For 18 years, Keith Heitke has been a go-to guy when it comes to shopping for a home in Centro. Since his fortuitous move to Mérida and his even more unexpected foray into real estate, he has helped countless people find their dream home. I had the opportunity to speak with him at length about what brought him to Mérida in the first place, and his rewarding career with Mexico International.
In December of 2002, Keith Heitke and his partner David Sterling came to Mérida to visit a friend. Although they didn’t know it at the time, they were ready for a change. “I actually didn’t want to come. I didn’t like the humidity, heat, or bugs; but once we left the grey New York winter and landed in Yucatán, it was like The Wizard of Oz…everything came to life,” Keith recalls.
The day after arriving, Keith met Mitch Keenan, owner of Mexico International, who showed him and David incredible homes. “The locations and prices were unbelievable, and it really got us thinking about the possibilities,” he says. Though they originally had no intention of purchasing a house, Keith and David ended up purchasing a gorgeous property that was begging for a remodel in the Barrio de Santiago.
That initial meeting has since blossomed into a lifelong friendship and business alliance. Shortly after moving to Yucatán, Keith joined Mitch’s team at Mexico International. Having no past experience in real estate, Mitch assured Keith that he already possessed the most important traits of a good realtor: professionalism and honesty. Currently, Keith is a font of knowledge on all things Yucatán, and focuses his efforts on the homes in Mérida’s historic districts.
When asked what he loves most about living in Mérida, Keith has an instant reply: “the people,” he says. “I was struck by the dichotomy with Manhattan, because here it doesn’t matter where you go, people here always have a smile and a kind word. I also love how safe it is,” he adds.
But things have also changed a lot over almost two decades. Keith comments that aside from the increase in culinary options and shopping centers, and the decrease in street parking, there have also been fluctuations to the real estate market. Notably, the prices for fixer-uppers have skyrocketed, while the cost of completely restored homes have stayed relatively stable in Centro. “I think that when it comes down to it, people really want to build their own dream; not buy someone else’s,” he notes.
I also inquired with Keith if he has any advice for those who want to make the move to Yucatán, to which he responds: “come for a visit first. I think that whatever your style or budget, there’s something here that’s perfect for you, and I don’t think that this can be said of everywhere.” He also spoke of the importance of learning the language, how it’s an integral part of the experience and allows people to enjoy their new lives and meet others.
Recently, Keith purchased an apartment in México City and immediately long-term residents were alarmed about his departure, but he reassures us: “I’m not going anywhere! Mérida’s my home and it will continue to be, but I am looking forward to spending some more time in a place that’s so different.”
Editor of Yucatan Today. Maggie is passionate about tourism, writing, and languages and holds a Master’s degree in Translation.
Photography by Neil Youngson and Beth Wurster for use in Yucatán Today.
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