Did You Know the Majority of Homes in Mexico Are Not Built by Professionals?

If you spend much time in Mexico, you can’t help but notice that many of the homes in the small towns and rural areas appear to be in a state of mid-construction. It’s not uncommon to see unfinished block walls and rebar sticking up out of the roofs on numerous houses in any given neighborhood.

When my wife and I first moved to Mexico four years ago, we really didn’t give it much thought, but when we started making friends with some of the locals, we learned that many of them were slowly constructing their own homes.

Back in the States when someone says their building their home, they usually mean that they hired a professional or several professionals (subcontractors) to construct it. But in Mexico, when someone tells you that, chances are that they’re doing the work themselves or with the help of family members.

It’s estimated that approximately 70% of Mexicans construct their own homes and that approximately 64% of the homes in the country were constructed without the supervision of an architect or engineer.

That’s certainly something to keep in mind if you’re buying a preexisting home in Mexico. You can’t take for granted that it was built by professionals or even that it was built to code.

Do-It-Yourself Courses

In researching this particular topic, I came across several free online courses designed to teach people in Mexico the fundamentals of building their own homes.

The best one, by far, was created by the Fundación Carlos Slim. It consists of 65 videos, 33 PDFs and numerous quizzes. The lesson plan is very impressive. You can check it out here:

Curso de Autoconstrucción

Note- You don’t have to create an account to view the course. Just close out the sign-in box when it appears.

Let’s Wrap This Up

In our case, we chose the easy route. We bought a condo in a gated development that was built by a reputable developer, but we do know several expats who chose to buy preexisting houses that were constructed in a more informal manner.

No matter which way you choose to go, the advice is the same — always do your research and never buy sight unseen.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

23 Comments on "Did You Know the Majority of Homes in Mexico Are Not Built by Professionals?"

  1. terry davis | June 26, 2019 at 8:36 am |

    I’m not sure if this is true or not but more then twenty five years ago I asked about why so many buildings looked unfinished and was told that while under construction the Govt. would not increase the property tax until finished so no one ever finished. You needed to have a few pieces of rebar stinking up as you saved the money for the second or third story.

    • It is still true and is a common reason given by locals for living in a perpetual state of construction…lol.

  2. Steve in Lakeside | June 26, 2019 at 8:41 am |

    To my knowledge there is no “code” here in Mexico. This is most evident in homes’ electrical systems, and is the one area that homebuyers need to be most diligent inspecting when house hunting. Reverse polarity is almost the norm, and outlets and electrical equipment near showers, etc are commonplace. Inadequate breakers is another problem. We have first hand experience of this. Also, there are really no qualifications required to say you are a plumber or electrician, so quality references and referrals are a must also.

  3. Karla Hinton | June 26, 2019 at 9:23 am |

    I bought a condo built by a developer in a gated community, and I can tell you I doubt it would meet any building codes. It looks very nice, but the things we are discovering as we live there are not good. Now we have learned the government has shut down another project from this developer because it did not meet building standards. Buyer beware!

  4. I heard that they left them unfinished so that they could increase the size when the family got larger. Typically the grandparents and the children and their children would live there.

    • Yes, that and tax reasons. For the first time in my life, I was asked if I wanted to help lay block on someone’s house…lol.

  5. Hi
    I tried the link but it goes to a page that presumes I already have a log in. Is there another page I can go to to sign up?

    Thank you

    • The site default is to sign-up so you get credit for the course. You can hit the X on that block and view the material. Each time, you access a video, it will try to get you to sign-in. You can create a free account by clicking on “Necesitas una cuenta, registrate aqui” located at the bottom of that box,

      This was actually the site where I learned how to fix the air conditioners in my condo.

  6. We visit Isla Mujeres every few years and noticed the same thing. We were told by a business owner, who is now a good friend, and told us the same thing about taxes and unfinished homes. Makes for an interesting build. We’ve taken pictures of a few homes each time and they add on a little bit each year but never look “finished”.

  7. Fran Clark aka Ethel Merts | June 26, 2019 at 2:11 pm |

    Does that mean they are not regulated by all the ‘stuff’ that builders and contractors have to deal with in the USA?

    • If you go the right way, they are. The problem in Mexico, is that the majority of people build their own houses, whether or not they have the expertise. That only presents a problem if you end up buying one of these structures.

  8. Ronald h MINTER | June 26, 2019 at 3:13 pm |

    I found a builder with a good reputation, visited 4 houses that he had built and talked with the owners. I then obtained the plans for two of them. Made many changes to build one house and had the builder get them reproduced on Autocad. He submitted them to the planning authority. I read up on the main building rules and then followed up weekly either directly or by requesting photographs. Everything was built to Code and I have had no problems.

    • That’s great. That is definitely the way to go. We know some reputable builders in the area and many expats go that route. Financially speaking, that isn’t always an option for the locals.

  9. Getting a reputable licensed builder doesn’t mean you will get a great job or get the job finished.
    Same in the USA and Canada
    You must be very astute on monitoring the project and not paying too much up front
    They often disappear with the money!

  10. Impressive that Carlos Slim is funding these instructional videos. What a great way for the richest man in Mexico and probably one of the richest in the world to give back to the people in his country.!

  11. When I was growing up, building your own home was not uncommon at all. I am, of course, older than you. Now all the regulations and restrictions, the monopoly, basically, ensure that very few people can actually afford a home anymore. Sure, you can buy one through the by selling your soul and lifetime to the bank.

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