Living in Los Cabos: Stormy Weather Part 2

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Water! How could I have forgotten that? Going back to ‘before’ stuff for a moment: you’ll want to stock up on drinking water. Big Time. First of all, the aqueduct will break. It always does, but we never know how long it will take to fix. So stock up. While you’re at it, get paper plates so you don’t have to use drinking water to do dishes. If you’re lucky enough to have a tub, fill it up as well and put a bucket next to it to use to flush. So sorry to have overlooked a critically important piece of preparation. Now on to DURING.

 

When the storm hits you are hopefully fully prepared and have sought shelter. Stay there. And most importantly:

 

STAY AWAY FROM THE WATER!!!!

 

This cannot be stressed enough; it seems every storm we lose a few people to the waves. They are bigger and more powerful than you think and can strike without warning. Yes, I will admit to succumbing and sneaking outside to check out the wind and the rain at the start of a storm, but try not to overdo it and for sure stay far away from the beach.

 

Once the rain starts downtown Cabo will flood. Period. Heck, certain intersections flood even during a light rain. And it’s important to:

 

STAY AWAY FROM THE WATER!!!!

 

Some of that water isn’t specifically clean (is there a polite way to say sewer run off?) and it’s traveling too fast. Stay somewhere warm, dry and safe.

 

Once the wind and rain really crank up there’s not much to do other than ride it out. If you’re lucky you might be able to sleep through it. Try to stay away from windows and sliding glass doors to avoid being cut if the glass breaks. If there is a quiet corner in your house take your pets and cuddle up there.

 

It’s almost impossible not to go out when the eye passes over. Try not to go too far away as you don’t know how long it will last and the inner wall can slam you into next week. When it’s finally over you can relax, assess the damage, and get into post-hurricane mode, our next topic.

 

 

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over thirteen years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

 

 

 

© 2014 Carol S. Billups

 

 

 

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Living in Los Cabos: Stormy Weather

hurricane preparedness in Cabo San Lucas

 

After all these many years I do not ever recall being up to N on the hurricane names before it’s even September! YIKES! So I figure a few words on storm season are in order. I think we’ll deal with Before/During/After. Frankly the Before and Afters are the most important.

 

Most of the BEFORE actions can be taken weeks or even months in advance of a storm. You might want to assess your home for risk and consider hurricane shutters (solid) or hurricane  screens (Kevlar-type fabric). In our case, we have protection for the great room but not the bedrooms, figuring that we’ll have one central ‘safe area’. Not everyone will need to do this, but we’re in prime wind location.

 

You will also want to buy (trust me on this) a squeegee with a long handle, a large dust pan on a long handle and a plastic bucket. In my experience these are the fastest, most effective tools for cleaning up floods. And you will have flooding, no matter how grand or humble the home. Once the water starts puddling up on the floor squeegee it into the dustpan then dump in the bucket. Repeat. Build up a rhythm. It works much better than mopping. Other necessary supplies include LOTS of flashlights and extra, fresh batteries. Prior to the storm hitting shore the electric company will shut down power. Why? Because we have overhead lines, and in some parts of town home-made connections, so for safety reasons they shut us down in high winds. While normal flash lights are great (have a minimum of one per person) there are two additional I’d like to suggest. Camping lanterns are real conveniences when the power is off for extended periods of time. I also love my teensy tiny one inch long flashlight. Last big storm I stashed it in my pocket. Sure enough, when the lights went off I was halfway down a staircase. That little guy sure came in handy. Depending on your home you may need tarps and bungee cords to cover or tie down various items. A hurricane force wind can move just about anything, so when in doubt bring it indoors or secure it. And an ice chest is a handy item to have as well.

 

All of these precautions can be done months in advance; you know you’ll need these things eventually so you might as well stock up well in advance. You’ll also need a good first aid kit and be sure not to let your inventory of any needed medications run too low.

 

And now: food and drink. Mid-summer I try to begin accumulating canned foods. That isn’t terribly easy in Cabo; we love fresh food and not too many things are sold in cans. If your stove is propane you’ll be able to boil water for coffee and soup. If not you’ll be eating tuna sandwiches. But whatever it is, just buy a bit at a time and build up a hoard of non-perishable food. The experts suggest enough for at least three days but being at the end of the supply chain it might be a good while before the stores can re-stock. Please don’t forget your little four-legged friends and stock up on food for them, too. You might consider building up a little inventory of cash as well. When power goes out so do ATM’s and credit card readers. You’ll need to have enough cash to cover you for a few days.

 

Again, without power you’ll get bored. Have a few good books you’ve been hoping to read on hand— real ones. You won’t be able to charge your reading device without electricity.

 

Now: crunch time.

 

Be monitoring the weather. I check the National Hurricane Center daily during season at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/?epac. If it looks like we’re going to get a storm it’s time to get the house ready (and yourself). You’ll need to go to the store and buy last-minute supplies. Bear in mind that, this being Cabo, most of town will be there frantically trying to get all the things you already stocked. But you’ll want to fight the crowds and pick up some semi-perishable foods like eggs, bread and fruits with a slightly longer shelf life like apples and pineapple. Fill the ice chest. Top off your car’s tank; you never know how long after a storm before we can get gas. And last: bear in mind that if we get significant damage martial law will be declared and the town will be dry. Make sure you’ve got plenty to cover any vices you enjoy.

 

Get yourself home and go get ready for the storm…… to be continued….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over thirteen years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

 

 

 

© 2014 Carol S. Billups

 

 

 

Living in Los Cabos: Cutting Your Cost of Living

Tabachine Tree in Cabo San Lucas

 

As promised, we’re back on topic with the cost of living in Cabo. Recently I posted the prices of many commodities at the supermarket. For some time now my shopping habits have been dictated not so much by value as time. I need to get in and out as quickly as possible. But if you have the luxury of a little free time you can save yourself quite a bit of cash, get better quality, and have a cultural experience.

 

Once I start naming names you’ll probably realize you’ve seen those names on little trucks all over Cabo. They are the purveyors for the restaurants and hotels and they don’t mind selling retail. Las Palmas, Lizzaraga, ComNor, Ocean Leader, Valle Hermanos are a few you might recognize. I’ve been shopping Las Palmas and Lizzaraga for years (and years) but my colleague and fellow foodie Ed Langton is introducing me to some others. And since he was able to get their price lists I thought a little comparison might be in order. So, let’s see….

 

 

Item Supermarket Wholesale
Chicken Breast $1.74 per pound $1.52 per pound
Ground Beef $2.68 per pound $2.27 per pound
Ground Pork $2.44 per pound $1.92 per pound
Pork Loin $3.67per pound $2.97 per pound
Ribs not baby back $3.14 per pound $1.92 per pound
Baby Back Not available $2.65 per pound
Beef Filet Mignon Not in stock this wk $8.74 per pound
Beef Prime Rib Not available $5.06 per pound

 

Now just a few words on how this works.

 

Looks are deceiving. The two I use are Las Palmas (butcher shop) and Lizzaraga (green grocer). Both are HUGE commercial operations that take up most if not all of the block they are on. But both kept on the little ‘tiendita’ or corner store that started their parents out many years ago. They look like what they are: old. And the products in them are the products that will be in demand in a working class neighborhood. Pay no attention to the butcher case at Las Palmas, after you wait your turn tell the nice butcher what you want. If you’re timid about your Spanish make a list, translate it, and simply hand it to him. Remember: you’re ordering in kilos. A pound is approximately half a kilo so make the adjustment. The butcher will get your meat and bring it to the cash register. They do custom cuts so be ready to tell them how thick you want your chops or bacon, etc. Las Palmas is on Felix Ortega street: go up Hildalgo, turn right on Ortega and go about two blocks.

 

Lizzaraga is on the right side of route 19 (the road to Todos Santos) just past the Bordo (the road that runs from the corridor to route 19). It is sandwiched between the Pemex station and the Chedraui grocery store. If you don’t see what you’re looking for don’t be afraid to ask; they’ll call someone in the commercial department and see if it’s available.

 

Last, I realize I didn’t have any seafood prices in that last blog. So here’s a couple of teasers from the Ocean Leader price list. Giant shrimp (U-15 size, basically a giant prawn) are $7.69 per pound and fillet of sea bass (cabrilla) is only $2.97 per pound.

 

Kind of makes you think surf and turf, right?

 

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over thirteen years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

 

 

 

© 2014 Carol S. Billups

 

 

 

Living in Los Cabos: We Interrupt This Topic

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We were discussing the cost of living, and we will go back to it. The last post was the cost of groceries in the store, next we’re going to talk some strategies to cut that pretty dramatically. But in the meantime I got sucked into a Facebook discussion about whether to rent or buy if you’re moving to Cabo. And I think what I have to say may be important to someone out there.

First, obviously I *AM* biased. My work is to sell houses, not rent them. So of course I’d rather see someone buy rather than rent. And I was pretty much completely out-voted on that discussion with most people suggesting that it would be better to rent for a year or two before deciding to buy. What really got to me was a whole lot of folks who are not in the business advising the person who started the discussion that there’s no hurry: there are plenty of homes on the market. Well, I have access to a state-wide MLS and I beg to differ.

Most people who are re-locating to Cabo are looking for what I call ‘real people houses’.  They don’t have an unlimited budget but still want a nice home. I don’t know if it’s this blog or just a sea change in the market, but I’m working more and more with this demographic:  people who are moving to Cabo as full time residents. Some are retiring and others coming down to start a business. And their needs are quite different than those of the high end vacation home buyer. Probably the most common search for these full time buyers is: Nice home in a nice neighborhood, located on the corridor near Cabo San Lucas, under $300,000 USD, with an ocean view. Many of them would also like seller financing. So what’s available?

About two minutes ago I ran a search on the MLS. And here are the results:

Single family homes listed for sale: 778.

On the Cabo side of the Corridor: 178

Under $300,000 USD: 90

With an ocean view (yes, we can search on that): 25

With seller financing: ONE.

So my point is that yes, there are too many properties on the market in Los Cabos. But in certain segments (read that real people homes) the inventory is getting very picked over. If you wait too long you might not have many choices. In fact, I re-ran the same search but changed the maximum price to $200,000. There were zero results. And as with everything else, supply and demand are going to determine price. I don’t think it will be too long before prices in this category are going to start creeping upward. So you might want to re-think the rent first option. By staying out of what is the best buyer’s market in Cabo history you may find that when you are ready to buy you are either priced out of the market, or will need to settle for less than you wanted. But what if you buy now and then decide to move back to the US? Well, it is still a buyer’s market but you’ll be selling in the hottest segment. While no one can predict the future, based on current trends you should be able to sell for at least what you paid for the house. I also just ran the closing costs for establishing a new trust on a $300,000 home: $14,480. I don’t do rentals but it seems to me you’d be paying more than that for one year’s rent. So if you’re thinking of coming down here to paradise, and you fit this profile, I’d suggest buying NOW.  Not a sales pitch, just some friendly advice.

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over twelve years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog http://www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

© 2014 Carol S. Billups

 

 

Living in Los Cabos: The cost of groceries 2014

cost of groceries in Cabo

 

Believe it or not, this is the most popular and most heavily read topic on my blog. But it certainly is not the most exciting to write. But, it’s time for an update. So anyway, here are some prices taken from my recent grocery receipts. Most are from MEGA in Cabo San Lucas, with some Costco thrown in. The produce prices are all grocery store, but most of ours come from the Saturday morning Organic Farmer’s Market in Pedregal. There prices are not marked, you just pick out what you want and the farmer gives you a price. I generally end up spending about 200 pesos, or about $15 US, to fill a re-usable shopping bag with totally wonderful goodies. I made the conversion using today’s rate of 13, it’s been pretty stable around that. I’ve noted which items were imported, which is very important and will be the topic of the next blog: saving money on groceries. At any rate, for those contemplating moving to Cabo, this should give you an idea what your cost of living will be.

 

 

 

 

Item Price Unit
Produce (Fresh)
 Mushrooms $1.30 large box
Avocado $1.46 pound
Red Apples $0.90 pound
Limes $0.48 pound
Strawberries $1.99 large box
Pineapple $0.48 pound
Asian Pear $1.74 pound
Cantalope $0.48 pound
Garlic $1.68 sleeve of 4 heads
Celery $0.76 bunch
Romaine Lettuce Hearts $2.83 package of 3
Roma Tomatoes $0.34 pound
Nopal Cactus Leaves $0.69 pound
Yellow Lemon (Eureka) $1.11 pound
Brocoli $0.83 pound
Meats
Chicken Breast (Boneless, skinless) $1.74 pound
Ground Beef (very lean, but then it all is) $2.68 pound
Deli Turkey $5.83 pound
Ground Pork $2.44 pound
Pork Loin $3.67 pound
Pork Ribs $3.14 pound
Breads/Bakery
Hamburger roll (big enough for two burgers) $0.20 each
Bread “Thins” $1.51 package of 12
Flour tortillas $0.96 package of 12
Ritz Crackers $1.48 half pound box
Sugar Free Choc. Chip Cookies $3.14 half pound box
Corn tortillas $0.34 pound
Dairy
Crema (like sour cream) $1.42 450 ml (about 9 ounces)
Cheddar Cheese – IMPORTED $3.59 package  8 ounce
Greek Yogurt $1.50 450 ml (about 9 ounces)
Milk (in shelf-stable carton) $1.15 quart
Blue Cheese – IMPORTED $3.38
Groceries (Canned Goods, etc)
Flan Mix $0.69 2 envelopes
Skippy Peanut Butter IMPORTED $3.29 large jar
Refried Beans $0.63 large box – 4 servings
Refried Beans $0.48 small box – two servings
Chicken Baby Food (for the girls) $0.60 jar
Peas $0.52 small can – one serving
Peas $0.72 regular can
Jello $0.65 Package of 2 envelopes
Canned Chicken Breast $1.65 can
Solid White Meat Tuna, double sized can $2.36 can
Pepsi Cola $0.61 can
Evaporated Milk $0.76 can
Dijon mustard $2.30 jar
Tomato Puree $0.35 box
Vinegar (cider) $0.61 quart
Soy Oil $3.06 quart
Whole Bean Decaf Coffee – IMPORTED $5.69 pound
Household/Cleaning Items
Large Zip-lock Storage Bags – IMPORTED $2.68 box of 15
Chlorine Bleach $1.06 gallon
Laundry Detergent $5.38 half gallon
Fabuloso Multipurpose Cleaner $1.69 quart
Liquid Dish Soap $1.53 12 oz
Floor Mop $2.61 each
Furniture Polish $4.07 can
Window Cleaner (Senor Musculo) $2.84 quart

 

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over thirteen years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

 

 

 

© 2014 Carol S. Billups

 

 

 

Living in Los Cabos: Tipping Survey 2014

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OK, it’s official. I am a tight-wad. Yesterday I put a survey up on Facebook about tipping in Cabo. A lot of the 99 responses were from the Caboholic Support Group, so we need to start with a big THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to take the survey. Now, as promised, here are the results which will make a pretty good guide to proper tipping if you live here or on your next visit.

 

The first two questions were about rewarding servers, and I was wondering if the guys carrying buckets of beer on a hot beach got any preferential treatment. Absolutely not the case. About half of the respondents tip the beach waiters 20% and another forty percent give them 15%. So it’s almost an even split between those two options. Some of the comments indicated 30% and even up to 40%, and one person makes it easy: $20 per day, which makes good sense if you’re vacationing in an all-inclusive resort.

 

Asking the same question about waiters in a conventional restaurant the results were much more definitive: two out of three of you tip 20%, almost all of the rest responded 15% but there were a few comments made about tipping as much as 40% depending on the circumstances. WOW.

 

When at the PEMEX (gas station) the scenario was if the attendant merely pumps the gas and cleans the windshield (and if the driver feels they’re getting all the gas they are paying for). Just over half of you tip 10 pesos, about a quarter tip 5 pesos, and about one in five do not tip at all. If they check oil and water levels or tire pressure about half of you add 10 pesos to the tip. One in three do not increase the tip for more service and one out of five adds 5 pesos. A number of the comments indicated the respondents either live in Cabo or are experienced visitors: they don’t trust the attendants to check anything! You do realize they get a bonus for every liter of oil they sell, right?

 

The grocery store was very confusing. First, the baggers are typically working just for tips. The stores don’t reward them for their labor but sometimes provide a uniform, in the case of MEGA the baggers are seniors who probably have no pension. Anyway, the most frequent answer was ‘whatever coins I get as change’ (37%). The other options (5 pesos, 10 pesos, or 5-10 pesos depending on whether they do a good job were pretty evenly split. A few respondents indicated they tip more for heavier items. At Costco and many grocery stores there are people who hang out by the exit and offer to help you to your car. I usually tip them 5 pesos if I actually say yes when they offer to help, and the answer here showed me to be a real tight-wad. Almost half of you tip them 10 pesos and about one third say it depends on the size of the order. There were many comments on this question, one saying they pay 200 pesos! Seems a bit excessive to me. And of course there were a number of comments about how aggressive they are at Costco; stalking you to your car, grabbing the cart and hoping you’ll be guilted into paying them. Was there today, and yep, it is annoying.

 

On the personal services front, I asked how much you tip for manicure, pedicure, massage, haircut, etc. The most frequent response was 20% (just over half of the responses) followed by 15% (40 percent of respondents), and about 10% of you tip 10% on personal services. In the comments one person noted that at the beauty school she tips more heavily: 50%.

When I asked about tipping a delivery person the most common answer was 15%, again just about half of the respondents. About one third tip 10% for delivery and others pay a fixed amount based on distance and promptness.

 

For the tourists we asked how much to tip a bellman to handle one suitcase or parcel at a nice resort. The answers were pretty much split between 20 and 50 pesos, the higher amount had a slight advantage. Only 13% went over that to 100 pesos.

 

When asked about valet parking the vast majority of you tip either 20 or 50 pesos, the numbers were almost exactly split in half with only a few exceptions (100 pesos or it depends on where were only selected by 9 percent of the group).

 

So there you have it. Is it totally scientific? No. But it is a good reality check. Here in Cabo tips are an important part of many worker’s income, not just waiters, and it’s nice to know that you’re treating them right.

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over thirteen years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

 

 

 

© 2014 Carol S. Billups

 

 

 

Living in Los Cabos: Choosing Your Realtor

the arch in Cabo San Lucas

 

This morning someone started a thread on a popular group about Cabo on Facebook. Her question was ‘who is the best realtor to work with in Cabo?’ Reading the suggestions (and thanks to those who nominated me) I realized that very few people know what to look for in a realtor. And trust me: the nice guy you met in the bar or the fun girl everybody loves may or may not be the best candidate. So here are some things to consider before making your choice.

 

First, let me explain that unlike most of Mexico Los Cabos has a very sophisticated and efficient multiple listing service. And, we have very strict operating procedures. So the good news is that you only have to work with one real estate agent to have access to every property for sale. The bad news is: you have to pick one.

 

So, how do you pick just one? The best source is personal referrals, but not just from their many friends but from satisfied clients. And think about whether your friend’s search was similar to yours. If your friend bought a cute condo in San Jose, the person who helped them may or may not be able be best qualified to help you find a single family home in San Lucas. Most of us sell in both cities, but hopefully we know our limitations. I referred a close relative to another broker when he started narrowing in on the East Cape. Yes he would have paid a bit less if I’d represented him (he’s close enough I wouldn’t have accepted the commission). But, I know he was very well served working with my colleague who lives and specializes in the little town he eventually settled on. So you’ll want to know this person’s experience with the type of property you’ll be searching for.

 

You’ll want to verify that this agent is truly a professional and is a member of our Multiple Listing Service. There are a number of people in town who ‘dabble’ in real estate. And while many of them are very nice, they do not have to follow our code of ethics and operating procedures, nor do they have access to the MLS system itself. Have I ever worked with a dabbler? Yes, of course, but I pick and choose them very carefully.

 

Experience is a tricky question. While I’m all for giving the rookies a break you might want to investigate what sort of support system they’ll have. Have they teamed up with a more experienced agent or is their broker going to be involved in the transaction? We don’t have real estate school here, so it is all on-the-job training and not all companies train alike. Enough said? Working with a new agent can be very exciting and you’re sure to get the utmost attention. But you want to know you have a safety net.

 

And if you’re a buyer ask about what help they will give you AFTER the sale. Let’s face it: you are going to need some help with things like utilities, shopping, movers, etc. The better agents know they are your support group and plan on that. In fact many long friendships have started out as an agent/client relationship. And my last point is that given you will be spending so much time with your agent during your search, through the closing process, and after the sale be sure you are compatible and/or share similar values.

 

I’m anxious to check back on that thread… there are so many good agents in Los Cabos and it will be fun to see who else is named. Doing a bit of investigate I’m sure you’ll find yourself in good hands.

 

 

Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over thirteen years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.

 

 

 

© 2014 Carol S. Billups