More Retirees Migrating South

Who hasn't dreamed of retiring by the sea?

Retired Hollywood makeup artist Dan Greenway made his dream come true, not in California or Florida, but Mexico, along the Pacific Coast of Baja.

"California has traffic and smog, and it was so quiet down here," says Greenway. "I sleep like a baby."

While some Americans complain of a flood of Mexicans crossing the border, a growing stream of Americans is running south. It's mostly retirees, like Eileen Magliere and Jere Vanek, who found Las Vegas too crowed and expensive.

"A lot of Americans are moving down here," says Vanek. "It's an explosion of them."

What's the big deal? A beachfront lot 30 miles up the coast in southern California would cost you several million dollars. South of the border, a spot on the beach can cost you less that $100,000.

The reverse migration is igniting a real estate boom. "For sale" signs and construction are everywhere. U.S. retailers are mushrooming. The town of Rosarito, south of Tijuana, is one-fourth American. Seventy percent of the beachfront is owned by Americans.

"People who lives and buys lots of house in Rosarito, they pay their taxes, so that's good for our economy," says Juvenal Arias, president of the Rosarito Tourism Bureau.

When Mexico recently firmed up laws for foreigners to own land through bank trusts, the floodgates opened. Ex-pat real estate agent Diane Gibbs is riding the wave.

Gibbs says it's like a suburb of San Diego. "just not San Diego prices, but the same weather, the same ocean and the same sunsets.

"This isn't like Mexico, Mexico. It's been gringo-ized."

Just ask the gang at the New York Deli.

"Now it's a lot nicer, because we have more Americans, there are nicer places like this opening up," says one man.

"And they probably wouldn't have come if we weren't having this growth," says another woman.

The deli gang agrees that up the coast in southern California, they would not be able to afford their homes.

Vaneks say the real estate tax on his mansion-like property is less than $50 a year.

Asked if she misses anything, Magliere says, "I have to cross the border to go to Neiman Marcus."

For baby boomer Leslie Harris, Baja was "sort of a no brainer."

She's not yet retired, but she couldn't even dream of it San Diego.

"But I had enough money to buy down here," she says. "On a cliff overlooking the ocean. It's the American dream, it's just in Mexico."

And more American retirees are waking up to the possibility.
  • Jaime Holguin

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