Campeche City, Mexico is increasingly attracting vacationers and investors who are looking for a low key place that combines both a sense of history and a relaxed beach culture. “Campeche City is a beautiful town, with a very calm lifestyle,” said Mr. Jorge Semerena Hernández who runs semerena.com, a real estate website that lists properties in the area.
Residents of Campeche City like their slow paced life and are not keen on too many changes. However, the increasing number of tourists over the past several years has changed the way the city functions. These changes, perhaps inevitable, are most evident in the real estate market and the expansion of service-oriented businesses. For better or worse, the city is slowly evolving into a tourist attraction.
About Campeche City
The now sleepy city of Campeche wasn’t always so laid back. It has had a long existence and a colorful history. Its location on the Gulf of Mexico predisposed it to pirate attacks and repeated conquest attempts. The English, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the French all wanted a piece of it. After they took it from the Mayans, the Spanish fought hard to keep it for themselves.
The city’s history dates back Pre-Columbian, to the 3rd century, when it functioned as the Mayan settlement Ah-Kim-Pech, which is thought to have had a few thousand houses and several monuments. The current city of Campeche was founded in 1541 when the Spanish finally, after a couple of failed attempts, conquered its Mayan occupants and established a colony.
Tired of their hard won city coming under constant attacks by ambitious pirates who had their eyes on it, the residents decided to fortify the city. Louis Bouchard de Becour, a French engineer, was assigned to re-design and build the city’s defensive systems. The result was a 2,560 meters long wall that now surrounds historic part of the city. Unlike their Mayan counterparts, many colonial structures, including buildings and homes, still remain well preserved, leading to the 1999 declaration of the city as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Campeche City is now the capital of the Mexican State of Campeche and has an estimated population of 275,000, according to Campeche.ca, an informational website about the area. Visitors to the city can occupy their time with relaxing activities such as fishing, strolling in the city’s historic center, or visiting the nearby Mayan ruins. Make no mistake, this is not the city for Blackberry addicts that are used to having every minute of their day scheduled. “[Campeche City] has the lifestyle of a small village,” said Mr. Hernández.
Campeche City Real Estate
Almost all property transactions in Campeche City are between local residents and Mexicans from other areas of the country, according to Campeche.ca. However, there has been a rising foreign buyer interest in the city’s real estate potential since international tourists began trickling into the city over the past several years. The city hasn’t really developed an expatriate scene, which might be an attractive quality for some who are looking to get away from it all. How much longer Campeche City will remain under the radar is anyone’s guess.
There are signs that change is afoot. The increase in the number of tourists and the presence of few foreign buyers has already caused the real estate prices to go up. Nearby seaside developments are not only attracting attention to themselves, but are also shining a spotlight onto the city.
Currently one can “spend between $180,000 and $300,000,” in the historic downtown area of the city, according to Mr. Hernández. Prices outside the historical district are much less, starting at around $50,000, according to Campeche.ca.
Buying real estate in Campeche City
Just because the paperwork and property jargon used when sealing real estate deals in Mexico seem similar to that of the U.S., it doesn’t mean they are the same. Investors need to make sure their property transactions abide by Mexican laws governing such deals. To this end, foreigners who are looking to buy property in Campeche City are advised to use a member of AMPI, the Mexican association of real estate professionals, as their agent.
There are restrictions on foreigners buying property in some parts of Mexico. These restrictions mostly apply to coastal areas and border zones. Since Campeche City is located at the coast, in addition to a lawyer, a public notary, and a real estate company, a bank must be involved in the transaction to create a trust known as fideicomiso. In a fideicomiso deal, the bank holds the title but the buyer is still given full rights of an owner. While it may sound sketchy for a first timer, this system of buying real estate has been used by thousands of investors, from all over the world, to buy property in Mexico.
“The price will continue to increase and the market will continue to develop,” said Mr. Hernández. The global slowdown may have a different effect on places like Campeche City. While other, popular, more expensive markets exhibit markets that are slowing down, places like Campeche City may actually see a boost as people search for cheaper alternatives. “A lot of people in developed countries are looking for a cheaper place to retire or live,” said Mr. Hernández. He believes it is a matter of time before those who want to retire in a beautiful place with a good quality of life, but do it cheaply, come knocking. Until then, Campeche City awaits but not with a bated breath.