BuyPlaya Realtor Q&A with Marieke Brown
The Riviera Maya is a fantastic place to own real estate, just ask BuyPlaya real estate expert Marieke Brown! Below, Marieke answers a few of our questions about what it's like to live and work in the Riviera Maya, what's it's like to raise a family here, and she shares her best tips for buying a permanent home, a vacation home or a rental investment property.
What brought you to the Riviera Maya?
I was a diving instructor, teaching diving in Aberdeen, Scotland. About 3 days before Christmas in 2004, I was on the side of an icy quarry teaching an open water course and being blasted by freezing winds. I swore at that moment that this would be my last winter in the cold, and the following year I relocated to the warm and sunny shores of the Riviera Maya! Needless to say I haven’t had a cold winter since!
What's the best thing about living here?
Most people think that it’s the warm weather, the vivid blue waters of the sea, or the powder white beaches. It is, of course, all of those things, but for me it’s actually the people! The local people are incredibly warm and kind. When I first arrived I didn’t speak any Spanish at all. I was basically adopted by a local Mayan family who would share lunch in their home with me every day. I would contribute the tortillas and wash the dishes before heading back to work. Even 12 years on, they are very much my Mexican family, and I have watched their kids be born and grow, and have learned a huge amount from them.
What's it like raising a family here?
I have 2 young sons who we have chosen to raise here. It’s a fantastic place for kids to grow up, on so many levels. When our kids want to go for a run around we ask them if they want to go to the beach, the jungle, or the Mayan ruins. Mayan ruins are particularly fun places for kids as they are great for running and climbing, as well as being very interesting for mom and dad. The schools here are also excellent. My younger son is in a Montessori preschool, and my older son is in an international school. Both schools are bilingual and the children are from all over the world. There is a large selection of schools to choose from ranging from traditional teaching methods, to Waldorf, Montessori, and there is also a Bali Green School due to open on the coast soon.
What is your favorite activity/place to visit in the Riviera Maya?
Diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea and in the Cenotes (fresh water sinkholes) are big favorites here. There are also several reserves/parks/rescue centers, where you can see and interact with wildlife. The Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Crococun are some of our favs for interaction with animals and it also supports these facilities which rescue all kinds of animals and rehabilitate and release where they can, or care for them when it’s not possible to release them. I am a big fan of the parks of Xcaret, Xel Ha, Xplor, and Xenses. They are really well done and you could go again and again and still see new things there.
Where is your favorite day trip for a day or two off?
Gosh, there are lots of cool places that we like to go for a weekend. I’ll start with day trips. If you haven’t been to the area before, then the ancient Mayan metropolis of Chichen Itza (one of the 7 man-made wonders of the world) is a hugely popular day trip.
If you want something a little more off the beaten path, I really like the ruins at Ek Balam. It’s a beautiful site and much quieter that Chichen Itza. On the way there you drive through the village of Temozon, which specializes in smoked meats. Its nice to stop there for lunch or a snack and we usually take some of their delicious smoked meats home too. You usually go through the beautiful colonial town of Valladolid on this day trip also, and it’s well worth a stop! Don’t miss Casa de los Venados which houses the largest collection of Mexican folk art outside of a museum. The house itself is an architectural gem, and the hosts are wonderful.
Another day trip that I love is to the town of Rio Lagartos to see one of the largest flamingo colonies in the world, and take a float in the salt lagoon. If you love wild and unspoilt beaches and oodles of wildlife, venture down into the UNESCO protected biosphere of Sian Ka’an. Even better, go with a nature guide for maximum immersion!
For weekend trips, I can highly recommend the city of Merida, especially around Mexican festival dates. You can take a horse drawn carriage down the mansion lined Paseo Montejo, and feel like artistocracy from days gone by. Driving to Merida is awesome as you go past Chichen Itza and lots of other ruins as well as huge cenotes, and traditional Mayan villages. Bacalar is also a lovely weekend away, with its spectacularly blue lagoon.
In Whale Shark season, we like to spend a night or two on the Island of Holbox, and take the tour from there. You can take day trips to see the Whale Sharks out of Cancun, which are great, but the Holbox tour is a bit quieter, not so many boats. I like that. Isla Mujeres is also a nice overnight trip. Rent a golf cart and explore all around the island. It has delicious restaurants to enjoy in the evening too. There are many more, but those are the ones off the top of my head.
What do you enjoy most about working in real estate?
Real Estate in the Riviera Maya is not just the selling and buying of property. Obviously spending my days showing people around beautiful beachfront homes is pretty good for the soul. For many of our buyers, owning or building a home here is something that they have saved for all of their lives. It’s an incredible feeling to help someone to find and buy the home of their dreams, and this by far my favorite part of working in Real Estate here.
What has been the most impactive change you’ve seen develop in the Riviera Maya while you have lived here?
The most impactful change would be the rapid growth that the area is experiencing. Investment, specifically foreign investment, has seen this previously sparsely populated coastline boom, generating jobs, opportunities, and some of the highest average salaries in Mexico for the local people. Tourism has opened up this land of rich culture to visitors, making it possible for the indigenous communities to profit from sharing and preserving their traditions.
What makes the Riviera Maya such a great area to buy?
The Riviera Maya is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, and is a hot bed for investment. With capital appreciation of around 10% a year in many areas, in addition to good rental incomes, it makes a lot of financial sense to buy here. The Riviera Maya has also been voted the easiest and most popular place for retirees to relocate to, as there are many of the amenities and comforts of home here, and also Cancun Airport is a hub from which an enormous number of direct flights depart to destinations all over the world. Schools and medical care are great, which add to the very high standard of living that we enjoy here, at a very reasonable price.
What advice would you give someone looking to buy a property in the Riviera Maya?
I would recommend that they find a great realtor from a well established firm, who will help them to find the perfect place, and guide them through the purchase process safely and smoothly.
What listing would you recommend for purchase by a friend that was looking for a good return on investment aka vacation rental?
Most of the condos in downtown Playa and Tulum are making good ROIs. I believe that Akumal is the next place to see big growth, and you can find incredible deals on beachfront accommodations. My top tip for ROI has to be this boutique hotel in Tulum. The current owners are currently enjoying a 6 figure net income which supports a very nice life here, with effectively hands off management!
If you have a bit more to spend I would suggest one of the beach front villas like Casa de los Pelicanos which, with a good rental program in place, turn a very healthy ROI. You also have the bonus of owning a fabulous beach front villa!
What listing would you recommend for purchase by a friend that was looking for a home to live in permanently with family?
Or a villa in Puerto Aventuras like Casa Caroline are all good options. The best deal on the market right now for a full time residence is John House in the Riviera Maya Golf Residences. There is no school in this community but the nearest good international school is just 20mins away. John House is also perfect for people who want to live here full time who love golf! It's on one of the top 3 courses in Mexico and you get preferential rates on your golfing as well as the resort and beach club.
What listing would you recommend for purchase by a friend that was looking for a place to live in as a snow bird?
For snow birds, there are a plethora of great condos that you can rent out when you are not here, or just close up for the summer, and come back to in the fall. This penthouse here is my favorite for that: Kin Ha Penthouse. It has an ocean view, which is rare for one that’s not on the beach, and its super spacious at 210m2 If you want to be beachfront, then Luna Azul 7 is a great choice. Reasonable running costs and a view that is unbeatable!
Marieke has also appeared on HGTV's #MexicoLife Adventures in Riviera Maya!
These are just some of the vacation homes and condos we have for sale at BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors. We’re experts in Riviera Maya real estate and we’d love to help guide you through the process of buying your dream home or rental investment in paradise. Contact us today!