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Differences Between Expats Who Rent or Own Homes

Terrace view from home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Credit: Harriet Murray

Hopefully by now many of you have read our recent article, “Cost of Living Is the #1 Reason Expats Live in Mexico.” Since we started doing yearly surveys in 2017, this is the first time that cost of living was ranked as the first choice of expats living in Mexico, besting lifestyle and climate. But we dug a little deeper and looked at differences between expats who rent or own homes in Mexico and found some interesting comparisons.

For example, when asked why they make Mexico their home, almost 30 percent of renters – who represent about 40 percent of all expats living in Mexico – say cost of living is their #1 reason for living here, versus just 21 percent of those who own their home. But over 22 percent of homeowners say the lifestyle in Mexico is their key reason for living in this country and just under 20 percent of renters say the same. As for climate, the third most important reason for living in Mexico, over 18 percent of owners, but just 12 percent of renters, name the weather in their hometown as the key reason for living in Mexico.

Another surprising finding from this year’s survey is the number of expats who say their biggest concern about living in Mexico is Spanish language skills. Homeowners seem somewhat more concerned than renters, 42 percent versus 35 percent. Personal safety, which in previous surveys we have done always seems to be the biggest expat concern, ranked far behind language skills. Homeowners, about 19 percent, view personal security as a concern, while just 15 percent of renters have a concern.

One of the largest gaps between those who own homes and renters is the length of time they plan on living in Mexico. Almost 85 percent of homeowners plan to live here 10 or more years, while just 64 percent of renters feel the same way. The difference might be explained by the number of renters (22 percent) who live in Mexico on tourist visas. Homeowners overwhelmingly (75 percent) hold permanent resident visas and about 48 percent of renters also claim that visa status. As for temporary resident visas, just over 30 percent of renters have one, but only 17 percent of those who own homes say they hold one. Interestingly, 8 percent of homeowners live in Mexico on tourist visas, so if you add both owners and renters, about 30 percent live in Mexico part-time and use a tourist visa.

Your eyes may be glazing over by now, but stick with me for a few more minutes. There are a few more interesting comparisons between homeowners and renters.

When we look at cost of living differences, a few things jump out:

  • Almost 25 percent of renters, but only 17 percent of homeowners, live on $20,000 pesos or less each month.
  • Over 21 percent of homeowners spend more than $60,000 pesos monthly for living expenses, while just over 11 percent of renters spend that much.
  • More than 25 percent of renters pay less than $5,000 pesos for food each month, but just 15 percent of homeowners do. The big spenders for food are homeowners. About 14 percent pay over $12,500 pesos each month for food, while only about 6 percent of renters have a budget that large.
  • There are sharp differences in monthly healthcare expenditures, also. More than 44 percent of renters lay out less than $1,000 pesos each month, but only about one-third of homeowners spend that much each month. On the other end of the scale, about 16 percent of those who own homes spend more than $5,000 pesos monthly, but less than half that number of renters (7 percent) spend in that range.

Homeowners also have higher opinions of both hospitals and doctors in Mexico. Over two-thirds rate hospitals in Mexico from excellent-to-good, while just 47 percent of renters give hospitals that same rating. Homeowners give doctors a big pat on the back, with 91 percent rating them excellent-to-good. Renters were a bit less generous, rating the docs 81 percent excellent-to-good.

We also looked at the survey data several other ways, so steel yourself for future statistics that, hopefully, will be of interest to you.


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