timothy Real Estate Group

Photo: Timothy Real Estate Group

Situated down the coast from the touristy and yet convenient Mexican beach city of Puerto Vallerta is Villa Kismet. This angular architecture with a stunning infinity pool is located in the Sierra del Mar at Los Arcos community.  This gated oceanfront community is located 15 minutes south of downtown Puerto Vallarta on the southern shores of Banderas Bay and has a private beach. Community amenities include a private beach club with a palapa lounge, snack bar, sunning terrace, swimming pool, jacuzzi, gym, wi-fi, and business center as well as beach services such as chaise lounges, umbrellas, towels, food and beverage service, ocean kayaks and snorkeling equipment.

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Cabo before:after 1

Organizations have worked hard to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Odile tore apart much of Cabo’s neighborhoods, destroying buildings in the process.

Faryn Masso Clark, founder of Facelogic spa, was living the good life as an expat in Cabo, but had to evacuate back to Texas after Hurricane Odile made landfall on Baja California Sur Sept. 15. “We didn’t want to leave at all,” Clark said. But, because of necessity, Clark, her husband, her three kids and their dog left two weeks ago. Today, they’re ready to go back.

And the Baja peninsula, ravaged by storms, is ready to receive them.

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Mexico is often an affordable place to buy if you’re looking for a beach property without a ton of competition. The Pacific coast of Mexico is just as gorgeous as the more popular tourist destinations without all of the crowds. There’s surfing and seafood, and wonderful culture!

Honestly, I am in love with Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. This area feels so lovely and secluded without denying you access from some of the things that make Mexico great — food, shopping, and nightlife.

Here are a few luxurious beach properties that would be a fantastic retreat for anyone looking for beach time!

1) Casa de la Playa

Casa De La Paz

2) Casa Emily

Casa Emily

3) Casa Conchita Cumana

Conchita Cumana

4) Casa Miguel

Casa Miguel

5) Casa Costanza

Casa Costanza

Guest Post By Tom Kelly, author of “Cashing In On A Second Home In Mexico”

As we headed out for a special day of snorkeling—sharing the water with a group of baby sea lions off Esperitu Santo Island in southern portion of the Sea of Cortes—I thought about the intriguing place that had drawn this particular group of adventurers; all were mid or late baby boomers with terrific appetites for unusual experiences.

For me, the intrigue – and wonder – of “The Baja” has spanned nearly five decades. Some of the more memorable moments of my youth were spent fishing the waters of the blue Pacific, longing for a hungry school of late summer albacore or yellowtail tuna. I also vividly remember following the exploits of Parnelli Jones, the celebrated racecar driver, as he headlined treacherous off-road Baja events, and I too felt a twinge of loss in 1970 when the first paved road stretching the length of the Baja peninsula’s rugged terrain was finished.

Today, much of southern Baja’s mysterious, rustic charm still remains and several luxurious resorts have done an admirable job of incorporating that charm into specific developments. And, while a precious few dependable paved roads branch out from the spine of Baja – Mexico’s Highway 1 – crystal-clear, azure water hugs the gorgeous coasts on both sides of the southern peninsula.

Much like the boomers’ parents—members of the greatest generation—targeted Palm Springs or Arizona (east-coast transplants would say Florida) the boomers are clamoring for Baja Sur because of the different experience, the attraction to perceived risk and the thrill of the exotic. In a nutshell, the lure is the beach and a chance to step outside the second-home box into an immense playground and investment opportunity.

Choosing a Piece of the City of Peace

The playground and investment opportunity combo is in play in and around La Paz, the state’s capital and the center of government, commerce, education, health care and environmental research for the entire region. The “City of Peace” has a rich history, delightful people, delicious spicy food, terrific weather and an easygoing lifestyle. Its early beginnings were not peaceful at all until Sebastian Vizcaino, while circumnavigating the peninsula on exploratory expeditions in 1596, renamed the municipality of Villa de la Santa Cruz “La Paz” because local missionaries managed to maintain a few months of calm.

La Paz, which is one of the few places in the world where the desert literally collides with the sea, offers modern tourist facilities such as an efficient, spacious airport plus contemporary community hospitals and impressive restaurants serving fresh fish from local waters. Tourism includes permanent housing opportunities and several creative developers have produced interesting options targeting the North American buyer.

The Costa Baja Resort (www.costabajaresort.com) combines larger beachfront homes with a modern marina ringed by shops, condos, restaurants and health clinic plus golf-course, hillside homes with views of the Sea of Cortes, all on 500 acres and just a five-minute drive north of the town’s malecon, or seaside walkway. Already built, sold and occupied are a combination of 60 villas and condominiums on the beach or overlooking the marina. Prices ranged from $195,000 for a small studio to more than $1 million for a penthouse.

The resort also features casitas and condominiums overlooking the Gary Player-designed golf course, the Sea of Cortes and the marina. The units, priced from $500,000 to $1 million, range from 2,000 to 3,700 square feet of interior space with up to an additional 1,300 square feet in terrace area. Included in the package is a social membership that allows access to the beach club, spa and discounts for the golf course and marina slips.

Jim Fletcher, a Seattle attorney and investor, was drawn to La Paz a few years ago because it was unlike any of the other Mexican areas he had visited. Stirred by the Costa Baja setting, and enticed by the resort’s protected marina for their boat and proximity to town, Fletcher and his wife, Marlene, purchased a waterfront home and three additional units overlooking the marina which they rent to golfers, snorklers and fishermen seeking the plentiful dorado (mahi-mahi) in the Sea of Cortes.

“We had owned a place on the Algarve in Portugal for 17 years and it became a logistical challenge,’’ Fletcher said. “We eventually sold it about three years ago and began looking for another area by the water that we could enjoy.’’

The city of 225,000 residents has banned timeshare sales at the airport, so arriving in La Paz is more relaxing than some other Mexican ports of entry. Local planning officials have prohibited high-rise developments along the malecon, allowing more expansive views of the Sea of Cortes.

“We just think it’s a safe, enjoyable place that’s easy to get to and has a lifestyle that we were looking for,’’ Fletcher said. “It hasn’t been bungled like some other places where all the waterfront has been choked by high-rises.’’

Most of Baja California remains untouched like some areas of the Yucatan Peninsula and most of the mountain regions of the Sierra Madres. Yet the various climates and geographical environs coupled with the proximity of the sea have combined to create a strange and surprisingly beautiful landscape. Increasingly larger amounts of money are being invested to develop its coastlines where fine sand, balmy waters and abundant sea species are regarded as self-evident reasons to target new tourist and investment activity. Economic ambitions are being balanced against the ecology of the region’s abstractly beautiful and unique environment.

The balance is working . . . at least for now. Baby sea lions still return each year to the waters off Esperitu Santo Island.

Tom Kelly is the co-author of “Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico” and a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. Tom’s new E-book “Bargains Beyond the Border: Get Past the Blood and Drugs: Mexico’s Lower Cost of Living Can Avert a Tearful Retirement” is available online at Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon.com, Sony’s Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Borders Books, Diesel eBook Store, and Google Editions. It mirrors a recent article by CNN on the benefits of the country, including increased rental possibilities.

Ocean condo kitchen at Costa Baja in La Paz, Mexico

Open doorways from second master bath suite to bedroom

Latino homes love open spaces: Costa Baja, La Paz, Mexico

Dallas Real Estate is changing. Several years ago, my cousin and his wife moved his parents into their home. It was a bit unsettling because I thought my aunt and uncle needed their own space. Turns out my cousins, who live in Florida, were way ahead of me.

With more Hispanics buying homes in Texas and across the U.S., builders and Realtors are noting a sea-change of differences in the kind of homes they buy. And the way they buy: 30% of Hispanic real estate purchasers did not use a realtor. And 40% of home buyers in U.S. are now Hispanic.

Realtor Oscar Gonzales of the Gonzales Group and Scott Caballero of the San Antonio Board of Realtors cited many statistics last week at the National Association of Real Estate Editors “state of the market” conference to illustrate an increasingly Hispanic domestic real estate market, not just in sunny San Antonio but everywhere. Did you know that Hispanics have moved in droves to Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia? Caballero evoked a recent Harvard University housing report claiming 40 percent of all new minority households created within the next 10 years across the U.S. will be Hispanic. Developer H. Drake Leddy, President of the Presidian, which is building San Antonio’s Vidorra and many hospitality properties in Mexico, told me of a fortress-like private community under construction north of San Antonio near The Dominion. It is owned by a group of well-to-do Monterrey families who fled the prosperous city after the tragic shootings there at The American Foundation School last August, another in a string of violence that has terrorized Monterrey and many border towns.

“You have to understand,” Leddy told me, “Think of what would happen if a shooting occurred at St. Marks or Hockaday. These parents are trying to protect their children.”

Does this mean you might have to be bi-lingual to sell your home? Maybe. Home builders and anyone hoping to appeal to this market will definitely make some changes, since Hispanics tend to have larger families and buy a different type of housing. For one thing, they treat their elders with respect, invite them into their home (as my cousins did), and don’t toss elderly parents into nursing homes. The profile of the customer coming through the door is definitely changing.

(Meantime, my son gave me a sign that reads, “be nice to the children: they select the nursing home”.)

Gonzales said new homes will increasingly be tailored to Hispanic wants and needs, which include open floor plans and dual master bedrooms for live-in grandparents. Kitchens are big enough to hold multiple cooks, must have gas ranges to cook tortillas, and nannies have small bedrooms that resemble walk-in closets, some right off the laundry area. Others have small third car garages that serve as the nanny’s room — nothing super fancy for the help. Latin and Hispanic families also like large front porches where friends can gather, quite opposite to the traditional suburban home with a rear-entry garage where you seldom see your neighbors. And the entire home is built for the convenience of two families living within. I noted, for example, that the homes at Costa Baja in La Paz were build with duo-masters, each with small kitchenettes, and exterior doors so the residents of one master could come and go without disturbing the rest of the family. Builders and developers clearly need to accommodate the multi generational family.

When there’s a market, there’s a way. Both speakers said lending practices are under development to enable undocumented workers to obtain financing for home purchases. Sort of puts the mentality of places like Farmer’s Branch, Texas and my once home town of Elgin, Illinois that tried to pass a law not permitting more than one generation to live in a house, in perspective. The Elgin law got thrown out.

As I’ve said previously, the U.S. market is benefiting from the instability of countries around us: capital flight. Foreign buyers from nations with troubled currencies or unstable societies, such as Mexico and Venezuela, are buying U.S. real estate to move away from violence in their home countries or as investments. They highlighted Texas, Los Angeles and Miami as hot markets for these international buyers. San Antonio has all but become a second home market for affluent Mexicans.

Trulia recently reported that bargain-basement Florida is currently the most popular state for international real estate shoppers, where buying a second home is seen as a secure investment. The Miami market in particular has seen a boom in home sales, boosted by foreign buyers, and was one of only five U.S. metro areas to experience more sales in May 2011 than May 2010, according to the RE/MAX May 2011 National Housing Report.

You are looking for the best real estate values in greater Dallas, right? You want a maintenance, headache-free first or second home close to that great maker of getaways, D/FW Airport. Yet you continue to look in Dallas. Are you crazy? Las Colinas is right next door, closer to D/FW, and has some of the best home values in North Texas. Look at this darling pretty-as-pink town home: 6843 Verde, Irving, TX. Beautiful hardwoods throughout the down stairs. Granite, stainless steel, convection oven, breakfast bar, and glass front cabinets make the kitchen sleek and sexy. (No time to cook but we must look good.) The living area overlooks the patio. There are three living areas and 2 dining areas, upstairs office loft. Built in 2006, it has 1772 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living afraes and gorgeous kitchen, two car rear garage, only $160 per month in association fees so you can lock and leave. La Villaita is a beautiful nook centered around a lake, two canals, trails and parks minutes from DFW Airport, Downtown Dallas and Fort Forth with convenient access to I35, I635, George Bush Turnpike. How much you ask? (Thought you never would!) Don’t faint — only $230,000.

See what happens when you venture out of the D Bubble?

Remember when the Wall Street Journal told us crime was so bad in Mexico that even the Mayor of Monterrey, Fernando Larrazabal had fled and re-located his family to the Dallas area? (I found out it was to Las Colinas, and y’all got mad at me. I also found out on a visit to La Paz, Mexico, in November that Sr. Larrazabal wanted to be closer to her family here in North Texas.)  Crime there is way out of control; the city is caught in a war between two drug cartels, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. A U.S. Federal ICE agent was recently murdered, and the violence could be spreading to the U.S.

I talked with my landscaper, who used to drive through Monterrey on the way home to see his parents in Mexico:  he told me he no longer drives through Mexico.

“It’s terrible,” he says. “My wife, she is afraid. They are killing people in Monterrey every day. EVERY day!”

It’s the drug cartels, he told me, and he blames the Mexican government for not wanting to accept any assistance from the U.S. There have been 350 killings in Monterrey this year, which is the third most populous city in Mexico with 3.7 million people. August 18 the body of the mayor of nearby Santiago,  Edelmiro Cavazos, was found on the outskirts of Monterrey, an industrial center with close U.S. business ties. Two doctoral students have been killed, guests at a Holiday Inn kidnapped, and the cartels killed two bodyguards right in front of a school. Many Americans and even some wealthier Mexican are out of there and ending up in Texas — so in a perverse way, this could be good for our property values.

I still recall the story of a rancher who was kidnapped and held hostage for over a year in a box, beaten, shot, barely fed, all to extort ransom money from his American-born wife. Guess where this happened: San Miguel D’Allende. On the show, the couple, who were both in real estate, said initially they were asked to keep quiet about the kidnapping for fear of the damage it would do the to real estate community.