San Miguel de Allende (SMA), in Mexico’s central highlands, is often called the prettiest city in the world… for good reason. It’s got beautiful colonial architecture, constant spring-like weather, and a friendly, welcoming population.
But due to SMA’s popularity, it can be tricky to find a long-term rental within your budget.
Here’s how my husband Keith and I found ours.
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We started our research about three months before our anticipated move date to SMA. Keith did internet searches for long-term rentals to get a feel for price ranges.
We figured that a monthly budget of $800 to $1,200 a month should suit our needs (2-bed, 2-bath, quiet but within walking distance of services/shops, a large kitchen for me, patios for Keith’s gardening).
Next, we needed a real estate agent.
Facebook has lots of “Expats in San Miguel de Allende” groups. We joined them all and noted the posts about rentals and real estate agents.
We avoided any rentals posted by the owner because their agenda is to rent out their home. And they seldom list prices so they can adjust the cost to whatever they think the renter can afford.
When we saw recommended real estate agents pop up again and again, we contacted each. But only one was quick in his communications, fluent in English, and intent on making us happy in our future home. Bingo, we’d found our man: Rafa Mora.
We had a phone consultation with Rafa where we shared our priorities. We told him our game plan was to conduct a two-week scouting trip in SMA before our current lease ended, and to have him start showing us houses the day after we arrived.
He corrected us on some misperceptions, which was valuable.
For example, we’d looked at maps and ruled out certain colonia (neighborhoods) as too far from downtown. Rafa pointed out that a flat map didn’t consider topography and that one colonia might appear to be close, but the steep hills would preclude walking (and we didn’t want to rely on buses and taxis), while another colonia might appear further, but allow an easy, flat walk into town.
When we arrived in SMA for our scouting trip, it became abundantly clear what Rafa meant about the topography. This is a hilly town. Many expats live in those surrounding hills, and when I’ve asked them about walkability, they laugh about rolling down into town, but needing a taxi to get home.
By the end of our first day looking at properties, to our surprise, we had already narrowed our pick to two houses, totally different in character.
One was modern in a gated community with tons of amenities, and the other was a traditional Mexican house in an established neighborhood (in a colonia we’d initially rejected as too far from the center).
We honestly would have been equally happy in either house, so it came down to price.
Rafa negotiated with both owners to see who would give us the bigger discount for a one-year lease. The Mexican house owners offered us $1,100 a month, including landline phone, cable TV, garbage, and internet. The trendy condo in the gated community would go no lower than $1,250 a month. That sealed the deal for us.
While we were willing to settle for a small 2-bed 2-bath, the winning house is spacious, with a large kitchen for my cooking, patios and courtyards front and back for Keith’s plants, three bedrooms and three bathrooms in the main house, plus a separate and private casita with its own bedroom and bathroom… loads of room for any family/friends who want to visit. And a large, locked iron gate and security system keep our vehicle and belongings secure.
We met a couple from the U.S. who moved here the same week as us. They didn’t use a real estate agent, but simply drove around in a rental car looking. The problem with this approach is that few rentals display “For Rent” signs, so you can be driving by an awesome available rental and never know it.
They stopped at the first gated community they saw, asked the salesperson for a tour, and rented a small, 2-bed 2-bath condo on the spot for the first price the saleslady threw out ($1250 a month). And it has no community amenities—not even an assigned parking space, at
They had buyer’s remorse when they saw what Rafa had found for us at a lower cost.
Research your options… and find a trusted agent to negotiate your deal.
That’s how we found our dream house here in SMA, and we couldn’t be happier.
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