Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2007 issue.

During our nearly 20 years in Vallarta, we have lived mostly in condominiums, situated in different communities and neighborhoods around the bay. Each has been unique, offering advantages and disadvantages concerning location, layout, price and numerous other things that should be taken into consideration before moving into or purchasing a condominium. It’s become somewhat of a game for us whenever we are looking for a new home, a search to find the perfect condominium. So many variables come into play when attempting to find a condo that will fit into your and your family’s lifestyle. You have to take into consideration work proximity (if you do indeed work), children and their ages (if any), and what it is you and your family most enjoy doing.

With regard to location, it’s sometimes nice to be outside of the downtown area where traffic and city noises are not a problem; however, you may find you have to do much more driving to go to a restaurant, attend an event or drive the kids to school. There’s nothing quite like living downtown where you can walk to nearly everything, but then there are still roosters crowing at 6 am and the hustle and bustle of people, cars and buses.

One couple we know retired outside of Vallarta in a wonderful home they built themselves on the beach in the jungle. They were quite happy out there for the first few years, but then they began to miss people! At first they enjoyed the solitude and privacy; however, after a while they missed the restaurant scene, seeing their friends regularly, the art walks, and ended up selling their home and building one above Gringo Gulch. Now they can walk into town to frequent their favorite restaurants and socialize. So, that adds another dimension to this search: what may be the perfect condo for you today may not be in five or 10 years!

So, you need to consider not just what your wants and needs are today, but what they will be down the line. As we get older, the four flights of stairs and no elevator may no longer be seen as a handy, built-in workout circuit. And I doubt the realtor, when you’re ready to sell, will see it that way either. We get married and have children, the children grow up and leave home — time can play havoc when searching for the perfect condominium.

Then there’s the size of the condominium. If it is just for a single person or a couple, a one-bedroom may do. Sometime, however, it’s nice to have a second room for company or an office or even a separate media room, which has become increasingly popular instead of using the living room for watching television. Storage always seems to be a problem with condominiums, although some of the newer projects now address that by offering secure storage space outside the condominium. And you can never have enough closet space! The extra room is nice, but the price increases, as does the chance of relatives showing up to visit. It’s sure nice when they do, but sometimes nicer when they leave!

And what about the size of the condominium project? If it’s a small development, you have only a few neighbors, so noise should be minimal; however, that also means there are fewer owners to share the homeowners association’s expenses, so monthly maintenance fees may be high. It also means fewer services and amenities than you’d find at a larger project. You can forget about a gym, spa, tennis courts and concierge service, but the alternative is probably living in a high rise with many other people, which isn’t as personal and private and perhaps will be noisier.

Parking is something you need to take into consideration. Having covered parking is nice, but also expensive. And if you can have an extra space for a second vehicle, boat or such, that’s even better. And are the parking stalls wide enough? We once had a condominium that came with a parking space, but when both of our neighbors were home the only way we could get into our SUV was through the back or the sunroof!

Today, having a swimming pool is usually part of the package, and you may want to consider its orientation. If it doesn’t get much sun, it may be cold in the winter (unless it’s heated, but then the heating bill starts adding up). Of course, that can be a plus, as not many people will be using it, meaning you’ll have it for yourself! If it does get plenty of sun, you may find that it stays too warm in the summer months, when you really do want to cool off. Jacuzzis can be nice, but they also need a good maintenance program. Even if they are not used regularly, the cost of operation can be significant. In one project, they just kept it empty because of the cost, which looked terrible. In another, they had it running all the time and always without any cover.

If the terrace faces south, you’ll have plenty of sunlight — perhaps even too much if you don’t have a decent overhang to block some of it, especially during the summer. Facing west offers wonderful sunsets but no sunrises. If you face east, you get the opposite: sunrises but no sunsets. Facing north means you won’t get enough sun on your terrace, but then that may be just what you want — great for the summers, but perhaps a little cool in the winter.

And what is it you’d like for a view? Beach and ocean views are nice, but they tend to cost more than the others. Golf courses are great backyards, as they are usually quiet and you have a huge lawn that someone else cuts for you. Hillside homes are wonderful, as they can offer spectacular views of the bay and are usually a few degrees cooler all year round, but they can be difficult to get to and there may not be many services and amenities nearby.

If you like playing golf, you probably will want to be in either Marina Vallarta or Nuevo Vallarta. Same goes if you are a boater. Having a condominium or a townhouse with a boat slip out your back door sure makes boating easier. But being near water or on a golf course can mean that bugs may be a problem, and if you are close to the ocean the salt air can affect your metalwork and appliances!

Living in a high rise will probably offer spectacular views, but then you need to take an elevator to get to your home everyday. Some developments will allow you to have a pet, but that means every other owner can also have a pet, and theirs may not be as well behaved as yours.

There are a lucky few who have gotten around some of these obstacles by having two homes in Vallarta: one on the beach outside of Vallarta, where prices aren’t as expensive and it’s less crowded, and another downtown, where they can drive in and spend a few days enjoying the restaurants, shopping and such. But that’s only available for the few who can afford it. And with that comes twice as much maintenance work and double the costs. You have two wonderful places but you are always working on maintaining them.

And so, we’ve come to realize over the years that there really is no perfect condominium. Each individual, couple or family needs to consider what their wants and needs are, both today and in the future, and base their buying decisions on that. Some condos will fulfill their needs better than others, but then those others may be just right for someone else. We are fortunate that Vallarta has plenty of locations, sizes and price ranges to choose from. So, although you may not be able to find the perfect one, you certainly should be able to find something pretty close!