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Real Estate in San Miguel de Allende in This Time of Virus

An Air ballon over San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Credit: Laura Loveland

Life in San Miguel de Allende, like everywhere, is much changed in recent weeks. We now have seven cases of the virus, all contracted somewhere else. These patients are now all under quarantine. Life has changed and real estate in San Miguel de Allende in this time of virus has definitely changed.

We are under a shut down as directed by Federal rules with few restaurants open even for takeout. There are rules about masks and where and how many can enter grocery stores. Masks abound, so it looks like the return of Zapata! A friend inadvertently bought an industrial-size hand sanitizer and gave out bottles at a recent lunch.

The real estate market has had a sharp downturn – very sharp. This turn down intensified as we entered 2020, even before the virus appeared. In early January, there was nearly an eight-year inventory of homes for sale. This suggests that sharp price declines are in the future for San Miguel. How much? From the high water point in late 2018, perhaps as much as 50 percent or more. Such reductions are, of course, unequal. Homes in the city-center are always very sought after, in part because so many expats enjoy not having a car or at least not driving, and in part because short-term rentals can be lucrative if you are not a full-time resident.

Once again, we learn that we are not in the U.S. and cannot rely on that level of stability. Many residents with multiple homes returned to the U.S, in the days before the border closing, believing that “If something is going to happen we want to be home.” For those of us whose home is here, we are having lovely weather, plenty of time to read and do other things. I am working on my first jig saw puzzle in several decades (boy are they hard since they now use computers to make the design!). It seems like a long, sunny dream with no difference between week days and weekends and with no difference between past and present and little room for the future.

Given the current situation, I am stunned by the number of enquiries about properties for sale and rent. The numbers are much reduced, of course, but April and May are our slowest times of the year. Apparently, a great many people want to be here and, having felt priced out of the market in the last couple of years, are taking the opportunity to search for a deal, of which there are now many.

We have had a lot of price reductions in the last year, but most were trivial. Now we are seeing meaningful cuts of 20-to-30 percent. Because costs of maintaining homes here are so low, it usually takes longer for the market to adjust than in than in the States and Canada. No one is paying US$2,500 in property taxes every month or US$500 in utilities. I think the next year or two should see a bunch of buyers and sellers finding each other.

I am delighted to see so much continued interest in folks moving to San Miguel de Allende. I think of San Miguel as a “safe adventure.” You are in a foreign country, one rich with history and culture very different from our own, but English is spoken almost everywhere, medical and dental services are good to great and you can drive back home if you want – not Nairobi.

I suspect the virus will bring many changes to our lives, many we can’t even guess. The 9-11 tragedy brought a boom to San Miguel with many new arrivals thinking: “If I am going to die in a terrorist attack, I am going to do what I want and that’s live in San Miguel.”

Who knows what will happen next, but I’m betting that San Miguel will remain a magnet for expats.

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Ben Pitre
Ben Pitre has worked in real estate for decades as a builder, renovator, sub-divider and syndicator in the U.S. and San Miguel de Allende. He has also been a long-term residential and industrial landlord. He is almost certainly the only real estate agent in San Miguel who has both demonstrated Japanese flower arrangements for the San Miguel Garden Club and fought in public boxing exhibitions (4-0). Ben is an agent with 1st International Realty and can be reached at benpitre@gmail.com.