This article was originally written for and published in the Real Estate Edition of the Baja Citizen.
Planning a move to La Paz? Follow these tips to make your house hunting trip a success.
Have you had your eye on La Paz as a potential place to live? You are not alone. With travel writers from media outlets like Forbes magazine and the NY Times including it on their must-visit lists, La Paz has been gaining an international reputation as a top place to visit. Once visitors land here, many are deciding to return to purchase a home. It’s not surprising: La Paz offers both seasonal and full-time residents an amazing mix of laid-back lifestyle, big city amenities and outdoor adventure that’s tough to beat.
Before you hop on the next plane to visit, it’s a good idea to think about what you want to get out of your trip and plan accordingly. Whether you are looking to buy a seasonal vacation home or contemplating a full-time move to La Paz, following are some things to consider that will make your house hunting trip easier and more productive.
First, Identify Your Goals
Is this your first trip to La Paz? Are you trying to decide whether it’s the right place to purchase a home? If so, you may want to plan your first trip with the goal of simply getting to know the city better, exploring the different neighborhoods and communities, and understanding the kinds of homes available in your price range. If you can, it’s a good idea to plan an extended stay – a four-day weekend is often not enough time to get a feel for what it’s like to live here. Plan on spending at least a week, more if you can swing it. Ideally, you may want to rent a place for a few weeks or longer to really get to know the city and what it’s like to live here.
If you’ve visited La Paz before and are convinced the area is perfect for you, you’ll want to look at homes in specific neighborhoods that match your desired lifestyle. Are you planning on using your home as a part-time vacation home? Will you be staying for a few weeks or several months out of the year? Will you want to rent it out when you’re not here? Or, do you plan on living in La Paz full time? The answers can greatly affect which neighborhood you buy in and the homes you’ll want to see.
Contact a Real Estate Professional in Advance
Whether your goal is an exploratory trip or you are coming to La Paz ready to purchase, we highly recommend you contact an experienced local real estate professional in advance to help you plan your househunting trip. A good real estate agent will not only help you select homes to see while you’re here, he or she will share inside knowledge about how to make the most of your La Paz trip, offer advice on where to stay, refer you to trusted tour operators, recommend the best local restaurants and more.
How do you find an experienced real estate pro you can trust? Look for one who is licensed by the state of Baja California Sur and is a member of the Los Cabos MLS and the local AMPI realtors association. As of January 2020, all real estate agents must be licensed by the state and pass certification requirements. Those who do not are not allowed to advertise their listings on the MLS.
Another good tip: look for an agent who specializes in the areas and neighborhoods you are most interested in seeing. La Paz is a sizable city with many different neighborhoods. An agent who specializes in selling condos downtown may not have the same inside knowledge of available properties in a quieter community further outside the city.
Share Your Real Budget
Once you find a real estate agent to work with, be sure to provide an accurate picture of what you are looking for in a property, along with your budget range. Be realistic. Although La Paz offers some great options for expats on a budget, prices have been rising. It helps to be clear about whether you are ready to pay a bit more for a property that has everything on your wish list, or if you are willing to take on a more aggressively priced fixer-upper.
Rest assured, your real estate agent isn’t asking for your budget just to try and sell you a higher priced home. Your budget is a vital piece of information we use to select the right homes to show you that meet your wish list. If you are less than forthcoming about your budget, you might miss out on seeing your dream home because it was outside your stated range. The more accurate the information you can share with your real estate agent, the better job they can do selecting properties that fit your needs.
Consider Your Lifestyle
There is a big difference between visiting La Paz and actually living here day to day. Thinking ahead about your lifestyle and how you will use your home will make a big difference in the neighborhood and the type of home your agent recommends. Are you interested in a home with more space, or a low-maintenance condo? Do you have pets that need a yard? Do you want to be walking distance to the beach, or is a panoramic view of the ocean more important? Are you an outdoor adventurer who loves to spend her time in nature, or a cultural enthusiast who wants to experience all the city has to offer? Thinking about these lifestyle considerations in advance and sharing them with your realtor can help you dial in your home search more effectively.
How Will You Use Your Home?
Many La Paz expat residents start out as part time, seasonal visitors who spend a few months here during the winter and return to spend summers up north in the US or Canada. Others are retiring early and planning a move to live in La Paz full time. Maybe for you, it’s a mix of somewhere in between: a vacation home for now, with the goal of retiring in a few years. How you plan to use your home will greatly influence the type of home you buy. Will you rent your home out for part of the year? Do you need a separate guest casita for visitors? What about a pool? Will you need a garage for a car, and storage space for kayaks, paddleboards, and an ATV? Or would you rather walk and take Uber everywhere?
Search Listings in Your Desired Neighborhoods
Did you know you can search for La Paz home listings online? That’s right, you can search homes for sale based on your preferences, just like you would in the US or Canada. Based on your criteria, visit your agent’s web site and start looking at listings to narrow down the list of homes you are interested in seeing on your trip. While you may think you want to “see everything” in your price range when you visit, you may be surprised at how much time it can take just to view five or six homes in a day. It can quickly get overwhelming. You’ll also want to save time in your visit to experience some outdoor and city adventures, so narrowing your list will help you make the most of your trip. Next, share your list with your chosen real estate agent, who can provide you with valuable feedback on those listings.
Plan Your Schedule
Once you get to La Paz, it’s a good idea to arrange to meet with your agent early in your trip. Why? We often get clients who fly into La Paz, spend several days wandering around town, then call on their last day in town to go look at homes. This is problematic for several reasons. First, many sellers require at least 24 hours’ notice to show their homes. That means it can often take a day or more to set up appointments with other realtors to view homes for sale. Leaving your home tour too late in your trip may mean you miss out on seeing homes for sale that may be perfect for you.
Planning your home tour early in your trip will leave you plenty of time to revisit those that really interest you on your first round. It will also give your agent a chance to set up appointments for additional homes to see based on your feedback during the first round.
Secondly, when we meet clients and start sharing some of our local knowledge about La Paz, the answer is always the same: “We wish we had met up with you earlier!” Our approach is to show clients not just a bunch of homes for sale, but to share with them what we love about living in La Paz. We can answer a lot of questions about where to find the best car rental, places to stay, day trips, tour operators, remote beaches, off the beaten path adventures and more.
What if I find the Perfect Place?
It happens! Even on their first househunting trip, people sometimes get lucky, find the perfect property and fall in love. What then? Your real estate agent will explain how to go about making an offer to purchase, and will be there to guide you through the rest of the process. In most cases, you can make an offer and secure the property before you head home, but it’s not always necessary. You can usually negotiate and sign the offer remotely, and wire any funds needed for the deposit. Relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the prospect of living the dream: you are on your way to owning a home in paradise!
Rebecca and Jim MacDonald moved to La Paz from the San Francisco Bay Area in California several years ago and are partners in their company, Baja Life Realty, located in La Paz, BCS. Jim is a licensed real estate broker, and Rebecca handles all the marketing for the company, including the web site http://bajaliferealty.com, and the company’s blog, This Baja Life, where she writes articles about the La Paz lifestyle. They are passionate about sharing their love of La Paz with clients, friends and visitors. In their spare time, they rescue and foster abandoned Baja dogs for adoption through a local rescue, Baja Dogs La Paz, Inc.