When the 2nd home is a 2,200-mile commute
Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)
- by Heidi Dietrich Staff Writer
Friday, October 26, 2007
Come winter, artists George Little and David Lewis won’t be found anywhere
near their Bainbridge Island sculpture garden.
Instead, Little and Lewis will be creating and exhibiting art in remote San
Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The pair turned the lower level of their San
Miguel home into a gallery and studio, enabling them to keep working while
shuttling up and down North America.
Little and Lewis represent a new generation of second-home buyers commuting
between the Puget Sound area and Mexico. Far from retirement, they maintain
jobs in Seattle while spending significant portions of the year in Mexico.
Some, like Lewis and Little, find their careers uninhibited by
cross-continent travel, while others struggle to handle employer demands
One study shows a growing interest in second homes in Mexico. In 2006, 1,000
Americans bought Mexican vacation homes, according to Mexico City-based real
estate research and analyst firm Softec. That number is estimated to grow to
30,000 by 2015. Puget Sound residents make up a sizable portion of the
second-home business, Mexico developers say. Patrick Hobson, director of
sales and marketing for Mazatlán residential development company ProNova,
said his best market is the Northwest.
Raoul Rodriguez Walters moved the headquarters of his firm, Mexico Advisor,
from Mexico to Portland, Ore., in July. Mexico Advisor provides financial
planning and legal advice for American buyers of Mexican homes. Walters
found most of his clients were from the West Coast, hence the decision to
move to Portland. About 12 percent of Walters’ clients are from Washington
Patti Kilpatrick started the Bellevue-based second-home education company
Choosing Mexico in March, after noticing the rising number of Puget Sound
area residents buying homes south of the border. Choosing Mexico holds local
seminars to teach people about Mexican property laws and culture. Kilpatrick
said the number of Mexico second-home buyers will continue to grow as baby
boomers seek cheaper, more adventuresome second-home options. “There will be a huge wave of people looking to move full-time or part-time
to Mexico,” Kilpatrick said.
Many of the second-home buyers aren’t close to retirement age. Hobson said
ProNova buyers are trending younger in the last few years, with many in
their early to mid 50s.
Carolyn Hansen, who owns homes in Seattle's Wallingford area and near
Mexico’s Lake Chapala, said she’s just 51 and not contemplating retirement.
For now, she and her husband rent the Chapala house when they aren’t there,
and figure they can always sell it if they decide to go elsewhere once they
As a result, younger Mexican home buyers often juggle full-time American
jobs with life south of the border. The cross-continent commute is more
possible these days due to improved communications systems. Hansen’s
husband, a consultant, uses VoIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone
and high speed internet to connect with his clients.
Monty Dennison, a public relations professional in Seattle, visited his home
in San Miguel de Allende four times last year and will leave in November for
a two-month trip. He sends news releases from San Miguel and finds that as
long as he has a computer and the internet, he can do his job as easily as
if he were in Seattle.
Some second-home owners, like business and life partners David Lewis and
George Little, shift part of their business to Mexico. The two run the
Bainbridge Island garden sculpture company Little and Lewis. Since the
couple spends three months a year in San Miguel de Allende and hopes to
eventually split their time half and half, they are trying to find clients
To be sure, not all second-home owners find it easy to maintain Puget Sound
careers and spend significant time in Mexico. Hansen, vice president of
marketing for Bellevue-based Hacker Group, often can’t join her consultant
husband in Mexico because she is tied to the office.
Barbara Hartinger found it challenging to maintain her Seattle-based graphic
design business while living in the house she built 12 miles outside of San
Miguel. She flew to Seattle for business meetings.
But the long airplane trips to the Puget Sound area became more frequent as
a new client demanded her physical presence. Now that Hartinger must attend
weekly meetings in Seattle, she's moved back and is leasing out the San
“Ideally,” Hartinger said, “I’d go back and forth.”