Securing your Ocean View
If having an ocean view is essential, you want to do your best to get the most value for the expenditure. There are many properties out there where the listing is saying the primary view is “Ocean” or “Marina”. It’s important to consider how secure that view is now and how sustainable the view will be into the future.
Factors that can affect an ocean view
Around Los Cabos, several factors can affect your ocean view after you buy:
- Zoning: When that empty land between you and that view is zoned for four story condos, the owner of that land can build them if they conform to the zoning regulations.
- Politics: When Zoning doesn’t allow something the landowner wants and politicians are influenced. This may include changing zoning rules to reclassify Zoning or one-time exemptions granted to a developer.
- HOA Rules: When a new home or number of homes in your gated community are built. You should be able to assess your risk of this with the developer and or the Homeowners Association (HOA). Be careful; we’ve heard of instances where the developer will ignore any promises, written or otherwise and build right in front of you anyway to make a profit.
Land Zoning In Los Cabos
Popular zones most buyers interested in a view will be looking in are RT0, RT1 and AT0. Land zoned as AT0 is predominantly from the water to trans-peninsular highway. AT0 means Turistico Hotelero or Tourism and Hotels. So generally south of the highway is AT0. North of the highway is predominantly RT0. RT0 means Residential Turistico or Residential and Tourism. RT1 is like RT0 but applies to the Pedregal area of Lands End. In a nutshell, up to six stories of hotel or condo can show up as a view blocker in AT0 zoned land. For RT0 and RT1 the upper limit is a four story condo to block that view.
In Los Cabos there are no sight-line protections afforded to owners and investors who have bought a spectacular ocean view. If the developer builds according to the zoning regulations you can’t do a thing about it. If they stray outside of zoning regulations, there’s a good chance some influence has occurred.
For more on Zoning go to our Property Zoning Page.
Elevation – it matters
One aspect of your purchase decision that can affect the security and the quality of your ocean view is “elevation”.
Elevation affects the quality of your ocean view based on geometry and the earth’s curvature. If you are at the oceanfront at sea level you will see about 2.8 miles of ocean. If the earth was flat, you would see farther thanks to Pythagoras’ theorem. The curvature of the earth, however, shortens that distance. See the image below:
For a deeper understanding of the nuances of the earth’s curvature and the effect on view click here.
In practice more elevation = bigger view
On the ocean –
If you are on the ocean elevation means a bigger and better view. The difference between the 1st and 6th floor is 5 more miles of blue water.
The chart below illustrates how being oceanfront on a higher floor gives you a bigger ocean view.
Not on the ocean –
If you are not at the ocean, then elevation comes into play in both giving you an even bigger view and helps to provide a more secure ocean view. Using Solaria as example, the highest point in the development is at 545 feet from sea level. Its most direct view plane is 1.5 miles to the ocean.
A 4th floor unit at Solaria can see 1.5 miles of land and 28.5 miles of blue water before ending at the horizon. Arguably a better ocean view than the 6th floor condo at the oceanfront. The greater the elevation of a property both on the hill and within the complex and buildings improves your chances of seeing well over any construction within your view plane.
Solaria currently has Oceana Residences being constructed across the road from it. Whether or not a view in Solaria will be affected will vary by the location within the complex. The back rows in Solaria are likely to see over Oceana where closer to the front of Solaria a portion of the ocean view may be blocked with views remaining to the right and left.
Rules for securing your ocean view
Rule # 1: “To see the water you need to be at the water”
Seems straightforward and makes sense, who’s going to build a hotel or condo out in the water in front of me? Unless Zoning is extended to the ocean and developers find cost effective ways to locate condos on stilts it seems improbable but not impossible (see “Burj Al Arab Hotel”). The best way to ensure your ocean view is 100% secure and sustainable is to be at the water!
Rule # 2: “Get educated if you’re not going to be at the water”
Getting educated involves understanding all aspects that can affect that view. First, as you get started, you need to understand the Zoning throughout the Los Cabos Municipality. Without an extensive study of the Zoning maps, the simplest thing for you to remember is that any plot of land you see between you and that view you treasure could have at least four stories of condo or hotel there blocking your view. Below the highway to the water, it can be six stories.
Second, if you also have an area in mind with development oversight by a developer or a Home Owners Association, or HOA. In that case you must obtain the HOA or developer requirements for building there. Many areas like Cabo Bello, Pedregal, Palmilla and others will have restrictions on building heights, rooftop terraces, and other features that will control potential view destruction within the HOA. Most HOA documentation is available in both English and Spanish. However the Spanish version is the legal one.
Rule # 3: “Elevation Matters”
If you can’t afford to be oceanfront then look for higher properties on the hillside with as many completed developments between the property and the ocean.
When faced with a choice of one condo or another in a complex try to always choose the higher one.
Rule # 4: “Find an ethical, trustworthy Real Estate Professional”
If you’ve studied the Zoning for the Los Cabos Area and find you know more about the Zoning than your realtor, then you best find another one. Providing full disclosure about the Zoning in the area can seriously detract from making a sale. Simply saying nothing is much easier than fessing up and turning you off buying altogether. Also, don’t let that seemingly trustworthy developer’s representative convince you of anything when they say “the most that can be built on the lot in front of you is 2 stories” because it’s simply untrue. They know the zoning for that land says 4 story condos can be built there, they just want to make a sale and are very content to overlook the truth to make that sale.
When a realtor tries to convince you not to worry as that land over there is owned by the natives or by the city, know that when that land is sold it’s the zoning that matters and not who owns it now. Some day that land will sell and you have no say over what happens to be built there, so make sure you know what could be built upfront. Take no comfort in any words tossed around about who owns the land. If a realtor tells you that land is protected and specially zoned and not to worry, get a lawyer who understands the Zoning to verify that. If you’re able to find a Real Estate professional that is knowledgeable about Zoning and acknowledges there are real risks to having a secure and sustainable ocean view, you just may have someone you can trust to find you that Cabo dream home.
Rule # 5: “Make your choice based on facts and risks”
If, after all of your due diligence, you want to make a choice and write an offer, make your choice based on all the facts you now have and the risks you see in the view changing. Choose another property if you see the probability being high of losing that ocean view. In the end when you say to yourself “the view is a bit risky but I still have to have it” at least you bought knowing the Zoning and other factors that will affect that view. When the view changes, if it ever does, you get to say “I knew that could happen and I’m okay with it”. You won’t be kicking yourself for not doing your part or for believing someone’s lack of disclosure.
Lastly, don’t expect any developer or seller who speaks to property having a “forever ocean view” to guarantee it in a contract. No one will.