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How to choose a builder


Be aware that in Mexico, as in all countries, you may find swindlers of all types. Some may even be highly recommend by real estate agents who have made a great many promises. Others may be your same compatriots taking advantage of their language and race affinity with you. They may promise you all sorts of things that may not be true, such as "they will hook up electricity to your property next week." Be aware, and Be careful!


If you wish to build and are looking for a builder, these are things you should know or should ask about. Even if you think you have found the perfect builder, take these steps to protect yourself.


By visiting his office or warehouse, you will be able to see how serious his business is. It is easier for a one-two person company to flee with your money than an established company with 5-10 employees, machinery and equipment. Do not be impressed by the 20-30 masonry workers he boasts about. Construction workers are nomadic people and they often work for different companies and on different work sites. When you are in his office, look around and ask yourself this question: Does he have sufficient financial backing? Is the office a leased space or does he own the property?


An Architect (Arquitecto) or Engineer (Ingeniero) are titles that National or State Universities provide and are called "Titulo Universitario" (College Degree). They show that the person has completed their training and has the knowledge to design, build and do the necessary calculations for all types of projects. If the builder you met is not able to show his Title, it could mean the highest grade he achieved is Junior High School. Believe me, this is an everyday fact in Mexico. Any professional is proud to show his University Title as it represents his effort to achieve an intellectual and social status. Do not be impressed by the dozens of beautiful Diplomas he has hanging behind his desk. A Diploma is a short course related to a certain field but has no comparison with the value of a College Degree. It is very likely, if he posses a University Title you will find it hanging on the wall behind his desk.


Having an Engineering University Title (Architect or Engineer) will show you that a person has the training and knowledge to design and build, but it does not mean he has the legal permission to practice. In Mexico, a "Cedula Profesional" is provided by the Secretary of Public Education (Secretaria de Educacion Publica), which is the highest authority of all the universities of the country. It is given only to those professionals that are worthy to possess a LICENCE TO PRACTICE. It could be that your ideal builder does not possess a Cedula Profesional because the authorities have never given him one or worse: they took his License to Practice away from him and you might not know it.


The Municipal Government provides "Registro Municipal" to a professional expert known as a "Perito" or "DRO". It is given to those professionals that have achieved experience and who stand out in the field in this particular town, and they are the only ones that can authorize your project in order to obtain your building permit. If your blueprints are not signed, authorized and stamped by a "Perito", the building department will not accept them. Currently there are only twenty registered "Peritos" on Cozumel, so if your builder is not a "Perito", he will have to hire one, and he will add that extra charge to your costs.

Tell your Builder you will Expect to see Receipst for Workers Taxes, These taxes are Social Security, Infonavit and 5% labour-employer share that are to be paid when hiring construction workers. For your protection, make certain the builder knows you understand about these taxes, and you will want to see the receipts. Once a building is finished, the government can ask the homeowner, not the builder, to prove these taxes were paid. After a certain length of time, if payment is not proven, the government has the right to seize the property to force the owner to pay the taxes.

Cozumel is full of happy ending stories, but like everywhere else it holds some true nightmares, and those who wrongly trusted others are witness of my words. Horror stories have been told by nice people that have come to me to finish their homes after the "builder" they hired stopped construction, even after being paid all of the money. Some of these "scammers" were even referred by real estate agents or they have promised to build a better home for a lower price. The only thing many of them build are larger bank accounts for themselves. They leave owners with poorly constructed, half finished homes and problems that will cost a great deal on money to correct while they wait for the next victim. There is a saying in Mexico "Lo barato sale caro" which means "The cheap turns out expensive", or for better understanding: "Paying peanuts, receiving monkeys.." Don't fall for the lower price game. Pay what is fair and receive quality services. You deserve it.


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