Real Estate Tips and Secret Destinations in Merida, Yucatan with Keith Heitke

Keith Heitke

In today’s episode I chat with Keith Heitke who shares some tips on real estate in Mexico and secret gems he knows of, from being in the Yucatán for 13 years. Keith and his partner David Sterling moved to the Yucatán in 2003 from Manhattan, NYC. The biggest reason for the move was because of 911. They considered living in Spain, however, the real estate was really expensive and the weather wasn’t what they were expecting. They moved to Mérida with no job and didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Keith is a senior sales agent for Mexico International Real Estate. He specializes in luxurious homes in Mérida. Keith’s partner David is the founder of Los Dos Cooking School and the author of the James Beard Foundation 2015 Cookbook, the Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition.

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Can I own anything in Mexico?

Real estate in Mexico is pretty straight forward, there aren’t any tricks. Mexico has a very old law; they basically don’t want another Spanish Invasion. If you want to go anywhere in Mexico and buy something from a Mexican and you are a foreigner, you can just go do that. However, if you are 50 km inland from any part of the coast, there is a Fideicomiso Trust. You are only allowed to buy a certain amount of land, unless you are a corporation. If you don’t pay the fees they collect, the penalty if about $1 a year. So don’t worry too much. Before you sell a home, you have to have those fees paid. It can be confusing when your fees are due. Unlike in the US where they tell you every year when your property taxes are due, in Mexico your Fideicomiso is due whenever. That is why the penalties are so low, which they don’t remind you of either. Some places will hang a banner to let you know your Fideicomiso is due.

What are some of your secret spots?

David wrote a book so they have been traveling more on the book tour. They absolutely love Mexico City. That isn’t really a secret spot, but it is a place they would visit often. There are really two different Méridas: the one most of the tourist see and a hidden gem. You can get into the car and go to high class restaurants. Keith says the beach there isn’t his favorite, but he is glad it is there. There are museums and galleries. There is an event almost every day. You have to come on Sundays, the town blocks off the streets and they have a big bike ride through town. The main square comes alive with different vendors and things.

I am a foreigner; how do I meet people?

It is the easiest thing possible. You go to two parties and then you get invited to everything else, and then you get invited to their friends’ parties and then you pick out which ones you like. It is very easy to make friends here.

Funny stories Keith has been privileged to witness:

It is very warm in Mérida, when the temperature drops to 70 degrees you will see the Yucatán people wearing scarves, hoodies and gloves, because they are freezing and not used to the colder temps. Keith said he saw a Canadian lady that same day in a tube top walk by the locals, and she was sweating.

Keith was walking home the other day and saw a broken down Volkswagen. There was a young family standing at the side of the road. They were enjoying themselves waiting for help to arrive. Keith said, just seeing that family having a good time instead of yelling at each other about why their car broke down is one of the sole reasons they moved to the Yucatán.

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