The basics of building your own house in Mexico
Does the idea of building your own house in Mexico excite you with the possibilities? Do you want that dream home or just the opportunity to design your own space? Can you build your own house in Mexico for a fraction of the cost? In this article we are going to talk about some of the basic things you need to decide on when building your own house. We will focus on building a house in Playa Del Carmen and the Riviera Maya, but many of the things mentioned here apply to many areas of Mexico.
How much does it cost to build a house in Mexico?
This question comes up on many forums and people reply with some different rough square meter (feet) prices for construction in Mexico. There really are too many factors to give you an good estimate. The way you design your house and the finishes you want will greatly affect the cost of construction.
For example the new “Tulum style” is relatively easy to build, modern and affordable. It entails polished concrete floors and little tile usage. Bathrooms have a smooth cement (polished concrete or chukum) on the walls. Spaces are more open and there are less finishing touches that add up. This type of modern and clean design can make our dream come true at a much cheaper price.
One way to look at house cost is the prices for a basic house in a planned community. It is possible to get a new three-bedroom house for about $55,000 USD. These houses are being sold with a profit, so you know that inexpensive construction is possible here. This is a very basic construction and sometimes with no closets included, but it does give you an idea. these types of houses are usually row homes and have very small rooms. So, this is not a cost that most people would go by, this is just an extreme example of what it can cost to build something basic.
Most houses built in Mexico cost 1/3 the cost of construction in other countries.
Cost of labor and material for building a house
Labor in Mexico is lower paid then most areas people are coming from. Just to give you an idea of prices, a construction worker (abaniles , a common name of a people who works with concrete construction) gets between 300 and 600 pesos on average per day. This would be most of the crew building your house. This is often what construction workers in other countries get in one hour!
Where you build your house, at what standards you want and how complicated it is, will dictate the skill level of your laborers. Overall labor cost are what makes building a house in Mexico much more affordable.
Cost of building materials
Materials are more standard in price thanks to globalization. Prices for concrete, concrete blocks, and rebar are slightly lower but are similar in price to other countries.
Some things are the same or more than other countries. This can include tile, faucets, and lighting fixtures.
Learning local materials and building practices will save you a lot on your home. Palapa roofs over outdoor spaces, using local stone on facades, Mexican brands of paint and things like this can save you thousands of dollars.
3 areas of Playa Del Carmen where you might build a house
If you are looking to build a house in Playa Del Carmen or the area, here are some factors you need to consider.
- If you are looking at the downtown area to build a house you will need to think about cost of land and permit process. Most of the central area of Playa Del Carmen is being turned into higher buildings with multiple units. (See our article on Playa Del Carmen growing up). This means that land cost are much higher and often not cost effective just to build a house. Your permit process will also be more rigorous in the center.
- In a planned community. There are developments with lots for sale (mostly on the south and north end of Playa Del Carmen). These areas can be attractive because they are regulated and you can have some assurance of how the area develops. This does however mean that you have certain restrictions on what you build, size and many other restrictions. Some of these are so restrictive it means basically picking a model of approved houses and deciding on finishes.
- Outlaying areas of downtown and just outside Playa Del Carmen. Once you get into some of the newer parts of Playa or just outside you do need to think about services. This is not just electric, it can mean cell signal and internet. This can mean going off grid (see our article on sustainable living in Mexico). The good news about choosing to build a house out of the center or outside of town are the amount of restrictions and easier permit process.
You found where you want to build, now what?
Now that you have found where you want to build a house, now comes who will design it. The normal step is first to an architect. They can draw up plans on what you want. The good news is that there are many architects and assistants here in Mexico. Many work affordably and this can be a money saving step over building a house in another place.
Most architects will know either construction companies or builders to work with. Some work hand in hand and others can refer you to people. We do mention construction companies and builders separate. Construction companies are more a one stop for having a general contractor as well a facilitators to process the permits. Builders are more the people that do the hands on construction. If you are willing to take a more hands on approach, then you might not go the full route with a construction company. However we will say that you will need to be available, speak Spanish and be very knowledgeable about the building process. Most methods of construction and terms are different from other countries. It is good to familiarize yourself with the terminology before starting to build a house.
Note: Selecting builders or contractors should not depend on if they are from your home country or speak perfect English. There have been cases where fast talking American or Canadian contractors have gotten jobs but have scammed clients out of money. There are bad Mexican contractors as well. Just take your time and try to get references and look at examples of work from people before hiring them.
Tip: Make sure you know the immigration status of who you are hiring. If the person is not Mexican they must have permission to work within Mexico. Immigration can check and if someone is found working on your house that does not have the appropriate visa, you can get fined.
The methods of building a house in Mexico
For those of you from the rest of North America and Europe you will find that building methods are very different in Mexico. There is no wood framing and everything is concrete. Concrete block and poured cement is the basic makeup of buildings here. The most obvious reasons is the climate, termites, and the limited timbers.
The foundation of building a house in Mexico
Since many parts of Mexico, and especially the Yucatan Peninsula, have limestone close to the surface, excavation is done to reach this. Once the bedrock is reached, a stone foundation is built. It is good to check the thickness of the rock and make sure there is not a cenote below or caves. From there the walls are built with a combination of rebar enforced pillars and filled in with concrete block. Second floors and roofs are made with concrete beams (vigas) and filled in with special concrete blocks or blocks of Styrofoam.
Wiring and plumbing of a house in Mexico
Once the basic structure is up, plumbers and electricians chip out channels in the walls to run wire and tubes. After they have things in place they will go back and patch the walls with a mixture of cement and sand. This might sound backward since you could install pluming and wires during the construction phase, but it is easier to do it after the basic structure is up.
Windows and doors
Windows are all measured after building the spaces for them. Most windows are “custom made” this way. House windows in Mexico are usually single glazed and only very high end construction uses hurricane glass or double glazed insulated glass. Most doors are made form wood and custom built by a carpenter. There are some factory doors available at Home Depot for example, but not many people use these.
Finishing up your home
Now the finishing touches like tile and painting happen. The outside walls are prepped with a sealer before painting . The roof is often covered with a red or white sealant to help keep out water. Many times things have to be gone over again and again as different work overlaps with each other. The good thing is, most things are easy to repair, paint or re cement.
Where to buy materials for your house
Many from north of the boarder know Home Depot. This is a one stop shopping store for your materials. This is actually a new concept in Mexico. In the past most stores have had a specialty. Some stores would sell paint some plumbing supplies and others tile. This might seem a bit tiring to check all the different stores but they do come in handy when you need to ask someone a detailed question and they can answer you. Most of the time the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful.
When building a house the labor cost and materials are separated. If you are doing more of the general contracting work, it will be expected of you to get list of materials and order them. This process works well because laborers can focus on the job and you also get a part in controlling the materials.
Tip: Most places do not have a large warehouse. Specialty materials like tile will need to be ordered well in advance. This can be frustrating and slow down work on the house while waiting. Plan ahead and order so you can keep things moving.
Construction stores in Playa Del Carmen
You will find that many things are more expensive at Home Depot or lower quality for the same price. It is good to shop around. So what are some construction stores to look at when building a house? Here is a short list.
- Boxito– This is the most Home Depot like store in Mexico. It has a showroom but you still have to ask for many items behind the counter. There are two locations in Playa Del Carmen.
- Construrama- This construction store is more for materials like concrete, rebar, block and sand. They have several locations in Playa Del Carmen. We would link to their website but it has nothing on it now.
- Niplito– This is the more upscale plumbing store. You can see a range of kitchen faucets, bathroom hardware and sinks and toilets.
- Supesa-This is a little lower down in price from Niplito but offers more plumbing supplies.
- Ceramat-A large tile warehouse.
- Home Depot-Everything in isles and ready to go home with you. You can see more about products at the Home Depot in Playa Del Carmen here in our article.
For smaller things, tools and things you might need for doing small projects, hardware stores are a good place to go. Hardware stores in Mexico are called a ferreteria. These often are smaller in size and dispersed in residential neighborhoods.
One hardware store that is good to know about is Jako. This store is very good for door hardware, sliding doors on tracks and kitchen drawer hardware. You can read more here in our article on Jako.
Controlling materials for construction
Materials for building you home will add up and can get out of control. To many that have never built a house in Mexico before, the amount of concrete, block and rebar is not really something you can estimate. Therefore it is good to keep control over this so you are not paying for too much.
One way to start is by having a construction company write up a detailed materials list with cost. Getting this proposal will give you an idea on how much you will spend. If you do enter into a contract with a construction company, make it clear in the contract who pays for extra materials needed and to what percent you are responsible for.
If you are going to be onsite during construction this will give you an opportunity to keep an eye on materials. Making sure everything gets delivered and that none of the workers are taking or selling materials on the side. This can happen and having a good contractor or you onsite will help prevent this.
Having someone manage the project is key to making sure the right amounts of cement are added to concrete. This will keep it strong for years. You don’t want a construction crew cutting cost and having problems later with the structural integrity of your house. Most abaniles have a mixture ratio for each project. It can vary a little, but in general it is in a small range.
Tip: Normally deliveries come as they are orders but problems come more with workers. Cement is practically a currency. Each bag cost just over 200 pesos. This is about half a days wage. Cement is very useful and easy to sell. Keeping materials locked up overnight is also a must.
Paying labor and insurance
Traditionally large construction companies pay workers on the 1st and 15th of the month. If you work with a construction company you may only need to make a deposit and then set up a payment schedule. If you are going to be working more closely with the laborers then it is normal to pay every Saturday afternoon. Most construction workers (like most people in Mexico) work 5 1/2 days a week.
If you are having any work done, it is customary to have a small upfront payment. This is not with individual workers, just the people like bosses or general contractors. The deposit payment can go for things like renting equipment and covering the cost of the start to construction. Most of the time, not much is needed to start work, but it is a balance between the contractors feeling sufficient to take on the job and plan their time to be on your project.
The initial payment is normally about 1/10th the overall cost, then it is broken down into payments and a reserve of about 20% as a final payment once everything is done. This last payment will keep assured the finishing touches will get done. Making payments assures the work gets done and they done leave in the middle and leave you hanging.
Insurance for those building your house
In Mexico it is required for everyone to have IMSS. This is the healthcare coverage for everyone working. It is important to get it in writing who is making the payments to IMSS. Either the construction company can make payments or you. This is only basic coverage but it is important for people working hard to have it. If you are caught without providing it, you will get fined, often on the value of the project.
End of year payment
If your project goes for more than 6 months (and most do) there is a traditional bonus payment in December. It is called “aguinaldo” in Mexico and is based on law. Normal employees have a right to this and it usually 15 days pay. Freelancers do not official get this and some construction workers fall into a grey area. It is good to know about this ahead of time to plan your expenses. If you have a crew of 10 people, this can be an expense of about 2000 USD.
Having a contract
Getting things in writing will ease both parties minds. It also sets clear expectations for both sides. Here are a few things to discus with contractors and workers.
- If you are paying a weekly payment, it is good to know the hours they will be working each day. Some like to start at 7am to beat the heat, but it will depend on your location if it is officially possible to start making noise that early.
- If your project is going to take months to a year, ask what holidays they will be taking off. There always seems to be some saint or even the Day of the Albanils.
- Have it in writing or informal regarding what services you will provide onsite. If you are dealing with workers directly, often there is water provided and sometimes a meal in the morning or tacos. It is something very informal, but a good motivation for the workers and a way to get started for the day.
- Have the incremental payments and dates set. When there are problems and sometimes a contractor leaves the job, leaving you high and dry, there is not much you can do, even with a contract, so it is always best not to pay too much upfront.
Hiring and working with carpenters
Most homes will require some carpentry skills to finish the job. Since most houses are not all built to the same sizes, doors, for example, are custom made for houses. If you also want to add some built in cabinets, kitchen cabinets or furniture for your new house, you will need to work with local carpenters.
There are many things in Mexico that are different and working with a local carpenter with all new types of wood, can be a challenge. We have a whole guide on what to ask before starting work and how to plan a project. We hope our guide to working with local carpenters in Mexico is a help to you.
Why building a house in Mexico is so stressful
If you talk to individuals that have taken on a project themselves to some extent, most will comment how stressful it was and possible affect the relationship. This is a very common comment. Why is this? One of the reasons is the fact that thousands of decisions have to be made during the process. Some decisions are needed in the planning process, but there will also be many issues that arise, and a decision is needed to move forward. Each decision affects you financially and can come down to opinion. When there is a couple working on a construction project, you often have two opinions that you have to meld into one concrete decision. This all adds a lot of stress on a couple.
To avoid problems, starting with a good contractor and having a well-constructed contract as to what is included. Knowing what things, you want to focus on and what items you will spend more on is a good way to get started. Then perhaps divide decisions between the two of you, so that in certain parts of the project one person can quickly make a decision.
We hope this gives you some basic information to get you started with your dreams of building a house in Playa Del Carmen or the area. Building a home is rewarding but also very stressful. Calculate the cost before jumping in. Many a relationship have been tested with the numerous decisions and unexpected situations you find yourself in.
Most people will tell you to expect it to take longer and run over cost of what you are told. There are many things that make building a house in Mexico unique. If you go ahead with it, it will be a learning process and hopefully in the end you have just what you wanted.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for other readers that might be looking to attempt building a house here, feel free to leave a comment below.
If you are thinking about moving to Playa Del Carmen, see our full guide here with tons of details. We also have a detailed Playa Del Carmen real estate guide.
Now that you have read this article on home construction, you might like to see what is here for furniture stores. You can see a list here in our article.
Securing your home is also important. During the planning process there are things you can design to make your home safe. Here are 20 tips for home safety here.
Hi do you know a good building company that do everything?
The short answer is no. But here are some tips for you. It will depend on where you buy. If you buy in a planed community they may have a list of builders. Some places have only a few styles of houses allowed. In Mexico there are architects, construction companies and builders/labor. Architects design your home and many will have builders they work with. A construction company looks like architects but takes your ideas and plans and works with builders to do the house. If you want to be the general contractor you can just look for labor. So depending on where you are starting from, for example you need an architect, start there after selecting one and see what builders they recommend. An important question is to ask about previous work. You can see the style online but look at places in person and then ask if they will use the same builders if you like that quality. If you need some more tips, just send of a message or comment here.
Good afternoon I’m just wondering if you have any recommendations or company’s that do kitchen renovations?
No sorry Belinda. Your best bet is to ask around to the local expats to see if anyone has done it recently. Most people are looking for a carpenter. There are no specialist really that do kitchens since many are either concrete or hand built wood. We wish we could have a list but they are always changing.
Any suggestions for a good architect? I want to builds house in Playa del Carmen
Sorry we don’t have any good recommendations at this time for an architect. It will be good to ask around in the expat community for those that have built here to see how theirs were for a personal recommendation. We wish you the best.
what is the cost of cheap budget for making bungalows in mexico with 4 rooms 2 bathrooms, fences around the house … including labor and insurance charges …
That is a loaded question because there are hundreds of details that need to be figured in. For one, it will depend on where in Mexico or even the Riviera Maya you build them. Labor cost different in places. Do you want a palapa roof and rustic walls or cement block and stucco? Why type of details are in the buildings? You can build something basic for $25,000 USD but there are a lot of factors.
Dear Sir, I really want to build in Playa del Carmen.
Please send me more information!
These tips here are the best ones we have to get you started. Of course first you will need land to build on. We do recommend some realtors in the area.https://everythingplayadelcarmen.com/realtors-playa-del-carmen/ The next step in finding an architect you like to make plans. Then working with builders. We don’t have any recommendations on those two fronts, so that will take some effort on your part to ask around for personal experience of people that have built and searching online for architects and getting information from the.
Thanks for sharing these amazing tips with us. These tips are really very helpful to us.
Hi. How much does it approximately costs to build an affordable moderate 1+1 apartment in Oaxaca?
What is a 1+1 apartment? Is that two unit building? If so and not counting the cost of land, it will cost roughly about 40,000 usd.
There are some that have been used in Tulum for stores. Each municipality will have their own regulations, so it depends on where you want to use it. In Playa Del Carmen there is a food court area on 10th Ave and 4th Street made from shipping containers. It might be worth a stop there to ask for details on where they got them and building codes for them. If you are thinking of a rural area, there are very few restrictions.
Hi, thank for all the valuable information. I have the land in Tulum. I want 3 bedrooms 3×4 meters,2 bathrooms. I want simple Tulum style, can you give me an approximate estimate?
We are not builders but have experience doing projects personally. There are still many factors with building a house but in general somewhere from 80k/100k USD can get the house built for you. The best step is to look for a construction company that will plan out the project and build it for you. We do know someone that just built a house of that size and is looking to build two more over time. We could possibly put you in contact with them to see if it would fit you well. We are waiting to hear back from them to see if they are open to taking on another project. If you want to email us, we can be in touch that way if you like. Our email is under the about us tab.
Hello can you please explain what a finiquito is.
Are you referring to a fidecomisco?
I want to build a house in Belen New Mexico 3 Bedrooms, Two and half bathrooms living room and dining room,one floor.please can I get idea how much cost to do this Thanks
Since you are looking to buy in New Mexico and build there, that is a different market. The cost of labor and some materials is totally different.
I am contacting you from Manchester UK. I was in Riviera Maya in March 2019 and had a bad accident in the Hotel. I fell on an unlit path in the hotel. I have a claim against the Travel company. But need to establish the local building standards Is there an office in Riviera Maya for information on local building standards. Would you be able to provide any help with sourcing office for this.
Any help please.
How long usually takes to build a house about 1000m²,
2 bedrooms 2 bathrooms open space 1 storey? Such as the “Tulum Style” mentioned above.
Part of the equation is how big of a team of workers you have. Some start with 8 others with 20 people. Having more can move things forward faster, but have more downtime for some workers since they have to wait for other people to finish a project or dry. Most house projects take about 8 months. 6 months is possible and slow project can take a year. So this might give you some idea about times. It will depend on how many details you want and finishes. The basics can go up fast, it is often the details that take twice as long.
We are building a Villa in Mexico that has just started with the new restrictions in the world we don’t feel we will be able to be onsite as often as we should. Although we trust the builder we are thinking of hiring someone to check in on things for us! Would you have any recommendations on how often and what they should be checking etc?
You would need someone familiar with the process of building that can be a third party to oversee things. The person should be able to look to see if the time for supports are used when pouring concrete, right mixes of all the material, making sure materials arrive on time and are stored properly, check details according to the plans, sometimes builders assume things and you have to go back and change it, costing time and money. The person should check the finishes like polido and stucco to make sure it is done correctly. Often just having a third party keeps the builders and workers more focused on the job and shows that you are serious about having it done correctly and how you want. Perhaps every other day is a good routine to visit and see how things are going. This would allow time to correct anything that was done wrong before too much happens. On days with big pours of concrete, maybe being there for those days to make sure it goes well.
Also, it is common for new homeowners to be excited when parts of work are done, but take your time to inspect and think about it. Often people are excited and thank the builders for the staircase (for example) only to realize months later one step is not the same height.
Good builders will give you options and explain why they recommend certain things. Some builders only take what you say and do it without giving some of their local expertise. Also, some basic builders do not live in fancy houses, so a lot of concepts of a villa are not well understood. They might know the process from other construction projects, but not the why and how behind design plans.
Thank you for your comments we appreciate it
I would like to buy a piece of land in San Antonio de las Minas in Ensenada Mexico. Do you know a good architect in this area?
No unfortunately we do not. That is pretty far from us on this side of Mexico. You could try some of the local Facebook groups of expats and ask around there.
If you have family or friends in Mex that have done this before you will definitely save tens of thousands of dollars. My in laws have recently purchased land in Aguascalientes outside the city approx 10 minutes. They want to build a house. They have asked my wife to have me give them a rough sketch of what I would like the house to have. The design I have put together will be a 3 BD 2.5 BA with a bonus room (14’x22″). House will be Aprox 150 m2 (1615 sq ft)single story. I was doing some research but have not found much info on labor and material cost. The best I came up with is: approx $35-$60 usd per sq ft for construction (depending on design difficulty material being used, etc) Adding approx 55% for material
For this example I will use $45 per sq ft 45×1615 = $73,000 for construction. Adding 55% for material $39,900 USD. Total $112,000. My in laws and other family members that live in the area and have built similar homes tell me it will be a lot less. Some say $80,000 some say $100,000. The lot is approx 420 sq m. My Brother in law has already got a quote to put a 8′ (2.5 m) (wall around the entire lot for approx $10,000 USD. Construction will take 8-12 months but I won’t be moving to MX until 2023 but my in laws (Suegros) will move in as soon as its done. My brother in law lives 5 minutes away and will be checking on construction daily. My Suegro lives 10 minutes away. I’m hoping my in laws are correct in the costs as I can add a covered carport inside the gate and other amenities as well. My situation is ideal.