Meet Kevin Graham, Costa Maya Living

by Lydia Linton Pontius (April 2012)

Kevin how did you first find Mahahual? I first fell in love with Mexico while learning to dive in 1999. A trip to Cozumel was all it took, but after many visits it started to lose its appeal to me. For me, it was too large and a little "touristy." A friend told me to come to a new place she called "Puerto Maya," so I rented a jeep and drove down to see what it was all about. At that time Xcalak was far more developed, if you could call it that, than Mahahual. I kept wandering up the coast from Xcalak and saw that Mahahual might be a better place to work for my business because of the rapid growth. Another thing that really attracted me was that it was very international. In addition to Mexicans, Americans, and Canadians, there were Germans, Italians, Dutch, Spanish, Argentineans, French and others here. That is exactly one of the things I was looking for.

What made you decide to move here permanently? Easy … my love of the people of this part of Mexico. In addition, there are so many things to do here on the peninsula that it would be difficult to ever run out of places to explore. The lifestyle here is so much richer than anything I've ever experienced in the U.S.

Was it difficult starting a business in Mexico? Yes and no. In many ways it was difficult because there was so much to learn about how different things are here. Many standard procedures you might be accustomed to in your industry have little relevance here. Also, language and culture are so intertwined that without at least a willingness to learn, starting a business here would be daunting. On the other hand, I have been extremely fortunate to have been accepted into the community, so that opened a lot of doors for me that may not have normally been available.

A lot of people are afraid to buy in Mexico; they have heard things about how dangerous it is and also concerns about the land being taken back. What would you say to these people? First of all, not one piece of land has been ever been taken back here in Costa Maya and certainly none that I have helped people to purchase. Mexico is a country based on laws and as long as anyone doesn't try to shortcut the law by going around it (such as buying ejidal or untitled land) there should be no risk. Part of the success of Costa Maya Living Real Estate is that each property is checked out BEFORE it's even listed, and then again even before any transfer of title and money change hands.

How would you describe the Costa Maya? The Costa Maya is actually many different things and every place within it has its own flavor. We have some of the most beautiful, virgin beaches in the world. There are places that are extremely isolated … where you could walk on the beach all day and never see another person. There are also the two villages of Xcalak and Mahahual. Xcalak is the older of the two and has a very laid-back atmosphere. Diving and fly fishing are world class. Mahahual is a rapidly growing, international community because of the cruise ship pier. Yet it still returns to its small fishing village roots as soon as the ships leave each day. The wildlife throughout Costa Maya is amazing. Tropical birds and animals you'd never see in the U.S. or Canada are seen every day.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about living in Mexico? Coming to Mexico from the U.S., I have learned that a good majority of people have many misconceptions about the country. Most of my clients, before they even arrive, ask me if Mexico is a dangerous country. The truth is that people exaggerate the negative aspects of Mexico (at least of this part of Mexico).

There is always at least some element of truth with every stereotype. People don't just make up stereotypes based on no shred of experience. But stereotypes often get blown out of proportion. Americans certainly have our own concerns even about people who live in different parts of the U.S. Before I moved here I was warned by several friends that I would certainly be robbed by "bandidos." All I know is that after almost eight years of living here and traveling all over the region, night and day, and even in the most remote areas, I've never had anything negative happen to me. When I think about it, the people who warned me never had even been to Mexico.

What are some of the most unusual questions buyers have asked you? The best one … many people have asked me how difficult is it to get onto and off the island of Costa Maya.

How do you compare the Riviera Maya to the Costa Maya? Similarities: The beaches are very similar. Differences: The lifestyle is definitely more laid back and prices here are much less expensive, mostly because it is more remote from the international airport in Cancún. There are also many fewer shopping opportunities here. Many new stores are coming to Chetumal but that is about 1-1/2 hours from here. Most people who have purchased property here agree that is a good thing.

It is a daunting and somewhat overwhelming concept to move to a foreign country. What do you suggest people do to begin with? Talk with other people who have made the move. Don’t base any decision on a recommendation from anyone who is not a respected and successful professional—this includes real estate attorneys, builders, and especially real estate agents. Any good professional has a system in place to lead people through the correct process a step at a time. It's much less daunting that way.

What is the biggest mistake buyers make? Not doing their research, or looking for a "steal of a deal" by allowing someone they meet at a hotel, restaurant or bar to give them direction. Inevitably those people only give recommendations based on what they will get as a referral fee. Personally I do not offer anyone referral fees. If someone wants to recommend me, it is based only on their personal experience. The only people who have made mistakes buying a property here have been those who chose (or were led) to work around the system that is in place to make sure a property is secure.

How can you help? Costa Maya Living takes every precaution to make sure that buying a property is secure. Here are a few of the things we do:

  • We check not only tax receipts but also titles and other documents before listing any property.  Costa Maya Living has never sold any property that has a problem with its title.

  • We only use attorneys and Notarios from either Mérida or Cancún who have a track record as honest and reliable. Their not being from this area is to ensure that there is no vested interest here, so that the transfer of title is critically reviewed and legitimate. All of the attorneys we use speak English as well as Spanish and have excellent administrative processes.

  • Every property we list is able to have title insurance from a U.S. title insurance company.

  • We have an escrow account in the U.S. The buyer’s deposits remain there safely until after the transfer of property has been made.

  • This is not a part-time job for me. There are hardly enough hours in each day to do all the things well that must be done.

  • I have lived here since 2004 and plan to be here for the rest of my life. I own properties here, am extremely active in the community, and serve as the local representative (Warden) for Costa Maya of the U.S Consulate. I was asked to take this position and am learning as I go, but it was a big honor.

  • We have a long list (actually every client I have) of satisfied customers. We don't put testimonials on our Web site because, to me, it is like putting references on a résumé. If you list someone. you are pretty sure they will give you a good recommendation. Same thing for testimonials on a Web site. A much better thing to do is to ask around anywhere in Costa Maya about me or ask any past client.

Kevin Graham Costa Maya Living

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