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Keeping a colonial renovation on budget

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Gary Hartman, left, and John Rutledge, are proud owners of a Centro property they renovated. Center photo: Hartman's front door is highly distinctive.
Gary Hartman, left, and John Rutledge are proud owners of a Centro property they renovated. Center photo: Hartman’s front door is highly distinctive. Right, workers replaced a weathered old door. Photos: John Rutledge

Two Mérida expats share their experience remodeling a colonial property in the December issue of International Living magazine.

In “Restore a Colonial Home in Mérida for Under $200,000 All In,” Gary Cooper Hartman and his partner John Rutledge know whereof they speak. Their house in La Ermita is being renovated in stages, and affords them a comfortable, centrally located home.

The magazine shared examples of properties available in the city: A two-bedroom colonial house “in the heart of the historic district” for $44,000, and a two-bedroom with original floor tile in good condition and a yard  large enough for a pool for $55,000. Prices are listed in U.S. dollars.

The original door would not support a new lock without patching new wood, so a carpenter made a duplicate with first-quality cedar that the owners say was very reasonably priced. He has also done some custom furniture for the house, and delivered it on time. Photo: John Rutledge
The original door would not support a new lock without patching new wood, so a carpenter made a duplicate with first-quality cedar that the owners say was very reasonably priced. He has also done some custom furniture for the house, and delivered it on time. Photo: John Rutledge

“You can still find properties in the $20,000 to $30,000 range on the outskirts of centro. Combined with a typical renovation cost of $90 to $120 per square foot, you can end up with a comfortable, 1,200-square-foot custom home, in one of the city’s best areas, for well under $200,000,” according to the report.

For property buyers, Hartman recommends leaving no leaf unturned. Scan property listings in both English and Spanish, and use good old-fashioned-footwork, walking your preferred neighborhoods to find se vende signs.

“Locals and expats alike are also great mines of information,” states contributing editor Jason Holland, who wrote the article.

Hartman also recommends working with an architect even before buying the property, vetting your goals for the house.

The couple bought their home four years ago, and after two years of renovations, they have a pool, a tall backyard wall, a bedroom, kitchen, and living area, a small office, and two bathrooms. They work in stages as finances allow. Still to complete: a planned covered outdoor kitchen and dining area, some trees and landscaping around the pool, a second bedroom and a two story poolside casita.

Another recommendation, for readers of a certain age, is to plan for the future by eliminating steps and upper levels as much as possible, says Hartman, 66, a retired pastor from the U.S.

The article goes on to list more money-saving strategies, extolling the virtues of the city’s “modern hardware, furniture, and building-supply stores.”

International Living has been publishing for over 35 years, helping readers find interesting and viable locales around the world. Editors have repeatedly called Mérida a “colonial gem.” The publication routinely depicts the city as a top locale for readers wishing to move abroad.

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