Building a Home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Mexico | 1 comment

Almost everyone who visits the charming colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico falls in love with its beauty, near-ideal climate, and slower pace of life.

Many expats want to move there—and many have.

Unfortunately, as many more people add to the population there, housing prices have gone up relentlessly over the years. Despite the higher housing costs, San Miguel still attracts expats because of its enticing array of restaurants, an active arts and music scene, and quality healthcare.

But not, however, because of its cost of living. There is a way for an expat who dreams of living there to shave a good chunk off his or her housing costs by building their own home.

Everybody loves a sale, right? In this case, the savings of building a home versus buying the same quality home can range from 15 to 35 percent.

The Cost of Buying a House

According to Ariadna Del Sol, a real estate agent with Colonial Real Estate, the average cost of buying a home in San Miguel ranges from:

  • $45 to $65 per square foot for a basic house
  • $70 to $85 per square foot for an intermediate quality house
  • $90 to $120 per square foot or more for a high-quality house

A 2,500 square foot house of intermediate quality would set you back roughly $187,000. A high-quality house of the same size would cost you about $263,000. You would pay somewhat more for a similar house in El Centro—the center of town.

The Cost of Building a House

Guillermo Orozco, architect and builder in San Miguel, agrees with those house prices but added that you can build a home there for a good deal less.

“You can build a high-quality house for $75 dollars per square foot,” says Mr. Orozco. “If it’s in El Centro you would pay closer to $83 dollars per square foot.”

According to the architect’s estimates, a high-quality, 2,500 square foot house can be built for $187,000, a savings of about $76,000 over buying the same home.

That kind of money may just tip the balance of affordability in favor of many expats.

The Nuts and Bolts (And Nails and Screws) of Building Your Home

That all sounds great, you say, but what about the hidden costs? Not to mention the hassle of hiring a contractor. And wouldn’t dealing with city building permits in a foreign country be a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions?

Yes, if you tried to do it on your own. Luckily, you don’t have to.

The first step, of course, is to buy a vacant lot. That would be done with the able help of a good real estate agent. Next, you would want to ask your realtor and other expats for recommendations for an architect.

In Mexico, an architect is usually the builder as well.  “The architect will handle the building of the house from start to finish,” says Guillermo Orozco an architect in San Miguel. “They will design the plans, obtain all the permits, supervise the construction, and pay the contractors and the social security for the workers.”

What if something goes wrong during the construction? Is that when they open up a vein and bleed you to death? No, Mr. Orozco says, you will only pay the architect the fixed cost stated in the contract. The only way you pay more is if you want a change in the plans.

Other Reasons to Build vs. Buy

Besides saving considerably by building your house, you can design it the way you want. For instance, you can build it facing south to receive more of the sun during San Miguel’s relatively short and mild winters. You can take advantage of the views of the city and the spectacular sunsets, by having more windows incorporated into the design.

And following the tradition of many Mexican houses, you can build a rooftop terrace. Once you’re up there, with the cool semi-arid breezes refreshing you and your guests, you can raise your glass to a beautiful jewel of a city. While you’re at it, salute yourself, because it was your pluck and a little foreknowledge that made it affordable for you to be there in the first place.

I invite you to share your comments and experiences in building your own home in San Miguel…or anywhere in the world.

by: Bruce Peterson