Monday, September 24, 2007

Ivo Reduced to Tropical Storm Likely to Miss Loreto

The Presidente Municipal Rodolfo Davis Osuna, called to ask our assistance in helping him, along with Ex Director de Fonatur Loreto, Rafael Padilla, and other delegates deliver food and supplies to the fishing village of Tembabiche. This is a small town of approximately 50 families with little road access. The best way to get there is by water and it is 3 or 4 hours cruising from Puerto Escondido. Of course, we would be more than happy to oblige and donated REEL TROUBLE, our captain and gas to make the journey. They were accompanied by the Director of Education who was meeting the town’s people to see if they would put in a classroom.

The big news this week was Hurricane Ivo approaching the Baja from the south. It was a Category 1 and anything could happen as it was hundreds of miles off shore. I arrived home on Friday to find sandbags at my door. LBC is putting some type of road or courtyard in front of my home, and my first thought was “Good Lord, how much dust are they going to create that they need to stop it from seeping through my front door!” But after pondering the situation for a few moments, I realized it was probably in anticipation of Hurricane Ivo. Nevertheless, it was very thoughtful and much appreciated. Good news is that Ivo has been downgraded to a tropical storm and looks like it will lose momentum before it hits Loreto.

I visited my friends this morning and noticed large delicious peaches on their table. I actually picked one up and asked if it was plastic and where they got it? It had a sticker that said “Orchard Perfect, Produce of USA”. They went on to tell me that at the Saturday market there is an abundance of fresh fruit, more than ever before. There are potatoes from Idaho, applies from Washington State, grapes from Chile, and onions from Nevada. All the crates are well marked … How Bizarre! This goes to prove that after living in Loreto for some time, we are easily amused.

Many homeowners were in town this week and there were 8 final inspections of finished homes. Steve & Carol Morgan of FN482 were out celebrating with Mike & Sue of FN463 at Mita Gourmet. What is more appropriate than new neighbors under the Mexican Independence Flag? It was hot and humid but we all enjoyed Herzon on the guitar making us feel right at home as he played CCR, Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin and a variety of golden oldies. Now I am dating myself … but at least I am in great company.

Cal and Vicky Switzer of FN368 came up to the bar to see me. Sitting beside them were Jack and Arlene Randall of FN202 and both tables had just ordered margaritas and tapas when I came up to say hello. I introduced them to each other, and there were gales of laughter as they had emailed and were trying to find each other at the INN without much success. Here they were at Nellie’s Bar getting to know their neighbors! This is what I envisioned in the early days, and am happy that I can still be a part of building community.

September is the slowest month for tourism in Loreto, and many restaurants and shops are closed. Tom and Jan Alpers of FN400, Laurie Sanborn of FN122 and I met for dinner, and Juan Carlos the proprietor of Mita’s was teasing Tom about being with Charlie’s Angels. The roads are still under construction and be forewarned that it is a maze to get around town. Good news is that this is a great way to discover new streets and businesses that one would not normally travel. My suggestion is to park the car and stroll to your destination … taking the time to look in shop windows and say hello to the people you pass by.

We took Tom, Laurie, Charlie and Mike (brothers of FN332) out on a 3 hour tour, which turned out to be a 6 hour cruise of dolphins, manta rays, snorkeling to see giant squid, as well as the colorful angel fish and St. Pepper’s, among all the other species that live close to the rocks. The water was 85 degrees and crystal clear.

It seems each group we take has a brilliant new idea, and this day it was the Beer Catch to save having to walk around the side of the boat to get refreshment. I am enclosing photos of our day trip. One of the many questions that I get asked each week is concerning FM3s and I would like to give you some general information.

The advantage to obtaining an FM3 residency visa is that this gives you the legal right to be a resident in Mexico. You are allowed to bring in household goods and other items that you can leave here. You have twelve months from the date of your FM3 to ship used furniture and goods for your home, without paying the 10% tax. There is a new ruling that if you have residency for 5 years (which is proven by your FM3 status and evidence of domicile) you do not have the pay the 28% “capital gain” tax when you sell your principal residence in Mexico. This is a new rule and should be checked with your tax experts at the time of sale, but it would mean tremendous savings.

You can apply for an FM3 visa at your local Mexican Consulate Office, but please be aware that this is a different Authority that the Immigration Office and there are many rules subject to interpretation. It is sometimes easier and less time consuming to obtain an FM3 at the Consulate Office, but be sure that you fully understand that the local Immigration Office in Mexico is the authority over these documents. For example, the local office does not accept color photographs, however, most Consulate Offices will insist upon them. In addition, you must register your FM3 in Mexico within a specific period of time; otherwise there are “infractions” which could mean fines of $100 USD per month for late filing of supporting documentation.

To apply for a residential FM3 you will require the following:

1. Application form. This is obtained from the Immigration or Consulate Offices.
2. Six black and white photos (3 side view, 3 front)
3. Fully copy of your passport (every page)
4. Three months recent bank statements
5. Evidence of Domicile (Proof of Address)
6. Immigration and/or Consulate fee

BajaBOSS will assist with business FM3s as they are much more complex and many more supporting documents are required. However, the residential FM3s are not too difficult and we recommend that you can apply for them at the local Loreto Immigration Office which is located on the main street into Loreto between the University and Bridgestone Tire. The Immigration Officers speak good English and we find them very helpful. This is another incredible sunrise to start the First Day of the Rest of My Life.

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Back to Life as Normal in Loreto ...

The calm after the storm was prevalent in Loreto. The next morning after Hurricane Henrietta had made her presence known the streets were full of municipal workers and business people all out sweeping, cleaning and trying to get our city back to the spotlessly clean place we are so proud of. Police were out directing dump trucks and blocking roads so the cleaners could sweep in safety. We saw a new street cleaner machine that made a lot of noise and blew clouds of dust everywhere.

It is amazing how green this place becomes with just a few inches of rain. There are waterfalls in the mountains that create streams and small ponds of water that are cool and refreshing. The hills come alive with bushes that were never noticeable before and the land between Nopolo and Loreto look like lush pastures for the animals to feed. The temperatures have now dropped to the low 90’s, but with 60% humidity it feels at least 10 degrees hotter.

Last weekend was Loreto’s Festival complete with famous music artists performing from Mexico City, fireworks, fair rides, and kiosks serving food and drinks until the early hours of the morning. They brought the Virgin of Guadalupe down from San Javier and were carrying her through town with big parades. There was also a Parade of the Pongas and we could hear the musicians on board as the decorated boats sailed past the malecòn.

In business this week, BajaBOSS was visited by Columbia Export Service Company. Jeanny and I took their San Diego and La Paz representatives to Mediterrano Restaurant to discuss their expanded services and how they can assist our clients and friends. Columbia Export can ship any legally imported goods from the USA, including construction materials, appliances, retail and wholesale inventory, and furniture. They have shipments leaving from San Diego to Los Cabos almost daily. Yvonne Moreno (next to me) is their Customer Service Representative in San Diego and can be reached at (619) 710-1863 or at

BBVA Bancomer Bank representatives from Mexico City and Los Cabos were in Loreto this week to introduce their new services to foreigners. They had a cocktail party at the INN which was attended by approximately 70 people. In addition to their new Preferred Client Services which will include English speaking representatives and English translated documents, they also introduced their mortgage, investment, and fidecomisco services. BajaBOSS is looking forward to working with Bancomer’s Head Office in Mexico City and their Senior Fiduciario Manager in Los Cabos to assist the local branch in providing more efficient seamless services to our clients. Ronnie, John, Grace, Sharon and Rob HAD to ring the bell to celebrate this announcement. As homeowners of FN384, FN325, and FN314 who all now have accepted their home… they needed an excuse to ring the bell for old time’s sake.

Aeroservicios Guerrero Airlines is new to Loreto and offering direct flights to Los Mochis directly across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland. The airfares are approximately 870 pesos one way, and the early afternoon departure times are convenient for a weekend getaway tour. They fly Saturdays and Mondays. Here is my Office Manager, Liliana, with their model plane at their presentation seminar.

Los Mochis is situated 200 km from Culiacan in the State of Sinaloa. The characteristic feature of Sinaloa is the agricultural wealth due to excellent soil and favorable weather. The main crops are vegetables, corn, beans and sugarcane, and the commercial and financial center is Los Mochis. It is also the origin of the railroad route which connects the Sinaloan Coast with the Sierra Tarahumara. (Copper Canyon).

The Airline hosted Loreto’s Hotel Association members to an overnight informational visit. Liliana Telechea represented Nellie’s Place Hotel, along with representatives from Hotel Oasis, Hacienda Suites, Loreto Tourist Association, Loreto News, and others. Liliana told me they had a lot of fun and I am looking forward to taking the flight and also train to Copper Canyon.

This week’s memorable FUN event was me as First Mate with Captain Chino taking out our friends on REEL TROUBLE. It was a beautiful day and much cooler to be on the water than land. The water was smooth as glass and clear blue, with the backdrop of the islands covered with lush green vegetation. We left about 8 am as our guests were not serious fishermen, but wanted to see the wildlife.

Here’s Lucy (FN314) with Lorna and Ross (FN182) enjoying their coffee as we left the marina. Lorna and Ross are from Calgary so this is an amazing experience to be out on the water and I never get tired to seeing my friends’ faces light up as we see the flying fish skimming across the water. We only caught a couple of smaller fish and released them. It was a little late for much to be biting and we did not see any sailfish or marlin jumping today.

It was a lazy day, but thrilling as we all sat on the bow of the boat and saw hundreds of dolphins coming towards us as far as we could see on the horizon. We spent at least an hour cruising around them as they came and played with the boat, occasionally it looked like they would turn to look at us and wave, or jump in front of the boat to entertain us. We also saw manta rays and pilot whales close up.

We headed over to Coronado Island to see the seals, or are they sea lions?? Anyways, they sat up and barked at us and we were able to get very close. The water is deep and crystal clear. We saw schools of hundreds of colorful fish and can understand why this is such a popular spot for the seals. Going over to the sandy beach side of the island where we will not disturb or interrupt any wildlife, Robert and Ronnie could not jump into the water fast enough. They nick named me “Dream Maker” because this was an incredible day beyond their expectations.

Everyone jumped in the water, snorkeled and got refreshed after having front row seats in the sun to see all wildlife for hours on end. We had a picnic lunch on board, and then it was back in the water using the life vests as water chairs so that we could sit up, relax, and drink beer. There was lots of laughter as we schemed and had a Think-Tank session as entrepreneurs inevitably do when having a good time. How positively decadent!

There are many people coming in October and November, so make sure you let me know so we can book your special party at Nellie`s Place, and reserve the boat too!

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hurricane Henrietta Storms the Sea off Loreto

This week’s buzz and excitement was the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Henrietta. There was little talk or expectation as she moved north and took her time reaching Cabo. At a Category 1, we didn’t think she had much steam but were weary how quickly things can change.

We out on the boat on Monday and the current was very strong. On Tuesday, the water was smooth as glass but Captain Chino knew better from the look of the sky. He knew we had to get to safety by 11 am as the dark ominous clouds were approaching like a cloud of locus ready to devour all in its wake.

Everyone worked hard to prepare for the worst, and hoped for the best. My staff was battening down the hatches, filling buckets with water and buying food that did not require cooking in case we lost power. My bartender Sergio was very smart and stacked our patio furniture and tied them all together as he knew the wind would scatter them throughout the neighborhood. Everything that could be picked up was put away; large windows were taped to avoid shattering in case they broke.

This is how the sky looked as I drove to Nopolo at 5 pm Tuesday to check on my Casa Chica. The streets and construction site were deserted after all the workers did their best to protect the homes, board up all large openings, remove any debris that could fly about and cause damage. Even the 2 outdoor port potties were tied together and lay on their side as Hurricane John taught us what could happen. Everyone not living in Nopolo fled to their homes to secure the same, and to sit and wait.

Everyone worked very hard to secure the area, including LBC Construction Office, Contractors, Owner Services, Property Management, and Concierge at the INN, who put in long hours going from home to home to ensure they were secure and answering all the concerns of homeowners. Sandbags had been placed at front doors, copulas had been wrapped, doors and windows secured in homes that were empty. Here is Rudolfo at 7 pm after a long day of preparations. I wished him luck as I made my way downtown to face the wrath of Henrietta on the malecon. I knew many would be staying in Nopolo and it was going to be a long night for all of us.

I told all my staff to go home to be with their families, including my night watchman who lives across the large arroyo in Zaragoza. The hotel was empty and there was nothing more that anyone could do to prepare for Mother Nature. I was very apprehensive since I have been in many hurricanes and tropical storms, but always as a hotel guest and never having to worry about protecting my property or my safety. I knew that I would be alone and totally helpless if windows broke and things started flying about. Or worse, if I was injured and no one could hear me scream. At this moment, I decided that I am really getting tired of being a strong single woman and resolve to change after the storm. I may be stubborn, but not stupid.

Matt and Mel from Australia came in looking for a room. My staff was hesitant whether I should accept guests as it was a great deal of responsibility during a natural disaster. The threat of losing power, water, with no shops or restaurants being open for days was a great possibility. Are you kidding me?! I was just thankful to have two strong young men to keep me company and help me out in case things turned bad.

We sat on the patio as the sun went down and watched as the waves become stronger by the hour and the wind made the palm trees dance. We felt safe and hoped that Henrietta would lose momentum, or at least change directions. At midnight I was in the office mopping up the water that was coming through every crack in the ceiling, walls and windows. The police drove by regularly as did some of the residents to see and hear the massive waves reaching over onto the street. It gave me some comfort that help was near if we needed.

The power went off about 2 am, which meant no air conditioning. Try to sleep in a hot humid room with the rain pounding on the metal roof and the thunderous waves just a few steps from the building. The wind was howling Henrietta’s imminent arrival and there were continual loud crashing noises of some destruction or other every few minutes.

The first thud and glass shattering I heard was when the 12`x4` wind screen that was screwed to a large steel frame and attached to cement posts broke lose. The frame snapped and somehow managed to gain enough momentum to knock down the Coca-cola fridge I had up against it. The frame bent in half and was precariously perched over the side the building. Mel and I knew we had to pull it back in and secure it down otherwise it was likely to be carried away by the wind and hurled at some unsuspecting person or object.

Trying to get back to sleep was like being in a dark cave unable to ignore all the curiosity of noises surrounding you. The next crash was even louder and I raced upstairs thinking the palapa roof had been blown off. Not quite that bad, but now the Corona refrigerator full of beer and glasses had come crashing down and the smell of beer permeated the night air. Nothing can be done now in the 75 mph winds and rain.

This time I toddled off to my room and decided not to come out again until the break of day. There was the sound of pounding rain all night long and broken tiles or objects tossed about. As soon as the sun was up, I ventured out and the sea was wild, with the waves increasing in size and intensity with every wave. The large swells crashed over the malecon and were flooding the street. Andres had come by and we carried in my 4` Nellie`s Bar sign that was attached by steel to the building. It is very lucky that there were no cars or pedestrians nearby as that surely would have caused extensive damage.

Cars starting cruising the malecon about 9 am when the storm seemed to loose some momentum and everyone wanted to take photos or play in the storm before it disappeared. The water was 3 feet deep in some places and there were teenagers near the edge of the rocks laughing and getting sprayed by the large swells that over swept them.

Power came back on shortly about 10 am and it was good to have coffee and watch all the towns people come out and see the waves. Many times during the day it would appear that the water was calming and the waves were further and further apart, and then without warning the intensity and force of the water would start up again. This happened all day long until the sun went down, even though Henrietta had long past this area.

Other than inches of water seepage in some buildings, signs and lose debris scattered about, there was not much other damage on land. The office and hotel rooms had remained surprisingly dry as we had put towels and buckets near every possible entry point. Most of my staff came by during the day to check up on me and offer assistance if needed. Joel is one of our Realtors and he was driving around the different areas to see where flooding occurred and which properties may be problem areas in the future. What a crazy man!

Here is a story from Joyce Mickowski of FN300 about their experience being on the water in the 50`catamaran.

Hello Friends!
You would not believe our night with Henrietta! We were up all night as the hurricane ran through Puerto Escondido. We had winds up to 80 knots, and generally constant at 65 to 70 knots. Our boat “Rhumb Line” broke her new mooring with the line that was supposed to hold the twin towers! Oops...Well when it broke it sounded like someone fired a cannonball!

In thirty seconds our boat was on top of another boat (this was when the worst of it came at 3:30 a.m. ... rammed this boat at the bow between our hauls. I thought for sure that Mick was smashed between the boats because it knocked me down flat, this was a movie scene in the making! But Mick was so fast getting back to the helm and moving Rhumb Line out from over the other boat, our grand twin turbo motors saved the day as we were flying close to two others. The whole fleet raved about Mick's ability at avoiding the other boats with 80 knots of wind and waves pushing us. NO OTHER BOAT IN THE HARBOR COULD HAVE MOVED AS FAST AS RHUMB LINE DID!

We could not see due to the huge amount of water spray. Water stinging like someone was shooting Bees at us! Poor visibility and the number of boats in the harbor hindered us from finding any place to safely lay anchor. We did, but with only a small amount of scope (we had 3 to 1 and we need 7 to 1). Mick ran the engines and was at the helm motoring against the winds of Hurricane Henrietta from 3:30 to 7:00 am.

Mick and I discover that we were great partners during this crisis. Team work and knowledge. Hell, I just did WHATEVER the captain said and it was fast and furious, but we leaned a lot too. In Puerto Escondido, there were a total of 5 boats sunk. Three are really down on the bottom of the Sea and the other two smashed up against the rocks. No human being or animal was hurt. Thank you God!

These incidents are emotionally and physically draining. The anticipation of the unknown is stressful enough but when combined with the realization that we have absolutely no control of the outcome; the effects are humbling and disabling to say the least. We seldom have the luxury to analyze the different turmoil that we undergo and its affect upon us when situations like this occur. Instead, we must immediately clean up, get back to a routine and move forward as though nothing happened as quickly as possible.

In a couple of days, we are already laughing and telling stories of this 24 hours as though it happened last year. Only those that we shared the anxiety, sleepless night, and long day with will understand that we no longer like storms, and longingly seek calmness and predictability when it comes to Mother Nature.

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Real Estate in Loreto

It is September and everyone in Loreto has just about had enough of the heat and humidity, torn up streets throughout the entire downtown, and lack of tourists and activity. Most of us with experience know that things are about change. One more month and hopefully the main streets will be paved, shops and restaurants open full time, and people coming and going … happy to be here once again.

Every morning I drive to work, I see shop keepers out sweeping their store fronts and cleaning windows, and municipal street cleaners picking up litter and keeping the Malecon immaculate. This week the Town of Loreto had all its municipal workers out for 2 mornings sweeping all the streets of Loreto, and there were truckloads of dirt accumulated and taken away. It was great to see and made a huge difference, if only for a few days. With all the construction happening in Loreto and Nopolo, it is inevitable that we will be living in a dust zone for several years.

In the meantime, it’s a Dog’s Life and the animals are free to roam unbothered by humans. Please be very careful driving at this time of year as the animals come out at night to graze when it is cooler. They are beautiful to see during dusk, but very dangerous on the roads after the sun goes down.

The highlight this week was receiving a $1,000 donation towards Yolanda’s home addition from Neil Ginsberg, who is the developer on the Marbella Project (old Whales Inn). The project is moving ahead at the typical Loreto speed, which is “Hurry Up and Wait” and we are still taking names of people interested in receiving more information. A very big THANK YOU to Neil, as well as Susan Hill, Chris Sessions, and Emmanuel Huna, who also contributed this week. We are halfway over our goal of $2500 USD to assist Yolanda.

There is a certain energy and anticipation that happens after Labor Day weekend (USA and Canada). This is the time people decide to get back to business and back to an organized life. In Mexico, this seems to happen after Independence Day of September 16. It is the last hurrah and party of the summer and I look forward to being part of the celebrations here. Please let me know if you are here during that time, and we will organize a beach party or gathering.

I have always said this place is like the Wild Wild West, and that certainly applies when it comes to real estate. We have seen land values triple to increases of tenfold in the last three years. In the last six months since I have been actively involved in real estate, I have been shocked and dismayed at what I have seen. As in any early real estate boom that is a seller’s market, the buyers are driving prices up by insane levels. There are properties that would have sold a year ago for $100,000 and now the seller says they have an offer for $500,000.

Since there have been only a few established Realtors in town, the trend is for all the locals to sell the foreigner “friends” real estate for as high a price as the buyer is willing to pay. The buyer compares prices with USA prices and thinks this is a great deal and jumps at the opportunity to buy land at what seems like a steal. The Seller, Buyer and Buyers’ Representative have no real market knowledge of the different areas, comparative data, understanding of the different title transfers, cost of construction, permitting processes, and environmental hoops affecting many areas.

It is impossible to tell a Seller that his property is worth $$ at today’s market, when some Canadian or Americans are supposedly willing to pay upwards of 50% more. These private deals also backfire because the foreigner will offer much less than market value and because the Seller is not willing to be represented by a Real Estate professional, they accept less than what they should.

This summer there has been a sale of a simple 3 bedroom home on the beach just north of Loreto for $1.4Million USD. It was a comfortable home, with large garage and approximately 10,000 sq. ft lot, but certainly not with finishes that we would expect for this price. There was also a vacant lot with no water or sewer services, on the beach nearby that was less than 5,000 sq. ft that sold for $720,000 USD. All of Loreto is talking about the craziness of these buyers that have set expectations for future sellers.

We are still at the beginning of the real estate boom and it is certainly not too late to invest, but do so with professional advice. There are a few good real estate offices in town and we are joining forces to work together and place rules of ethics, education, and standards to the profession here that buyers are accustomed to expecting.

I do not believe that any private sellers or local representatives intend for things to go astray, and many times there will be a good deal that completes smoothly for all parties. However, if it sounds too good to be true… it generally is. We have many people come to us after the fact and want to involve our services after they have paid the full purchase price and have little or no transfer papers years after the fact. There is little that we can do at this point, except hope that the Seller will perform on their promises in a complex bureaucratic legal system.

Finding the great property and making an offer is only 20% of the work to actually buying it and getting it into your name. Things are done very different here even compared to mainland Mexico, and you must stay on top of the process. Talk to anyone that has done it. These are not scare stories, but the reality of life. Cavet Emptor – Buyer Beware works in every country.

On the flip side, we see very good deals from small industrial lots to the well funded clients buying up as much of the large parcels (over 1000 hectares or 500 acres) as quickly as they can. This is money from Spain, Mexico, USA, Canada, and Europe. Also, many smaller investors ($2M to $200 Million) are circling the area as well. Even if you have paid a little too much now… the market will catch up and it will still be a good investment in the long run. Just make sure you get your paperwork!!

There is no doubt that we are in for exciting times ahead. Have a great week!