THE PROCESS OF BUYING A HOME IN MEXICO
Jill Flyer, Lake Chapala Realty
We use an MLS system like in the U.S. and Canada that shows the properties that are listed with real estate agents. If a property is listed, then that agent or their agency has checked to ensure that the deed (escritura in Mexico) has no issues that would prevent a closing, i.e., to insure the property belongs to the seller; and all permits listed within the deed have expired, etc. They have checked to make sure that the seller has legal standing to sell the property, and are aware of any trusts related to the property.
Incidentally, you do not need to be a citizen nor a resident of Mexico to buy property here. You can do so as a tourist.
The property search begins with a meeting with your realtor to discuss what you are seeking. It’s usually more efficient to use only one realtor that you like and trust and because that real estate agent will know what you want, what you’ve seen, what you've liked and not liked, etc. The agent you choose will be your representative through the process guiding you through all steps in the search and purchase.
He/she can use your list of needs and wants like budget, number of bedrooms, neighborhoods or areas of town, number of floors, large or small condo complexes (including gated communities), preferred view, modern or traditional Mexican architecture, ideal for rentals or full time living, etc. in his search of the MLS system to find homes that match your criteria. Together you can put together a list of homes that you'd like to visit. Your realtor will work with the seller's realtor to set up a schedule for visits that will work for everybody.
Once you find a home that you like and want to make an offer, your agent will contact the seller's agent for specific information on the escritura (deed) so as to include in the offer (seller's name, details of the property, etc). Your agent writes up the offer, and probably will include some contingencies, such as:
An inspection by an architect or engineer qualified to make home inspections
Your review of Homeowner Association (HOA) documents - financials, by-laws, annual meeting notes, etc.
Acknowledgement by the seller of any legal issues related to the property or condo staff.
Your agent then sends your signed offer to the listing agent, who will forward it to the seller for review. No money changes hands at the point of the offer, unlike in the US. There, of course, may be a counter-offer or several counter offers involved, as anywhere.
Once your offer or counter-offer is accepted, the contingency period begins. This is the period where the inspection takes place, you receive and review any condominium documents, etc.
After all contingencies are removed, we move to escrow. Escrow companies can be based in the US and it's common that your funds will remain in a US bank and be distributed from there to handle the acceptance and transfer of funds to the seller, the government if there are taxes associated with the sale, the real estate agencies broker fees, etc. Although the terms of your escrow are subject to the contract, it generally involves:
A wire transfer of 10% of the purchase price from your bank to an escrow account
The escrow fee as outlined in your contract - generally around $800 USD
A deposit toward your closing costs - generally, a $3000 USD deposit.
Closing costs include both fixed and variable costs. The buyer does not pay the real estate commission because those are paid by the seller. Please feel free to ask your realtor for a general range of the overall closing costs to expect.
After the start of escrow and before the closing process, a number of steps occur. You will have some paperwork to fill out. The closing coordinator, who is identified in your contract, will ensure that there are no liens on the property, that all taxes and HOA fees are up-to-date, and that a trust is either transferred from the existing trust-holder or that a new trust is set up.
A notario is a government appointed lawyer who is responsible for all of the legal transactions related to any property transfer and will assure that all legal details are handled correctly. A notario in Mexico is not the same as a notary public in the US.
Your realtor will work with the closing coordinator and a notario to determine the closing date for your new home. The date is listed in the contract, but, unlike the US and Canada, is subject to change by a few days or a few weeks (rarely more than that), as several government agencies and, more importantly, the banks related to the trusts, are involved. If you can't attend the closing, there is also a power of attorney process available.
Just prior to the closing, you will be asked to wire the remaining balance of the purchase price and the balance of the closing costs. You will probably be asked to wire transfer a sum a bit above those amounts to provide for pro-rated prepaid items such as taxes for the remainder of the year, HOA for the rest of the month, an offset for anticipated utility bills that are due to be received, etc.
The closing will take place at the notario’s office. Your realtor will attend the closing with you or your power of attorney. At the closing, the closing coordinator will review the new escritura with you. You and the seller will then both sign the escritura and place your fingerprints on the document. You then receive the keys and a "congratulations!" from all. At that point in time, you're a new homeowner!
I hope that this description is helpful. Please feel free to discuss the process with me anytime.
Lake Chapala Realty