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Northern Baja Real-Estate market is expected to heat up, Santa Barbara in Bajamar adds amenities to keep up with demand.

  • Media attention luring visitors back to Rosarito and Ensenada, number of visitors still strong as summer dies
  • Santa Barbara in Bajamar hits the 50 percent mark on amenities, construction going on at full speed to keep up with potential buyer´s interest
Call it the Baja Effect
Call it the Baja Effect

Call it the Baja- is-Back Effect. A string of recent features in such diverse media outlets as the San Diego Reader, Forbes Travel Guide and Anthony Bourdain´s No Reservations, have been showcasing the charms of Northern Baja.

The positive media attention has lured Americans back to the region. After these visitors get back home, their upbeat reports make it back to the media, thus feeding a virtuous circle that is expected to bring still more tourism and real estate buyers to the Rosarito-Ensenada area.

At Santa Barbara in Bajamar, developers are working hard to get ahead of the curve, and are not sparing any expense on the construction of new outdoor attractions to attract the new wave of buyers expected to hit the Northern Baja Coast. The construction of a new oceanfront pool complex, with shaded cabanas and changing rooms, outdoor kitchens with barbecues, sitting and tanning areas has hit the 50 percent mark, and is not slowing down, much as the number of visitors and tourists has not dwindled even as the summer dies down.

And though it might still be daunting for an American to get financing to acquire real estate in Mexico, Santa Barbaras´s plans has rolled out packages to make it easy for potential vacation owners, investors and retirees to envision a future in Baja. A spacious condo, an oceanview golf course and a relaxed lifestyle might be in the cards for many of those inquiring about Santa Barbara.

Baja: media´s new darling
After realizing that “half of everyone I know was either currently gallivanting around Mexico or had just returned” (San Diego Reader, July 25, 2013), writer Elizabeth Salaam decided to take the plunge and made a couple of short trips across the border. Her story, titled “Baja is Back“, made the cover of San Diego´s weekly magazine.

In the piece, she gushes about some of Mexico´s well known qualities, and also about exciting novelties. Among the first category: deluxe oceanfront accommodations, comfortable shuttles and top notch restaurants, at a fraction of the price of comparable wares in the U.S.

New surprises include an intriguing cultural scene in Tijuana, and the transformation of the region into a gastronomical mecca. At the end of her trip, she has not only renewed her love affair with Northern Baja California, but also made new converts out of her husband -and an untold number of readers.

This summer too, Forbes Travel Guide ran a rapturous piece about the best places to eat, play and stay in the Guadalupe Valley. In much the same reverential tone, Aeromexico´s Aire magazine featured a serious exploration of the finest restaurants in Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada. And both Forbes and International Living magazine mentioned Mexico in their lists of Best Countries to retire.

Build it, and they will come…
If foodies were the first to make the pilgrimage back to the area, retirees and families have followed. The elephant in the room –safety, seems to be a concern of the past, as crime rates have fallen dramatically, and a serene atmosphere envelops the area.

For some of the visitors getting reacquainted with the area, the trips are not just occasional weekend retreats. Properties are being sought and bought in Rosarito and Ensenada at a healthy pace.

Carrie Hobson´s story is typical of those coming back to the Baja fold: “We came down with our kids and two other families for 10 years straight, and then stopped 5 years ago because of the ‘violence ‘. I can’t explain articulately the reasons that we returned, just that we always knew we would! Maybe less negative media coverage is part of it, and the real estate pricing is competitive now”.

About property values, Max Katz, VP and owner of The Baja Real Estate Group, agrees. “It is still a buyer´s market in the Rosarito/ Ensenada stretch of Coastal real estate”, he said. “But by the growth in tourism and the excitement generated by the media, we expect to see the market heating up in 2014.”

Along with developers, the several groups are investing heavily in future attractions. An artificial reef, to be made out of the shell of an old Mexican Army ship, is in the planning stages. It was first proposed by the Baja CA Divers (BCA), a non-profit organization. Now the private initiative, the CISESE (a local scientific research organization), and government agencies are on board.

The ship will be sunk around the Playas de Rosarito area (the exact location is still being determined), and become a refugee for the species that will eventually colonize it. Once the new ecosystem is established, it is expected to bring divers from all over the world. The move is expected to drive the creation of new local businesses to will cater to adventure tourists.

Investing for the future in Mexico is a smart idea. Mexico received a record 24 million international visitors last year – 2.6 percent more than the 23.4 million tourists that visited in 2011, according to World Bank figures. In an interview with Bloomberg news, Tourism Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu stated that tourism’s participation in Mexican gross domestic product will climb 100 basis points to 9.4 percent by the end of current President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.

Local figures for the Rosarito-Ensenada Strip are still more impressive -another sign that Baja is really back. During the 4th of July long weekend, hotel occupancy increased 20% from last year´s, according César Rivera, from the Tourism Ministry of the State.

Katz holds similar expectations for Santa Barbara´s performance in future years. His advice for anyone interested in buying properties in the Rosarito-Ensenada Coast? “Now is a great time to buy”.


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