Costs, Housing, Work
by Art Jones
Published: August 2001Hola Lorena and Carl: as you predicted, since you published my first letter concerning life here in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, I' ve been getting a ton of letters asking about retirement and other prolonged stays. The most common question these folks have is, "How much is it gonna cost me each month to live in Mazatlan.?
In the last few years I've seen folks here with such widely varying "comfort zones" that a stock answer to this question is impossible. My answer is always, " that depends... it depends on what you were comfortable with in the States or wherever you're from".
The second-most common question is, "Can I live in Mazatlan on $xxx per month?". As with any question that begins with "Can I?", the answer to this one is always "Yes!". Of course, the question is really, "Will I be comfortable living on $xxx per month?".
At this very moment, there are probably apartments available in a reasonable part of the city, if not in the Centro Historico itself, for as little as 1000 -1200 pesos per month. (Carl's note: the U.S. dollar is currently worth about 9.2 pesos.)
These apartments won't be near the beach, and they obviously won't be in one of Mazatlan's more fashionable barrios (neighborhoods), but they are available. But, as you know, such bargain places are generally not turn-key operations. Often the damage from the last tenant is considerable, and in these lean times it is often impossible to get help from the landlord for any fix-ups you have to do. Apartments at this price don't usually come with stove or fridge, and even the light switches may be missing from the walls. They'll almost always need paint and considerable TLC. You furnish a place like this to meet your wishes.
If you can afford to move up into the range of 2500 pesos and more, however, things rapidly improve. An apartment or house for 2500 pesos will get you somewhat closer to the beach, although you may still have to furnish it completely.
Considering the services that are available in Mazatlan, I still believe this is the most undervalued city on the Pacific Coast. Property prices have certainly been rising rapidly for the 4 years that I've been here to witness. Gringos 'in the know' and with the means to do so are buying whatever is available, and renting long-term what is not for sale.
In spite of this, however, Mazatlan has in no way reached the atmospheric price levels of Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and other popular beach towns.
Do folks really live in Mazatlan on $600, $800, or $1000 per month?
You bet they do, "con mucha felicidad". Many, many Mexicans live on much, much less. The relevant question remains, Àwhat is my level of comfort? (I know that you emphasize this a lot in The People's Guide To Mexico).
I find my own comfort level has changed somewhat in the last 35 years. How about you?
Another popular question is about the availability of work in Mazatlan.
I advise, "if you need or desire to work, bring yours with you or create work here". As it now stands, there really isn't much work to go around. A few Gringos make a precarious living teaching English ( you don't have to speak Spanish to do this). Their salaries are maybe 5000 pesos a month, tops.
Of course, the infamous Gringo timeshare hustler still abounds in the Zona Dorada. There are also those who have bought a job by becoming proprietors of -- you name it -- bars, restaurants, B&Bs, property managers/real estate sales, etc. etc. With the Mexican economy as tough as it is right now, it may be difficult to squeeze much profit out of these enterprises, but there are a few hardy souls out there working at it.
All in all, retirement in Mazatlan can be a snap. It can also be as pleasurable and comfortable as you want it to be. The first step is to visit Mazatlan, and then stay here as long as possible. Find a lifestyle that is comfortable for you, and like the sneaker guy says, "just do it!".
One can collect all the information in the world but in reality it's the experience that counts. Everyone's experience of a place, a city, or a country is unique to themselves. It's really not that complicated -- and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.
Anyone who is seriously planning the "big move" or an extended visit to Mazatlan should feel free to e-mail me . I'll do whatever I can to help.
As always, your pal... Art