Chris and Judy Barrick are folks I’ve gotten to know over the past several years, and their story is a great one for people looking to own real estate overseas. They made a list of the top 5 reasons they chose Mexico and then added a 6th reason that is priceless. Their description of what attracted them, and ultimately what led them, to owning property in Mexico fits the profile of many people today looking for a vacation property in the tropics. But this isn’t where my relationship with Chris really took off.
As many of you know, ECI Development does not work in Mexico, so there’s no business reason there. Chris, Judy, and I actually connected because he’s an artist who works with the medium of wood. His creations are spectacular and practical all at the same time. The three of us hit it off because we both see the incredible opportunity to work together long term as it relates to our teak plantations and the value coming from processing the teak to lumber – and even one more step…finished products for the export market.
Chris and Judy are visionary entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to work in the region and serve a huge need with a business that is near and dear to them. By partnering with ECI Development and Hardwoods Unlimited, we all leverage our intrinsic assets for a greater benefit to all concerned. Enjoy their story and stay tuned for an upcoming column when Chris describes building his home in Mexico and his adventures on that phase of the project. Keep an eye out too for news on the teak plantation products as we ramp up the processing of timber to finished product.
The Search – by Chris Barrick
My wife Judy and I have had the good fortune of traveling through the tropics and Latin America fairly extensively throughout the years. Growing up along the border with Baja California (Mexico) in San Diego made traveling to Mexico just a part of what we did. During the 1970s and 80s, we would surf across the border 2-3 days a week, and long-range camping trips to surf, fish, and dive were frequent events. In college at San Diego State, we would make weekly grocery shopping runs to Tijuana to save money while living on a college budget.
In 1980, on a driving trip to Cabo San Lucas towing a boat, we stumbled upon a sleepy little fishing village on the Sea of Cortez called Los Barriles (The Barrels). It was, at that time, nothing but a dirt road off the highway to a couple of hotels and a few houses. There was one telephone in town, and you had to wait to be connected to make a long distance phone call. The beautiful thing about Los Barriles is that it has miles of pristine white sand beaches, beautiful tropical water, and world class fishing and diving.
Baja Peninsula and Los Barriles, about halfway between Cabo and La Paz.
In 1983, my father bought a piece of beachfront property and we spent the next 3 years building a beach house. Construction was very inexpensive compared to what costs were in the U.S. and our family being in the construction business made for a very affordable beach house at the time. We made many 2-day, 1,000 mile driving trips taking building materials down to our house. The house has been a central family destination for family trips, holidays, reunions, and even weddings throughout the years. Our kids have grown up there and made the driving trip numerous times.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago – our kids were graduating from college, and Judy and I were staring at a big empty nest. I had recently downsized my construction company and Judy retired from teaching after 22 years. We started traveling and looking for a place to build a second home. Our travels took us to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Mexico, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, and Nicaragua. We had fun getting to know all of these places and did our due diligence in each one looking for the right fit to build our next house. Spending time in-country in the communities we were looking at was an important factor for us. We want to be a positive addition to any community we’re part of.
Over the years, we attended a Live and Invest Overseas conference in Belize and spent some time exploring the country. It was at that conference we met Mike Cobb. Mike was just a genuine guy and, while being a developer, didn’t try and hard sell us anything. We got along instantly. The knowledge we gained from the conference was invaluable in our continuing search for our “next new house.”
We spent the next few years traveling, researching, and making multiple lists of positive/negative attributes of every place/property we looked at. We have a very close family, and having a house that everyone can gather at is on the top of our list. We fell in love with Nicaragua, but travel distance, especially for our kids who are spread out over the U.S., made it a challenge – along with our past history in Mexico. Aging parents, family, and being in close contact with our kids trumped all of the other items on the list of looking for a piece of property. The last 2 years have been extremely busy for our family as both of our children got married and moved across the country (Chicago and Austin).
Judy and I took a road trip with our labrador, Jake, this last August to Los Barriles to chill out for a few weeks and relax. Over the years, we have become very connected to the community of Los Barriles and have many friends there. While there, we always love to explore new areas. Jake loves to ride in the truck and we spend days out exploring. While exploring, we started looking at property, not really seriously, but just because that’s what we do when traveling. We stumbled upon a gorgeous beachfront lot for sale about 35 minutes north of Los Barriles with a beautiful reef and huge oysters all over. Love at first sight! We went back to the lot for 3 straight days, walked it, measured it, laid out potential home location, etc.
Then we started making the positive/negative list. The top 5 are:
Family History No cell service
World class beachfront Long drive from Barriles on dangerous road
Reef No local grocery store or medical facilities
Location 2 hr. drive from airport to pick up visitors
Great fishing/diving No local restaurants
The 6th is:
Can you see where this ended up? I’m an adventurist and love exploring and being in the middle of nowhere. Judy loves exploring but also having civilization at least close by. The lack of cell service was a real tough one for her. (Being honest, it was for me too).
We went into a local real estate office in Los Barriles, doing our due diligence on the beachfront lot, and happened to be talking to the agent’s husband (he’s gringo and she’s a Mexican national). He’s a contractor and has lived in Los Barriles for over 30 years. He said he knew of a lot close to town that wasn’t on the market and the owner needed out. Los Barriles has really grown in the last 30 years and now has 3 supermarkets, a medical clinic, a small shopping mall, banks, gas stations, restaurants, great cell service, etc.
We jumped in the truck and drove 5 minutes north of town to a lot in an established development full of very nice homes. The lot was one off the beach, but sat elevated above a small arroyo to the south which made for unobstructed ocean views and direct access to the beach 100 meters away. It was a large lot (1/3 acre), had all utilities (phone, water, and power), and no one could ever build to restrict the view. It was also close to my parents and brother who have houses in Los Barriles. We weren’t in town, but still close enough to have all the conveniences of town. Winner, winner, Chicken Dinner! We let it sit for a few days and made our list again (of course, going to the lot on a daily basis and laying everything out!).
Chris and Judy’s Lot in Los Barriles Beach View in Front of Property
It’s funny how we were just on a lark and this kind of fell into our lap. Lucky? Probably, but it would have never happened without knowing the area, spending time down there, and being connected. Boots on the ground. After sleeping on it for a few days, going through the list multiple times, and preliminarily designing a house, we decided to make an offer. We went back and forth with the owner who lives in the U.S., finally deciding on a price. Easy right? Not quite like buying property in the United States. I’ll detail the purchase process in the next article.
Thanks Chris for a great story about your process on how to buy property in Mexico. Your history with the town, and your desire to locate conveniently to drive from San Diego for family and aging parents makes a lot of sense. It will be fun to see how the buying and building process goes over time.
Los Barriles Home Cabo San Lucas Home
For folks looking at Mexico, properties in Los Barriles range from mid-hundred thousands to well over a million dollars. But compared to Cabo San Lucas real estate, where the same product could cost upwards of several million, being a little off the beaten path certainly pays off. If you are looking for property off the beaten path as a vacation home, or perhaps an investment in the path of progress, well done. While requiring more time and effort, the rewards for either reason are certainly worth it.
If you’d like to learn a little more about France, please read: What You Show Know Before Moving to France
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Here is an amazing interview with my friend Olly Richards: Secrets to Learning A Foreign Language Quickly
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