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Mexican ghost town doesn't scare investors

Using their instincts, a couple buy land in a town with plans to build 17 artists villas.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
Published December 1, 2006


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These days, good timing in real estate is such a sought-after talent that entire books and Web sites are devoted to it.

When it comes to the Concheiros, no how-to material is needed.

The Brandon family members are the kind of investors whose life decisions and great timing land them deals that could make others envious. The Concheiros help find homes and financing for clients of their First Capital Funding Group, 3515 W Azeele St. They use knowledge gleaned from their own deals dating to the 1980s, when Jose Concheiro, 55, was transferred by Citibank and moved his family from New York to Brandon.

Recently they stumbled onto another great deal.

Two years ago, Concheiro and his wife were vacationing in Mexico, visiting a retired American friend who had moved to an area called San Miguel de Allende.

They fell in love with the home of their friend, Sondra Zell, with its large windows, tile floors, brick and yellow walls and cactus garden.

But they didn't think seriously of planting roots in Mexico until one day at lunch. That's when a friend of Sondra's said something to fire their imaginations: "I just bought 4 acres in a ghost town."

She described Mineral de Pozos, 40 minutes away, one of the richest of the colonial-era gold and silver mining towns before it was abandoned at the turn of the 20th century and dotted by farms and ranches.

Artists, particularly photographers, were increasingly escaping San Miguel's overcrowded streets for retreats at Pozos' closed mines.

Concheiro and his wife decided to drive to Pozos and, after taking one look at a piece of land fronting a mountain range, said they wanted it.

Back at home, their son, Juan, 28, who runs First Capital with his father, got a phone call. He remembers telling his parents, "You guys are crazy."

But his parents moved ahead, buying 4 acres for $60,000 in 2004. Mexico's courts took about a year to finalize the title transfer, Jose Concheiro said.

The Concheiros originally thought they would retire there. But as the months passed, interest in Pozos caught on and more people started buying land. Prices skyrocketed.

Then Mexico's tourism ministry targeted Pozos as one of its "Pueblos Magicos," or magical towns, making Pozos eligible for public funding for architectural conservation, infrastructure improvements and massive tourism marketing.

The Concheiros convinced their son of the area's charm. He paid a visit. Their company, First Capital, secured the financing of about half a million dollars to build 17 casitas, or villas.

The compound will include workshop space for artists, who could rent the villas for a week or more. The first cluster of villas, equipped with kitchens, will probably be ready in February, Concheiro said.

The couple are still planning to build a retirement home on a piece of their property in Pozos. When all their children are out of high school, they will build a home facing the mountains and live there for six months of the year.

"We've fallen in love with that place," he said.

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Saundra Amrhein can be reached at 813 661-2441 or amrhein@sptimes.com.

[Last modified November 30, 2006, 07:48:36]


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