Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What renters want (Part 2)

A while ago I created a survey about renting a home in Merida. (you can take the survey by going to the "Rental Survey" link in the upper right corner of this blog).

We dream of the day when we'll be able to spend months in our tropical retreat, but for now, work and family obligations will keep us in Canada for all but a few weeks of the year. So it made sense to rent out our house to long-term tenants in the meantime.

As I searched for information about renting a home in Merida, it seemed mostly anecdotal and often contradictory. I wanted to know what renters want and need; especially people planning to settle in, as opposed to short-stay vacationers.

I shared some early results and promised to provide more detail. But then things got busy and I haven't followed up for a while. Meanwhile, survey responses kept trickling in, so my procrastination turned out to be a good thing. The more respondents, the better the quality of the information.

Here are some of the details I've learned, from 21 respondents to the survey so far:

About 2/3 of the respondents were renters or potential renters. The rest were homeowners who rent out accomodations, or "other".

Length of rental:  1/3 said they rented or planned to rent for six months or more. 1/3 rented for three months or less, 1/3 did not specify. (I'm interested in information about longer-term rentals, so I didn't specifically ask about rentals of a week or a weekend.)

Got pets?  Lots of people bring their pets to the Yucatan. 11 of the respondents said they do have pets, 7 did not.

How many people in your household? 12 respondents had two people in the house. Two were singles, and two had a household of three people.

How many bedrooms required? 13 need two bedrooms. Two need one, and two need three bedrooms.

How many bathrooms needed? Nine respondents say they need two bathrooms. Seven say one bathroom will do.

The most important features:

- fans: 89 per cent
- dishes and cooking equipment: 84 per cent
- fully furnished and equipped: 79 per cent
- pool: 74 per cent
- cleaning one or more times a month (combined results) 69 per cent
- Internet: 68 per cent
- air conditioning: 53 per cent
- TV/Cable: 42/47 per cent respectively

Turns out nobody really cares about my preciosa solar hot water system (11 per cent). That, and a garage (16 per cent) and a cell or land line phone (16, 26 per cent) were at the bottom of the list of desired features.

Rent budget: I might not have structured this part of the survey very well. It doesn't distinguish between short-term and long-term rates, or sort the responses according to the types of services or features required. For what it's worth, here's a rough breakdown of responses:

Six months or more: $400 to about $1,000 a month (Notably, the respondent with the lowest budget wanted the most services, and some of the respondents with higher budgets were amenable to minimal features and services.)

Under 3 months: $1,500 to $1,800

Under 1 month: $750 to $2,000 a month; up to $1,000 a week.

Some comments:

"I've rented both long- and short-term. For the short term I preferred lightly furnished places. My second short-term rental was so crammed with furniture it seemed like a storage unit more than a house."

"There's a big difference in price between the for-gringos market and the Spanish-speaking market. On the gringo side, I rented a one-bedroom furnished, charm-free apartment for $650, if I remember right, and then a one-bedroom tiny colonial (heavily furnished!) for $600 for 5 months. I've switched to the Spanish-speaking side and now pay $5,000 pesos ($370-$420 US) for a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath unfurnished house with a big yard in a nice neighborhood north of the Centro."

"For us, TV wasn't important but of course will be for most people. Finding a pet friendly place in a ''safe'' neighborhood with a pool was most important."

"We've paid as little as $500/wk for a really nice place with a pool. For our first full winter, we are paying way too much ($1,200), but it was hard to find a full winter stay, as owners want to use their home, too."

"(Requirement:) family-friendly pool. Many of the places we have looked at have direct access from the bedrooms to the pool. Not good for families with young kids. Many rentals also don't allow kids."

"We have been offering vacation rentals for 3-1/2 years.  The first thing that you need to decide is who your market is.  If short term vacation rentals, I would suggest going high end.  Top quality sheets and towels, fully equipped kitchen with great quality gadgets and appliances, nice decor touches.  Have a pool.  Have air con and either include it or charge electricity as an add on (especially in summer).  Get cable internet (Cablemas).  Get Canadian satellite tv through Shaw - sign up for an account up north and bring one or two satellite receiver boxes down.  Have a local install a dish and the connections.  Offer weekly maid service.
Or go mid-range and slightly less luxurious.  I suspect there is a bigger market for rental in the mid range than in luxury.  You still need to fully equip the house...  In any case don't charge extra for anything with the possible exception of electricity charges in April-September when air con use is high.  People hate extra charges."  

"If you decide to rent long term either to expats or to the local market, rent it completely empty.  Don't include a single thing.  They can get the cable and electricity hooked up in their own names and get the bills.  The rental rate will be lower but it will be occupied full time.  Don't install air con if you go this way, just in case they don't pay their final bill and stiff you for it.  Get your lawyer in Merida to draw up a rental contract.  The tenant pays the fee for this, which is usually one month's rent.  You could decide to accept pets if you go this way since you are not providing furniture." 

"I think a pool and AC (charge by use) is really necessary in Merida. Little touches like colorful dishes, wall hangings and furniture that calls out, "Mexico... Mexico." A good list of  "Where to go if you need..." A person the renter can call if there's an emergency or something breaks. If there's a market or a friendly plaza nearby, point it out. Would prefer centro and rental with good electric and plumbing plus screens; also closet space.  In a perfect world, there would be one king bed with a good mattress."

"Outdoor living with good beds, bathrooms, kitchen, tv, wifi, pool and yard, security, neighborhood are important."

"We've rented houses here for a much as $650 US and as low as $275 a month, long-term. One house was 2 bedroom, 2 bath and the other 3 bedroom, 3 bath. The lower rent was a bigger nicer house but only semi-furnished. For a long term rental I would probably pay $300-$500 US a month depending upon the house and location. I'd want it unfurnished."

Thanks to everyone who responded, by the way.

I hope this might be of use for anyone who's thinking of renting their home, or looking for a place to rent. We are not looking for renters at this time, but it was fun to do the survey and I think I'd structure it a bit differently next time to improve it.


  1. Good info that I'm sure many can and will put to use. But you didn't mention how you report your earnings to Hacienda here in Mexico. What is the procedure for that?

  2. Thanks Debi! That is an important issue to consided. I figured it's something that is better handled with professional advice than an opinion survey, though. (I get over a million hits when I query this topic on Google.)

  3. Unfurnished means unfurnished here in Mexico - ie. not even light bulbs are included. That means the tenant buys their own fridge and stove as well as bed, sofa, tv etc. That is the only circumstance that I would consider allowing a pet. People always say their pets are quiet/small/clean. They are deluded. The smallest pets are the noisiest and dirtiest.

    The question about reporting your income. Take this very seriously. You could be deported if you do not report income and you will not be permitted to reenter the country. If doing rentals your home should be owned in a corporation with monthly filing of paperwork. You will need an accountant for this. Professional advice is strongly recommended.

    1. Thanks Joanne, It's good to hear the voice of experience. I've had good experiences renting to pet owners here in Canada (generally better than non-pet owners, but I am very choosy). I had the impression there just aren't that many expats looking for a completely bare house to rent, which is why I launched the survey, to begin to get a sense of the market.
      Good advice on getting professional advice on the rules of reporting income. I would be interested in hearing more on the pros and cons of forming a corporation.