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Californian goes south of the border for beachfront home

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Going on countless vacation trips to Mexico made it only natural for Tony Chapman to want to buy a home there. But like most Americans, he believed it was impossible for non-natives to purchase any property.

The Los Angeles resident soon learned the country south of the border recently loosened its restricted real estate laws and welcomed its northern cousins to invest in the country. It didn't take him long to scout several locations before finding one on the Baja Peninsula.

"It was an absolute accident. It was like a miracle," he said.

His two-bedroom, two-bath house is one of several located at the San Felipe Marina Golf Resort and Spa. Built in 1995, the 1,100-square-foot home overlooks the Sea of Cortez and features a kitchen, living room, dining room, patio and a plunge pool. Chapman purchased the house two years ago for approximately $300,000.

Chapman visited such popular destinations in Mexico as Cancun, Mazatlan, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas and Puerta Vallerta. He stumbled upon San Felipe seven years ago and fell in love with its tranquil yet bustling vibe. While staying at a hotel one year, he inquired about the real estate market and was directed to the resort.

"It's on the nicest beach. You think you are in Tahiti," he said.

He toured the property and fell in love with it. Set on buying a house, he hired both American and Mexican real estate attorneys to protect his interest. After receiving the title insurance for the property and finding no conflicts with the law, Chapman decided to invest in another property just down the road, where he can build his "dream home." Construction on the 1,650-square-foot, three-bedroom villa will be completed by early 2007. The beach getaway cost Chapman about $500,000.

"The same piece of property in Manhattan Beach can go for millions. This was a great investment," he said. His first property will, in the future, be offered as a rental or possible buy for any interested parties. With hundreds of new homes being built and new visitors to San Felipe each day, Chapman doesn't fear the quaint town will turn into a destination overrun by tourists and spring breakers.

"I am really not concerned it will turn into Cabo San Lucas, even if it builds up tremendously," he said.

Chapman visits San Felipe five to six times a year when he gets time off from his work as a car dealership manager in Los Angeles, and hopes to semi-retire in Mexico in the future.

"If someone gave me a million dollars right now and asked 'Where you would invest it,' I would go right now where I am," Chapman said. "If you are thinking about doing it, there is no time like now. If you want anything that is beachfront or with great views of the ocean, the prices are only going to go up in the next 10 years."

Kurland is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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