Now that you’ve chosen a city, it’s time to decide other elements such as house (casa) or condo (condo / departmento). Going hand-in-hand with that decision will be which neighborhood will best suit you and your needs.
First of all, a house and a condo / apartment here are very different, just as they are anywhere else. They offer extremely different styles of living, so this is something to consider.
A house will offer a more spacious living area, a yard and will be better for those who have pets. A condo, on the other hand, will likely be smaller (good for those who are looking to downsize), better for those with a cat and will most likely have a patio / balcony.
Most places around here require maintenance payments regardless if it’s a house or a condo. These payments are used for swimming pool maintenance, landscaping, security personnel, etc.
My last three years in Canada were in an apartment because at that time, it suited my lifestyle. I was always either working or traveling. Now, however, since moving to Mexico I’ve always lived in houses. I love to garden, enjoy having an actual yard (over a concrete patio) and I have dogs. You will need to decide what works for you.
Your new type of home may also be dictated by where you decide to live. In Playa del Carmen, for example, there are more apartments and condos in the central downtown area than there are houses. Any houses that do exist (of which there are many), are old city originals and are pretty authentically Mexican. This may not suit all.
Since the city has grown so much and since space is of the essence, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of condo choices in the center of town. While you will be within walking distance to most everything, crime is higher in centro (as is with any city) and the noise can be extreme (again, as with any city).
Rents around Playa del Carmen can range from as low as 4,000 peso per month for a small 1 bedroom house (and tiny back yard) in the far west suburbs of the city to 10,000+ for a nice 2 bedroom house on the same side of the highway, but closer to town. This is where you can rent nearly-new (furnished or unfurnished) homes / townhouses in what is called New Playa, for a huge price range of 10,000 to 20,000+ a month.
Here, you pay for what’s included. If you want a newish home with complete kitchen / wood cabinets, on site pool, 24/7 security, landscaped areas, playground, furniture, etc. You will certainly pay more. What you will pay will depend on the homeowner’s mortgage payment combined with the monthly maintenance payments. It’s not common here for rents to be charged on going rates. People charge what they need (to cover expenses) or what they think they can get for a property. This is the main reason a house may cost 13,000 during the low season and 24,000 during high seasons.
If you have your own stuff and just need a place to call home, you can easily find a nice house for around the 10,000 peso mark away from centro. If on the other hand, you want furnished and frills, you can head to centro (east) to Playacar where you will pay an average of 20,000 a month for a place. Quaint apartments in that area can be found for less. Here are a few options from August 2017:
A basic 4,000 peso / month house in the far west, for example, will get you a completely empty house — no toilet seats, no installed kitchen — simply a gas line (to hook up the stove), a kitchen and bathroom sink, a few light bulbs and maybe washer hookups outside the back door.
And yes, if you’re wondering, a lot of expats take that route. Those were the first two types of houses I rented when I first moved here. This type of living is how most every city in Mexico is set up. The low-end housing areas, lower middle class, upper middle class then the outright overpriced areas, just like any city.
So when you’re house hunting, keep in mind the more central you are, the more (night) noise you will have to deal with. The closer you are to the beach, the more you will pay. The most “inclusive” you want your new pad, the more that will cost. The more independent you are and the more self sufficient you can be, the less money will come out of your pocket. The choices are yours.