This article is an introduction to building a home on Cozumel Island. We used to laugh when people warned us about what could go wrong building on Cozumel. They were just trying to scare us into letting them do it for us — and for a hefty commission, we thought. Besides, we’d had a lot of remodeling experience in the US plus built our own small, wood-framed home in the mountains with our own four hands. And we were hard-working, intelligent, resourceful types. How hard could it be to build a house in Mexico?
The answer? To make a long story short — Painful. At least for the first few months until we finally stopped the peso hemorrhaging, fired the foreman, and began doing all the things we should have in the first place–before the first cement block was every put in place and the first peso handed over..
We’ve since discovered that we most certainly were not the only ones to have bad experiences with local builder/contractors. As one Swiss friend who built a house here 15 years ago told us “You always think you’re the only one. And then you find out that almost everyone has a sad tale. And it’s not just the gringos. Mexicans have plenty of horror stories, too.”
So, now it sounds like we’re doing to you, dear reader, exactly what was done to us — trying to scare the bejeesus out of you. Please let us assure you that this is not our intent at all.
Since those early building days when we arrived on the island $70,000 US in the hole expecting a nearly completed home and finding instead a shell with no electricity, plumbing, windows doors, floors or a staircase we have come a long way. The completion of our first home turned into what we’d always hoped it could be — an exciting, fulfilling experience. The end result was a great house at a fraction of the price we would have paid for the same construction in a resort area of the US.
We liked the experience so much, in fact, that we couldn’t stop ourselves and built a large, separate addition up on the front of our large lot.
This article is about the lessons we learned building our two large homes on Cozumel island. We wish someone had written this when we first started building. It would have saved us a lot of money — not to mention physical discomfort and a considerable amount of psychic torture.
What can you do to improve your chances?
Network with people who’ve already done it.
Understand some basic principles.
Principles: obra fina, obra negra and how door and window treatments are not included. nor are lighting fixtures. Everything hand built. No going to Home depot. Segura and filing the proper papers.
Plan on making plenty of trips down and/or look for a builder who is willing to communicate with you often and well via email.