- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Mexico Guide (PDF)
Expats looking for accommodation in Mexico will have a varied selection to choose from. New arrivals should be able to find, without too much hassle, a home that is comfortable, spacious and well-suited to their needs.
Still, the process of finding accommodation in Mexico can sometimes be tricky, and expats will want to acquaint themselves with the property market before making a final decision on where to live.
Types of accommodation in Mexico
Mexico, being one of the world's largest countries, has a wide array of accommodation options, varying wildly in style, size, quality and price, to match its diverse climate, landscapes and terrains. Urban housing in Mexico is considerably more expensive than that in rural areas. This price difference does not always translate into better quality accommodation, so expats should assess all factors before committing to a property.
It's possible to find older colonial-style buildings, perhaps shared by a few other people, and larger multi-family homes for a bargain if expats do their research. Those looking to live outside the city limits where rent is considerably lower might even be able to rent a room in a ranch house (hacienda) during their stay in the country.
Apartments and condominiums
Many expats choose to live in an urban apartment block and some may splurge on a brand-new condominium, kitted out with all modern conveniences. Expats from high-income countries such as the US and UK find that their money goes a lot further in Mexico than it would back home, the better cost of living affording them grander housing opportunities. Still, beach-front condos with swimming pools are still pricey, often enjoyed by retired expats, and may not fit everyone's budget or lifestyle.
Flat and house-shares
Don't be fooled when moving to Mexico that all accommodation is affordable – rentals have been increasing in typical expat areas, and luxurious living may not be for everyone. Luckily, there are low and middle-income budget options too. Many young and single people choose to rent a room in a house or flat, which is a great way to meet new people and not feel so alone in a new country.
Furnished vs unfurnished
Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation can be found, and while expats staying short term may want a fully-equipped space, it is easy to buy affordable furniture in Mexico. It's a must to find out exactly how unfurnished the 'unfurnished' accommodation is, as it could be nothing more than a shell requiring much work. This could give tenants more freedom on design and decoration but could be costly. Those moving for a long period, be it to work or retire, may want a feel of home and may consider shipping their furniture from their home country to Mexico, which can be done stress-free.
Finding accommodation in Mexico
As with most things today, the internet is a great resource for finding rental accommodation. Expats can find plenty of online listings by entering 'bienes raices en' followed by the area in which they intend to live.
Many local Mexican newspapers carry rental listings, and word-of-mouth is also a highly effective means of finding accommodation in Mexico – informal lease agreements can be organised with minimum fuss.
Enlisting the help of a real-estate agent or going through a relocation company is another option, as these professionals will have local advice and experience. The Asociación Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios (AMPI) is a useful reference to determine registered real-estate agents' experience and qualifications.
When house hunting, especially in Mexico City, expats should make sure that their prospective home is close to their place of employment. Traffic can be a nightmare, easily adding on a couple of hours to one’s regular workday.
Landlords will usually try to take advantage of expats who don’t speak Spanish. Thorough market research should be conducted to get a feel for prices in the desired area, and each property should be inspected carefully; for example, expats should turn on the taps, switch on the lights, flush the toilets and check for damp walls and ceilings.
Renting accommodation in Mexico
Far more people rent than buy property in Mexico, so the rental market is consistently excellent with a wide variety of options available. Expats who don’t speak Spanish may find it difficult to use the services of some estate agents, which could make the process considerably more complicated and expensive.
Tenants may find that proof of employment and letters of reference are not always needed, but landlords frequently demand that a guarantor (aval, in Spanish) can co-sign the rental agreement. Landlords may insist that the aval is a Mexican citizen and they must agree to cover any damage or fees that the tenant cannot.
Expats need not be overly concerned about this as there are other ways to rent accommodation in Mexico, negotiating with the landlord or paying a higher deposit.
Both fixed-term and open-ended leases are available. Expats will probably sign their lease agreement on an annual basis, but alternative arrangements can be made. Month-to-month rentals are quite popular in Mexico, especially in the more touristy areas. With open-ended leases, though, tenants should confirm the notice period for ending the contract to ensure that both parties have enough time for arrangements when leaving.
We advise expats to insist on an inventory of the place, to protect themselves from being unfairly evicted or short-changed. It's also important to check the rental contract in both English and Spanish, or get a Spanish-speaking friend or translator to ensure the contracts say the same thing.
Some landlords may ask for rent and deposits to be paid in cash, but bank transfers are often preferable as they keep an accurate record of payments, and bills can be paid from abroad if expats are outside the country. Tenants and landlords must agree on how they will transfer payments.
Expats will often be required to pay the first month's rent upfront and a further month's rent as a deposit. The landlord might request a firmer financial commitment before agreeing to rent the property; expats can try to avoid this by offering to pay their rent in advance every month. It's worth negotiating any deal, but always remain polite and stay on good terms with the landlord.
Expats will almost certainly be liable for their water, electricity, phone and internet bills while in Mexico. These should be paid on time, as Mexican landlords are already hesitant to rent to expats and don't need any further reason to doubt their worthiness as tenants.
Buying property in Mexico
Low property prices, beautiful Spanish-colonial houses and a process refreshingly free of red tape lures many foreign investors into this populous and warm country. Needless to say, buying property in Mexico is a popular option for expats.
Once expats have identified the house they wish to purchase, they should first make sure that the seller legally owns or holds title on the property. Expats should also consider hiring a real-estate lawyer who is fluent in Spanish and the expat's home language to oversee the transaction. This is always a good idea, especially for those who don't speak Spanish. To make sure the lawyer is qualified and licensed to practise, expats should ask to see their cédula professional.
►For info on managing your budget, see Cost of Living in Mexico
►Read more on Shipping and Removals in Mexico
Are you an expat living in Mexico?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Mexico. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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