They ask me the question at least once a month: Why are there so many houses in Oaxaca started and apparently not finished? It is one of the most remarkable places in this colonial city of southern Mexico, as well as the towns on the outskirts and beyond. The phenomenon is clearly visible when traversing connecting roads along the central valleys.

The masonry of the houses is finished, but there is no glass in the windows, and otherwise it seems obvious that no one is living in these cash cows, buildings in which a considerable amount has obviously been invested in them. And even if the houses are finished and inhabited, the rebar still stretches skyward from the roofs. Why is it left there, an eyesore by Western standards?

It is a fallacy that leaving the reinforced steel bars on top of your roof intact means that your house is not finished and therefore you do not have to pay real estate taxes. In fact, at least in the city of Oaxaca and in the suburbs, in the early 2000s a tax reform began to be implemented, by which it was evaluated based on its land and its habitable space at different rates. Interestingly, any structure with a concrete roof was considered a living space and was therefore taxed at the highest rate. Even a carport used only for vehicles. You see, many Oaxacans roof their garages and use them more for living and entertainment than for parking vehicles, and some residents don’t even own cars or trucks. Many residents circumvent the regulation by building a reed roof known as a reed, thus keeping their vehicles in the shade and without having to pay the fare increase. In our case, our concrete roof is used only for our vehicles, so we had to negotiate the issue with the tax department.

Because many homeowners have modest resources, you have the option of having a government licensed architect come to your home to take measurements to calculate the increase or defer the process. If you select the latter option, the new rate only takes effect after your death or sale of the home, with penalties, interest, and back taxes passed on to your heirs or buyers. Let the negotiations begin! We chose to take the bull by the horns, do the reassessment, and immediately started paying about ten times what we had been paying previously, which is still a bargain relative to what we were paying as Toronto homeowners, even without the bonus now. be taxed at the rate of the elderly (over 60), that is, 50% of the regular tax rate for a main residence. At the end of the day, our daughter will inherit a little less to tax the transition.

So why the rebar? After and before death, most Oaxacans have little to offer their children other than their homes, or rather where their existing homes are located. Therefore, the construction of a second or third level in a house is always contemplated, when funds are available at a snail’s pace and when the time is right. If you cut the rebar that is extended at the end of the initial construction and then decide to build another level, it is more expensive; Instead of just tying it to the old rebar, you need to break through the concrete to access the bare rebar used in the old construction. There is a different sense of aesthetics or, more likely, a priority over economics. Therefore, it is wise to leave the rebar.

Going back to all those partially finished houses, it all comes down to the cost of borrowing in Mexico and the fact that Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in the country with most residents lacking savings. Only the not astute or the very wealthy have mortgages (for that matter, buy anything on credit). I have seen interest rates as low as 9% and as high as 65% for secured loans. Regarding the latter, a couple of years ago I was thinking of buying a scooter for our favorite goddaughter. Buying on credit would have cost us 65% per year.

Therefore, the rule of thumb is to buy when you have cash on hand. This means that if you want to build on land, you buy 1,000 bricks, then another thousand, then blocks, then rebar, and then cement. He hires his masons and his plumber who takes care of the underground installations. You build, then save, and then build more. You can leave your “black work” as it is called, indefinitely, without worrying about theft because there is nothing to steal.

Then you can ask your electrician to break the interior concrete, brick and block, to install the wire and connections for switches and the like. Once those facilities and the rest of the house have been covered with concrete, again your future abode is safe from vandalism and theft (yes, recognizing that the copper is still accessible, but it is quite difficult if the cement covers it ). That is your “gray work”. It can also be left unsupervised indefinitely.

The above are the two most common completed stages of home construction found when driving the highways and highways around Oaxaca City, its central valleys, and beyond. It all makes economic sense and at the same time provides the owner in progress with a reasonable degree of security. While it delays home completion, it avoids being burdened with prohibitive mortgage interest rates.

Family members often provide some of the work necessary to move through these two stages of construction. However, home completion often requires more specialized operations, and along with that much more significant financial outlay. Thus, we find many houses in the “gray work” stage, which remain there for years, if not a decade or more.

The final phase of construction includes finishes such as finer and more detailed tiles, paint, window and door frames and glassware, electrical fixtures and plumbing fixtures, etc. Especially with regard to the latter, a partially finished house is generally not left unattended in this state of construction, so most of the time a night watchman or “watchman” is hired to ensure safety. Only then is the family ready to move in, and the house, from all appearances, will appear complete, however, with the rebar stretched skyward.

So remember, an unfinished home is probably a sign of a working family struggling to bring everything together, for itself and its individual members, without giving in to pressure to borrow at an often exorbitant interest rate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *