Home Expat Blogs My Summer Remodel Project in the Hills Above Puerto Vallarta

My Summer Remodel Project in the Hills Above Puerto Vallarta

Hillside homes in Puerto Vallarta
Credit: Christopher Howey | Fotolia

In my last blog, I made a passing reference to my summer remodel project in the hills above Puerto Vallarta. I’m very happy to report that it’s finally over and I am a very happy person.

Summertime is the best time to have remodel projects done in Puerto Vallarta for several reasons: It’s a lot less busy in PV at this time of year, many condominium buildings restrict construction work to the summer off-season and homeowners want to get their properties ready for the upcoming high-season.

I chose the summertime to do my apartment remodel project because I had the opportunity to stay in the home of friends during the construction. They leave town each summer and are happy to have someone watch over their house. I was thrilled to be their house sitter as I am only a half block from my place and can easily pop over to see the progress of the remodel. And, importantly, I can visit my many cats I left in supervisory positions.

Maria O’Connor's apartment in Puerto Vallarta
Credit: Maria O’Connor

My remodel project was to be simple: New floors, new kitchen and bathroom counters, redo the electric wiring (really old wiring was causing me to have huge electric bills) and repaint everything.

I had an idea of what I wanted done but due to my workload AND the fact that I have no idea what I am doing, I hired an architect I have known for years to get the job done. He is someone that I trust and his work speaks for itself. He is not flashy or showy but delivers an exquisite result. I had two hurdles that concerned me. First, I had no place to store my furniture and second, I did not have a place to board my 13 cats (yes, 13!). Jose Luis did not bat an eye and said that they would work around it, and so they did.

As most of you know, there are many old jokes related to remodel construction costs and time frames. One famous joke advises that you get three estimates, add them up and that will be your actual cost. For time frames, most say to double the estimated time. On both counts I have been very pleasantly surprised. Work began on my apartment on May 9th and the finishing touches were completed July 11th. Not bad given that the initial estimate was 6-8 weeks.

My initial budget was very reasonable, so much so that I added things to the scope of work as we went along. I had them build a new brick kitchen counter to shore up the old construction, raised the height of my “Flintstone” sofas (the typical cement built-in sofas that are common in Mexico) because they were too low and uncomfortable and redid the wall on my terrace in natural brick. Everything has turned out beautifully.

My biggest concern and my biggest surprise in all of this was the welfare of my cats. They are all rescue cats and fairly used to other human beings, but as a rule, cats do not like dirt, dust or loud noises. Kudos to the remodel construction team who LOVED the cats, calling them by name, petting them every morning when they arrived, making sure they did not get out and taking care of them as if they were their own.

That is priceless.


  1. Point well taken regarding the sofas; they are VERY common on the Pacific coast in buildings that were built in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

  2. Kudos for taking in rescue animals. We’re planning to do some renovation in El Pescadero (Baja). We’re meeting with architects this week; unfortunately I don’t know any personally so I am having to go off recommendations. Do you have any advice regarding specific questions I should be asking, things to watch out for, a typical time frame, etc? It’s a 3 bed 2 bath home, and needs almost exactly what you described in your article.

  3. These would be my tips on what to ask for/insist on:

    Contract should specify a construction calendar and payments should be made according to the work in progress. An exception can be made in the case of purchasing the construction materials in advance and storing them in order to fix the price. As many items are imported, prices can fluctuate with the exchange rate.

    Builder is legally responsible for paying the subs and employees and should give you evidence that their social security (IMSS) and payments are current during the project and that it is completed when the project is finished.

    Ask for references!

    Get official receipts (electronic facturas) for all fixed improvements. When you sell, you will be able to deduct those expenses and lower the capital gains tax you pay.

    Finally, be hands-on – I have never seen a project finish well while the owner is out of town during the construction. Daily visits are important. Let your workers do their jobs but make sure the builder knows you are around and would like to be consulted when he has questions.


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