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Renting a Home in Lake Chapala and Ajijic

renting a home in lake chapalaLet me start by saying, no worries, there are an abundant of rental properties in all price ranges in the Lake Chapala area. That being said, ‘you get what you pay for’ is just as true here as in other locations.

Rental prices by the month range from $400 usd a to $2,500 usd, depending on size, condition, location and time of year, and whether short term or long term. If I had to zero in on what you would have to pay, I’d say that most of our clients find that they need to pay somewhere between $850 and $1200 to get the amenities they are used to north of the border when they rent for several months at a time, just to give you some ballpark to work with.

Seasonal Rentals in Lake Chapala

The shorter the term in high season especially (Oct till April), the higher the price. Some people manage their own rental and charge by the week. These are by far the most expensive. However, if you rent by the year (or half year), you will pay much less. It is most common for people to rent for several months in high season.

High season is from October till April and since there are usually more people north of the border trying to escape the cold, we have more visitors during these winter months than the summer months, hence the prices will be the highest in high season. The peak of the high season is January, February and March. Property managers prefer to rent for the whole high season, so it is quite normal for them not to want to rent for short periods well in advance of the high season commencing. Therefore if you contact some to rent say for the month of February in July of the previous year, you may have difficulty getting a confirmation that far in advance.

More likely, if you are looking to rent in the peak of high season, the rental agency will advise you to just come a few days before you want the rental, stay in a B & B or hotel and then see what is available at that time. Mostly there is no shortage of rentals, so you should have a reasonable selection to choose from. Many people don’t like the idea of renting a property sight unseen anyway, especially if they have to pay a hefty sum up front to secure it. What if the location requires a vehicle and you are flying in, and won’t have a car? What if the house is poorly equipped or in poor condition or you don’t like the location? Especially if you have not visited the area prior and don’t know what to expect, you are more likely to have a good experience if you are able to see the property in person and decide on the spot.

You may get lucky and secure a rental early but odds are that most people will not commit until just before the season starts. 

Our somewhat biased advice is: Come first on a Focus on Mexico Program. Then you will have a chance to see for yourself if this is the place for you. Then when you are ready to come back for an extended stay, you will have a much better understanding and an idea of rentals and values and locations, plus you will have made a number of contacts. We also give you a list of our recommended Property Managers so you will be well looked after.

Furnishings and Amenities:

In the Lake Chapala area, we don’t have rental apartment buildings per sé; mostly you are renting individual homes or condo townhomes. The difference in condition and furnishings can be from one end of the scale to the other (not unlike north of the border). Some people buy an investment property and promptly furnish it with very few basic supplies and cheap rustico (uncomfortable) furniture and limited accessories, almost to the point it feels like camping out.

Others furnish the home like a show home, and full of creature comforts. The difference in the experience is night vs day. Obviously the luxuriously decorated home will rent for more, but more often than not, it is well worth it.

Often you will be renting someone’s home who is renting it out part time when not here, so you have the benefit of the full amenities they put in for themselves. Sometimes people have bought their dream home but aren’t able to move for a year or two, but furnish it nicely for when they will live there themselves, and rent it out until that time.

If you are coming for just a month or so, the condition of the home may not be as important as if you are renting long term. You tend to spend very little time at home if renting short time and most people eat out often at our abundant supply of great restaurants. If you are here longer term, the condition and set up takes on greater importance, as do the kitchen supplies, if you are planning on regular cooking and entertaining at home.

Things you should know about renting a home in Lake Chapala and Ajijic

  • Rental rates vary by season but you’ll find the range is between $400 and $2500 U.S., depending on duration of rental, season, age, condition and location. 
  • Most rentals, like most properties for sale, are priced in U.S. Dollars.
  • You need to be very clear on what is included and what is ‘additional.' Quite often a property comes with a gardener. Are his services included in the rate or additional, but required? (The same for the maid.)
  • For instance, in the summer of 2004 we took our dogs and our motor home and went traveling for four months. We decided to rent out our house while we were gone. We charged $1,000 U.S. per month rent plus the tenant paid our full-time maid ($400 pesos per week) and gardener ($500 pesos per week), which brought the monthly cost to rent in U.S. dollars up to about $1350 a month. So you can see how you might get a surprise if you are not precise.
  • Sign a lease, preferably in English. Also, be careful to read the lease. It is quite common here that when you rent a property, you take it ‘as is.’ If something breaks (Fridge, Water Heater, electrical problems, etc.), you are responsible for fixing it. Make sure the lease is very clear on what is included and what you are responsible for. This is one of the reasons many people prefer to deal with a Professional Agency and not rent from an individual, unless they know them.
  • It is also normal to pay the first and last months' rent in advance, plus one extra month to cover utilities (especially the phone – many renters in the past have run up huge long distance phone bills and left the owner ‘holding the bag’). When you leave, the Agent or Owner will pay the last month's utility bills and send you what is left over, usually about four to six weeks later, as the phone company here (TELMEX) may take a couple of months to capture all the previous calls.
  • DO NOT give post-dated checks. They can be deposited immediately.
  • DO NOT cancel a check. Cancelling a check is considered fraud and is a serious offence.
  • A number of Rental properties may also be For Sale. This is not normally a problem for short-term rentals (2 to 3 months), because if it does sell, closing can be timed for after the rental period. It can be inconvenient if the sales market is very active with lots of showings, however. For a longer term rental, in addition to perhaps being interrupted with a number of showings, the risk is the home could sell and they might ask you to leave. So, if the house is up for sale when you sign the lease, make sure there is a clause in there that the terms of your lease are passed on to the new owner and you are protected for the duration of your lease.

Updated May 13, 2013

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