Lifestyle Refugee Living in Lake Chapala Ajijic, Mexico

It means the most professional realtor has your best interests in mind.

Whether you are new to Mexico or have already lived here for a while, there’s a lot to know about buying or selling a home in Ajijic and the surrounding area of Lake Chapala.  With over fifteen years experience as a realtor, Elliott has lived in Lakeside as a full time resident for five years. She has earned the trust of her clients and associates with honest hard work and the integrity of a realtor who really cares about your interests.

Some agents are only interested in showing you properties they have listed and want you to buy from them.

Real estate is a business, but it is also very personal. It’s easy to get swept up in parties and restaurants while you forget that your objective ought to be the best possible deal for you. And of course there’s a lot more to it than getting in a car, swooping through a few homes, and discussing paint colors over lunch. Make sure to ask yourself these questions, no matter how excited you may be feeling:

1. Is this property listed by someone other than the person who is showing me the house? The agent who sells you her own listing is doubling up on commissions and doesn’t want you to see other, perhaps more suitable properties.

2. How much fun is renovation and extensive remodeling really going to be? Great design ideas are just that: Ideas. The reality of dealing with contractors, delays, and finding out that the grand design might not be working very well after you’ve spent a ton more money than you should can be very sobering. Do you really need an overbuilt house in order to be happy?

3. How important is it to “Think Big?” Many of Elliott’s friends and clients find that a more modest home is a great way to have a starting point in Lakeside before getting overwhelmed by the desire for glitz and glam. Find a nice home in a good neighborhood, Elliott will set everything up with the utilites and services, and you can immediately sit back and enjoy your first Margherita in your new home without a lot of headaches.

4. Do I really want to live in Lakeside, anyway? For many people, it’s an instant YES. For others they need some time to figure out what kind of change in lifestyle they really want. Elliott will never want you to buy a house if you’re not 100 percent sure about it. You can’t force people to make a decision to buy a house – it’s yours, and yours alone, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.

In the past few years, it’s become a lot easier to live in Lakeside. The days of long trips to Guadalajara in order to get what you need and stock up the pantry are a thing of the past. Many of our friends and clients tell us they at first wanted to move back north of the border, but once they went back to visit they couldn’t wait to return to their homes in Mexico.  So be sure to give Elliott a call with any questions you have.

Take it easy, and relax. The Realtor is In.             Click to  Contact Elliott

Be sure to browse all of the properties available in the Lakeside area here, using the Free MLS Listings search…a copy of each listing you select will be sent to your email inbox for further review. JUST ADD “CONTACT ELLIOTT” IN THE MESSAGE BOX!

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Mexico and the United States

The rise of Mexico

America needs to look again at its increasingly important neighbour


Nov 24th 2012 | from the print edition

Read the article in The Economist here.


What kind of house can I really get in Lake Chapala for under $200 thousand dollars? Too late…this one no longer available but ask Elliott about more.

A house like this….

CASA RENATA - Breezy and Calm

All I hear about is the violence in Mexico, how can it be safe? DRIVE into any inner city crime area in the US and the area you will be in has much higher crime rates than Mexico. The difference is that in the US the crime reports are always tucked away, while the crime in Mexico is featured on the front pages of US newspapers and top stories on CNN. SWITCH it around and you would be afraid to live in the US or Canada.

What about electricity, water, gas, is there TV and internet?

Yes to all the above. Here are some sample costs per month in US dollars:

ELECTRIC: Varies widely. Some people pay less than $20 a month.The highest we’ve heard of is $150 – $200 month depending how much you run your new clothes washer/dryer and how big your flat screen TVs and swimming pool are.

WATER: $10. The majority of houses have water purifiers making the tap water safe to drink. The restaurants do, too.

GAS: $20 Call them up, once every two months or ninety days. The truck comes by within two hours to top up your tank. Your hot water heater runs from gas for your two showers and soaking tub too.

TV: $40-75 You can choose from Satellite services or cable with wide range of programming including US networks. And HGTV. And NFL.

Is there Telephone and Internet?

TELMEX $65 includes landline with DSL. We found our local DSL to be faster than what we had while visiting DC suburbs.

TELCEL Pick from all the popular phone brands and types, including smart and i-phones. Sign up for a monthly package or pay-as-you-go. Refill minutes everywhere for just pennies per minute.

There must be a catch, how much does it cost for heat and air conditioning?

LAKESIDE has one of the world’s best climates. You run fans for a few weeks in the summer and put on extra blanket in the winter. Hardly anyone has an HVAC system. That saves about 200 per month over what it costs in the US or Canada.

If it’s really that inexpensive the Mexican Real Estate Taxes must be very high?

TAX 7 per month it’s rare for any homeowners to pay more than 200 dollars per year. YES, that’s it, and your tax includes DAILY curbside trash pickup, street maintenance and cleaning.

Okay, If I buy a house can the government take it away at any time? Do I really own it with a Deed and Title? Or is it just for 99 years, or is it just the house and not the land, or vice versa?

You are fully deeded in YOUR NAME and you own property in Mexico the same way you own it in the US or Canada. The house will go to whoever you choose to leave it to, after you live to be 99 and then some thanks to stress free living. It costs much less in Mexico and the lifestyle is enchanting.

Did I mention this great home is a short walk to the San Antonio Lakeside Malecon?

Any other questions?

Be sure to browse all of the properties available in the Lakeside area here, using the Free MLS Listings search…a copy of each listing you select will be sent to your email inbox for further review. JUST ADD “CONTACT ELLIOTT” IN THE MESSAGE BOX!

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Where else can you drive the two kilometers back  from a meeting about a multi-million dollar project and slow down for something you spot exiting the corral on your street – a calf having fun running from her true Cowboy owner?

He chases her into an adjoining field, skillfully working the lariat above his white hat, just like on TV.  A few moments later he comes out with the runaway in reluctant tow, gives you a broad smile and you wave back with a “Buen Hecho!” Well done.

While opening your wide secure entrance-way with a touch of the remote button, you reflect on the amazing place you found to live here in Mexico at Lake Chapala. Was it really five years ago? Park the car, another touch closes the big doors behind you. Sometimes you just park out on the cobblestone street,  with no worries except a brief wait for  an occasional horse and rider to pass, another friendly wave, and you’re in past the fragrant multi-colored flowers, flicking on your forty-two inch flat screen that you bought at the local Walmart.

Earlier that day there was golf, Zumba exercise, lunch with friends, some errands including paying the nine-hundred-eighty peso ($90USD) annual property tax, a dental appointment for your nineteen-hundred peso ($175USD) root canal and you notice your jaw hardly remembers the visit.

Sometimes people ask, “What’s the downside to living in Mexico?” You think about it at first the need for shopping. Once the real Guadalajara is revealed, with the Costco, Mega, Liverpool and other ultra upscale fashionable malls with their glittering stores, Best Buy, Bruno Magli, Sears – which is actually more a Saks Fifth Avenue here than anywhere else,  and the  fabulous restaurants, IMax theatres, adjacent to all the usual automobile dealerships – you realize you’ve had consumer angst totally unfounded. And of course the purists shop only at the local Lakeside shops and open air markets, hardly confessing to their friends that they do occasionally slip into the Ajijic Walmart anyway.

So you look at your beautiful house, fully deeded, purchased for a fraction of the costs up north. Not missing having a home in a cold or overly hot climate elsewhere in the world with unfriendly uptight neighbors.

Then you finally get a twinge, it’s only about being a bit far away from the kids who are thriving in their major careers where you once had yours. They visit often, you travel north once or twice a year too, so that’s not too bad either.

Medical care? You are pretty fortunate with the IMSS full medical care and prescription system. You pay thirty-eight-hundred pesos ($360USD) per year for that.

Maybe you miss heated arguments and confrontations with other folks? But you can have that too if you really want to get involved, but having tried it once or twice you take a pass, preferring the friendly waves to passersby instead, and understanding yourself and others better thanks to your exposure to the authentic culture here.  You think about all the genuine friends you have made here in Lakeside, and answer the phone as one of them calls while you prepare dinner.

Life is good here. Plain and simple. I love living in Lakeside and if you’re the type of person who can find yourself in this kind of life, give me a call or send an email.

Find the life you’ve always wanted. Where else?

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Reprinted with permission of Mexico Insights, a great Ezine Click HERE and login with user name — oct2010 password – waterfall


Getting Your Car Repaired

Our 2005 Ford Focus didn’t look like this until Xavier in San Juan Cosalá took care of the bumps and bruises that four years of Lakeside driving inflicted on the body and bumpers.

When we were preparing to move to Mexico, all kinds of questions crossed our minds — from the existence of coffee shops, manicures, pedicures and hair salons shops, to the cost of printer cartridges and car repairs. I’m pleased to reassure those of you just now doing your planning or about the make the leap — put your minds at ease — it’s all here, and with lots of benefits to you.

Let’s start with a look at our 2005 Ford Focus that made the trip four years ago from Virginia to Lakeside with our dog and a whole lot of belongings on board. After four years of cobblestone street driving and a few learning-curve dents, scrapes, and bumper cave-ins along the way, she was fully restored at Xavier’s Reparación y Pintura shop in San Juan Cosalá.

Xavier’s handshake estimate was $6,000 pesos and that’s exactly what I paid a week later when I picked up the totally restored and repainted car. After some additional suspension work in Guadalajara — more about that later — my wife swears she’s driving a brand new car for under $1,000 US in total repair costs.

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of drivers and auto enthusiasts so much as the sudden appearance of that glowing yellow square on the dashboard that reads, “Check Engine.” This is true both north and south of the Mexican border. Before moving to the Lake Chapala area this event would trigger a chain of events probably familiar in all of its consternating details to automobile owners everywhere.

It begins with heart palpitations — because inevitably we notice the light on a Sunday when service garages are closed, or while underway to Aunt Tillie’s for the dreaded Thanksgiving dinner. It invariably ends a few days later with the emptying of one’s wallet, an event which northern dealerships and specialty auto shops seem to perform with style, grace and regularity.

If the frightening episode occurs after you have made the move to Ajijic, you might gasp and utter expletives to your spouse just for the sake of getting it off your chest along with a series of added scary thoughts. “Oh no! I never thought about what to do about getting my car fixed in Mexico! Oh sh#t, now what?”

Zarra doesn’t reveal her 20 years, and has proven to be a trusty Mexican steed.

Don’t panic, friends. In Guadalajara it’s even easy to get reasonably priced engine, air conditioning and chassis adjustment work if you need it. The experience here is not nearly as painful as what we were used to back north of the border.

First of all, the “Check Engine” light in my experience is mostly a preplanned ruse on the part of car manufacturers to get you back into the dealership service bay. Here in Mexico I bought a 20-year-old Ford Taurus. I named her Zarra. I have lovingly nursed her back to complete health with a little (ok, a lot) of help from auto mechanics in Guadalajara.

There are several complete auto parts centers in Guadalajara as well, for do-it-yourselfers. I’ve purchased everything from radiator hoses to spark plugs. AutoZone on Ave. Revolution in Tlaquepaque is easy to find and has a computerized parts system so it was very simple for me to find the parts I need.

If you like auto parts stores, you are going love AutoZone in Tlaquepaque. They even have a computerized parts system.

When we were still living in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, I had a Ford that was 10 years old. It ended up costing me upwards of $3,000 US in repairs during the one year I owned her.

When her “Check Engine” light came on back in Virginia, I dutifully took the Ford into a local well-known service franchise.

So the efficient Sales Manager with the pressed white shirt and logo of—(I am not naming names but you can fill in any name you are familiar with) told me that after inspection, the oxygen sensors had to be replaced; that was what the engine “Data Read” was telling them.

I grimaced and said, “OK, how much?”

“The sensors are $400 US each, but if you do them all now we can to it for a total of $850 US (keep in mind that in pesos, that comes to less than $8,500 pesos, using round numbers).

Being a good and gullible auto repair consumer at the time, I agreed, figuring that if it wasn’t done immediately the engine would fall out. Sometime later on I found out that the actual retail cost of oxygen sensors is around $50 bucks, and only two are required, and I could have done it myself. But that’s for another story about how the mind gets twisted up north and eventually unbends after moving to Mexico.

The biggest hurdle to overcome about auto repair for Lakesiders is the I can’t possibly deal with going to Guadalajara syndrome. If you’ve ever driven, like I have, on FDR Drive or the Georgetown Pike, or navigated the streets of New York City, Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles, you can actually drive in Guadalajara.

When the “Check Engine” light came on in my trusty Mexican Taurus and turned out to be a radiator fan problem, she was repaired at a shop in Guadalajara for only $395 pesos. I’m convinced the same repair in the US would have cost $395 US, just for them to get started.

The good news is the repair shops mostly require only one or two turns once you get off the highway in the Tlaquepaque-Tonalá area. But if you absolutely insist on having all the work done at garages in Lakeside, even considering the premium in pricing over Guadalajara prices, you will be overjoyed to know that it’s still much less — even a fraction of US costs.

(Left:) Here’s Car City. It’s located on the careterra (highway) in Riberas del Pilar. (Right:) A typical Guadalajara mechanic’s garage can have a very different look.

A typical tune-up in the US runs about $500 – 800 US. At Lakeside’s Car City (I like a place that actually has lift equipment) I was quoted $1,650 pesos including spark plugs, oil, fluids, and filters for my wife’s 2005 Ford Focus. I like that idea and not having to drive into Gaud for basic service, although it will be almost half the price in the city.

But now we get to the good stuff. The Focus was rattling quite a bit after four years traversing cobblestones in the villages. Don’t worry, the main roads are all paved and the major highways are excellent, many recently repaved and with multiple wide lanes. Anyway, after a basic tune-up at another Lakeside garage, the owner suggested a major overhaul of the undercarriage work for an estimated price of $8,000 pesos.Remember the $850 US for oxygen sensors in the US? That got me thinking…there must be a better way, and there is.

I’ve been really happy with the work I’ve had done at Baeza Suspension in Guadalajara.

I ended up finding the Baeza Suspension Garage in Tlaquepaque at a friend’s suggestion. Boy was it worth it. I actually took the 20-year-old Taurus to Baeza first, as I had by now become familiar with her every rattle and shaking roll. After a thorough inspection, Carlos recommended new shocks, engine mounts, miscellaneous linkage work and so forth. I figured that this would be an astronomical estimate, and instantly flashed on the cold-sweat feeling so familiar to car owners back north of the border when it’s estimate time.

“We do everything for $5,850 pesos, Señor,” said the smiling owner. Wow, under $850 US for a new suspension, I was thrilled. That was $300 US less than the useless oxygen sensors on the other Ford at the place in the States.

“It is ready at 5 p.m. today,” Carlos continued. “The price includes full guarantee parts and labor.” I shook his hand, decided to take a $40-pesos cab ride to the main Guadalajara bus terminal, take the bus home and bring the other car in the morning to get it fixed, too. So half an hour later I was ensconced in a comfortable seat in the air-conditioned Chapala Directo (express) bus after purchasing my $48 peso ticket in the terminal. I was home in San Antonio before lunch and felt very good about how things were going with auto repair in Mexico.

The following morning I drove the Focus back to Baeza, paid my bill for the Taurus and felt like I was driving a Masseratti back to Lakeside. No rattles, no rolls, no worries. When Carlos looked over the Focus (remember the Lakeside garage had quoted $8,500 pesos for the chassis work) he determined the extent of the problems and handed me an estimate for $2,085 pesos. I liked that idea very much, and you can wave to my wife as she drives her real estate clients around Lakeside these days without so much as a clink or rattle.

Lakeside Auto Repair Shop Examples
(Prices are in pesos — divide by 12.5 for dollar equivalent.)

Car City — in Riberas Del Pilar on the Chapala-Ajijic highway
The garage has full complement of lifts and equipment and some English is spoken.
Oil and filter change $290
Batteries starting at $550
Tune up with oil filters and plugs $1,650

Xavier’s Auto Body — in San Juan Cosalá on the Ajijic-Jocotepec highway
Xavier the owner speaks English.
Ford Focus needed complete body work; it was multi-coated, repainted in metallic with sealer.
Priced as per estimate; work completed in one week at $6,000.

Auto Repair Shop Examples in Guadalajara
(Prices in pesos — divide by 12.5 for dollar equivalent.)

Alineciones Baeza Chassis and Suspension
Complete suspension and steering service with lifts and bays.
Carlos and son speak English.
Ave. Chamizal & Ave. San Rafael off Ave. Revolution
Telephone: 3635-5511

1991 Ford Taurus
Complete suspension: new shocks, motor mounts, misc. parts $5800
Power Steering reservoir replacement and fluid 900
Prices posted at the shop include:
Alignment and balance package $160
Alignment 70
Computer balance (each) 30
Change Strut 260
Labor on suspension complete 580

Note: Carlos will first perform a thorough inspection with his team and provide a written estimate including all parts. His work has a 6 month warrantee. Also he is the go-to guy for other referral work in the area — he drove me personally to the radiator and muffler specialty shop.

Servicio Integrales “Pega” — Radiators and Mufflers
Owner speaks some English
Ing. José de Jesús Pérez García

Ave Jose Ma. Verea # 2676 in Guadalajara
Telephone: 3655-8109
1991 Ford Taurus — repair of circulation system $390
Other prices will be quoted and I am convinced they are very reasonable with expert results.

These guys are good!

Bruno Joachim is a retired professional photographer who now lives in San Antonio Tlayacapan with his wife, Elliott, who is a Lakeside real estate agent with Absolut Fenix.


Manana Has Already Started!

The Realtor Is In.


Hi, I’m Elliott Joachim!   YOU  must have lots of questions about living in Ajijic Lake Chapala, just like I did before moving to Mexico.

Call me (214) 774-2812 Toll Free from US/Canada or private email to get you started!

I don’t try to know it all but there is a lot about living in Mexico and making the decision to get here in the first place. There’s more to real estate in Mexico too than just finding a great house and moving in. My four years
of experience as a licensed International Property Specialist in Lakeside
after ten years of brokerage service in the USA can help you with the entire process. Moving to a foreign country can be a daunting experience, and I’ve been through it all myself. Everything from immigration papers, how and what to move, what the local lifestyle has to offer (it’s not for everyone), and above all how to make the best of your new life in Mexico.

In Mexico Manana Begins Today!                         

Be sure to browse all of the properties available in the Lakeside area here, using the Free MLS Listings search…a copy of each listing you select will be sent to your email inbox for further review. JUST ADD “CONTACT ELLIOTT” IN THE MESSAGE BOX!

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Almost every day we see more and more exciting developments in our part of the world in beautiful Lake Chapala. Enjoy this news!

Expat Haven to be Mexico’s New Hollywood

“Lake Chapala lies in a scenic part of central Mexico and has several small towns clustered around its shores. Its year-round temperate climate allows filming 95% of the year, say Jalisco state commerce officials. The lake is less than an hour from Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city and home to an international airport with direct fights to the U.S.”

Last year, my friends and I had decided to try a new Latin dance-flavored variety of exercise class called Zumba, and discovered it was great fun to follow the energetic young Mexicana through the moves to some very high-energy salsa music.  Disappointed one evening when the leader didn’t show up for class, the other girls coaxed and flattered me into taking her place. They knew I had enjoyed a career in ballroom dancing in the distant, misty past. I took the class and experienced such satisfaction and joy from the experience that I’ve been doing it ever since…

(Elliott wrote an article for a well known local magazine this month about fitness options in Lakeside,  and it’s publishers have provided Vidalago readers with a log-on to “read all about it.” Mexico Insights is always full of interesting local information, so enjoy, and Happy Easter!)

Click on Mexico Insights to continue reading more of the article Elliott wrote for the local Ezine.

Goto the red login box on the upper right hand corner.

username apr2010

password artist

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As if there wasn’t enough to do in Ajijic every day, February features the Mexican National Chili Cookoff, a local Tradition.

Every year amateur and professional chefs compete for the much coveted People’s Choice  Award, given in both the Chili and Salsa categories in a festival filled with fun, prizes, music and lots of good food.  Sponsored by local and international vendors for the benefit of local charities,  The Cookoff is located in the Tobolandia Water Park.  Locals and visitors from all over can spend the three days sampling chilis,browsing at the myriad of booths where everything from Golf Carts to Silver Mexican Jewelry is on offer.  From Friday through Sunday you can admire the work of local artisans and dance to a variety of bands while having a Corona or three with your friends. And of course there’s chili, chili, and more chili to sample and judge. Chili not your thing? Don’t worry…a wide variety of restaurants have booths there, too.


Need more activities where you can bring your visitors and make new friends in February? Here are just a few of the special events you can find in Lakeside.

*  The School for the Deaf Tour of Homes
* Presbyterian Church — Bazaar
* Villa Infantil Orphanage — Tour of “Green” homes
* Love in Action Center — Garden Party
* Music Appreciation Society — Play reading
* Niños Incapacitados — Dinner Dance
* Lake Chapala Shriners — Ribfest Party
* American Legion Ladies Auxiliary — Valentine’s Dinner
* ACA Eco — Bus trips to Abastos, weekly Eco Talks
* Red Cross Bus Trips — Shopping at Gallerias and Tlaquepaque
* 32nd Annual Chili Cookoff — Proceeds divided by eight local charities

Be sure to visit the official

Chili Cookoff Homepage

Enjoy and buen provecho!

Talk to me about Real Estate in Ajijic!

Be sure to browse all of the properties available in the Lakeside area here, using the Free MLS Listings search…a copy of each listing you select will be sent to your email inbox for further review. JUST ADD “CONTACT ELLIOTT” IN THE MESSAGE BOX!

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