Friday, October 7, 2005

In Mexico, American immigrants fuel housing boom

The New York Times reports on the American influx into San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where real estate prices are rising and American immigrants are moving beyond their traditional enclaves:

"Ever since the 1950's San Miguel has been a haven for Americans drawn to its art schools, architecture or just the company of compatriots in a distinctively Mexican ambience. An American enclave is entrenched in the picturesque centro, or downtown, where adobe walls enclose patios lush with jacaranda trees and bougainvillea, and in manicured residential areas to the east and south. But now with home prices rising, Americans have been pushing into peripheral and sometimes edgy colonias, or neighborhoods, that were relatively American-free, including San Rafael, Independencia and San Antonio."

"[P]rices are rising highest at the low end of the market, including in these marginal neighborhoods, where a three-bedroom home now runs as much as $700,000, a price that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Any increase hits hard in this cash-only market; mortgages through American lenders are generally unavailable. But foreigners can hold legal title in San Miguel, in contrast to areas of Mexico near the border or beaches, where property must be held by a Mexican bank trust."

"Joel Nichols, 50, moved here a year and a half ago with his partner, Rogers Adams, 57. They live next door to a building that could pass for a bed-and-breakfast but is actually a rehab clinic known for treating prominent Mexicans, and their garden looks out on a hulking castle, built for a Mexican neighbor. But more Americans have been moving in. 'There's been a housing boom here in the last six months,' Mr. Nichols said."

"Mr. Nichols smiled as he gave a visitor a ride downtown on his motorcycle, past developments rising along the Celaya highway. 'Every day we talk about how we love it here,' he said."

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