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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Latest ‘House Hunter’ in Yucatan is a Californian with a $50k budget

Empty-nester looks at 2 Centro houses, and 1 in the cenote zone, and she's strict about the budget

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
A “House Hunter” from California explores Yucatan. Photo: HGTV (screen grab)

Not too long after airing the story of a family of four from North Carolina, HGTV on Monday aired yet another “House Hunters International” storyline set in Merida.

This time, the budget is smaller and the story is simpler. An empty-nester from Long Beach, Calif., is leaving her grown son behind to strike out on her own in Yucatan.

The catalyst for Monica Petrus was the death of her father, which left her realizing how short life is.

“I’m an office manager and I have a lot more in me than sitting in front of a computer nine hours a day,” she tells the camera.

Warning: Spoilers lie ahead.

Petrus meets a real estate agent, who like in the previous episode is based on the Caribbean Coast. We learn the budget is US$50,000, possibly the lowest since HGTV started filming here 10 years ago.

House No. 1 is in the Centro, and while it’s nice, Petrus isn’t impressed. Then she learns it’s US$30,000 over budget. Diverting slightly from the “House Hunters” format, they eliminate House No. 1 right away.

House No. 2 is about 40 minutes from the Centro, in a small cenote-zone village called Hocabá. It’s right on budget, and her first impression is positive.

“These murals are incredible,” Petrus says upon entering the front room. And indeed, the room is fairly grand if a little timeworn. But the rest of the house is pretty meh, although the backyard is spacious.

“This is your kitchen,” says the agent. “Is it?” replies a skeptical Petrus.

One thing in the house’s favor is its proximity to tourist attractions, chiefly the cenotes that appeal to eco-tourists.

House No. 3 takes us back to Merida, a 10-minute walk from “where all the action is.” It’s under budget at US$35,000, but just one bedroom and one bath. And each are badly flawed. A tiny door frame leads to the master bedroom, and the bath is on a different floor.

Still, Petrus agrees that “it just needs some finishing touches and this place could be a marvel.”

They pull a table up to the side of a cenote to make the final decision.

In real life, and on the show, Petrus chose the big property in Hocabá, where Petrus says she’s the “only foreigner in town.”

Contacted on social media today, months after shooting wrapped, Petrus shared some photos of how her house looks now:

Monica Petrus’ home in the cenote zone, after the House Hunters International crew left.

With clear justification, Petrus tells us “I love it,” She’s still working on a casita and a pool out back.

“House Hunters International” recreates the home-buying experience, which can give viewers the impression the process takes only three casual visits to a property. That’s not true, but the storyline in this episode basically was.

“It was 100 percent accurate,” Petrus says. “I’m forging a new life.”

She aims to recoup her investment by renting out a room to travelers.

“I’m hoping to tap into people looking for a more authentic Maya small town experience. I also want to show people lesser traveled roads,” Petrus told us.

Visit Monica Petrus’ Instagram page here, and in about a month, look for Casa Hocaba in Airbnb.

Here is the entire show, posted (for now) on YouTube:

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