WorldStudio International
The process
Managing client expectations
Building regulations
About permits
Things you should know
Tales from the job site



Q: How long will my project take?

A: There is no easy answer for this question because of course it depends on the scope of your project. But count on one to two months for the complete design phase; as few as two weeks and as many as six months for permits (as noted elsewhere this is utterly dependent upon your unique property and situation); and five or six months for a standard renovation, nine months to a year or more for something grandiose. Beware of those who tell you your project can be completed on the fast track! Remember: this is Mexico. Some designers will promise you a full design concept within 2 weeks. Expect a formulaic solution with cheap ceramic tiles and stock items. We’re not knocking this idea. Maybe you are in a rush or wish to flip your property fast. If so, this could be the way to go. But whereas that approach is akin to the Fast Food Fenomenon, we are more part of the Slow Food Movement. Because we offer totally custom design, our approach is more thoughtful. We believe it is important to think, to contemplate, to consider our choices with our clients. We do not offer cookie-cutter solutions. We want to work with like-minded individuals. The approach you choose or need to take is up to you.

Q: How much will my project cost?

A: We would have to answer that question with another question: What kind of home do you want? Obviously, such different responses as "Sumptuous hacienda" or "Modest vacation home" will determine the final cost. Generally speaking, however, current costs for standard renovation projects in Yucatán are running approximately $45 - $50 per square foot, not including furnishings, of course. Costs per square foot can vary remarkably depending on the scale and scope of your program. Luxury finishes and imported materials (eg. marble, granite) will naturally take the price beyond those figures and may peak at somewhere around $80 - $90 US per square foot.

Q: Isn’t Mexico a cheap place to build?

A: It is certainly less expensive than in the United States or Canada. Further, luxurious materials such as limestone, wood or iron, and fine craftsmanship may seem ridiculously cheap when compared with prices elsewhere. Nonetheless, we are continually stunned when clients – who would have no qualms about spending $100,000.00 US to remodel their Stateside kitchen – balk when the price tag for remodeling a large home in Mérida comes in at the same figure. You can do projects for less here than in the States – but you must still be prepared for reasonable expenses. Before you start your project, you would do well to inform yourself of local costs by visiting any of our local hardware and materials stores and compare prices. You will see that many items are not so far behind prices north of the border. And foreign items, such as Sub-Zero appliances, will cost significantly more due to import duties.

Q: Is there a rule of thumb for the amount I invest in my renovation compared to what I paid for the home?

A: There is no general rule of thumb. It all depends on what you paid for your house, what condition it was in, how you plan to use it, and so on. If it is going to be your primary domicile, you would naturally want to spend more to make it comfortable for yourself for years to come. If it’s an investment property and you plan to “flip” it within a year or so, then it makes sense to spend less. Many people say to us that they don’t want to spend more on their renovation than they spent on purchasing the home. But this does not always make sense: If you buy a large ruin for $40,000, you aren’t going to get much of value in terms of infrastructure, finishes, etc. by only spending an additional $40,000. Perhaps a better way to think about it is to consider (perhaps consulting with a realtor) what the resale of the home might be when completed. As an example, you might put $90,000-worth of renovations into that same $40,000 house, wait a year or two and be able to sell the home for $180,000 or more, earning a $50,000 profit. Again there is no set formula for making these determinations. It is a personal and unique situation for every individual and each property.

Q: How do you charge for your services?

A: There are two commissions we add to the cost of your project total: 15% commission for design, and 15% commission for contracting and supervision.

Q: How does that compare to other designers and contractors in Mérida?

A: Designers here occasionally charge a flat fee that is determined by the scope of the project. These fees vary greatly depending on your project – as well as the relative fame or popularity of the designer. In our case, we charge 15% of the project total for our design services. We charge this way because our clients typically ask us for many custom items – furniture, ironwork and other interior design solutions, etc. – for which it would be cumbersome and prohibitive to assign individual item fees. As for contracting commissions, believe it or not, but contractors in Mérida charge anywhere from as little as 7% to as much as 50% commission against your project total, so we are on the lower end of the local range. You should definitely check out the fees and commissions of other service providers for yourself.

Q: How do I know you have provided me with the best price on materials?

We prefer to purchase the best materials possible for the most reasonable price. But the only way you will know for certain that we have sought for you the best price is for you to do some research yourself. Shop around and take note of what things cost. Each accounting that we give you during the many phases of your project will contain every receipt for every item. If you believe you can find it for less, please let us know. If it is an item that is returnable, we will gladly return it and purchase for you the less expensive item. Trust is a trait to be nurtured, but we ask that our clients assume responsibility along with us for the expenses made in their home.

Q: Why is someone I interviewed promising me to do a project for so much less?

A: Please compare apples to apples. Is your designer/contractor investing in infrastucture? Most homes here need upgrades of plumbing and electrical, which we always recommend. You should also consider water pressure and water softening systems. Is your designer/contractor purchasing authentic local materials, or more generic ceramic tiles for flooring and kitchen countertops? Check out your designer/contractor’s kitchen design. Is it up to US standards? Will it function as a real working kitchen? Will the finished home be viewed as valuable for resale? Also, we hate to break it to you, but many designer/contractors agree to do a project for less money, then cut corners, take a loss and wind up not finishing important details at the project’s conclusion.

Q: What is the permit process?

A: There is no etched-in-stone recipe for how to go about getting permits for building in Yucatán. While indeed both the Ayuntamiento and INAH have their regulations, these seem to be somewhat fluid and subject to interpretation by any given agent with whom we deal. The full process of acquiring permits can take as little as 2-3 weeks, to as much as 6 months, depending on such variables as the historical value of your home and the part of town in which your property is located. Obviously this process must be calculated into your schedule. In many cases, provisional permits are given such that some part of construction may begin.

Q: What will I need in order to get the permits?

A: Mexico is in love with paperwork (papeleo). You will need several documents. Please see General requirements for permits for a complete list of what you must present. There is also a small fee, usually no more than about $50 US.

Q: Can I build a pool on my property?

A: Pools are generally allowed, but their location and depth are controlled by codes. Other factors – such as the location of hard stone substrates – can determine the feasibility of digging for a pool. If a pool is an essential part of your program, you would do well to consult with an engineer before purchasing your home.

Q: Can I change my façade?

A: The façades of buildings in the historic center of Mérida are strictly controlled. This may not seem to be the case, as you stroll through the streets and see many obvious disasters and violations of Colonial aesthetics. Nonetheless, even colors are officially controlled, with a pastel background and white or a lighter colored molding being the sanctioned palette. Whatever changes you require, we must submit for you an architectural elevation drawing of the existing façade, as well as a drawing of the proposed changes. If changes are dramatic, it may require several back-and-forth trips between INAH and the drawing board.

Q: What can I change inside my house?

A: There are many projects inside your home for which you do not need permits. You are perfectly within your rights to remove old flooring and install new, to bury cabling and new plumbing within walls, to remodel a bathroom or kitchen, to paint and restore old woodwork, etc. The items that require permits have to do with moving walls or doors, putting in a pool, adding rooms, or other dramatic changes to the property. These are all strictly controlled by INAH and the Ayuntamiento.

Q: What will a contract between us be like?

A: We have a standard contract that you may add to or subtract from until we reach a point where all participants are comfortable. The contract will outline the scope of the project, as well as define responsibilities of both client and designer/contractor. If you do not have one, we can help you find an independent English speaking lawyer in Mérida to handle your side of the negotiation.

Q: Can I meet and interact with the subcontractors?

A: Of course you can, and you will! The only proviso we give you is that, until we turn your house over to you in the ritual known as la entrega, you will ultimately hold us responsible for the workmanship of all subcontractors. If you give them comments or suggestions, you may be unwittingly contradicting things we have already told them. You may not understand the flow of work, of what needs to happen as Step A before they can begin Step B. Worse, the subcontractors will lose their sense of who is in charge. In short, you may certainly interact with the workers and get to know them, but for the sake of your project and your own peace of mind, we strongly encourage you not to give them any direction whatsoever until we finish your project.

Q: What is your policy on my visiting the job site every so often?

A: You are most welcome to check up on the progress of your project and see how things are going. We only caution you that watching renovation is somewhat like watching paint dry. It can be frustrating to enter on Monday and then again on Friday, only to wonder what advances have been made. What may not be evident to the inexperienced is that much of the foundation work – known here as la obra negra (black work), which entails picking away at old finishes, burying electrical and plumbing cables and pipes, digging wells – is slow and painstaking and monotonous to watch. Besides, it isn’t as glamorous and fun as seeing beautiful stone laid and paint applied – processes that don’t happen until the end of the project.

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