The coastal drive from south Tijuana to Rosarito is dotted with steel frames and construction crews feverishly building developments aimed at U.S. buyers. Developers are reaching north of the border with lavish marketing, attaching big names such as Donald Trump to their Mexican projects, and assuring would-be buyers that their products are designed by U.S. architects and built to U.S. standards.
Guillermo Martinez de Castro, known simply as “Mannix” in design and development circles in the northern Baja California peninsula and San Diego, has tapped into the resources of several San Diego architects for the design of seven custom homes in the first phase of his Terra Sur project.
Just eight miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, Terra Sur will include 112 villas and condos, a fitness center and restaurants along 1,600 feet of ocean bluff frontage.
San Diego firms working on the development are Ocean Pacific Design, Rob Wellington Quigley, Safdie Rabines Architects, Spurlock-Poirier Landscape Architects and Studio E Architects.
“At Terra Sur, we understand the special qualities of Baja and are striving to create original architecture that is exciting and inspiring, yet stems from the land and cultural sensibilities,” said David Sheehan, principal with Studio E.
Studio E designed a 3,400-square-foot detached home with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a two-car garage at the site. The home has interior and exterior fireplaces, an infinity pool and ocean view decks and terraces. It is scheduled for completion in May.
Mannix, president of Baja-based Real Estate Development International, says Terra Sur reflects the crossing of ideas and influences from both sides of the border.
“We have the choice to shop and live on both sides and that idea is reflected in this development,” he said.
Baja is quickly becoming a symbol for what some consider the wave of the future in binational design-build development, says Mannix, a Mexican- and U.S.-educated architect.
He added that home buyers from California and the Southwest region are attracted to the idea that they can own beachfront property in Mexico at a fraction of the cost of U.S. coastal markets. Prices at Terra Sur start in the $400,000s and top out at $2 million.
“This period of growth and change in northern Baja is an ideal time for investors and home buyers to acquire incredibly reasonable priced beachfront property, which will always continue to appreciate,” said Mannix, noting that he has been developing projects in Baja for 20 years.
Trump Ocean Resort in Baja is being development by the Trump Organization and Irongate, a Los Angeles-based real estate development and investment company. Prices for studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom properties start in the mid-$300,000s.
Las Olas Mar y Sol, a 20-story residential high-rise in Rosarito, is being built to both U.S. Building Code standards and stringent California earthquake standards. Prices start in the $400,000s.
Choices are abundant. From Real Mediterraneo featuring three- and four-bedroom beachfront homes to One Eleven, a Coastal Design and Development Group condotel project with 174 units under construction, Baja has properties in many price ranges and styles. The problem can be finding all those choices in one place.
Mexico lacks a standardized multiple listing service like those found in the United States. Many individual brokers and offices, including ReMax, which is marketing and selling Terra Sur, Realty Executives, Coldwell Banker and Prudential California Realty’s northern Baja division, have created small databases of listings.
Stephen D. Rodgers, president and chief executive officer of Southern California and the Central Coast for Prudential California Realty, said brokers in Baja use these “homegrown” databases of residential listings and referrals from neighboring offices in San Diego.
“It is almost like a Craigslist but not quite as regulated,” he said.
Without a regulated and universal database of listings, the buying time in Mexico is three times as long as it is in the United States, according to Rodgers.
He says brokers in Baja are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and diligent about staying informed on local inventory.
Peter Thompson, a San Diego real estate attorney, says potential buyers cannot see all properties by visiting one broker.
“Brokers are hesitant to share their listings with others and put them up on a public MLS and let anyone go to them for fear of being circumvented by buyers or buyer representatives,” said Thompson. “That has been the big drawback in creating a Mexican MLS.”
Thompson, who has advised buyers or sellers in 3,000 property transactions in Mexico, has created his own multiple listing of investment properties. He has carved out a niche by listing only large, oceanfront and ocean view parcels for development.