5 Tips for Buying Property in Mexico

Source: Q-Roo Paul

So, you’ve decided to be a shrewd investor and take advantage of a strong U.S. dollar to purchase property in Mexico. The problem now becomes finding the ideal property while still living in your home country.

Here are five tips to help you accomplish your goal:

1. Determine Your Budget

This is probably the most important one because it will define what options you have. If your intention is to live in a small Mexican village in the interior of the country, your budget can be relatively low; however, if your intention is to live near the coast inside a gated golf course community, the cost will be significantly higher. It’s important to set a realistic budget.

In Mexico, most real estate transactions are still cash only, meaning that you will be expected to pay the full amount to obtain the property. Financing options are available (more in a future post) but a substantial down payment is often required (30% – 50%). Also, the interest rates tend to be much higher than what we are used to in the United States.

This is one of the reasons that we decided to sell everything in the U.S. before moving to Mexico. We were able to use the money to eliminate our debts and buy a condo outright in Mexico. Now we continue to live debt free due to the low cost of living here.

2. Narrow Your Search Ahead of Time

Mexico is large country and you should narrow your search to a town or limited geographic area. If you don’t know yet, you might want to travel a bit more before investing.

3. Find a Trusted Real Estate Professional

This is the most challenging part of the entire process because most people are relying on Internet searches to find real estate agents or developers.

It’s important to keep in mind that anyone can build a professional looking website in a matter of minutes. Unless you have personally met the person or been referred by a trusted source, you have no way of knowing for sure if the person is who they say they are.  Be leery of anyone asking for excessive personal information (e.g. social security number) or a security deposit for a property sight unseen.

Readers often ask me if I can recommend a particular real estate professional or development in Mexico. Since I live here full time, I have developed a lot of trusted contacts; however, my recommendations are limited to the area of the Riviera Maya (see map below).

If you are interested in being referred to someone that we recommend, send us a message via our contact form.

Riviera Maya

4. Plan a Trip or Two

If you are seriously looking at property in Mexico, it’s inevitable that you will have to visit Mexico at least once or twice during the process. I would recommend holding off on the Tequila shots until after the real estate negotiations are done.

5. Hire an Attorney

Before signing a contract, it’s a good idea to have a Mexican real estate attorney review it. This could save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Even if you don’t get an attorney to review the contract, you’ll still need one once the time comes to close on the property. This comes as a surprise to many Americans and Canadians buying property in Mexico.

I plan to dedicate a future post to explaining the role of attorneys in real estate transactions in Mexico and why they are so important.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Although it’s a good time to invest in Mexico, don’t foolishly rush into a real estate deal without doing your homework first. It pays to be a little cautious and to remember the old saying: If it’s too good to be true it probably is.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

32 Comments on "5 Tips for Buying Property in Mexico"

  1. Over here on the other side of the Yucatan peninsula from Paul we learned to be very wary of real estate agents. It’s our understanding and experience that anyone can declare themselves an agent without any training, experience or professional requirements. We know of a number of one-trip buyers who have been ripped off by hiring and Mexican agents. Ask of those who live here for recommendations for both agents and lawyers. And keep asking. Remember, it’s a big investment you’re about to make, not only in money but in your life. So do it with some caution.

  2. Hi Paul, my wife and I own three pieces of undeveloped land and a condo in and around Mahahual. I would emphasize 3 & 5 – although through all this time and several iterations, I still don’t have a trusted real estate person. The first one we used was good for about five years, then started having personal issues and ended up defrauding a bunch of people. Since then I have been wary about getting to “invested”. I have tried a few others who, like you said, were basically a good website and access to cruise ship people, but not much as far as true real estate people. I would have been hesitant to actually try to have a legal deal through them. Now I am using a reputable global company, but their local representation still leaves a lot to be desired.

    The second one, finding an attorney (and an accountant) has been tough too. I think we have a good attorney now in Playa, but am just now putting her to the test on some real closing work. I still don’t have an accountant I trust, and can speak good English. I think I have a line on a new one to try, but any recommendations would be welcome.

    And, item 4, you really do need to see the properties and see the agent/lawyer to get things set up right.

    • It is tough to find trusted contacts down here. The list we have so far is extremely short. I don’t even have an accountant on it yet…lol,

  3. I can’t give first hand experience, but I have a suggestion for finding trusted professionals. Look to the big four (I work for EY | http://www.ey.com/mx/es/sitemap) for recommendations. They are too large a firm to handle small clients but my experience has been they will steer people in the right if you call and tell them your needs. They are strong networkers and usually have great connections.

  4. We were fortunate to find a trusted real estate agent and builder. They have been a godsend and has made the process easier. But it took years of meetings and viewings. Years.

  5. Great information Paul. My wife and I are in the “just starting to browse stages” and your Blog is extremely helpful. Thank you for that. Keep up the great work.

  6. Have recently inquired about buying in PDC or Coz but have gotten mixed info. I am a real estate broker in the states and have a strong grasp on deals here but looking for additional info. Have been told that the buyer is expected to pay all closing costs including sellers. Is this true? The condo I almost pulled the trigger on was going to cost me an extra 17% in closing costs based on what the listing agent quoted. Thanks..

    • Sellers cover the real estate commission and pay capital gains taxes when applicable. The buyers handle everything else. Since you were looking at property in the “restricted zone”, there are additional fees to set up the fideicomiso (bank trust) etc.

  7. Robert & Judy Reese | January 9, 2017 at 9:24 am |

    Paul, We are here in Tao Ocean now. I have a couple of questions not related to this topic. A while back you mentioned something that can be taken to help avoid illness or diarrhea from foods that you eat. We put it in our phone notes, but have since changed phones and lost our notes. Could you please remind us what that was? We never get sick, but my daughter and granddaughter are coming to visit in February and wanted to get it before they arrive.
    Second, do you know of a sports bar in Akumal or Tulum where we could watch tonight’s football game? Gilly’s is closed on Monday.

    • Loxcell is the medicine that I think you are referring to. It prevents and treats intestinal parasites that commonly cause diarrhea.

      As far as the game, you can go to the Corona Bar at the Hacienda (Bahia Principe) or over at Turtle Bay in Akumal.

  8. Do you have contact info for a trusted realtor that we could use?

  9. There is no such thing as a trusted real estate professional in Mexico. I repeat no such thing. Everyone involved will try to scam you all the way through. Buying can be done but be vigilant!

  10. Mark & Mary R. | January 26, 2017 at 5:28 pm |

    Are there affordable long-term rental properties anywhere near the beaches?

  11. Hello Paul! Awesome blog! I do have a question regarding the CURP card. Do you have one? We are from Canada and purchased a house 11 years ago. We also have a car that we recently purchased and found it very difficult to register and get plates for. The dealership told us that we need a CURP to get plates. We previously had a used car and had no problem getting plates for it. At one time you could obtain a CURP with only your passport and a utility bill…now you need either a Temporary Resident Visa or a Permanent Resident Visa, both of which are quite difficult to obtain ( you must obtain the Visa in your home country (Canada)). We have been spending 4 months each winter here in PDC
    Just wondering if you or any of your Canadian readers have any experience in obtaining the CURP.


  12. John Sweeny | April 23, 2017 at 7:58 am |

    Is there a good website for real estate prices in the Riviera Maya? We would like to check out prices for communities similar to the one you guys live in.

    • The websites are all severely lacking and many tend to focus on high-end properties. The best approach here is to use a realtor to find the properties that fit your needs. Most if the time, they aren’t on any web sites. I have a great contact for that if you like, just send me an email at feedback@qroo.us and we can coordinate.

  13. Is there a way to finance a property in Playa del Carmen (20% down) as an American citizen? Thanks!

  14. I love this site and the fact that you are responsive to people! I do have a question, though… I thought foreigners could not own land within so many miles of the beach in Mexico, but I see Tao Mexico selling condos that look to be right off the beach. How is this possible? Has the law changed?

    • Q-Roo Paul | June 19, 2017 at 4:39 pm |

      The constitution of Mexico prohibits foreigners from owning property within 50 km of a coast or 100 km of a border; however, they created legislation to get around this in order to promote growth and foreign investment. A foreigner can now own property in the “restricted zone” by establishing a bank trust called a fideicomiso. The bank holds an open title on the property and the foreigner is the beneficiary. The bank does not own the property, cannot tell you what to do with it, and cannot declare it as an asset. The fideicomiso can be renewed every 50 years. The property rights are identical to those of the U.S.: you can leave it to your kids, rent it out, sell it etc.

      I’ll be writing an article on this in the near future.

  15. Mark Donnelly | July 30, 2017 at 8:42 pm |

    This article is based on gringo central Riviera Maya. Yes there are trustworthy and reliable realtors in Mexico. I would look to the Yucatán state, Mérida and it’s beach towns offer very affordable alternatives to the ever expensive Riviera. Much lower cost-of-living and real history and culture in Merida

  16. Is Cozumel in the restricted zone?
    Is it considerably higher there than other cities?

    • Yes, it is in the restricted zone. Property values tend to be higher throughout the Riviera Maya than they are in many other areas of Mexico.

  17. Do I need to be a Permanent Resident to buy property in Mexico? I have my Temporary Residence Visa and plan on buying a house in September. If I need to be a Permanent Resident, should I start that paperwork NOW?

  18. How does the fideicomiso work when you’re buying a condo? You wouldn’t be owning land, (I assume), since it might be a 1st, 2nd or 3rd floor property. What exactly are you buying? I ask because I’m interested in buying rental property. I went through the process of buying a lot, requiring a fideicomiso, and building on it already here in Tulum.

    • It’s like buying a condo in the States. Your condo might be on the third floor in a shared building but you still get a deed. The fideicomiso is still required whether for any real estate purchase made by a foreigner in the restricted zone (unless it is bought under a Mexican corporation) regardless if it is a lot or a condo in a complex.

  19. Bryan Kimble | March 6, 2018 at 11:49 am |

    Paul what would be the average cost (fees) out of my pocket ( taxes, real estate agent , attorney, bank trust and all other fees) I will have to pay before my monthly payments, Insurance, and other monthly cost . If it makes a difference, I would like looking at buying a home in a beach town that has low cost with good shopping, dining and internet and low tourist rates

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 7, 2018 at 4:57 am |

      Hi Bryan,

      It really depends how much the property is valued at.

      For example, let’s say you but a condo valued around $200,000 USD. Your total out-of-pocket closing costs would run around $12,000 USD on top of that. The good news is that once those costs are behind you, your expenses to maintain the property and live here are relatively low.

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