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Close-Up: Gabriel Robles

Baja Resort Advisors seizes opportunity to build up region

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To sell property in Baja, a developer must not only be acquainted with Mexico, but also view the region as a great destination, said Gabriel Robles, founder and principal of Baja Resort Advisors Ltd.

The San Diego-based company, located in Sorrento Valley, encourages developers to invest in Baja, Mexico -- a region that has seen a population explosion of both tourists and American residents throughout the last decade.

Working alongside Mexico Development Services, the company offers feasibility studies; assistance in financing; education in Mexico laws; directing projects to zoning and planning approvals; pre-construction; design and marketing; and sales.

Gabriel Robles

Robles is current president of the Baja Norte Developers Association, a private sector group that acts as liaison between the government, developers and consumers.

His affiliation with the organization gives him direct contact with the Mexican community needed to support the development for client projects.

The San Diego resident has been in the development industry for years after being recruited by Mexico following his graduation from University of Southern California to develop various master planned cities. As vice president of development for Mexico's tourist infrastructure agency Fonatur, Robles was instrumental in developing Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, bringing in several hotel conglomerates such as Hyatt, World International Vacation Club, Sheraton, Club Med and Marriot.

Seeing a unique opportunity to help build up the Baja region, he opened a San Diego office to assume a role as a third-party connection between landowners and developers, or those who wish to establish their own joint venture with a property owner.

Projects Baja Resort Advisors has helped develop include Villages at the Vineyards, an 80-home community near La Ciega Wineries in the Guadalupe Valley, featuring a cosmetic surgery center, European health spa, bed and breakfast, wedding chapel, restaurant and wine store.

Other ventures include the Falls at Puerto Nuevo, a 90-unit luxury condominium development located near the famous "Lobster Village," just 30 minutes south of San Diego.

Ventana del Mar, located in the Bay of Salsipuedes north of Ensenada, is Robles' most recent project, entailing a 10-phase, master planned community.

On 611 acres of land, residents and guests will be pampered with a 3/4-mile private beach; a rooftop, heated-sand beach bar and restaurant; multiple cascading pools and spas; concierge and valet services; and a 24-hour, guard-gated security for the 113 condominiums and 103 homes on the property.

Robles advises land owners and developers to investigate the firm they want to work with, to be aware of the firm's past and current projects and to make sure it is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with Mexican real estate laws and regulations.

The first assignment Baja Resort Advisors team members are tasked with on a potential project is researching the land's title report. The company works with Stewart Title to determine the land's official legal owner, assuring prospective property owners that they will not have to relinquish their home in the future due to misinterpretation of the property title.

Baja Resort Advisors also includes "voucher control" for clients -- a separate account exclusively for construction, to ensure money is used for that purpose only and not for any personal reasons.

"This is just a peace of mind for our clients so they know what and where their money is going for each facet of the project," Robles said.

Foreigners own major resorts and projects throughout Mexico, Robles said. The homeowners have complete control over the trust and can sell, deed, rent or transfer the property at any time. The trust is established for an initial 50-year term, which is renewable in perpetuity, he assured.

After assurance from Stewart Title, the team then works with the owner or developer on "product development," determining what project would work best with the property. A feasibility study is conducted, followed by a recommendation for a qualified architectural firm.

"If you are building homes for Americans, you have to take in consideration what they want, and not what is typical of a Mexican home," Robles noted. "American homes normally feature big kitchens that are also used as a social area. In Mexican homes, it's just the service area where food is prepared."

"Many Mexican homes also feature maids' quarters -- something you don't see in a typical American home," he continued. "These are the things an architect has to think about when they are designing the project."

To promote its projects, Baja Advisory Group relies on Internet-based marketing, local advertisement and seminars with brokers to help "dispel the myths of investing in Mexico."

"It is not only a safe investment, but there is growth in value, it is cheaper for the same product and we're all sharing the same ocean," said Robles.

"Most people cannot afford a home by the beach in California. In Mexico they can."

Kurland is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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