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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Building a home in Yucatán? Advice from a 2nd-generation Yucatecan architect 

Jorge Alberto Mijangos Loeza of Constructora Mijangos spots trends as well as red flags.

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Casa 75 is a modern take on the Colonial style in Mérida. Photo: Constructora Mijangos

Yucatán Magazine: First, we wanted to ask about your company and the people behind it. 

Jorge Mijangos: Constructora Mijangos is a 100% Yucatecan family business with more than 30 years in operation. Founded in 1991 by my father, Arq. Jorge Humberto Mijangos Loeza (RIP) and continued by me, Jorge Alberto Mijangos Loeza. I am also an architect currently in charge of management and general administration. My dad was my principal teacher and mentor in this profession since my youth.

We oversee the execution of residential and commercial projects in all stages: from the design process to its final construction.

I am 35 years old and have 15 years of experience in construction. I entered the Autonomous University of Yucatan in 2007, where in 2013, I obtained my architecture degree. In 2022 I joined the MBA (Master Business Administration) Leaders on Development program at the Center for Management Training and Improvement (ICAMI Business School), which is linked to the Pan-American Institute of Senior Business Management (IPADE Business School Mexico).

I started my career with an internship at the CICY (Yucatán Scientific Research Center), focusing my work on landscape architecture. I was in charge of designing the exotic palm area of ​​the botanical garden under the tutelage of a great biologist, whom I remember with great admiration, Sigfredo Edmundo Escalante Rebolledo.

Casa Coco brings a neoclassical style to Dzitya. Photo: Constructora Mijangos

Later I was an external auditor for the insurance company Seguros Atlas. I began to work in maintenance and minor construction at that same company. Later I expanded my services to other companies such as Grupo Gruma, Kekén, and Diario de Yucatán, where I had the opportunity to remodel one of the press rooms at Calle 62 in the Centro.

In the commercial line, I have renovated more than 20 clothing boutiques throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, from Villahermosa to Chetumal.

In the residential field since my early years and while I was still a student, I started with small projects, gradually taking on larger jobs such as adding floors and complete remodeling, which in the long run allowed me to build complete residential projects of greater magnitude in very varied architectural styles.

Updated Colonial style at Casa 75. Photo: Constructora Mijangos

YM: What are the trends you see in Mérida these days? What are clients asking for that they perhaps didn’t as for in the past?

JM Today, with all the economic growth in Mérida, there are three very marked trends:

•   Historical and colonial houses. This market is especially in demand by foreigners from the US, Canada, and Europe (especially France), aiming to rescue the historical value of colonial architecture with a modern flair as a vacation home. It is an excellent boost to the renewal of the urban image of the city’s historic center, which had been neglected for a long time. To a lesser extent, this style is in demand in the suburbs or small towns far from the city, inspired more by the old henequen haciendas, thanks to the country atmosphere that exists there.

•   Modern-style houses. This style is typical in beach houses from Celestún to the Riviera Maya. Curiously, in Yucatan, a more minimalist and modern style is preferred. At the same time, in the Riviera Maya, something more organic and harmonious with nature is more commonly chosen using a lot of wood (bamboo much more frequently), stone and finishes in cement and chukum.

•   Massive houses built to sell. Although it is not my favorite trend, private developments began appearing outside Mérida due to the influx of new residents in Yucatan. There are mainly two options: lots of land for investment to build or resell or houses built in a series with two or three models — modern but very austere. I only recommend this option when, for personal reasons, you need a specific payment plan or need to settle in Mérida to live immediately. However, the quality of these mass builds by nature has never been so good. It has declined further because high demand motivates developers to minimize production costs with poor-quality materials. This only results in hidden defects.

YM: What area is seeing the most growth in Yucatán?

JM: Without a doubt, the Centro Histórico has great dynamism, with its historic houses, restaurants, and bars modified to provide entertainment spaces for the entire foreign community residing in Mérida. However, we cannot leave out the Yucatecan coast and the more remote areas such as Conkal, Cholul, or Chichi Suarez. Economically and commercially speaking, the city’s north and northeast area has the most robust economic growth and increase in capital gains.

Casa 75 in Mérida’s historic center. Photo: Constructora Mijangos

YM: What type of home do you specialize in? Modern? Classical? Luxurious? All of the above?

JM: I do not consider myself a “brand” or an architect with a defined style. Quite the contrary, I like to help people achieve their goals in the quality of life they want according to their preferences and personality. For example, Casa 75 was a typical and monumental colonial house with big arches, columns and five-meter-high ceilings. Casa Coco is a neoclassical Californian residence. Last year I finished a three-level jungle-style condo complex in Tulum, typical of the Riviera Maya. Casa Triay (my first complete residence as such) is modern and eclectic in accordance with the owners’ lifestyle. I consider myself a versatile architect, focused mainly on quality construction.

YM: What advice do you have for someone wishing to build a new home in Yucatán?

JM: First of all, don’t get carried away by impulses. Come first on vacation and experience the rhythm and quality of life on the beach and in the city or small towns outside. And if you decide to take the big leap, look for experienced builders or real estate brokers. Choose two or three different options and compare among your options the background, client reviews, how much knowledge they have on the subject, clarity of the information you request, and the information they provide about the entire process of acquiring or building your new home, whether it’s new construction or a renovation.

Sadly, I would not want to miss the opportunity to warn about the other side of the coin. Just as the migration of retired foreigners has brought economic benefits to the city, we can’t ignore the increase in fraud and scams where they ask you to make payments in advance, but they either never start construction, or there are significant delays and poor final quality.

Unfortunately, being the most fashionable and profitable business, anyone with enough ambition and resources has the audacity to call himself a “construction businessman” or a “highly qualified real estate agent” without having the slightest education, experience, or knowledge of the profession. So foreigners or even nationals opt for the “do it yourself” option, buying the materials themselves and directing the workers in their own way, without realizing that in the end, they will be spending so much more time, money and effort than if they had hired a professional.

You do not know the number of people who have asked me to go and inspect their buildings to provide advice on what to do about their houses that have been delivered in terrible shape, either because they bought it already built, contracted the construction with a developer or because the contractor who worked for them never returned to repair their mistakes after charging large amounts of money.

That is why my best advice is always, always go to a qualified professional.

Visit constructuramijangos.com
Instagram: @constructoramijangos

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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