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— Serrano says prices in the Diamond Zone run from $250,000 to over a million, most being closer to the lower end of that range. For $350,000, a buyer can easily get more than 2500 square feet, three or more bedrooms, at least two baths, and a two-car garage. To a San Diegan, that sounds like a bargain, and it is if you're paying cash. But though financing in Mexico has become attainable in the past 10 years -- it used to be nearly nonexistent -- it's not as generous as it is in the United States. "We start at 11 points here in Mexico," Serrano explains. "If you pay on time for the first 12 months or so, you can get a better rate. The lowest rate you can get is 9 percent. And while you have 30-year terms in the States, sometimes even more than 30 years, in Mexico, you have 15 years to pay off the house. So new buyers who have the capacity to put 20 or 30 percent down to buy a $300,000 or $400,000 house here could take that down payment and buy a bigger house in the States, because it's easier to make payments in the United States even if the cost of the house is higher."

Another cause of the unusually high number of For Sale and For Rent signs in Tijuana's wealthy neighborhoods, Serrano believes, is unscrupulous and incompetent real estate agents. In Mexico, there are no classes, certifications, or licenses required to become a real estate agent. One need only register with the local government and start working. "A problem we have right now," Serrano explains, "is brokers who are not part of our association who don't make any market studies to determine the true price for a home. They just use whatever price the owner decides on, hang the sign up, and try to sell it. But the houses are often overpriced. So instead of the true market value of the house, you get someone's sentimental value on the house. They think, 'My house is worth a million dollars,' but it's only worth half a million."

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