Following our greatly successful road trip from Canada, through the States, and down the Baja we found ourselves in Todos Santos, homeless, again! Our friends, and business partners, graciously hosted us while we got our lives in order. But we were super excited to find our own place and get settled in, so on our second day in town we started knocking on doors to find a place to live.
What We Were Looking For
Eben really doesn’t like the idea of renting. He feels it’s just giving money away. But our options were few. We could buy a trailer and live in that. There aren’t too many on the market here. So that was out. Build a place. We don’t have the time or money for that right now as our time and money is going into this boutique hotel business we will be starting. So that was out. Or rent a place. We really only had the one option then!
Todos Santos is fairly small. The town is divided in two sections. El pueblo (the town side), and La Cachora, which is more of an expat area. Since the girls are both going to the public school on the town side, and town side has a few grocery store options, and lots of restaurants, this is where I wanted to be. Town side is busy, vibrant, touristy, local, and fun. It’s walking distance to everything. And there is a lot of people watching opportunities on this side. I love to watch people!
The boxes to check on our wanted list were: we wanted a “small” house. Which anything bigger than a 41ft sailboat feels big to us, we aren’t difficult to please. We wanted cheap rent. And we wanted in El Pueblo, or as close to it as possible.
The Places We Looked At
We looked at three places.
- Before getting here I had put a “wanted” ad in the Todos Santos online newspaper as well as the Facebook page. We got one possible lead from that. It was a small two-bedroom house in town. It was newly renovated, and had all new furniture. The owner was hoping to Airbnb it, but would consider long-term rental if we all liked the scenario. The place was cute, and would definitely suffice. But the rent was higher than we had budgeted for at $750USD a month. However the owner seemed very open to negotiating the rental fee with us though.
- Then we started on our wild goose chase. We asked one person in a corner store if they knew of anyone who was renting out a place, they led us in the direction of someone else, who then said go ask so and so…and so on. I think I spoke to 6 locals before we came across someone with a rental. But this is how you find cheap rentals. It’s also how you practice your Spanish!
We met Tomas, a friendly elderly man who would be leaving town at the beginning of December and was willing to sublet his place to us for $200USD a month. This place was definitely within our budget. But…and Eben is going to cringe reading this…it wasn’t what I wanted. I am no diva by any means, but this place felt like “an old man’s house”. It had way too much stuff in it, it was dim, full of trinkets, the walls were painted pink, and it all felt very, not our style.I don’t think I would ever walk in to that house and feel “at home”. It would have always felt like we were living in someone else’s space. We kept it as an option, because of the low rental cost, keeping in mind that we could possibly spruce it up.
- The third place we found through a connection with friends. They knew this local guy, a restaurant owner in town, that had a place for rent. We arranged to meet with him and it all started off very confusing. When we got there he was acting like he didn’t have his own rental spot but could possibly find someone with one for us. With some prying we found out he did have one but it needed some work. Eben’s convinced him to let us go see it anyways.It did indeed need some work. But nothing insurmountable. And you all know, Eben loves a good project. The house has two bedrooms, a large backyard, big living room, and decent sized kitchen. It is two blocks from main street, and right between both girls schools. At this point it was checking most of our boxes. We really liked the layout, and the style of the house. And both Eben and I could look past all the work that was needed and see a lot of potential in it.
The owner was hoping to rent it for $500USD a month, once it had been cleaned repainted and furnished. But after talking with a few people, we found out that this house had been a back-burner project for quite some time now, and that he was “in the process of fixing it up for the last year or so”. It would not be ready for us anytime soon. This got our wheels turning. What if we offered to do the work for him? What if we got the furniture and saved him that hassle?
After an evening of counting up the costs, we proposed he drop the rent to $200 a month for a two-year rental term, we’d do the renos, buy the furniture (out-of-pocket) and it would all stay with the house when we left in two years. We think we may have scared him with our spreadsheet of numbers and our long-term plan! When we presented it to him, he bluntly said, “I think you should look for another house”. We were speechless. We thought this was a great offer. Why not let us fix it up to “foreign standards”, where he could later rent it for much more. We’d buy all the furniture. And the house would get fixed up much quicker than if it stayed on his back-burner.
Eben persisted again. But he kept saying no.
But while we ate lunch (at his restaurant) he went and talked with a friend, and by the end of our meal he came back to us with his email and asked us to write him with a list of things we thought the house would need before it was livable. The next evening he called us with a plan of his own. He offered that we spend 6 months in the place (free of rent) fixing it up and furnishing it, and then 6 months at $500 a month.
It was a start in the right direction. But we didn’t want to spend our time (and money) renovating someone else’s place, to then only get to live in the finished product for about 6 months. We counter offered with: first 6 months free, we do the work, we buy the furniture, and then we get rent at $500USD a month for the next year, with option to rent after at a new rate.
We shook hands and everyone left happy.
A Little Elbow Grease
Let the adventures in renovating begin. To give you an idea, on day one we walked into the place and the living room had an inch of water on the floor. The water had been reconnected the previous day and Eben found 4 leaky hoses throughout the house! We are encountering all sorts of projects, plumbing, electrical, painting, and LOTS of cleanup from lots of bugs (termites, ants, cockroaches, and spiders). But we aren’t afraid of working. It’s all part of the adventure, and we are doing it with huge smiles on our faces.
This is part of the way we manage to live the life that we do. We do the work ourselves and get down and dirty. We find the fixer-uppers, and we turn them into what we want. And we make a great team throughout it all, with Eben’s infinite knowledge of every project, and my willingness to do whatever is needed, we make it work.