Monday, September 29, 2008

A bumpy ride

The feeling George and I have had the past couple of days as Congress stumbles and financial markets tumble (a bit of an uptick today, thank goodness) is akin to the sensation of getting on one of those awful amusement park rides that flip you, spin you and turn you upside down. The result is pretty much the same in that you're nauseated and you've lost all the money in your pockets by the time the ride is over.

In an attempt to distract ourselves from all these financial woes, we've been trying to guess where all these new resorts being reported on the Stark's site will be built.

We knew something was up with the news that Replay was resurfacing and upgrading the south entrance to Loreto Bay. And we suspected that was due in part to the new resort going in where the now-defunct Whale's Inn stands across from the tennis courts off the main entrance to LB.

We'd also heard that our former LB sales associate Laurie Sanborn was a part of that project, and today we learned she is joined by another former LB sales associate, Mark Codiroli, who gives the low down on the planned J.W. Marriott resort in an open letter on the Stark's site, which can be accessed by clicking on StarkSilverCreek at the bottom of this page.

In addition, The Villa Group, which has a proven track record in Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, is planning four resorts in the Loreto area, one of which will be located at Ensenada Blanca, near the eco-resort Danzante, which has been on the market for some months now. A post on states that The Villa Group tried to buy Danzante but the deal fell through. However, anything I read on that site is taken with a hefty grain of salt. Those who post there are particularly nasty about our development in Loreto Bay. Why, we don't know. But that kind of animosity makes me suspicious...

On the plus side, it's wonderful news that two major players such as Marriott and The Villa Group are moving forward with plans for high-end resorts in our own backyard no less. That can only bode well for the Villages of Loreto Bay.

On a local note (thanks to Lynn Hamman and her Yahoo group updates) is news that the La Palapa restaurant in Loreto burned down last week but the owner plans to re-open in 16 days with or without a roof! George and I and friends enjoyed a very entertaining dinner there last April so we're really happy they'll be open during our visit in a couple of weeks.

And on a personal note, thanks to our cluster neighbors Michael and Terri McMahon for the title of this post, which I co-opted from one of their e-mails because it's so very apropos of everything that's going on!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A work in progress demands work

For the most part, it appears that Loreto Bay homeowners are responding to The Construction Coach's recent update outlining Loreto Bay's cash flow problems with support for the project and Replay. However, many are questioning why Replay hasn't spoken directly to homeowners on these problems. Two days later we are still being met with silence from that quarter.

George and I both believe in this development and naturally want it to succeed. We join those who have offered their support for the project and Replay. These are tough times not just in Loreto, but across this continent, and it's important to maintain a positive attitude.

It's also important, as I noted two days ago, to be well-informed about the obstacles, delays and problems we are all facing with our homes in Loreto Bay.

A lot of what Bill Doyle said in his update makes sense. Some of it though, not so much. Although we understand the need for making a good first impression, we just aren't sure that a dramatic slow down of construction on homes in Agua Viva is going to create a good impression for potential home buyers.

It's great that the finishing touches in Founder's Neighborhood are being given priority. There's no doubt that a newly paved road from the highway into LB will reflect well on the development. As will the lovely walkways between homes and renovation of the hotel pool and bar.

But, to us, those work trucks and all that construction equipment along the Paseo aren't junky at all. They are proof positive that Loreto Bay is a hustling, bustling growing development. Now that's making a good impression.

Loreto Bay is a work in progress. Sure it would be nice to keep the dust and noise to a minimum, but nothing says success and growth like construction activity.

We're just not sure that slowing construction to a crawl is a good way to impress visitors to Loreto Bay. Instead of preparing lots for the next phase of Agua Viva, why not finish what's already been started? A finished phase indicates success. Rebar protruding from unfinished homes does not.

As I was finishing this post, George received our latest TCC update showing very little work (only one percent) done since last month. At least we have walls up, which means we'll have something to look at when we're down for the homeowner weekend!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why re-invent the wheel?

One aspect of Replay's revamped strategic management plan that puzzles us is the contention that sales at Loreto Bay have been stagnant for almost a year because of the focus on construction.

As George asked, "Why?"

Why would the focus on construction take away from the focus on sales? Aren't these two totally separate functions?

As we noted in a previous blog, it appears that sales stagnated because the new strategy was haphazard and lacking in continuity.

When we bought our Casa Encantada in October 2007 the sales strategy was clear and effective. We weren't left to find our way to Loreto on our own. Then find our way to the hotel. Then wander aimlessly while trying to find a sales associate who might or might not be able to find us a model home to view. That's exactly what happened to a friend of ours who ultimately decided not to buy. He was turned off by the lack of attention. And if that had happened to us, we would have been turned off too.

The previous strategy of sales events appears to have worked quite well as hundreds of us did buy. The marketing materials including the Web site were impressive and detailed. The sales events were exciting and effective because the customer was the focus. We had one point of contact - our sales associate - who looked after our concerns and needs. That focus changed when potential buyers were shuttled from one sales associate to another - whoever happened to be "on duty" that day.

Another factor that is missing from the new sales pitch is the emphasis on sustainability and the uniqueness of the community. That was a huge draw for many of us. And still is to this day.

It may be true that Replay has inherited a slew of "skeletons in the closet" but the old sales approach isn't one of them. So why re-invent the wheel?

(This post was written last night after further reflection on Replay's new strategy for boosting cash flow. As we continue to process Bill Doyle's update, I'm sure we'll have more to say on this new turn of events.)

Information please...

The near collapse and subsequent U.S. government bailouts of some of the biggest financials players in the world today will affect all of us in some way or another whether it's our investment portfolios or our investment properties. And today we learn from The Construction Coach - not Replay or Loreto Bay Company - that times are only going to get tougher in regards to our investment in the Villages of Loreto Bay.

Things do not look good.

Citigroup is pulling out and has listed the project for sale. However, Replay appears to be in it for the long haul, which according to TCC is good news for all of us.

In TCC's monthly update (which all homeowners using their services should have received via e-mail today) Bill Doyle calls for calm and patience. It's hard to disagree with that advice, but the real problem here is that it's TCC giving us this bad news and not Replay.

Homeowners are getting panicky, but not without good reason. Will potential home buyers even be able to get financing? How about those who've already signed on the dotted line? And what of the financial investment many of us have already made?

We just don't know yet.

Bill is right that we should all take a deep breath and look at the project long-term. He's right that Replay has revitalized and refocused the project.

What we're not so sure he's right about is his call for homeowner investors to back off and "let Replay and LBC do what they have to do."

"Every time they have to stop what they are doing to answer e-mails, phone calls, long demanding letters, or threats of lawsuits, it distracts from the focus of getting the project back on track."

While we agree with that advice in spirit, we do not agree in practice. The problem all along has been that we have not been able to get information - on even the simplest matter - from LBC. This lack of communication has been incredibly frustrating for many of us. If communication between Replay/LBC and homeowners was better there wouldn't be so many "distractions" for Replay.

As homeowner investors, we need information in order to make informed decisions and LBC/Replay hasn't and isn't providing us with that information.

George and I genuinely appreciate Bill Doyle giving us this information. It couldn't have been easy to write this latest update and we admire him, his wife and partners for delivering this bad news and encouraging us all to hang in there.

But Replay should have been the bearer of these bad tidings, not TCC.

If Replay wants our continued support and financial investment then THEY need to invest in us by providing us with honest, up-to-date information - the good, the bad and the ugly.

We, along with many others, have sunk a big chunk of change in this project, and we deserve to be better informed. We need reassurance that our investment is secure and we need that reassurance from those in charge of the project. As investors we should be demanding this.

One option that just might work would be to have a homeowner liaison, or multiples of such, to aid in the flow of information from Replay to homeowners. Any comments?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hooray for Hollywood

George and I just finished watching the episode of HGTV's House Hunters International featuring the homes of the Villages of Loreto Bay and if you missed it that's a shame, because it was a real hoot!

It was a lot of fun to see the development as it was a couple of years ago. At least that was our best guesstimate on when much of this episode was filmed. However, there were some scenes that were obviously shot much later after the buyer's home was completed and they had moved in. George thought he saw some perform walls which means some of those final shots took place not too long ago.

And it was great to see Laurie Sanborn, who was our sales associate when we bought in October 2007, as she showed the prospective buyers, Ann and Doug Brown of Carlsbad, Calif., a Casa Alta model at the beginning of the episode.

The Browns, who now make LB their full-time home with their two children, were also featured in an article on Loreto Bay that appeared in the NY Times on March 7, 2008.

The very charming and photogenic couple finally decided on a Casa Aquaria - a three bedroom, three bath model - after seeing the Casa Alta (quite a spacious floor plan and one that George and I only ruled out because of the rental space on the first floor) and a Casa Encantada that looked suspiciously like Joel Sherman's lovely home with the fabulous pool and other custom features.

Even though the program appeared to be entirely staged, it was a very enjoyable half hour and one we'll probably view whenever we feel the need for a Loreto fix. The views and homes are just as gorgeous on television (especially if you have HD) as they are in person.

This show should go a long way toward piquing people's interest in Loreto Bay.

Visa red tape unraveled

Since starting our research on living in Mexico more than a year ago, George and I have come across some conflicting information on the requirements for an FM-3 visa (to retire in Mexico). Mostly minor differences but we decided our best bet was to visit the Mexican Consulate here in Albuquerque to get some definitive answers. And, we did.

Our consular contact, Francisco, provided us with a list of requirements that are simple and easily fulfilled.

1. Passport valid for at least one year.
2. Two photos (passport size, front view without glasses).
3. Proof of income of at least $1,000 monthly for the applicant and $500 for each additional person or dependent. This should be a formal letter (not three, six or 12 months worth of bank statements as we've previously read) from Social Security or the authority issuing the retirement funds. The letter should specify the amount of money and how often payment is received (only the amount required above... As Francisco put it - we don't need to know how much money you have in your bank account, only that you have the required amount).
4. Proof of ownership or lease of property in Mexico.
5. Formal letter requesting the Visa and explaining in detail reasons for moving to Mexico.

Francisco also told us that the whole process would only take between four and six days. There is also no longer a requirement that one has to cross the border within a certain number of days to "activate" the FM-3. According to Francisco, all we need to do is report to the Immigration office in Loreto after we arrive in Mexico.

Our next big hurdle is the Menage de Casa, which we'll also do through the consulate here. From what we've read online, the Menage de Casa process can get very confusing. Time to stock up on the Ginkgo Biloba!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The skies get friendlier

Alaska Air will be increasing seat capacity on some flights to Loreto in early November, according to a new posting on Loreto Bay's official homeowner site.

"We are delighted to inform you that our partner, Alaska Air, will be increasing their seat capacity to Loreto from Los Angeles beginning Friday, November 9, 2008. They will be adding a Friday flight to the schedule and fly a 70 seat CRJ (regional jet) on Tuesdays and Fridays, and increase capacity to a 136 seat 737 Jetliner on Sundays and Thursdays," writes Jana on the home page.

This is welcome news for Loreto Bay homeowners and visitors alike, and, with luck, signals a turnaround in flights to Loreto.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A new day dawns!

Good news! Loreto Bay management has finally gotten rid of those old juice cans and string they've been using to communicate and replaced them with a new newfangled system - the Internet!

All kidding aside though, this change is very good news for Loreto Bay homeowners as the new e-mail information requests being proposed by LB will go a long way toward keeping us better informed on the progress of our individual casas and the development as a whole.

According to the e-mail from Hector Morales Du Solier, customer Services senior manager, "To improve the accuracy and tracking of information, we will be using a new software program called In Site Logistics. To help us assist you, please email your Request for Information (RFI) form to Upon receipt of your email, one of the Customer Service team members will submit it to the appropriate department and the form will be used to track each item through completion. Please allow one week for a response from our team."

The only problem we can see with this new method is that it appears the form must be printed to be filled out and then scanned and e-mailed back to LB. Not a problem for those who are a little more computer savvy, but some folks might not have those capabilities. However those skills can always be learned.

Anything will be an improvement, as we never did hear from our account manager on a question we posed months ago.

More good news in that it appears Loreto dodged a bullet as Tropical Storm Lowell was downgraded to a Tropical Depression leaving some rain but little in the way of winds. According to the Loreto Community Update provided by Lynn Hamman early this morning: "Tropical Depression Lowell is now off the coast of Cabo. Loreto did receive a lot of rain yesterday late afternoon and at night... nothing as anticipated. Power and water are still on and I haven't heard of any major problems. There is a lot of standing water in town on the non-paved streets."

As I noted in a previous post, Lynn's community updates are a godsend and anyone can sign up to receive them. Just e-mail to become a member of the group.

George also discovered this morning that the cluster maps are back on the official LB homeowner site under Resources and new photos were posted under Development Progress.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mixed bag of news

About the only good news relating to Loreto Bay in recent days is the return of Nellie Hutchison's blog after a summer-long hiatus.

Where in the World is Nellie? has been a good source of information on a variety of topics, especially businesses and services in Loreto. We welcome Nellie's return to the blogging world and look forward to future posts.

On the downside is the news that air service to Loreto will be suffering yet another blow when Aeromexico cancels its Phoenix to Hermosilla to Loreto flight effective Sept. 12, according to an LB homeowner posting on the Loreto Bay Community Web site. When we checked with Aeromexico, flights on that route were available after Sept. 12, but not in October. This puzzling decision (the barrel price for oil has gone down in the past month and wouldn't Aeromexico have access to much less expensive Mexican fuel anyway?) means there will now be only three weekly flights between Los Angeles and Loreto, according to the Alaska Airlines Web site. This isn't just inconvenient, it's downright scary! We hope this move is only temporary.

And let's hope TCC's Bill Doyle was kidding when he posted today on Loreto Bay Community that he'll be possibly closing up shop in three and a half years. He and Laurie have been a godsend to home buyers smart enough to use their services. It's not an exaggeration to say that those services are an absolute necessity considering the lack of assistance and information coming from Loreto Bay management. This isn't terrible news in the short term, but we do feel sorry for future home buyers if TCC isn't around.

Not to be too pessimistic, it's worth noting that progress is being made on the Cluster 9 pool, which looks to be quite a nice size (and already full of water courtesy of TS Julio) judging by the photo that was posted by Bill Doyle on the Loreto Bay Community site, which can be accessed here under Links of Interest.

And on the same site, the Sustainability Guy has an interesting post about the installation of bat houses around the golf course for some 1,800 bats who can each eat 400-600 mosquitos an hour. Apparently the little buggers are having a field day in Loreto and Loreto Bay with all the new ponds that popped up after Julio passed through the area.

Just as an aside, helpful postings on the Loreto Bay Community site have picked up in the past week or so. That's nice for all of us who search - often in vain - for information on Loreto and Loreto Bay.