The baby boomer generation continues to drive the search for second homes, not just in the United States but in Mexico and throughout Latin America as well.

According to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors, vacation- and investment-home sales declined with the overall market in 2007, but still accounted for 33 percent of all existing- and new-home sales.

Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, number approximately 77.8 million people in the United States alone. Many of them are returning to Mexico, rediscovering their Spring Break haunts, and charting a way to buy and vacation now and retire later in the sun. Every year, they are being joined by more and more Canadians, Europeans and Asians — many of whom place a premium on their return on enjoyment.

Sales to Americans have slowed in Mexico — mirroring a pattern in the United States — yet many of the "fly-in" destinations are experiencing steady sales, thanks mostly to the international boomer profile.

According to Barbara Caplan, boomer marketing specialist in the research firm Yankelovich, five trends that define boomers are youthfulness, individuality, community, awareness of technology, and a home-family core.

"Boomers aren’t redefining age. They’re redefining youth," Caplan said.

Baby boomers — the healthiest, wealthiest and largest segment ever seen on the North American landscape — have coupled with discriminating retirees to form a huge target for Mexican developers all seeking to effectively deliver the different possibilities of Mexico’s diverse landscape.

It’s the different possibilities — the desire to provide a wide variety of options — that has proved successful for marketers and salespersons. A prime example is MexicoAlive, a Puerto Vallarta-based marketing company operated by Mexico City native Benjamin Beja that strives to offer consumers affordable, well-located, attractive condominiums starting at $145,000 along with elegant waterfront residences with price tags well above $1 million on the Bay of Banderas, one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations.

The down-payment programs at two developments are extremely flexible, especially for investors. While the minimum down payment is 20 percent, MexicoAlive will accept $9,000 at signing and then the difference in monthly payments, interest free, until the buildings open. For example, if a buyer decides on a $140,000 unit, the 20 percent down payment would equal $28,000. After the $9,000 at signing, the buyer would make payments of approximately $1,000 for 17 months. When the building opens, the buyer would have long-term financing in place or pay cash for the unit.

"I had a friend who was wondering where all the affordable new condominiums had gone in the Nuevo Vallarta area," Beja said. "That got me thinking that we needed to provide all buyers a greater array of housing opportunities."

Beja has been a world traveler, visiting more than 100 countries. He attended the prestigious National University (UNAM) where he received highest honors when graduating in 1991 with a degree in law. A master’s in business administration from Harvard University followed postgraduate studies in Japan.

Like many Mexican real estate companies, MexicoAlive hosts "Discovery Weekends" to promote residential projects and educate visitors on the nuances of buying and living in Mexico. Potential buyers spend three days understanding the process of how to hold title south of the border while soaking in the Puerto Vallarta sun, culture, food and drink. There is no "hard selling," which has proven to be a key to the company’s success. Many buyers and real estate agents who attend have spread the word about the casual atmosphere and have returned with other interested friends and customers. The company averages 40 visitors for a Discovery Weekend and $3.5 million in sales. It plans to expand the concept to a dozen other Mexican destinations.

"People don’t like making decisions when somebody is pushing them," said Shawn Fechter, a Tacoma, Wash., native and director of international sales at MexicoAlive. "We want people to have a great time, learn something about the country and go home with a better idea of why we think Mexico is so wonderful.

"Sure, we’d love it if they made an offer on one of our properties, but we are certainly not going to grind on them to do so. At the end of the day, we want them to be absolutely satisfied with the time they had with us."


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