Considerations When Looking at Property in Playa Del Carmen

building a house in Mexico

Inspecting Real Estate in Playa Del Carmen

If you are looking to buy a property in Playa Del Carmen, you might think about a home inspection before you buy. It is interesting to note that this is not a common practice in Mexico to do a home inspection. So, does this mean you buy blind? No, there are a couple of layers of the buying process that protect you.

  • There are a few people that work as inspectors that can give general guidance, but don’t expect a warrantee to cover you.
  • A good real estate agent will know the reputation of the builders. There are some long-time builders in the area that have a great reputation and some new ones that have a varied reputation. 
  • Usually with a new purchase of a condo, there is a year warrantee to fix an issue with settlement and minor issues. 
  • Doing a self-inspection with some of the things listed below to check for. 

Here is a guide for things to consider while looking at property here in Playa Del Carmen. First you must understand what you are buying. To do this we must dissect a building and know how it was made. Construction methods here are very different than other places. There are many factors that go into how things are constructed, the major one being the climate. Here are some things to inspect a home before buying in Playa Del Carmen.

Some of these things relate to houses for sale but others apply to condos as well.

How termite proof is your soon to be property?

It is warm here and that means year-round bug activity. That means termites that can munch year-round on soft woods. This is in part why buildings are made out of concrete and not wood. Buildings that do have palapa (palm or grass) roofs, wood beams, or other features made out of wood need to be examined for termites and other insects. If it is structural, then this needs to be examined even more closely. If it is not structural and there are termites, don’t panic, it is just part of life here. It can be exterminated or replaced.

Wooden curtain holders, balcony railings and cabinets all can attract bugs. If there are a lot of wood features, ask what kind of wood it is. Tropical hardwoods are used here for building and furniture and are termite resistant. Some cheaper construction will not use these better materials. If the unit is coming furnished, furniture made with soft woods are vulnerable to getting infested. This makes it hard to furnish a home because furniture from other parts of Mexico are not made with considerations to the climate and issues we have here. These are all things to look at especially in older units and some cheaply made new units. 

Tip: Often times lower properties, like ground level condos, will have more issues with termites. The moist conditions and proximity to the ground often invites them more. 

How will your property fare in a hurricane?

Living in the Caribbean means you have to deal with hurricanes. This is the one natural disaster we have to deal with here. We do not have mudslides, earthquakes, tornados (only those usually associated with hurricanes) volcanos, snow storms, or severe flooding. So we relatively have few worries when it comes to protecting our property from mother nature. The good thing about hurricanes is the fact that you have advance warning to protect your home and they are not a year round threat. Buildings however are strongly built here, mostly out of cinder block and concrete.  So when looking at property and thinking of hurricanes here are some considerations to consider.

  • Are there hurricane shutters? or is there installations for hurricane fabric for all sides of the house? Are they of good quality?
  •  Is the unit or house low to ground level and in the event of flooding, will this further add to my damages?
  • Many condos have been built in the past decade and there has not been a strong hurricane to test them.
  • Does the property have exterior building elements that will easily get damaged with a storm, like a palapa roof?
  • Is sheetrock used on the walls and ceiling? In a hurricane with water damage, these can mold and cause severe issues. 

How is the property built for the climate?

The climate also effects building design due to the warm weather year round. Having a house or condo that is designed better to deal with the heat will save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year in energy cost. Since buildings here are built out of concrete with usually no insulation, they are actually designed very poorly to insulate you from the outside air. There are however other things to consider that can make your living cooler and more comfortable.

  1.  Check the natural airflow in the area. Usually the cooler ocean air flows inland (east to west) and houses or condos that are lined up with this breeze will stay cooler. Also units that are not ground level will get better airflow.
  2. Having an open floor plan with ceiling fans will help circulate air in the house and prevent mildew and mold. Actually having ceiling fans running most of the day is not uncommon here.
  3. Does the property have air conditioning? Mini splits are by far the most popular and efficient styles of air conditioning. Most buildings will come with PVC pipe in the wall for easy access to run wire for installation. If your unit only has one air-conditioning unit, check to see if it will be easy to install more. Most people will prefer them at least in the bedroom areas so you can sleep well when it is hot.
  4. Does the house have large trees around it? These can considerably cool the air around your house. If they are very large trees, you will also need to see if they are in good health. Large limbs can do a lot of damage to a house. Note: Cutting trees in Playa is mostly illegal.  
  5. Is there shade on exterior windows? Having a small lip over a window will lower the direct sun coming in and make your home cooler.
  6. Is your unit on the top floor under the roof? These units tend to be warmer and also if the roof is not sealed regularly, you might have to deal with water stains or leaks. Even new buildings often have water issues regarding the roofs. This can happen in new and old properties. 
  7. Are the windows double paned or any special feature to them? Single pane windows provide a value of R1 which means it resist the outside air temp by the level of 1. Depending on the type of double paned window, they will be 2x-10x more energy efficient then a single pane of glass. It should be noted that most windows here are single pane. Some of the better construction will have hurricane resistant glass which is good to have.
  8. Are the air-conditioning units in the basement garage area of the condo building? This will mean that the hot exhaust air will heat the lower area of the building, creating a much hotter setting. 
  9. Are the ceilings tall? Higher ceilings means there is more room for the hot air to rise, leaving lower living space cooler. If you visit the colonial city of Merida on the other side of the peninsula you will see that they knew what they were doing when they constructed homes. Most older homes have an 18-20 foot ceiling. Hence allowing the heat to rise and leaving the living are cooler.
  10. In better designed homes or condos there are features that act as a thermal chimney. This is a feature in the house like a regular chimney, it acts as a natural cooling action for the house. The airflow goes over the top of the chimney and pulls up the air from the house. This brings cooler air up into the house from lower levels and works great if you have a shaded area around the base like a porch.
  11. Check the ventilation in the kitchen. Cooking is going to heat your home fast. Having a hood vent that works well or windows to open helps cool your home while cooking. It is surprising how many homes do not have a stove hood. If you do not have one you will also have more grease in the air that will land on surfaces since your hood usually collects this when cooking.
  12. Is the condo a split level like a loft? Often these types of units are very hard to balance the temperature because the hot air rises and the second floor is always hotter. 
Playa del Carmen BePlaya
An example of a building that has lips over the windows that blocks some of the sun.

Check the moisture conditions

The climate is also humid, and this has to be considered as well. Is your condo on the ground level (even with parking below) with a lot of shade or moist areas around it? Moisture naturally wants to rise and most construction is not built with a vapor barrier. This can make your property damp and give you a lot of problems with mold. Do the closets have good airflow? Are there open slats on kitchen cabinets and closet doors?

If you walk into a property and smell a musty area, it will be a losing battle trying got deal with this because this is a year-round problem. Don’t think that moisture reducing products, or a dehumidifier are going to solve this issue. It is a matter of bad home design and perhaps a bigger issue then you want to deal with. Does the property have natural light coming in? This  can be a good thing because this is a natural mold killer. Is there sheet rock used in the construction? This material has crept it’s way into construction here and if not done right or in an area prone to mold it can turn into a headache.  Without proper ventilation or constant air conditioning it can mold quickly.

Quick and easy humidity test in a property

If you suspect humidity and it is a ground floor unit, here is a simple test for humidity. Take a black trash back and duct tape. Tape the back to the floor and leave it for one day. If you come back and raise the bag and see a humid floor, this is what is going on now and you will have issues. Of course this can range depending on the season. April and May tend to be the dryest months and June and October can have the most rain. This will not affect too much your test, but results can be a little skewed depending on the weather. 

Check sound quality

Since most buildings are made of concrete, sound can travel very easily through floors and walls. As you watch buildings being built you will see Styrofoam installed between floors, this acts a sound deadener. Not all building have this though. Check how your place “sounds”. This can be important if the other units in your building are going to be rented out to weekly tourist that might have a party each week there is a new tenant.

If you are going to live in a neighborhood where there is a mix of tourist and locals, soundproofing your home can be important as well since sound pollution is not necessarily considered rude. Since sound travels through air, make sure windows close and are sealed tightly and exterior doors have a good seal on them.

If you can do this while looking at a condo, have one person stand outside the door and talk, listen to how loud it is. If you can get into the condo next-door, tap on the wall and talk loudly to see how the sound travels. 

Inspecting at the roof

If you are buying a previously owned home, check the roof out. This is the utility area of most houses. The mini split units are there, water tanks, wires, satellite dishes and what ever else can be stored up there.  It is important to look at the roof coating and how easy it is to coat the roof. Most roofs are flat and while the rain water will run off, during heavy rain storms, water will leak through. One plastic bottle stuck in your drain or other blockage can have inches of water built up on your roof. That kind of water pressure pushes it down into the house.

home inspections Playa Del Carmen
Roof in Playa

These are just some of the considerations in looking at building design and practicality for living in Playa. You may be used to hiring a home inspector but that is generally not done here. It is good to educate yourself on building features and perhaps have a friend come along who has been here for a while and understands building to help you with your purchase.

More information about property in Playa Del Carmen

For more information on buying property in Playa Del Carmen check out our article. Our complete guide to Playa Del Carmen real estate is good to read over as well. For people looking to invest in the Tulum real estate market we have a full guide here. We also have this video that gives an nice overview of the market and what you can expect from properties in the area.



Do you have other tips for when you are looking at a house or condo here in Playa Del Carmen? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. I really like all your tips for looking at property in Playa Del Carmen. We are starting our search now and find it very different then where we are from. I have a new list of things to think about from you and that is a good thing. Thank you.

  2. Wanted to say thanks for the thoughts in this article about buying property in Playa Del Carmen. We are looking to buy and read your article here. We will be keeping our eyes open for more. By the way, we sent you an email with a private question about realtors. If you can respond we would be most thankful.

    • Hello. Thank you for reading our article and we did receive your email and have replied back to you. We wish you the best in your endevores to own a home here and we look forward to having you as a neighbor.

  3. I am building a home in Tulum which for most of the year will be an AirBnB, 4 bedroom, 5 bathroom, but I can’t decide if I want Sapolte beams on my ceilings, or if it is more of a clean look to not have beams on the interior, what do you think? Is this type of wood subject to the termite issue you mentioned?

    • Tropical hardwoods like this are very resistant to termites. There is a simple chemical you can buy in the hardware store called vigasana (healthy beams) It is like a gasoline and will smell when you brush it on. It is clear and thin like gas. It is the most common coating used to keep bugs away. Personally I like wood beams because they add a lot of character. It will depend on your overall design of the house. There are also fake beams make of foam that look like wood. If you have tall ceilings, it can be hard to know they are not real wood.

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