“How Our $60K Dream Home Gave Us a Rich Semi-Retirement in Mexico”
Originally from Ireland, Brendan and Gwen O’Toole immigrated to Canada with their daughter in 1988, where they started a successful tire and automotive accessory business. In 2000, the couple went on vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and immediately felt an affinity for the country. In the years that followed, they returned annually to either Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlán for two weeks of rest and relaxation.
By the late 2000s, the O’Tooles had sold their business and were earning a living by buying and renovating houses in Calgary, Alberta. However, from their frequent jaunts to Mexico, they longed for a slower, more relaxed pace of life and started to think about making some serious life changes. “We decided that in the future, work would have to fit around our lifestyle,” says Gwen.
The couple opted to become snowbirds, spending part of the year in Canada with their business and part of the year enjoying life in Mexico. “We chose to settle in Mazatlán because it has everything we need and is less touristy than Puerto Vallarta,” says Gwen. “It works for us as we can get direct flights, it’s affordable, and it has a good expat community.”
Other perks include the excellent infrastructure, the malecón adjoining 13 miles of stunning beaches, the varied cultural scene, and the contrast between the old town and the modern cosmopolitan areas of the city.
In their first year as snowbirds in Mazatlán, they stayed for three months. The next year, six months. By 2011, their minds were made up. This was the lifestyle they wanted. They sold their home in Calgary and bought a small campground resort in Christina Lake, British Columbia, which was to be their summer residence/business.
The O’Tooles purchased a home in Mazatlán the following year. “There was no problem buying the house. It is owned through a bank trust with our daughter named on our trust, and the property goes to her if anything happens to us,” says Gwen
They paid a little less than $60,000 for the 3,000-square-foot, two-story property. The home has five bedrooms, each with an en suite and half bath, as well as 11-foot ceilings on the ground floor. It is also conveniently located, a mere five blocks from the ocean and within walking distance of grocery stores, a fruit and vegetable market, and doctor and dentist offices.
Electricity costs them $15 per month, but would be more with air conditioning, which is necessary in the summer months. They use two tanks of propane for the six months they are in residence at a total cost of about $50. Property taxes are just $200 per year. Internet costs just $20 a month.
Since they are snowbirds, the couple enter Mexico on a 180-day tourist visa, but this year, Brendan and Gwen are giving serious consideration to getting permanent residence. “With permanent residence, private Mexican hospital insurance is available and reasonably priced,” says Gwen.
Other incentives for permanent residence include a reduction in their property tax bill as well as money off travel and other services thanks to Mexico’s retirement discount program, the INAPAM, which is open to all Mexican and foreign residents who are 60 years of age and older.
In preparation for becoming permanent residents, the O’Tooles have recently sold their campground. They’ve also been taking private Spanish lessons. “We are still not fluent at all, but can usually understand enough to get the gist of what people are saying,” says Gwen, adding that it’s possible to get by without knowing Spanish in Mazatlán.
Although they have yet to become permanent residents, Gwen notes that they already consider Mexico home. “We love the Mexican way of life, the live-and-let-live attitude,” she says.
Written by Larke Newell