A cavernous indoor kitchen has beamed barrel ceiling, a dark-stained white cedar counter on the sink side and a counter with handcrafted tiles from Puebla surrounding the stove. The center island has a marble countertop, and the appliances are stainless steel.
The adjoining breakfast room opens to an L-shaped terrace with a fireplace and views of the pool area and a fountain on a lower-level terrace. Tucked behind double doors off the terrace is a guest suite with a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bar.
The swimming pool is surrounded by gardens and has an underwater glass window, originally used to shoot TV commercials.
“It is a beautiful house for entertaining,” Ms. de la Torre de Skipsey said.
The property is in the Palmira neighborhood of Cuernavaca, where there are other large homes and estates. Cuernavaca, which has a population of about 366,000, is the capital of the state of Morelos and is known as the City of Eternal Spring, for its temperate climate. Golf courses, language schools and spas abound. The property is about a 20-minute drive from the restaurants, boutiques, tropical gardens and historic buildings downtown. Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City is about 60 miles away, or an hour and a half drive.
Housing prices in Mexico dropped 20 percent during the global economic downturn, and the increase in kidnappings and other crime over the last decade have hurt the real estate market as well.
But Cuernavaca stands somewhat apart from the rest of the country, as there “has always been a constant attraction for Mexico City residents to own or rent a weekend home” there, Ms. de la Torre de Skipsey said. The area has a similar appeal “to foreigners, for their retirement or just for the weather and its beauty,” she added.
In the last five years, she said, the volume of sales in Cuernavaca has increased by 40 percent. And the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico last fall, adversely affecting the housing market in nearby Jojutla and other areas of the state of Morelos, didn’t seem to have much effect on the luxury market in Cuernavaca, which Ms. de la Torre de Skipsey defined as homes priced upward of $1.5 million.
Even so, Cuernavaca is still “definitely a buyer’s market,” said Andrea Dolch Espinosa de los Monteros, an owner of the real estate agency Mexico Luxury Estates.
“The American dollar goes a long way,” she said, and prices are negotiable. And inventory will continue to increase in the future, she added, as “there is more development and more construction happening.”
At the low end, three-bedroom homes with two to three bathrooms, a small garden and a pool start at around $200,000, Ms. Espinosa de los Monteros said. In the middle of the market, $500,000 will buy a house with three to four bedrooms and three bathrooms on up to a quarter-acre lot with a pool. “Everyone has a pool,” she said.
At the high end of the market, “haciendas in beautiful shape” on an acre or two can go for as much as $6 million, particularly if they have amenities like state-of-the-art movie theaters, marble bathrooms or tennis courts, Ms. Espinosa de los Monteros said.
Most international buyers of second homes prefer to buy in the prime neighborhoods of Cuernavaca, like Palmira, Tabachines and Sumiya, Ms. de la Torre de Skipsey said.
WHO BUYS IN CUERNAVACA
In recent months, Cuernavaca has seen an influx of buyers from Mexico City, where damage from the earthquake was more severe, said Yanina Pozos, an agent with Inmobiliaria del Sol, adding that the lighter traffic and lower congestion have long been a draw.
Many foreign buyers come from Canada and the United States, particularly California and the Northeast, agents said. Some are year-round residents, while others are snowbirds.
Though most foreign buyers pay cash, mortgages and cross-border loans are available.
Foreigners are allowed to buy inland property, in cities like Cuernavaca, with a permit from the Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But foreigners who want to buy property within 30 miles of the coast or 60 miles of the border must go through a bank trust or set up a Mexican company.
A public notary, or government-appointed lawyer, chosen by the buyer certifies the real estate transaction for both parties, handling the title search, overseeing any taxes that are due and reviewing official documents, including the deed, property assessment, appraisal and any permits. But buyers are advised to get advice from an independent lawyer as well.
Cuernavaca government: cuernavaca.gob.mx/
Mexican tourism: visitmexico.com
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCIES
Spanish; Mexican peso (1 peso = 5 cents)
TAXES AND FEES
The buyer pays the transfer tax, the notary fees and expenses, with closing costs ranging from 5 to 7 percent of the purchase price. The seller pays the broker’s 6 percent commission.
The annual property taxes on this house are about 9,000 Mexican pesos (or about $480) a year.
Laura de La Torre de Skipsey, Guadalajara Sotheby’s International Realty, 011-52-1-55-3466-6198; sirguadalajara.com