Sunday, April 27, 2008

Goodbye Dan Murphy, We will miss your pioneer spirit!

Loreto lost a very good friend this week. Dan Murphy was the face of Ecoscapes here in Loreto for many years. His positive attitude, always friendly smile and greeting would warm all who encountered him on a day to day basis. He was a Can Do kind of guy who had truly lived fully. From professional race car driver, to diplomat, to traveling and living worldwide, he and his beautiful wife Jeanine made Loreto their home for the past several years. It was impossible not to love Dan, and we will all miss him greatly. All the employees of Ecoscapes and all those that are part of Loreto Bay will remember Dan’s kindness, humility and take this moment to celebrate his life. Our most heartfelt condolences to Jeanine, who we hope will always consider Loreto her home as well as San Diego.

They have finished paving Benito Jueves Street right to the malecon and it was a beautiful bright red color for about 1 day before the dust blew in an embedded itself in the colored concrete. This has taken almost a year for them to be working on the sewer and water pipes on this one block and many are relieved it is finally finished.

The Municipal staff have been out painting curbs, pedestrian crosswalks and white lines with yellow stripes to resemble topes or speedbumps. Going from a town with one stop light that doesn’t work and Alto (stop) signs that are merely a suggestion to the other extreme of crosswalks very 20 meters is a little overkill. Also note that the Police have been told to issue tickets for cell phone use while driving. You can drink and drive, but you can’t drive drunk; it is recommended that you do not drive with a baby in your arms, and seatbelts are not mandatory. However, talk on your cell phone and you will be fined!

This is another example of progress and how the pendulum needs to swing radically from the right to the left before it can land in the middle where life makes sense. The weather is wonderful this time of year and I never quite understand why there are not more people here in April and May. High 80’s in the daytime with a gentle sea breeze and 70’s at night. This was the first bicycle cab I saw for those that find it too hot to walk around town in the midday sun. I think the driver will quickly lose wait or give up once the temperature reaches high 90’s in another few months. Let’s see if this idea is a flash in the pan or the start of a profitable enterprise! Timing is everything.

The donkey drawn carriages have moved up to horses and this is an easy way to slowly enjoy the malecon boardwalk and streets of Loreto. I think the ride is 30 pesos per person and the driver is very friendly. Holland America comes to port regularly this time of year and many entrepreneurs are walking around with portable ice cream freezers, sticks loaded with bags of cotton candy, and trinkets galore.

On our way to La Picazon Beach Restaurant, we saw wild horses grazing the little vegetation they could find. Not sure who these beautiful horses belonged to but they were free to roam and laze about. They were accustomed to the fast speed of cars racing past and hardly gave us a second look. On the way back, they were sleeping and resting a little further north in front of a large tree in someone’s yard.

We keep REEL TROUBLE at Pt. Escondido and they close the gates at dusk, I always assumed for security. But actually, when I saw the cows at the gate trying to get in, I realized it was probably to keep them out. They came by the gate and when no one let them in, this mama and baby turned around and headed back towards the highway. We saw a herd of about 10 just making their way and not in a hurry to get off the road or avoid us.


Nellie’s Place Hotel is offering our standard rooms with one queen bed, good clean rooms with great hot water, and wireless internet for $150 USD per week from now until mid September. We have 3 of these rooms available, and thought it would be a great promotion for all our friends who want to give their family the Loreto experience at a cheap price. This is great for young people, fishermen, or people wanting to just hang out in town and explore the area. We have a great roof top deck, but no pool, TVs or minibars. Just a great friendly place steps from the beach and waterfront.

Abril has worked for BajaBOSS for almost a year now and an excellent employee. It was her birthday Friday night, and she had a big celebration at Baja Salon. There were many friends, lots of hugs, food and plenty of dancing and drinks all night long. It’s probably been six months since I have been out dancing until 3 am and the next morning I know why! A good time, but I swear it takes me more than 24 hours to recover. The price is still worth it a few times a year.

I really like Baja Salon as it is a great mix of people. I always see many Mexican friends, some local characters, and my friends from Nopolo. Brenda Calger was among the many friends there to offer best wishes to Abril. Darryl Jones, Dana Peers, and even John and Felicia Brooks were dancing up a storm until all hours! Sergio does a great job on the music and Camilla is the most beautiful bartender in all of Loreto!

Capt. John Cashman dropped by to see a different side of Loreto, as he normally is cruising past here either by highway or sea as fast as he can on his way between San Diego and Los Cabos. John is a boat broker from San Diego and is a professional boat captain to bring any size boat down the Baja in 3 or 4 days. If you have any questions on buying and/or delivering your boat here, give him a email at captjcashman@hotmail.com

Here's the latest photo this week of the new bridge progress just outside of Nopolo. The amount of rebar that has been constructed by hand in 90 degree temperature is astounding and a reason for all of us to have a greater appreciation of the manual labor involved to make our lives so much easier and convenient in times of natural disasters. Last year when the relatively mild Hurricane came thought, it left tourists and visitors stranded in Nopolo unable to make their way to the airport. This little bridge will ensure that there are no similar future delays of 24 to 48 hours of being stranded in paradise. This is progress.

Have a great week!

Miss Nellie

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Buying Ejido Lands in Loreto, Mexico

I stopped to enjoy coffee on my deck on this lazy Sunday morning and it was a beautiful sight to see the progress of Aqua Viva. Somehow without me noticing, these homes with towers sprang out of nowhere, when it seems that they were just going vertical only a few months ago. This is another example how life happens when we are too busy to notice. The sight of these large cranes towering over new construction is like a heavy metal oasis out of some Mad Max gone urban” movie. A beautiful sight to behold if you were here in the early days only 4 years ago when lines in the sand were paced out and chalked in the most rudimentary manner.

Another example of how fast things change is the progress on the new bridge just outside the gates of Nopolo. They have equipment coming and going and men working from early in the morning until late at night. They have assembled a lot of the rebar and laid footings in this past week. The weather is starting to get warm reaching high 80's during the days, and there is still a breeze in the air. April and May are my favorite months here for weather.

The US market has affected our sales in Loreto. There are still plenty of people with money interested in having second or third homes in this area; there is just not the urgency to do so. This is unfortunate, because often the best time to buy is when the market is at its lowest. There are some very motivated sellers that can not or do not want to wait out this current low trend and are willing to sell their homes for much below fair market values. How often have we said “would have, could have, should have”? I know myself … too many times!!

Many people I know are buying real estate from “friends of friends” and thinking they are getting good deals because they do not have to pay realtor commissions. There is a term here called “coyotes” which refers to people who take advantage of both the buyer and seller. For example, the seller may not know what his land is worth and need money. The “coyote” slash “friend” tells him that he can get $50,000 for the land; then turns around and sells it for $100,000; and takes $50,000 as his commission. In some cases, the buyer could have negotiated $70,000 for this land if he had done his homework. This is unethical, immoral and disturbing when you think that the seller has known and trusted this individual for years before greed was involved. The presence of coyotes is much less now than 5 years ago because people talk and everyone knows who has cheated them. Every friend that sells a piece of property is making a commission usually in the range of 5% to 15%. This is strictly for the transaction but they take no responsibility for the paperwork or land transfer.

There is little or no legislation governing real estate sales in Mexico. None of the rules, regulations, ethics standards, and disciplinary committees, provisions for disclosure or agency rules that we are accustomed to apply here. My bartender can sell real estate. He is not a bad guy and will probably not rip anyone off… it’s just that he does not know about comparable values; land entitlement and transfer; and rights of the foreign investor.

There is a new realtor organization emerging in Mexico over the last several years and it established a branch in Loreto last year. It is called AMPI - Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios, A.C. It is a self governing body of realtors in Mexico that understand the importance of working together and lobbying with the Mexican Government to create standards and policies that are recognized by both people working in the industry and our clients. All reputable realtors in Loreto belong to AMPI and work together cooperatively to share information and protect the buyers and sellers as best as we can. Beware, just because someone displays an AMPI sign on their window, does not necessarily make them a “member”. Ask around, it’s a small town and if people do not say something good, it is usually a sign to make another inquiry.

99% of land in this area belongs to Ejido Associations (Ranchers). In the last several years significant land reforms have been made to the Ejido so that the members can sell and transfer land outside of the Ejido Association. Constitutional Rights to new Ejido land has been eliminated, reducing the threat that newly private lands would be appropriated by the government. Limitations on ownership are greatly reduced. Foreign investment has been encouraged and foreign corporations can own Mexican agricultural land.

This is all good news and it is relatively safe to buy Ejido land PROVIDED that you understand the complex process of transferring land out of Ejido membership and into private ownership. Most Mexicans do not fully understand the legal complexities required for foreign ownership; and why would they? If a foreigner (Canadian) asked an American what they need to buy land in the USA – would most Americans know? Probably not as the American has no requirement for immigration, foreign investment, or foreign credit status. They just go buy the house. The same holds true in Mexico. As an Ejido member and as a Mexican national, there are inherent rights of protection that the government offers them. However, as a foreigner, you can not assume you have the same rights or protection. This holds true in any country.

I recently had some Loreto Bay friends come and tell me they wanted to purchase some Ejido land with no road access or utilities. I knew the area and title status of this particular Ejido Association. The land was relatively inexpensive and I advised them that I felt it was a good opportunity for a 10 year buy and hold investment. I explained the pros and cons of the transaction and offered BajaBOSS services to ensure they actually got title to the property in 6 to 8 months. However, if they chose to pay their new “friends” directly and come to me after the fact, I would have to charge them triple to clean up the mess.

They did come to me after they were escorted to the Notario’s office and paid him $300 USD for what their friends told them was a Power of Attorney, since it was in Spanish, and then handed over the money to the seller in exchange for the original Certificate, which they were told was the Title. I asked them “why didn’t you call me” and they said they felt that they were pressured and had no choice. You always have a choice. Anywhere, Anytime.

The facts are that no one really did anything wrong. We followed up with the documents, and the Notario was paid to protocolize the signatures and agreement between the Seller and Foreigner, which he did. The Seller signed and gave dominion power to the Buyer over all right, title and interest to the land. The friends exchanged money for the original Certificate, and since they were Mexican they assumed this was all that was required and the Buyer could take care of the rest.

However, since the Buyer is a foreigner, he has no rights under Ejido law, and even with the Seller granting him dominion power to the land, he can do nothing with it until it comes out of Ejido. No one has the rights other than another Ejido member to apply for title and they can not do so without the dominion power. So, the Buyer has the original Certificado Parcelaro, which is NOT title, in the name of the Seller and can do nothing to transfer it on his own. The seller now has the money, and as time goes on, will have less and less incentive to apply to Mexico City for the Title.

We offered to remedy the situation immediately, since it is fresh in everyone’s mind and no real harm has been done as everyone had good intentions. However, the buyer is choosing to let it slide and deal with it later. Oh well. Perhaps, when it comes time to correct the problem and obtain title, our fee again will increase threefold. It’s similar to when you hire a good plumber to do the job in the beginning, you pay extra for value. However, if you try to go cheap or do it yourself without qualification, you end up paying a whole lot more later to fix the mess.

Not all situations are like this as there are a few good people in Loreto who know how to handle the Ejido transfer process. However, we are watching carefully for those properties that have been purchased several years ago for very small amounts and those buyers still do not have any rights to the land. This is what will be very interesting. They can not make cries of unjust government or swindlers because Cavet Emptor Buyer Beware applies universally.

Buying titled land in town or part of a development community like Loreto Bay, is very safe and all due diligence is done by the Notario Publico and Bank Trusts at the time of transfer. I do not mean to scare anyone, just offering a little advice. If it sounds too good to be true, sometimes it is. Just get good advice before you hand over the money. In Mexico there is little documentation and contracts surrounding land purchases. Deals are done by handshake and 90% of the time both parties are honorable. It is what it is. If you would like BajaBOSS to review your documentation, we will do so for a nominal fee and let you know if it is satisfactory or if you should do something to protect your rights to the Ejido land that you think you own.

DORADO PROPERTIES LORETO is focusing on the large parcels and working directly with the developers interested in building housing, retail, community, or high end projects. These deals take a lot of time, requires a lot of patience and working with group decisions sometimes scattered across several countries, but we persevere. Qualifying the buyer, understanding their objectives and outcomes, knowing your product and all the legal complications associated with title and development in this area, and having the staying power to not only finish the deal, but assist them to the next stage of development and sales, is the task we have at hand. It’s a very good thing that we have years of experience in this area already, otherwise, the challenge would be near impossible to start from scratch. There are many people in the Wild Wild West who talk the talk, but few who walk the walk. Sometimes it just takes time to recognize the difference.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Boats, Goats, and Sandy Beaches ... only in Loreto!

In celebration of BajaBOSS’s first anniversary of business, we took the staff out for a day on REEL TROUBLE. From left to right, we have Jeanny, who manages all my operations and oversees our legal work; Adriana, is our fabulous new accountant and is thoroughly meticulous about collections; Yolanda is a great friend and has helped us in many difficult areas; Abril is a full time Executive Assistant for one of our clients; Don Andres has diligently watched over our building and hotel guests since the beginning; and Virginia is our new legal intern.

It is amazing to me how many local Loreotanos have never been on the water or seen the islands and wildlife up close. The group was thrilled to be out on this beautiful day, the water was like glass and it was a perfect 80 degrees. We started drinking cervezas at 10 am, which prompted laughter and chatter all day long. Don Andres was a little disappointed we did not fish… but that requires setting off at 6 am, which is too early for most women.

We cruised past the white sandy beaches of Coronado to see the Sea Lions and then headed south to Pt. Escondido in hopes of seeing the big whales. It is late in the season and most have left the area, but we were lucky to have spotted 2 whales that came by the boat to say Adios before they quickly went on their way.

The fishing has been más o menos, we saw many yellowtail jumping on the surface but by the time we reached them, they had swam away and no longer biting. It seems that the jurel this year are breaking records at 20 to 40 lbs, and my friend showed me a photo of an 80 lb. Amberjack that he had caught last week. I brought in this cochito who was hanging out at the bottom near the rocks, and it was delicious!

Josh, Scott and I set out for a 3 hour day tour on REEL TROUBLE with Captain Chino to find yet another hidden cove to explore. It was a beautiful sunny day and not another boat in sight for miles or hours. After cruising an hour, Chino took us to a large Bay with white sand beach and few humble dwellings that the locals called home. We hopped on a panga to take us ashore and felt like city slickers. There was a silent announcement even among the animals that strangers had invaded their tranquility.

It is always surprising for me to see the lush green foliage that springs up in the middle of the desert, just steps away from the salt water beaches. An oasis of life in the middle of nothingness, and when one takes the time to notice … life eternal springs forth and jumps in front of you. The different varieties and colors of flora were more stunning against the backdrop of barren mountains and endless oceans.

The first scouts to come and check us out were the baby goats or kids. They were curious as can be at the tall white figures of Josh and Scott and immediately began jumping on them and playing around their feet without fear. We were having trouble walking without tripping or stepping on these kids, and I am sure many of them wanted to adopt Josh and keep him … must have been female goats!

The bigger goats came running after a little while when they saw it was safe, and we even saw a couple of spotted pigs that I am sure thought they were goats. It made us all laugh the way they surrounded us almost like paparazzi in an effort to touch us and get close. Luckily they were all very small otherwise it would have been a little intimidating as they came at us from all different directions and seemingly from nowhere.

Then the cows took notice and slowly got up from their siestas in the sun to have a look. They all started towards their fenced pen and as we got closer, we realized it was not secure and they were actually vying to all get through the opening. Oh well, time to change directions and head back to the beach.

Then the children came slowly following us from a safe distance while the goats continued to run between our feet. By the time we reached the beach, the children felt safe and wanted to strike up a conversation but not knowing what to say. So we made small talk and then they each picked up a kid goat and it was so adorably cute. I took their picture and showed them on my digital camera. They were all smiles at seeing themselves, but alias there was no way for me to email them a photo.

After we had seen all we came to see, and ventured as far as was within respectful boundaries, we headed back to the boat and bid all “hasta luego” which means see you soon. We have every intention to coming back and enjoying their slice of heaven on earth. Perhaps, next time the adults will venture out and share a cerveza and conversation with us now that the animals and kids have given us the two thumbs up.

For local entertainment I went out to watch and support the Loreto Bay Basketball team play against the locals in the downtown auditorium. It was a great game full of rivalry, good fun, and as the game went on the score was closer and closer. It was quite heated by the end of the 3rd quarter, and the 4th quarter was action packed. The “visitors” which were the Loreto Bay team won the game in the last 30 seconds with a score of 71 to 65.

Mañana does not mean tomorrow … it just means "not today'. However, there are things that get done at an amazing pace. For example, they started clearing the section beside the highway, had it asphalted and paved, complete with painted lines, and open ready for detour traffic all within a week! Every day I would return home to Nopolo from downtown, I was stunned at the progress. Be careful as you come over the last hill towards the turnoff, as you must make an immediate left … otherwise you will plummet over the hill and crash into signs and equipment ... and it will not be pretty.

They have all the rebar and heavy equipment in place to start a new bridge over the arroyo just before you get to the turnoff into Nopolo. The rains come in August, so I am guessing the bridge will be completed before then. Many people do not realize there is no such place as Loreto Bay. It is the name of the development which is situated in the area of Nopolo. If you say that you live in Loreto Bay, it would be the same as saying you live in the Hilton rather than the area it is located.

That’s all to report this week. It is all a blur, but stayed tuned … for tomorrow is a brand new day, full of promise and surprise. Have a great week.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Baja California Sur Ferry Crossing – Santa Rosalia to Guaymas

This week has rated 99 out of a 100 from an opportunity and recognition point of view on a professional level. There is much work to do, and brilliant strategic planning is required. This is difficult to do when personally I just want to sleep and awake without a care in the world.

My lifestyle is such that I find myself riding a wave much larger than I have ever encountered and imagined possible. The potential for the adventure of a lifetime is in the moment, the chances of crashing are enormous. I am speaking metaphorically about my personal experiences only. I did take time to exhale this week and was quickly slapped by the cold water of reality. Oh well, just get up again and continue on. No time to dwell on What If’s when there is no land beneath your feet.

I want to share with you a film shot on REEL TROUBLE last fall. It will be aired on either Sci-Fi or Discovery Channel and the show is called Guinea Pig. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhEean1DCJU

Thank you to Gary and Cynthia Gantz for being my guest blogger this week. I asked them to write about their experiences on the ferry to mainland Mexico as I thought this would be of particular interest. It is always good information to get others’ prospective on the drive down Baja, ferry crossings, or outdoor adventures. Thanks for giving me the day off!

Just a few lines to tell you about our trip from beautiful Loreto to Santa Rosalia and the ferry ride to Guaymas.

First of all, we booked everything with Ana the concierge at the Inn at Loreto Bay. She was wonderful and very helpful when we had any questions about the ferry. She gave us all the info we needed before hand and told us that we couldn't actually book it any sooner than 3 days before. We wanted to leave on Friday, February 29th. She called the ferry company on Tuesday the 26th and booked our crossing. The price was $248 USD for our car and $55 USD each for Cynthia and me. They advertise first class cabins and shared cabins but they seemed to be only selling Saloon Adult tickets for $55 USD each. For that you sit in a large fairly comfortable room with 2 TV's showing movies. Also there is a snack counter with sodas, beer and small snacks. We sat on deck for our crossing as it was a beautiful day with calm seas. They advertise the crossing as being 8 hours, leaving at 9:00AM. It takes 10 hours not 8 hours to cross, getting into Guaymas at about 7:00PM. We actually left at 9:20AM and got into Guaymas at 7:20PM.

Now back to our ride from Loreto to Santa Rosalia. We left a little later than we wanted (a little after 4:00PM). Great ride up the beautiful Baja getting into Santa Rosalia at about 6:50PM. Also, Ana mentioned that if we got there before 7:00PM we could purchase our tickets then and not have to be at ferry terminal so early in the AM. As I said we got into town at 6:50. I was worried that the ticket office would be closed but it was open and we purchased our tickets. They had a list and our names were on it and there was no problem getting the tickets. They accept Visa or cash only. No AMEX or any other cards at this time.

Please note that the ferry from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas is a daytime crossing. The ferry from Guaymas to Santa Rosalia is at night. Right now the ferry to Guaymas leaves Friday morning at 9:00AM and one or two other mornings. These days could change so make sure to check. Again, the crossings from Santa Rosalia are in the morning.

We tried to get a room at the Hotel Frances, but it was full. We stayed at a much smaller hotel, but that was OK as well. Recommend the Hotel Frances if you can get it.

The total cost for our car (or pick-ups up to 17 feet 8 inches) and the two of us: $358 USD. We figure this saves at least a couple of nights in a hotel and many driving miles on our car. We crossed the border at Nogales in Arizona on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

The ferry terminal is on the right just before you make a left into Santa Rosalia. It also seems to be the bus station. This picture will show what the terminal looks like, the ferry, holding maybe 10 or so cars and small trucks. It is not as big as we expected. Again, all went well. Just make sure you call the ferry first to book your reservation. There is a way to do it on line, but Ana at the INN was so very helpful.

We hope all is well with you and we hope to see you when we get back to Loreto. Maybe sometime in May. We had a great time with you and everyone else at Greg and Gina's on the Sunday before we left.

Any questions, ask away.

Best wishes,
Gary and Cynthia Gantz (#497)
centerpointe