Accommodation in Mexico
Expats moving to Mexico will find that the accommodation available – both to rent and to buy – is plentiful and varied. There is no question that you will be able to find a comfortable place to stay in Mexico, and probably one that is spacious and well-suited to your needs to boot. However, the process of finding accommodation in Mexico can be a little tricky, and expats will want to acquaint themselves with the market before making a final housing decision.
Types of accommodation in Mexico
There are all types of accommodation to be found in Mexico – varying wildly in style, size, quality and price. Expats in Mexico might choose to live in an urban apartment block, or an older colonial-style building, perhaps shared by a few other people – or even in a brand-new condominium complex, kitted out with all the modern conveniences. Those looking to live outside the city limits (where rent prices decrease dramatically) might even be able to rent a room in a ranch-house (hacienda) during their stay in the country.
A few general principles apply:
- Urban housing is dramatically more expensive than more rural housing
- When house-hunting, especially in Mexico City, make sure that your prospective home is close to your place of employment. Traffic can be nightmarish in Mexico – easily tacking on a couple of hours to your regular work day
- If you don't speak Spanish, chances are that landlords will look to take advantage of your situation. Conduct thorough market research to get a feel for prices in the area in which you are looking, and inspect each property you view carefully – turn on the taps and the light switches, flush the toilets, check for damp, etc.
Renting property in Mexico
The process of renting property in Mexico – at least, through 'official channels' – can be tricky.
Far more people rent property in Mexico than buy, and so the rental market is always good, with a wide variety of options available. However, as a foreigner – and especially if you don't speak Spanish – it can sometimes be very difficult to engage the services of a real estate agent to help you organise a place to stay. The reason for this is that in addition to the usual guarantees required to secure a rental agreement – proof of employment and financial solvency, letters of reference, etc. – bad experiences of renting to expats in the past, have led landlords to demand that a guarantor oversees the signing of any rental agreement.
Getting this guarantor – who must be a Mexican citizen and a property owner, and who must pledge to compensate the landlord for any damage to their property inflicted by the tenant – to sign a rental agreement for an expat they probably don't know is, of course, a major stumbling-block for real estate agents looking to take on expats as rental clients. There are, of course, ways around this problem – but if you find yourself getting no joy from the first few real estate agents you talk to, don't take it personally, this is the reason why they're lukewarm about your business!
However, expats should not despair – as not only do local Mexican newspapers carry plenty of rental listings, but word-of-mouth is a highly effective means of finding accommodation in Mexico, and informal lease agreements can be organised with minimum fuss. Of course, even if you go the informal route, insist on a rental contract and an inventory of the place, to protect yourself against getting unfairly evicted, or short-changed on your deposit money.
A few final considerations about renting property in Mexico:
- The Internet is increasingly becoming a great resource for finding rental accommodation. Use 'bienes raices en', followed by the area in which you intend to live, as your search term (so, 'bienes raices en Ciudad de Mexico' for accommodation in Mexico City)
- Whether you find your own place to stay, or manage to find a real estate agent to help you out, you will be required to pay the first month's rent upfront, and a further month's rent as deposit money. As a foreigner, the landlord might request that you make a firmer financial commitment before agreeing to rent to you – try to resist this, perhaps by offering to pay your rent in advance every month
- You will probably sign your lease agreement on a year-long basis, but alternative arrangements can easily be made (for example, month-to-month rentals are quite popular in Mexico, especially in the more touristy areas)
- If you do use a real estate agent, they will get their fee (equivalent to a month's rent) from the landlord – you are not responsible for their fee
- You will almost certainly be liable for your own utility, phone and Internet bills while in Mexico. Make sure you pay these timeously, as Mexican landlords are already hesitant to rent to expats, and don't require any further reason to doubt their worthiness as tenants!
Buying property in Mexico
A very popular option for expats is to buy property in Mexico. This is due to a variety of reasons – including good property prices and the beautiful Spanish-colonial houses typically on offer – but mainly because the process of purchasing property in Mexico is refreshingly free of red tape.
The process of buying a house in Mexico is as follows:
- Once you have identified the house you wish to purchase, first make sure that the seller legally owns or holds title on the property. They should be able to provide you with an escritura publica (public deed), and a certificado de libertad de gravamen (a lien certificate, containing a legal description of the property)
- Secondly, hire a real estate lawyer to oversee the transaction. This is always a good idea, especially if you don't speak Spanish. To make sure the lawyer you hire is qualified and licensed to practice, ask to see their cédula professional
- Next, make a formal offer to the seller, in the form of a Promise to Buy document, known in Mexico as an oferta. It's a good idea to have a copy of this in English and Spanish.
- At this stage, you'll need to engage the services of the Notario Publico (Public Notary) – a government-appointed official, whose job it is to oversee that property transactions are conducted smoothly and legally. Show them the oferta document at this stage
- If the seller accepts your offer, a deposit (usually 10 percent of the purchase price) must be paid upon both parties signing the oferta document. Make sure that the Public Notary is present at the signing, and that the transfer of the deposit money goes through them (or the closing agent, if one is hired) – and not directly to the seller.
- The next step is to register your ownership at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Finally, the balance of payment – including acquisition tax, closing fees and Notary fees – must be paid, once again through the Notary, and all remaining documents must be signed in the Notary's presence.