Buying appliances and furnishing a house in Mexico

I didn’t know that when you rent a house in Mexico, odds are the stove and refrigerator are not installed because every apartment I rented in the US had those two basic appliances. Therefore, as soon as we arrived in Mexico and threw our mattresses on the floor for the night, we began discussing where we needed to go the next day to get a stove.

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Our first appliances in Mexico.

My husband’s mother suggested Elektra’s linea blanca (appliance line) and not having a clue, that’s where we went. We had enough money set aside to purchase a small stove and refrigerator “contado” rather than in payments. They loaded them into the truck and back to the apartment we went.

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Overall, Eletreka seems the most popular store in our area for cell phones, kitchen appliances,  motorcycles and furniture due to its ability to approve financing for your purchases through its own bank, Banco Azteca. In order to apply for credit, you’ll need your IFE (voter’s registration card) if you are a Mexican citizen or your current passport and residency card if you aren’t. Other documentation include: recent proof of residence (water/electricity bill), two years at the same residence or employment as evidenced by predial (tax) payments or a letter from your employer, signed aval (a signed contract from a guarantor in the event you don’t pay), and a signed garantías prendarias (permission to repossess any items bought with the line of credit). Sometimes, you will be asked to give an enganche (downpayment) as well.

Most other mueblerías (furniture stores) seem to have similar policies when you buy on credit. Initially, this seems like a good idea since you can take the items immediately and pay over time. Additionally, Elektra inspires prompt payment by lowering your interest for each payment you make on time. So it seems like you’ll be saving money, however, remember it always works out in favor of the store no matter what you do.

There are some drawbacks to buying on credit. Payment lines are out the wazoo causing you the loss of several hours each week. Supposedly, you can make your payment at places like OXXO or at the automatic tellers. What happens if that payment gets “lost” in the OXXO system? Or the ATM machine is broken? So just suck it up and stand in line like the rest of these fine folk.

Then, no matter what, you are responsible for paying the full amount plus interest even if your motorcycle is stolen, your fridge breaks, or you die. A few months before her death, my mother-in-law bought a motorcycle on credit from Elektra for her recently returned son M. She was wise enough to take a life insurance policy on her line of credit. After her death, her husband took a copy of the Acta de defunción (death certificate) to Elektra. The policy cleared out her debt and M got his motorcycle free and clear which he promptly sold when he skedaddled out of the area. Without that policy, someone in the family still might be making payments on that motorcycle.

If you default on your loan, they will come and get whatever it is you bought on credit. My sister-in-law has found the loophole in this though. She bought a brand-new refrigerator, top of the line model and stopped paying on it. Before the repo men could come and get it, she moved and moved again, and then moved a third time in a one month period.

Then she applied for credit at another Elektra store adding Maria in front of her name (which is her legal name but since everyone and her sister is named Maria and it is often abbreviated M. or Ma. on the birth certificate she always has gone by her second name). She bought some more stuff on credit and did the same thing.

It seems she has lucked out yet again. Her latest motorcycle was purchased in her son’s name since she’d burned her bridges too many times with her own name. The same son who was murdered recently. (Test of endurance) If she had the forethought to get the life insurance policy, then she owns this moto free and clear upon the presentation of his death certificate. It seems some people really know how to work the system.

Elektra has been trying to reduce the chance of default by asking you for a list of family members when you apply for credit. The loan officer then checks the list of bad debtors against your list of relatives and if you are related to someone like my husband’s sister, may well deny you credit.

We’ve had issues with our Banca Azteca card being cloned. It’s happened three times. Twice we reported it and were issued a new card. After the third time, we cut up our card ourselves and have refused to pay any further debts incurred. Our guess is that someone that works either at Elektra or Banco Azteca is facilitating the cloning. Anyway, since the Elektra computer system now lists us as bad debtors we won’t be getting any more credit there.

In our area, in addition to Elektra, Coppel also has a linea blanca (appliance) line and even Soriana and Fábricas de Francia carry appliances, with Soriana being at the lowest end of the quality spectrum and Fábricas of Francia on the more expensive end. I found my washer at Famsa at a good price, but they are somewhat limited as to what they have to offer overall.

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Most of the furniture items, tables, sofas, beds, dressers and so on, are really crappy at all of the aforementioned stores. We opted to buy handcrafted items whenever possible. Not only has it been less expensive, but the quality has been far superior. Our roperos (armoires) and bedside tables have been bought from carpenter tents along on the road, others we have had custom made to fit our needs and house from a local carpintería. The bed bases my husband made himself. If you aren’t so handy, you can find sturdy wooden bed frames sold from the back of a truck in most towns. My son’s fabulous corner computer desk was made by a local carpenter. 

Our tables are solid wood bought second-hand and the chairs, well, we have quite a number of handmade chairs (Sitting around the house). Kitchen cupboards, interior doors, and shelves can be ordered from the local carpintería and include installation.

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We have yet to buy a living room set because well, we don’t have a living room. I would suggest an upper-end mueblería for these items. We have one store that offers a scratch and dent sale periodically. The inventory most likely includes furniture that had been repossessed as well. We got two nice chairs there one year. Otherwise, their prices are way out of our budget.

Curtains and beddings, also known as linea blanca, can be purchased at places that specialize in those items, which often are named something like Casa Ramirez or Casa Lopez, or at the stores I mentioned before. You might want to have them made by a sastre (tailor) or costuera (seamstress) if you have odd sized windows or want a specific fabric for bedding. In fact, you might be able to have something bought at one of the Casa places altered by the seamstress on duty.

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I asked my husband about the Casa addition to the name. He said that before different haciendas were known for their needlework or embroidery. So when it was time for new bedding or curtains you would go to la casa de los Ramirez to place an order for your necessities. So the Casa part of the store name comes from that tradition which of course, as my son pointed out, you don’t really need to know in order to buy your blankets there.

Anyway, that’s what I know about buying appliances and furnishings in Mexico. Hope it helps!

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics

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