I had a lot of fun writing this month’s article “Expat Entrepreneurs in Mexico: The Puerto Vallarta Real Estate Pro” because I’ve known Harriet Murray for nearly 15 years and besides being a top-notch Mexico real estate pro, she’s a friend and EIM blogger.
I met Harriet when I was looking for someone to sell my home in Mismaloya, about seven miles south of Puerto Vallarta. I had been impressed by her real estate articles in the local English-language newspaper and drove to her office in Centro to discuss selling my home. She won me over with her no-nonsense style and deep knowledge and understanding of the Puerto Vallarta housing market. She knew and knows her stuff.
When I was writing my first book on expats “Boomers in Paradise: Living in Puerto Vallarta” in 2008, Harriet was one of the first people I contacted to interview. Besides leading a very interesting life before she moved to Vallarta in 1997, she brought a seasoned view of the local real estate landscape to the many readers of the book.
In this article, we follow Harriet from Louisiana to Dallas to Puerto Vallarta, where she lives in a condo about five miles south of PV on the Bay of Banderas.
Harriet made the move to Vallarta at just the right time. “From 1997 until 2005 real estate prices increased about 10 percent a year and then accelerated to 20 percent a year until 2009,” she said.
But that changed with the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, which severely affected the real estate market in Mexico. Harriet had employed agents and office staff but switched to a master broker model and a new business entity, Murray Cochran Associatos. She now has a Mexican woman as her minority partner, independent brokers and a paid staff of four. She collects commissions on all sales by her independent brokers.
“Before the bubble burst,” Harriet said, “the Puerto Vallarta market was red hot, particularly driven by Californians who had lots of equity in their homes. We had to change our strategy from appealing to the whole market to focusing on a couple of segments of the market that still remained viable.”
With the middle market now gone, she developed a plan to market to mainly high-end home purchasers and sellers and more low-end condo buyers.
“On the high-end,” she said, “buyers have the income to stay in the market. On the lower-end, pre-construction condos can be purchased with installment payments. High-end homes are usually over US$1million and lower-end condos are US$200,000 or less.”
Spend a little time with Harriet and learn a lot about real estate in Mexico.