The love story of realtors Warren Brander and Greg Schell with PV started when they came to Greg’s brother’s wedding without knowing much about the destination, only that it had a very open community. In the back of their minds, they thought it would be like any other resort town in the Caribbean. Little did they know that 14 years later they would be living full-time in Vallarta and running their own real estate company.
We recently sat down with them to learn more about their journey moving to Vallarta, the challenges, their expectations, and how they can help you achieve what they did: move to Mexico without necessarily retiring.
Was it love at first sight?
As we were driving from the airport into 5 de December, I was in awe of the beauty of Vallarta, I had, of course, no idea where we were and if you ask me now, I still don’t, but I remember saying to Warren, “I could live here” so I will say yes it was love at first sight.
What made you love it so much?
Without sounding schlocky, I fell in love with the people, the culture and the authenticity of Vallarta. It is probably too much for some people, but the people in Vallarta are just so helpful. We remember that during that first trip, we were driving down the road and this fellow’s car was stuck; it wouldn’t start. Immediately, five guys popped out to help him get his car off the road.
We continued to see throughout our trip that people were so helpful, caring, and warm. That was a vital consideration in our decision to move here. Another was the culture and the tradition; it was authentic, a real Mexican town- something that totally resonates with us. Had it not been for that we would have never moved here because we did not want to live in a tourist town. Vallarta is a tourist town but it is also a real Mexican city.
Did you put a ring on that first trip?
After just 1 week, we put an offer on a place, but ended up not getting it. Things always happen for a reason and three months later, we bought a much more beautiful condo, our first property in Mexico. Finally, it started to feel real.
Was it a full-time commitment?
Not at first, not that we wouldn’t have wanted it, but we were both working and still had the corporate chip on, so we decided to just use it as a vacation place to come back and forth from Canada and retire here 20 years later. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we just loved it so much and felt it was the right place for us that we couldn’t wait till our retirement age, so we said, “You know what, we’re just going to do it.”
And how did you do it?
Relatively simple, really, we had an objective. We thought that if we wanted to move, we had to do it then as our kids were both under five years old, the perfect age for children to move to a new country. It just felt right to move to the place we had fallen in love with, even if it meant doing it 17 years before the original plan, but hey, life doesn’t always have to follow a plan, right? So we sold our house in Oakville, Canada and moved to Vallarta.
The first years…
Warren was a consultant at the time and could work remotely, so he lived here permanently. Greg was working for a bank, so it was more challenging for him to work remotely. “I traveled back and forth for about 5 years. Every Wednesday I would fly to Guadalajara, take the overnight bus to Vallarta and arrive here at 7:00 am just in time to take the kids to school. I would stay until Sunday afternoon and then fly back to Canada.” It was challenging at first, explains Greg, “but over time I got to spend more days at a time here and fewer in Canada until I moved here full-time five years ago.”
Warren quit his job to spend more time with the children, and when asked what the main challenge during those first years was, he commented: “To give the sense of a family to our children, even if we were apart, we wanted to make sure our children felt there was always consistency in our family life, I guess it was easier to do with all the modern gadgets we use, we couldn’t hug, feel or kiss over the phone, but we were able to always speak to Greg and feel he was here. So we relied on technology and let the love of our children take over to overcome that challenge during those first years.”
What has kept you in love with PV for so many years?
We think that you need to remember that you live in Mexico and that it is not the US or Canada; to enjoy what you have and mesh with it, not to try to change things; to accept them and don’t get stressed if things aren’t happening as quickly as you think they should. Enjoy the people. Enjoy the food. Always remember that you chose to live here for a reason.
And how did you start in real estate, Warren?
Both of us have always been involved and in love with real estate, but when a mom from our kid’s school decided to move to Spain, she needed someone to take over her real estate agency in Bucerias, so I did! That is how I got into the business, got AMPI certified, worked in three other agencies, and when Greg moved here, he started working as an agent as well, got his AMPI certification, and here we are, happy to be opening our own real estate agency, Warren Brander Realty Group.
And why go on your own now, Greg?
We have gained so much experience over the years that it is now the right time for us to be on our own helping our clients. We’ve developed a lot of great relationships. Our clients appreciate us. We understand our clients. So, now’s the time for us to put our stamp on it and say, “You know us and we’re here for you.” We have big plans for our clients and how our company can support them. And now, we’re the ones making the decisions as to what works best for our clients. We’ve talked a lot about whether we should go on our own or stay with a brand, and we strongly feel that it’s time for us to take the bull by the horns and serve our clients in the way that we know is best.
What about your team of realtors and agents?
We have a great team. We have a cross section of demographic and age groups and languages. So, there is really an agent for everyone. We speak English, Spanish and French. We’ve got years of combined experience. We’ve got Canadians, we’ve got Mexicans, we’ve got Americans, we´ve even got television personalities! We’re all AMPI certified. We’ve done all of our training. We take continuing education very seriously. And we ensure that we have all our credentials in place. We offer everything that our clients could possibly want and need, plus the experience and knowledge of Mexican real estate law, local regulations, and life as an ex-pat in Mexico. So, our clients can be comfortable in giving us their trust.
What will set you apart in the competitive Puerto Vallarta real estate market?
We pride ourselves in offering a full-service concierge concept. We know what it is to be on your own and knowing nothing about the city; we have been there, we know what someone who has just arrived in Vallarta needs, and our objective is to help them have a great experience by taking care of them even after the keys get handed over, from setting up their electricity, their internet, to taking them grocery and furniture shopping. We also have a network of professionals we work with that can help with residency, insurance, schooling, etc. We create long-term relationships. What sets us apart is that we are with you every step of the way.