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Ask for Bernardo: Correo 15, Centro, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, México

Frequent Asked Questions About Buying a House in México

Why Use a Local Real Estate Agent?

I highly recommend using a local professional real estate agent. You want someone who knows the town, the market, and has seen trends over the years. You want someone who knows the process in this locality. You want someone who can facilitate the logistics of changing utilities into your name and assist you in the general transition of moving to a foreign country.

Cash or Finance?

Most home purchases are in cash USD, via wire transfer. Mortgages in Mexico are possible but the terms are not desirable. That is why most transactions are in cash, via wire transfers.

To obtain a mortgage in Mexico you will need assets and an established credit history in Mexico. Financing is generally with 40%-50% down, at 10% or higher interest rate for terms of 10-20 years. Many of my clients have compared the costs and logistics of financing in Mexico to U.S. options. Generally interest or penalties from cashing in investments, retirement accounts, or obtaining a personal line of credit, or home equity/second mortgage is less than financing here in Mexico. I am not aware of any U.S. institutions that do mortgage financing in Mexico.

How Much Are Property Taxes?

On a $400,000 home, the 2017 taxes would be about $400. USD (but payable in pesos). If you pay in January you receive a 15% discount; February a 10% discount; March-June, no discount; July & after, no discount plus small penalties.

Do You Need Title Insurance?

Title Insurance is available here, although it is a foreign concept and perceived as not necessary because of the scope of work performed by the Notario for closing and registering the new deed. The Notario is responsible for researching the history of ownership of the property (going back generations!), providing a certificate of no-lien, and surveying the property and construction for verification. This work gives you a clear deed. The cost for title insurance is about 2% of the purchase price.

What kind of visa do I need?

As a foreigner you can purchase and own property in Mexico.

Time limits in-country are contingent on your migratory status.

You can purchase and own property with a Tourist Visa. This is issued for a maximum of 180 DAYS (not 6 months). Some people own and live here mostly full-time with only a Tourist Visa, as there is not a limit on how many you can get. You can be in Mexico 179 days, go out for 1-2 days, re-enter and get a new 180-day visa.

With Residente status (either Permanente or Temporal) there are no restrictions or limits on time in-country or out.

If you plan on spending more than a few weeks at a time in Mexico you will find that having Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente status will make living here so much easier in regards to doing business and dealing with the government.

I encourage my clients to obtain Residente status as early as possible (because sooner is usually easier and we never know if/when/how immigration laws may change).

Moving Your Household?

Mexico allows you to move your household into the country, one time Duty Free, with a Menaje de Casa (Inventory of the Household). However, you will need Residente status. (It is possible to move your household on a Tourist Visa but it is more expensive and a few more logistical challenges.)

LOOKING FORWARD to selling: a seller can only utilize the Capital Gains Tax Exemption if they are a citizen or have Residente status. For this reason alone being either Residente Permanente or Residente Temporal is essential.

Residente Permanente or Residente Temporal?

Being either Residente Permanente or Residente Temporal you are not a dual citizen. You are simply a bonafied foreign resident of Mexico.

Residente Temporal can only be obtained for a maximum of four years, after which the

Mexican Government expects that you love living in Mexico and desire to become a permanent resident.

If you are retired with sufficient assets/pension income you may be eligible to go directly to Residente Permanente.

Residente Permanente never needs to be renewed. This carries all the rights of a citizen except the right to vote. It automatically comes with the right to work, all you need to do is inform immigration of your activities and register with Hacienda (the Mexican IRS) and pay your taxes on income earned in Mexico. With Residente Permanente, owning a foreign plated vehicle is not allowed.

With Residente Temporal or Tourist Visa you can own a foreign plated vehicle.

The application process for either Permanente or Temporal starts at a Mexican Embassy or Consulate outside the country of Mexico. (Usually the one closest to your home.) Once approved, you have 6 months to come to Mexico to complete the process. You will then enter Mexico with a Tourist Visa and start the completion process in the city you intend to live. (San Miguel de Allende, of course!). Once here you then have 30 days to go to immigration to complete the process. This completion process takes 4-6 weeks on average.

Note: you will apply for your resident visa outside of Mexico. When you enter you will enter on a Tourist FMM. You need to mark the boxes correctly in order to transition to your new status. Watch this closely!

Do You Need a Local Attorney?

As the Buyer of a home, you will be able to choose the Notario (real estate attorney) to perform all the closing work and Spanish Language Compraventa (contract) and register the new escritura (deed) in your name.

You will be able to include a simple “will of succession” in the deed of the property. The Mexican Government allows this because, for many people (nationals and foreigners), real estate is the only asset in Mexico to bequeath. Changing the “will of succession” in the deed can only be done by registering a new deed. You may or may not find this beneficial. If you do not do this and/or have other assets in Mexico, you will want a Mexican Will. I have several referrals for abogados (attorneys).

U.S. wills are not valid in Mexico and Mexican wills are not valid in the U.S.

Is there a problem if my name is different than in my Birth Certificate?

Yes! but easy to fix!

Mexico is a culture where individuals do not change their names upon marriage. The Birth Certificate is a critical component of individual identification. If your current name is different than on your Birth Certificate you may find it beneficial (and less hassle later) if you obtain a certified copy of your Birth Certificate with an apostille before your move. Also it would be beneficial for you to obtain a certified copy with apostille of the document that resulted in your name change (usually marriage, so your marriage certificate).

The longer you live here and become involved in various transactions, you may need these documents. If you frequently travel back to your home country you may be able to obtain those at a later time, but as Murphy’s Law dictates, you may need it before a planned trip.

Do You Need a Local Bank?

If you are only here part-time you may not need a local bank. If so, I highly recommend a property manager, to whom you will transfer funds, so a local bank isn’t essential.

The more time you spend here you will find it more convenient to have local banking services. I recommend either CI Banco or InterCam. If you are a customer of Bank Of America you may benefit from the international relationship with Santander.

What's the weather like in Summer and Winter?

In the high desert mountains, we refer to San Miguel as the “Land of Eternal Spring”.Summer is the most beautiful. Warm days and cool nights. Summer is our rainy season, so the rains (mostly at night) keep it cool. Temperatures are usually in the 80’s, sometimes 70’s.

Winter is the dry season. To me, it is very much like the high Colorado Mountains in the Summer. The days are in the 70’s, nights usually in the high 40’s but it can dip below freezing for a few minutes. The coldest period is in late December/early January lasts about 4-6 weeks.

Fall is the transition from the wet to the cooler, dry season. Spring is the transition from dry to wet season with a hot period of 4-6 weeks from late April through May. There are times the days can get into the low 90’s accompanied by our warmest nights. But this is still the dry season, so very little humidity. See more photos here

Do You Need a Car?

This depends on where you live and your specific needs. Having a car can provide a great deal of independence and allow spontaneity.

You will find most everything you need within walking distance of Centro.

If you live farther out from Centro, you would enjoy the convenience of having a car. The closer to Centro you are, the more difficult it is to find homes with off-street parking. A lot of people get along well here without cars. If you purchase a home without off-street parking, there are many lots that offer monthly parking at a very reasonable cost.

If you bring in a foreign plated vehicle I recommend driving it in. With the cost of transport, it would be less expensive to purchase a vehicle here.

A Tourist or Residente Temporal visa will allow you to own a foreign plated vehicle in Mexico.

Those with Residente Permanente are not allowed by law to own a foreign plated vehicle.

Do You Need a Mexican Drivers License?

If your U.S. license is current, no.

You will need a Mexican license to own a Mexican plated vehicle.

You can obtain a Mexican Driver’s License with no exam by exchanging your un-expired U.S. license and paying the fees. If you want to keep your license, you are usually required to take the exam in Spanish. (Some have experienced when they have gone that the examiner is not there, so they get the license without an exam.)

What is There to Do in San Miguel?

Long an international haven for writers, artists, and performers, San Miguel just can’t help but to be an open and friendly town with all sorts of cultural activities and entertainment. Sometimes low-key during the week, San Miguel de Allende comes alive on weekends and especially on holidays and long weekends.

Go on a balloon flight, take in the hot springs, visit the botanical gardens, visit the pyramid of Cañada de la Virgen, play tennis, golf, trek through the countryside on horseback, take historical tours, the list of activities goes on… But don’t forget shopping!

Teens may like to participate in a Spanish Language class complete with fieldtrips throughout San Miguel.

How Safe is San Miguel?

San Miguel, to some, is like a Mexican Disneyland with cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings (and real tacos!). San Miguel is part of the world, not a different world.

Petty crimes of opportunity occur everywhere in the world. It is important not to create that opportunity no matter where you are. San Miguel is no different.

Is the Water Safe to Drink?

The water is quite safe. However just like in some American locations, the pipes are the problem. Some people drink the tap water with no treatment. Many people have home purification and filter systems. Most people use bottled water for drinking and cooking.

English or Spanish?

Many foreigners get along fine living here without Spanish, some for years. However, you will find your life experiences so much more enriching when you can communicate in Spanish. You’ll find yourself with many Mexican friends and the ability to shop in the local markets much easier.

Health Care and Insurance?

Medicare coverage does not extend into Mexico. If you have private insurance, inquire if your policy will cover you in Mexico.

International health insurance plans are available with either worldwide coverage excluding the U.S. or to include the U.S. The premiums are reflective of the coverage.

Also available are air evacuation insurance policies that will air lift you to the U.S. hospital of your choice.

Individuals over 60 with resident status are eligible to enroll in Seguro Popular, healthcare provided by the Mexican government. To receive care, you will go to designated physicians and hospitals.

In San Miguel there is one public hospital and one (soon-to-be-two), private hospitals.

Many specialists from Celaya (25 minutes) and Queretaro (45 minutes) have offices in SMA. Many doctors in Mexico studied in the U.S.

Nearby Queretaro is the fastest-growing city in Mexico; therefore it competes with Mexico City in being the top for healthcare.