Real Estate in Yucatan / How to Build a House in Yucatan Email & Share

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How to Build a House in Yucatan

1 December 2006 Real Estate in Yucatan 82

Before we moved to Yucatan, we spent two years renovating a 70-year-old Spanish Revival home in central California. While the process was initially quite enjoyable, several unexpected problems resulted in a project that took twice as long to complete than originally planned. It also cost a considerable amount more than we had budgeted. In the end, we swore off another project and bought a fully renovated house in Merida’s Centro Historico for considerably less.

Oddly enough, it didn’t take long before we found ourselves engaged in the renovation of a smaller colonial house to use as an office. Perhaps we’re slow learners, or we just can’t accept defeat. Yet, contrary to our expectations, the project was completed quickly and on budget, despite the arrival of a major hurricane near the end of construction.

If you plan to renovate one of Merida’s lovely colonial homes, or to build a new home in the area, don’t be surprised if your experience is like either or neither of ours. No matter where you are in the world, building a house can be simple or complicated, easy or hard, a dream or a nightmare.

Having said all that, there are some things that you should consider if you are going to build or renovate in Yucatan. Many of our readers have asked our opinions on this subject, so we are offering them in this article. By no means is this meant to cover every possible situation, and we would hope that anyone who has something valuable to share will comment below.

The most important thing we have learned is that if you are building in Yucatan, then choose a local architect and construction firm that has several years of experience in Yucatan. Select those who have a portfolio that matches your tastes and a list of satisfied references. There are many here who do and several of these are listed at the end of this article. All of the architects we interviewed for this article speak English and their firms have at least one additional person on staff who speaks English as well. Several other architectural firms who specifically have developed their English-speaking skills in order to communicate better with English-speaking clients are listed on the Yucatan Expatriate Services website as affiliates here.

Many foreigners who come to Yucatan learn the basics of renovation and remodeling. Depending on the scope of your project, they may offer a reasonable alternative to using a local firm. But remember that they do not have friends or family in the business, nor in government, and it is through this network of personal resources that the majority of Mexican business gets done.

Local architects and contractors are well connected and know the local markets and best practices. They will be able to advise you on construction and design techniques that work best in a tropical climate using materials that are most common to the area. They know the authorities in the government and the culturally accepted way to make things happen. In the long run, they will probably achieve the results you want at a better price.

Ask for a design and presupuesto (estimate) from more than one firm. Most will include the price of this effort in the cost of renovation and/or construction. The ones who are not awarded the contract will charge a nominal fee, which depends on the scope of your project. This process will educate you on many levels and help you to choose the best design, engineering and construction options. It will also help you determine which firm is the best fit for your project and is the most responsive to your needs.

Always obtain a design and presupuesto BEFORE starting work. It may be impossible to have a design that is complete in every detail, but the closer it is to including all line items required to complete the project, the fewer unhappy surprises there will be later on.

Most firms we interviewed will charge as little as 10% and as much as 30% of your construction budget to design, administrate and supervise your project. The amount you pay is not always a case of “you get what you pay for,” so be sure to shop around.

Follow the laws of Mexico. In the past, many construction projects in Mexico have been preformed by an informal labor force and paid abajo de agua (literally, under water, but it means under the table). Recent changes by federal and local governments makes this approach more risky than it used to be. Avoid using free-lance labor on large projects, and be sure that all workers are paid Social Security.

Obtain a standard construction contract from your Mexican architect or Notaria (lawyer). At a minimum, it should limit your liability for budget overruns and may include incentives for completing the project to a schedule. The contract should also stipulate that all workers be paid Social Security by the contractor (not you). The contract must be signed by all parties and notarized to be enforceable. All of the firms listed below will enter into a standard construction contract.

If the intended use for your finished renovation or new construction is a rental property or other income-producing venture, you should contract with a lawyer and accountant to establish a Mexican corporation (SA de CV) or limited liability company (S de RL de CV). You will need to report your rental or other income and pay taxes, or risk penalties and fines from Hacienda, the Mexican IRS. One local reputable accounting firm that can help in English is DFK. Contact Fernando López at

Always obtain all required permits before beginning work. Many colonial homes in Merida’s Centro are designated as "historic" and will require a permit and inspection by INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History). If you fail to obtain the proper permits, your project can be suspended and you will have to pay fines to resume.

Below is a list of local architects and construction firms that we interviewed for this article. They are well-known and have between seven and twenty years of experience in Merida and the surrounding areas of Yucatan. You should contact them well in advance of when you hope to begin your project, as many already have a waiting list.


Ing. Rafael Dominguez Barjan
Victor Cruz Dominguez
Estilo Yucatan
Some of the architects here speak English
(999) 738-9089
Design and Construction, Renovations and New

Arq. Carlos de la Barrera Cardeña
Maya DBN Arquitectos
Speaks English
(999) 924 -9825
(044)(999) 277-2312
Design and Construction, Renovations and New Residential

Alfredo Enriquez
Speaks Spanish only
(999) 928-2860
(044 999) 968-2269
Renovations Only

Arturo Campos
Speaks English
(999) 926-9080
Construction, Design & Renovations

Mario H. Justiniano C.
Speaks Spanish and English
(999) 987-6027
General Contractor
Construction and Remodeling

Manuel J. Kuk Padilla
Speaks Spanish only
(044-999) 958-0034
General Contractor
Construction and Remodeling

Arq. Alvaro Ponce
Yucatan Sol & Ponce Arquitectos
Speaks English
(999) 943-3075
Design, Construction by MIGA
Renovations and New

Arq. Henry Ponce
Speaks English
(999) 926-0018, 947-2233
Design and Construction, Renovations and New

Reyes Ríos + Larrain Arquitectos
Speaks English
(999) 928-7841
Architectural, Interior and Landscaping Design, Project Management & Construction Consulting
Renovations and New

Ruben Portela Rodriguez
Ambientes Diseño Arquetectonico
Speaks English
(999) 938-2152
Cell: (044-9999) 70-1614
Design and Construction, Renovations and New

Arq. Miguel Rojanes
Speaks English
(044 999) 101-0060
Design and Construction, Renovations and New

Arq. Mercedes Sanchez and Alvaro Cervera
Cervera Sanchez Arquitectos
Speaks English
(044 999) 958-0961
Design and Construction, Renovations and New Residential

Arq. Pedro Herrera
Speaks English
(044 999) 127-2738
Design and Construction, Renovations and New



  • comanda mancare 6 months ago

    Piece of writing writing is also a excitement, if you be familiar with
    then you can write or else it is complex to write.

  • Hans Berkhof 2 years ago

    Harald Jezek" do you have an email address. I am interested in finding some property in the country not too far from Merida to build a house seems like you're the quy to ask for some info

  • Kevin Hogue 2 years ago

    Coming to the Area of Merida for the month of Sept. possibly longer. We are licensed insured contractors near Philadelphia and looking to open a maintenance/remodeling division in that area, and myself, the owner eventually locate. Any help is much appreciated. This website is a wealth of information so far. Thanks to all!

    Kevin Hogue
    Performance Construction & Property Maintenance LLC

  • CasiYucateco 4 years ago

    Well, there are so many variables, it is really hard to answer a wide open question.

    Do you want concrete block or mamposteria (stone) construction? Single thick or double thick walls?

    How high do you want the ceilings?

    Are you content with simple box form, or would you like architectural details like arches, columns, tile roofs, etc?

    It can even vary down to the number of electrical outlets, lights, and switches in a room due to conduit costs, etc.

    You really have to have a design and work with a building contractor or architect to decide the rough construction cost. Of course, you probably already know that "typical" electrical and plumbing work is done differently in Mexico.

    If you look above your post at the comments, people give various ideas of the construction costs. That gives you a rough idea, but the actual cost has too many variables to guess what someone wants based on two bedrooms, two baths, one story, IMHO.

  • John 4 years ago

    Hi, I am planning on building a small two bedroom two bath house all on one floor. I would like to know the approximate construction cost for the basic structure as I plan on doing the finishing touches on electrical and plumbing. I already have a well and septic. I also plan on installing all finishing touches such as tiling paint etc. Thanks...John

  • Jim 4 years ago

    Bob Derek

    I'm not sure what you mean when you say installing a transformer to give you reliable power, as a transformer will not give you anything when the system is down.
    In order to ensure yourself reliable power would be to either install a battery back-up system or an emergency generator.

    To run off the batteries you would need to install the following;
    Battery Charging System
    Inverter (go from DC to AC power
    Automatic Transfer Switch
    you will also need to isolate your "critical requirements" from the balance of your load as you will probably not have a large enough system to carry all loads

    As with the UPS system described above you will also need an automatic transfer switch for a generator and an automatic start system for it unless you want to do everything by hand and unless you buy a generator large enough to supply all of your loads you must either shed loads through your breakers or have an emergency panel for your critical loads.

  • Jim 4 years ago

    I am currently having an addition built on my place in Puerto Morelos and after having a few estimates given, I found the following unit rates for construction, note that all rates are given in pesos:

    Block 50/ square meter
    Roof 200/square meter
    Slab 150/square meter
    Footings 150/linear meter
    Concrete Posts 60/linear meter
    Exterior Finish 60/square meter

    These prices are not written in stone because my current contractor was willing to knock off almost 20% due to the fact that he wanted the work and was in the process of completing another project in the area. Key thing is to negotiate!!!
    By the way the building materials seem to be running me approximately 100 pesos/square foot and labor about the same. Water and sewer, doors, windows, electrical not included in the base price. Also one thing interesting to note is that your local building supply store is far cheaper than Home Depot!

  • Kevin Cott 4 years ago

    Scott "Answering your questions:

    I have $160,000 USD available to build a home in Merida. Excluding cost of land, what size home could be built to American standards for that kind of money? With back courtyard and moderate size pool.
    K.C. - For that budget, it could be done. It is all depends of the scale of the project.

    How long would it take to build a home?
    K.C. - I am a architect and we bought a colonial house, a two bedroom house, we built a pool and renovated the whole house. It took about 6 months. Having the money in your hands, as anything else, you can move things fast. My working team is very professional and they did an excellent work.

    After the home is finished what might it’s immediate resale value be?
    K.C. - At least 30% or more. All depends of the location.

    A general estimate is all I am looking for… Of course.
    K.C. - To get a price, you will need drawings for the scope of work.

    Look at it from the perspective that if you had the money what might you be able to build that would satisfy you own personal expectations.
    K.C. - Our house is a 2 bedroom colonial house in Merida, space enough for the three of us and we did everything with half of your budget (not including the cost of the house). We are very happy with the product.

    Thanks in advance for your input.
    K.C. - Sincerely,
    Kevin Cott - Architect, fluent in Spanish and English
    Experience in USA and Merida, Yucatan

  • Tom 4 years ago

    Thank you for the great information! We decided to rent and keep looking around :).

  • Working Gringos 4 years ago

    Just to clarify, many of us here also have water softening systems, which is what you might be referring to as the membrane system. This requires the addition of salt on a periodic basis, but salt is cheap and plentiful here. The reverse osmosis system is separate and in addition to the water softening system, which does use a membrane between the salt and the actual water that goes into your house.

    As you can imagine, we've been running computer systems for years here. We use a UPS system for each of them... a surge protector is not enough. And in a big lightning storm, we turn everything off. Also, we learned the hard way once that it is also important to unplug the telephone cord from the modem in a big storm. One lightning hit to a telephone pole, and your computer can still get fried, even if it is turned off.

  • David & Suzy 4 years ago

    "Bob Derek"

    There really are no maintenance costs involved with a pressure system other than the electricity to run the pump. By membrane system I assume you are referring to the membrane inside the pressure tank? Yes there is a membrane in the tanks to prevent the pump from turning on every time you turn on a faucet.

    The reverse osmosis setup is a separate system. Typical systems are small and located near or under a sink, consist of three small filters plus a small pump and pressure tank. This gives you a separate spigot near the sink that you can use for drinking water. Normally the filters are replaced yearly (I usually replace at 10 - 11 months). I do not remember the cost of these but they are relatively low cost. The system does use about 25 gallons of water a day to automatically flush its self periodically.

    It is usually recommended to use a water softener/conditioner in conjunction with the reverse osmosis system. The maintenance costs on the water softener is just the cost of the salt which again is minimal.

    I do not know about the transformer. Electrical outages and brown outs appear to be different depending on your location. I have had a few low voltage moments. I usually notice it when the TV gets dim when all of the cities air conditioners go on. I just turn the TV off. It may eventually burn out a pump motor if the pump is continually run in that condition but most pumps are cyclic and the odds are minimal.
    Personally I would not consider one. If you have a computer that is on all of the time you could protect it from under voltage with a computer power supply.

    Hope this answers some of your questions

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