The Story of Yaax Che’
We are a Canadian family, and were looking for a sunny and warm place to spend a few weeks in winter’s coldest
months. After many years of drive/hotel or fly/all-inclusive vacations, we arranged our first home-stay in the beautiful
Florida Keys. It was such a lovely experience from start to finish that we vowed we would do it again. It was particularly
suitable for our large family, with shared living areas and multiple bedrooms, and much more affordable and private
than all-inclusive resorts.
When it came time to arrange our next holiday, we began our research with private homes in the Keys. Rental prices
are very high there, but the weather is warm and it is safe and serene. We then began investigating other locations,
like Mexico. We had vacationed in Mexico several times and loved it, and I have been studying Spanish on and off for
years. The Baja peninsula was our first target, but other areas were soon in the mix. We found Chicxulub not too
daunting as an option to look at properties for at that time it had only 17 rental properties, and we were impressed by
how much lower the prices were for a weekly rental on a nice, big house. We also loved how many seemed to have a
bathroom for every bedroom. Bear in mind this was before AirBnb.
We then compared costs: A house in the Keys was three times the rental cost, with some sacrifices (someone needed
to use a sofa bed, for instance) and groceries and restaurants are very expensive there. The drive is ponderous – 30
hours – but much less expensive than airfare for a group. For Mexico, where flying is necessary for a two week stay,
the rental is so much less that it saves the cost of the flights. In addition, the consumables are far less expensive –
groceries, liquor and gas cost much less. These savings help to offset the cost of the car rental.
We rented a 5 bedroom house on the beach east of Chicxulub and Progreso. We flew into Merida and had
prearranged two vehicles’ rental and they were waiting at the airport for us. We had a wonderful time, although there
were some aspects of the house that we found to be less than perfect. The kitchen area was not as clean as it should
have been, there were some food items in the pantry, which we found to be unusual, and there was neither telephone
nor internet although both were listed as features of the house. The positives far outweighed the negatives: the sheets
smelled fantastic, the caretaker was a delightful young man with whom we became fast friends, and the beach and the
entire region charmed us completely.
As the end of our stay drew near, we began to wonder about the houses that lined this beautiful beach for miles in both
directions, almost all of which were empty and boarded up. Most were large and grand, some were actual mansions,
and a few were tiny and shabby. We came to realize that the house we rented was a “cottage”, in our sense of the
word. This explained the family photos on the walls and the food items in the pantry. Mexicans who can afford to do so,
usually from Merida, own beach houses where they spend the hot summer months and two weeks at Easter, and leave
them closed for the rest of the year. Some are rented to snowbirds, as ours was to us. We saw evidence of this on the
rental calendars, and were mystified that the summer months were either marked “unavailable”, or shown as triple the
rent of the rest of the year and available for monthly rentals only. We wondered who would want to go in summer, and
pay so much more. The answer is - the Mexican locals.
We assumed that since everything was so much less expensive in this region, house prices should also be. This turned
out to be true. We walked through a few properties and it convinced us that home ownership in Mexico could work for
us. I would have been happy with a little casita, but my husband thought if we owned a nice house we could rent it to
help offset the cost. The beauty of renting these homes is the Mexicans pay well for their use in summer, and
Canadians and Americans can enjoy them the other ten months of the year.
My husband has always loved the ocean, and to own an oceanfront property seemed too good to be true. My ideal for
a retirement home had always been in a tropical climate, and if we managed this we could both have our dreams. We
returned home to Canada and put the wheels in motion.
We looked at internet listings for houses for sale and contacted the listing agents with questions. Eventually I made a
connection with a realtor who was intuitive, helpful, spoke English (adorably) and seemed to understand “Canadian
standards” and what we were looking for. We arranged to return to look at houses and gave her a list of 18 properties
we were interested in.
The houses we visited were surprisingly shabby – water stains on walls, open shelves instead of cupboards, no closet
doors (or worse – plastic!), and ghastly colour choices and tile work in bathrooms. Kitchens were often small, dark,
segregated and shabbily utilitarian, as Mexican families travel with their maids and the maid is the only one who uses
the kitchen. This is inconsistent with our family dynamic, where we work together preparing meals and cleaning up
afterwards. The older buildings had tiny, shuttered windows, which helped to keep the heat out in summer but were
neither necessary nor desirable in winter. Many houses had a casita, or small extra house in the yard where the
caretaker and his family lived, and this did not appeal to us As we had always bought old homes and fixed them up, we
were picturing the beautiful and dramatic differences we could make to these places, and how much fun we would have
doing it, but realized the'bones' of the house had to be right.
After two days of looking at houses – it was May and wow, was it hot! – our realtor told us she had a friend who had a
listing she wanted us to see. It was out of the price range we had been looking in, and was listed as a two bedroom so
we wouldn't even have considered it, but the seller was motivated and we could try a low offer. When we walked in, it
was love at first sight. This was the house we wanted. The bright, open concept kitchen and great room, the wood
cupboards and closet doors, the arched doorways, the 40 foot cathedral ceiling, the cement columns, the white tiles – it
needed no changes to be perfect. It had a strong well – other beach homes tended to use a cistern and need water-
truck delivery on a regular basis, but not ours. It was private and secluded, far from the noise of town, but had
neighbors nearby so you didn’t feel alone in the middle of nowhere.
Our realtor, Marianela, who is now our friend, managed everything – the deal, the lawyers, the fideicomiso (bank trust),
and getting our money into the country. We have made friends with our neighbors, an older Mayan couple, and pay
them to watch the house while it is empty, take away the garbage and keep the sand clear of weeds.
Ultimately, it is our goal to offer a clean, beautiful rental to you. Though we live far from the house, we do our very best
to ensure you have an excellent home base for your adventure in the Yucatan.
|James, Karen, Madeline, Kurt, Veronica, Mason & Andrew, the original seven.
We have since been blessed with two grandsons, Cliff and Rhett, and they will grow
up loving the house as much as we do.