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Developer's ocean-view Tijuana townhomes attract San Diego buyers

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A new generation of Mexican homebuilders is developing homes with features and amenities unavailable in the United States at any price. Leveraging the lower land, labor and wholesale material costs, developers are offering buyers priced out of the north-of-the-border market affordable, quality homes in gated, landscaped neighborhoods that more resemble Tierrasanta than Tijuana. And customers are buying.

By perching his Playas Diamante Residential development on the cliffs overlooking Playas de Tijuana ("Beaches of Tijuana"), one builder is banking that his 250 three-bed, two-and-a-half-bath townhomes priced in the mid-$160,000s is an easy sell. He's right. Shoppers experiencing the sticker-shock of San Diego home prices are finding irresistible the large, high-quality residences that feature unobstructable Pacific Ocean views offered at less than half the price of a one-bedroom East County condo.

"I'm from Monterrey (Mexico) and absolutely fell in love with these magnificent Pacific Ocean views and the fresh, salt-air breeze," said Joel Gamez Martinez, the developer. "Here in Tijuana, I knew I could build the best of the best yet still keep prices reasonable. But I wanted something really exceptional. With this location, I knew I had found my diamond."

For the price, American buyers might expect to find the builder cutting corners. And he did -- in all the right places. By employing modern "eco-intelligent" architecture emphasizing energy and water efficiency, both household and community maintenance costs are cut substantially. Eschewing "sticks and stucco" homebuilding, the structures are built using super-reinforced cinder block walls, totally insulating residents from virtually all exterior noises and temperature changes -- not that the La Jolla-like beach climate pushes the mercury around much. Off-the-grid solar-powered LED lights brightly illuminate walkways, driveways and the lush landscaping that is efficiently nourished using state-of-the-art automated grey water recycling technology.

Not only are Playas Diamante Residential homes "green," they're "smart," too. Homes feature sophisticated alarms and lighting control that are automated or controlled via the owner's cell phone. Connecting the home intercom with the manned 24/7 front gate ensures convenience doesn't lessen the security of living in a gated community. And since all the homes have integrated high-speed cable, owners have the option to upgrade, allowing them to control their home lighting, security, air conditioning, even the window blinds remotely via the Internet.

At least one home shopper seemed impressed. "These are beautiful. The floor plans are smart and roomy. We never thought we could own a home that has a big balcony off the master bedroom with this view of the Pacific Ocean. So we're really excited," said Adriana Comparan, as she walked through a recently finished unit with her husband and their two elementary school-aged kids in tow.

"Now, we're about to offer our best value -- the Diamante 'Crown Jewel' Penthouses," said Gamez Martinez. Priced in the high $200,000s, thse 2,000-square-foot, lavishly appointed penthouses boast all the amenities you would find in San Diego's downtown luxury condo market.

With the security of U.S. title insurance combined with liberal financing and on-site property management, many investors and prospective homeowners frustrated with San Diego housing prices that have flatten at the top are seeing incomparable buying opportunities in Baja California. And savvy Mexican developers are building more affordable, quality housing to meet this dynamic shift in market demand. One look at Playas Diamante Residential is proof enough that the San Diego housing market now includes the beaches of Tijuana.

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