Friday, October 28, 2011

Rental survey - results so far

So I promised to report the results of my rental survey and then things got busy and I got distracted.

I wanted to know: What do you need to make a place an attractive one for potential renters?

Here is what I've learned from the 13 responses so far.

They included 5 renters, three potential renters and 4 homeowners (and one "other").

There wasn't a clear picture of the average length of rental. A few people rented for less than a month, a couple for more than six months, but most didn't specify. Perhaps I didn't format that question very well.

The most common size of household for Merida renters is two people (7 out of 10 responses).

Number of bedrooms required: 9 responses, all said 2 bedrooms required.

Number of bathrooms required: 8 responses, 4 wanted one bathroom, 4 said two bathrooms.

Got pets? 11 responses. 5 no, 6 yes.

Essential features: 

Top responses:
Furnished -82 per cent want their place fully furnished, 91 per cent with a fully equipped kitchen.
Pool -73 per cent require a pool.
Fans vs. a/c -82 per cent require fans (I think that's low) but only 64 per cent insist on air conditioning.
Internet - 73 per cent want internet via cable or telco, only 18 per cent say a broadband USB connection is sufficient.
Cleaning service - 55 per cent want cleaning twice a month or more frequently, compared to 18 per cent favoring once-a-month cleaning.
TV - 55 per cent want a television, and 45 per cent want cable channels.

Low priorities:
Unfurnished rentals :  9 per cent (1 response)
Phone: 9 per cent (1) want cell phone, 18 per cent (3) want a land line.
Green features: only 9 per cent (1) thinks features such as solar water heat are important.
Garage: only 18 per cent (2) require one.

Rent budgets run from under $400 a month to $1320. I will do a bit more work to compare what package of features people expect, and get, at the different price points. I'll write about that in a future post, and share some of the comments I received (avoiding detail that would identify the renter or owners).

I will leave the survey open for more responses.

What do you think? Does this seem to represent the rental picture in Merida or is it a skewed sample because of its small size?

It is enlightening to me to see what people want and need. Also, it supports Tom's longstanding view that we should go ahead and build that pool.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

El Huracan

Many street corners around Mérida display name plates like this one just a few blocks from our house. They are reproductions of the ones created long ago to help people get around at a time when many didn't read or even speak Spanish.

This seemed like an especially appropriate image for this week, with Hurricane Rina bearing down on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Mérida is not directly in its path but it could get a lot of rain and wind, as it did during last week's "tropical depression".

The communities on the Caribbean coast could be in for much worse than that.

Update Oct. 28:  It didn't even rain in Merida.

Precautions were taken, including evacuation of Cozumel. My neighbor Ricardo's family are there, he said they were among the storm refugees, comfortably ensconced in a hotel with their cats.

After a couple of days of losing steam,
Rina was downgraded to another "tropical depression" on the coast.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting things done

Insta-kitchen from Soriana (except the essential French press)
I thought this would be a vacation vacation, not as much of a rush-around-and-get-things-done vacation. I sincerely intended to carry out the foot doctor's prescription to walk barefoot in warm sand. And call everyone I was hoping to see. Instead, it has been busy with errands and chores although I have had some nice visits with friends.

The house is feeling homey and very liveable. You still would call it "lightly furnished", but that's a refreshing contrast to our Victoria clutter. There are places to sit, and dishes to eat on, utensils and pots and a few pictures on the wall - thanks to Alfredo for that.

Lucio and his assistants cleared the weedy, overgrown patio and back of the property which someone has mistaken for a free dump.

Already, only a few days left and still lots to do, and some choices to make about what won't get done until the next trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do something that scares you...

The city feels damp. The afternoon threatens rain. So many small creatures are about: ants of all sizes, and when I opened up my mailbox the only thing inside was a surprised gecko. Two more geckos clamber around the walls in the sala tonight.

The rainy season sprouted a new crop of weeds in the patio. Blue morning glories climb the wall, tall grasses are setting seed, there are tiny daisy-like flowers and something with a seed pod that looks a bit like a green grape. Several branches of the sour orange tree are bent to the ground, weighed down with fruit and fresh growth. Surprise, the snake plant and henequen, gifts from friends, didn't die of neglect but are thriving, still in a pot, in the shade of the orange.

The back of the property has also grown weeds, along with substantial deposits of the neighbors' trash. Pipes, wood, prunings of palm and other trees. Not very neighborly, but I guess we'll clear it out and see if future dumping can be politely discouraged.

Now for settling in. After a day with the fans running, the house feels less dank, and now it's filled with the fragrance of lilies - a lovely housewarming surprise.

Dragged the bike out of the unfinished guest bedroom where I stashed it in March, and cleaned it up with dish soap and a damp cloth. It was filthy, and seemed to grow an extra coat of grime in the summer heat. The key for the bike lock was rusted almost beyond recognition. The tires were flat of course, but a neighborhood tire-repair guy refilled them for free.

The bike made it easy to get to the Oaxaca festival. It was a couple of kilometres away, set up in the Parque de los Americas in the Garcia Gineres neighborhood. All the treasures of Oaxaca were represented there: the park was lined with vendors' stands selling everything from woven shawls and beautifully embroidered clothes, to the region's gorgeous black and green pottery. There might have been music and dancing before I got there.

The food tent was hopping. I got in line for a tamale and some of that famous Oaxacan hot chocolate, but couldn't help noticing the fried chapulines. Grasshoppers. I had heard about this dish, but still, it was a little surprising to see a big platter of them at a public event.

A young fellow behind me was telling his novia he was getting the chapulines - hoping to impress with bravery, I think. I asked a server if they were popular - yes, she said, did I want a taste? I told her I was too afraid to try them, but la novia behind me said she'd had them before, and liked them, and her boyfriend took a sample. So I swallowed my fear and took a few from the spoonful the server proffered.

They actually tasted pretty good.

 So now I figure I'm ready for the apocalypse, or the post-global warming world, when bugs are all we have left to eat.

Brought the tamale home and put it in the fridge. For later, I figured. But I'm too intimidated to turn on the new range that was installed back in March and hasn't even been turned on yet. It has a funny button to ignite the gas burners, at least I think that's what it's for. And is there any potential problem with a tank of gas that's been sitting on the roof untouched all summer long?

I'll face that fear tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Foodie paradise, here I come

This sounds good:

Haven't been to any of these swank places yet. Nothing against fine dining - it would be a treat to check out a few of them.
At a more modest price point, I can vouch for the panuchos at our corner market, and at the nighttime food stands beside the San Sebastian church. And the pibil on the days that it's on the menu at our nearby cocina economica, Las Palapas.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seeking your opinion

Just one week to go.

For months the next trip to Mérida seemed unbearably far in the future and now it seems impossibly near. I can almost feel the tropical air and the energy of the streets on the short drive home - home! - from the airport. I'm imagining what the house will look and feel like with the finishing touches that were done since our last visit. Hot water. Window coverings. Chairs. Lighting. A kitchen sink with the drain connected to the plumbing. Mosquito screens.

I'm really looking forward to some shopping for the things that will make the place comfortable and fully functional. First, though, I need to get better information about what other potential guests and residents will want and need.

The reality is that it will be a while before we get to live out our little fantasy of spending much of the year in Mérida (I know I mention this far too often - me quejo mucho). In the meantime it seems sensible and smart to make it available to others for vacation or long term. An empty house just doesn't seem right, in so many ways. We're hoping friends and family will come, but not everyone is into a 12-hour trip to a hot place without a beach on the doorstep. Go figure.

So, rental. I was a landlord for the past six years in Victoria and it's fairly straightforward. Advertise a nice home in a good location at a decent price and you get mobbed with about 75 applicants. There is little available and what is, is expensive. The hardest part is choosing one of many fine candidates (and some not so fine) and then saying no to the others.

In Mérida it's clearly different. Lots of empty places. Prices all over the place. Unfamiliar rules. Different currencies - will that be USD or pesos? The challenge of long-distance rental management. I see lots of lovely places listed for (what seem to me) high prices and some that look like ruins rented for very little. But I'm not sure about the priorities of the type of potential tenants I hope to attract: people looking for a reasonably priced longer term stay, perhaps while they renovate or try out life in Merida or just settle in for awhile. I'm not sure whether such people actually exist. They might be as mythical as the $10 a day wages for skilled tradespeople that some real estate agents touted as little as a couple of years ago.

 To me this is all a learning experience, so I figured it would be fun and educational to take a survey and try to get a clearer picture of the rental market, before I go shopping for household items or do any serious advertising.

So I created a survey. I hope you'll help by sharing any info you have and passing it along to anyone else who might be interested.

Your input will be appreciated and I'll be sure to share the results.

Rental Survey