Durango is my favorite for full-time city living in Mexico. I consider it my most exciting personal find of the past few years. You might find that surprising, as you’ve likely never heard it mentioned as an expat destination.
And in fact, it’s not an expat destination… it’s a large, sophisticated city—with great weather and a high standard of living—that’s still relatively undiscovered by the expat forces.
If there’s such a thing as the “real, unadulterated Mexico,” then Durango
And best of all, the property market is the least expensive I’ve seen anywhere. I can’t think of anywhere where you can buy a luxury home for less than US$1,300 per square meter these days…
Yet here in Durango, luxury homes average only US$419 per square meter.
You May Not Have Been To Durango, But You’ve Seen It Dozens Of Times
Nestled in a valley high in Mexico’s western Sierra Madre range, Durango’s surroundings look like what we think of as the Old West. Properly called Victoria de Durango, Durango is the capital of the state that bears the same name.
And, in fact, more than 140 Hollywood movies have been filmed in the mountains, valleys, and deserts surrounding Durango. Most of the films have been Westerns that featured the likes of John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Maureen O’Hara. Many of your old favorites were probably filmed here.
And a handful of those old movie sets are still standing. Some remain movie sets… some are destinations for tour companies… while others—such as John Wayne’s personal set—were occupied by former workers and their families and have become real towns.
I found Durango to be a bustling, modern city, situated in a Western mountain setting. It offers clean, well-kept streets, good infrastructure, a thriving central market, and amazing architecture more reminiscent of Europe than Hispanic America. The newly constructed pedestrian-only areas are filled with nice cafés, shops, and clubs.
The occasional cowboys on the street give the town a Wild West feel, as they are typically dressed like their West Texas counterparts 600 miles to the north.
The weather in Durango is great. The coldest months of the year (December and January) have an average high temperature of 69°F (20.5°C). In the hottest months of May and June, the highs will average 86.5 (30.2°C). Overnight lows are always below 60 (15.5°C), so I’d be fine with no air conditioning. Humidity levels are low, and rainfall is about 20 inches (529 mm).
The skies are almost always clear and deep blue.
The New Highway Is Bringing Economic Benefits To Durango
The Mexican government recently completed a new superhighway between Mazatlán and Durango. This was a huge project, which involved the construction of 115 bridges and 60 tunnels.
The highway makes truck traffic possible via a direct link between the port of Mazatlán and Durango. Trucks from the port now can also continue on to Monterrey and Texas.
More importantly—from the real estate perspective—the highway has allowed Mazatlán to become a weekend destination for people in Durango and beyond. The effect on Mazatlán has been dramatic. You can read about how this highway affected the Mazatlán market here.
But the highway has also affected the Durango market and has allowed Durango to become a weekend destination for people living around Mazatlán. People are coming to escape the summertime heat on the coast and to use it as a base for active tourism in the surrounding area… an area that offers tall pine forests, canyons, mountains, and deserts, as well as the most northerly ancient pyramids in the Americas.
The Pros And Cons Of Buying In Durango
I realize that we’re all looking for something different in an overseas lifestyle or real estate market. But here’s what I see as Durango’s advantages:
- Almost no foreigners: this means no gringo pricing, no gringo stereotypes, and no foreign domination of the local culture and real estate market.
- It’s clean and safe.
- Cost of living is low.
- Cost of properties is far below the more popular Mexican cities.
- Durango offers a youthful, energetic university vibe.
- The weather is dry and relatively cool.
- The city boasts great air quality.
- The architecture is surprisingly European rather than Spanish-colonial. It’s more reminiscent of Madrid or Santiago (Chile) than of Hispanic America.
And these are the disadvantages of buying in Durango:
- Lower liquidity: Selling a property here will take longer than the active markets on the coast or in the highland cities popular with expats.
- No English spoken, so you’ll need to get to Spanish class before settling here or shortly after you arrive.
- No expat community, which is great from a lifestyle perspective… but if you’re simply looking for a warmer version of Minneapolis or Calgary, then Durango won’t be for you.
- Durango offers fewer dining options than Mexico’s resort or expat-heavy communities.
- No direct flights to States are available at this time. International flights connect through Mexico City.
- Durango sits at about 6,000 feet above sea level, so it may not be suitable for people with respiratory problems.
Properties Are A Serious Bargain At Just US$419 Per Square Meter
At today’s favorable exchange rates, properties in Durango are seriously inexpensive. In fact, the average cost of seven properties I looked at was only US$419 per square meter… an average price of only US$148,700 at today’s exchange rates.
And aside from one fixer-upper, these homes were large high-end properties.
I did not see dollar-priced properties in Durango… everything was priced in pesos, giving dollar holders a lot of buying power.
I haven’t seen costs this low for properties of this caliber anywhere… even going back 15 years.
My favorite property—due to its location and potential—was the least attractive one I saw. It’s in the Las Alamedas neighborhood of El Centro, the perfect location for a rental or second home in the heart of the historic district.
The two-bedroom, one-bath home overlooks the green and leafy Las Alamedas park. It’s in need of total remodeling, but the property has a small interior courtyard and a rooftop terrace as well as a bedroom and balcony overlooking the park. The (rare) single-car garage on the ground floor of the 173-square-meter (1,861-square-foot) house could be converted to living space, if desired, as convenient parkfront parking can be found just outside. The asking price is 1.7 million pesos (US$82,300 at today’s exchange rate).
Haciendas Campestre is a gated community sitting alongside the Club Campestre golf course on the southern edge of town. Here I found an impressive luxury contemporary home with soaring cathedral ceilings, dazzling spiral staircases, and two-story-high windows in the great room. The 450-square-meter (4,842-square-foot) home includes three oversized bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, massive fireplaces, an indoor swimming pool, and generous storage areas. The asking price was recently reduced to 3.2 million pesos (US$155,000 today).
Sitting on the side of Los Remedios hill in the center of town, you’ll find a contemporary-style home for sale with sweeping views of the city from the living room, balcony, and several bedrooms. The 435-square-meter (4,682-square-foot) property has five bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, TV room, breakfast area, and servants’ quarters. Outside, there’s a well-sized yard with orange trees and a carport for two vehicles.
I was able to walk to a couple of nice restaurants from here; about a 20-minute walk to the center of all the action in the historic center. The asking price is 2.8 million pesos (about US$135,600 today).
Is Durango Right For You?
Durango is a modern, clean, and efficient destination with all the big-city amenities you’ll need. It’s cheerful, youthful, energetic, and inexpensive. Its four mild seasons will be just right for most people.
You’ll find almost no expat community and few English speakers… so you’ll need to appreciate living in the non-gringo Mexico. Spanish lessons should be a priority if you don’t speak any.
On the positive side, you’ll enjoy a Mexican capital with almost no American-expat influence and no foreign-community stereotypes to deal with. This not only means an authentic and welcoming cultural experience, but also far better prices than you’ll find in the expat venues.
If you’re ready for an unadulterated version of Mexico, then Durango is right for you.