Buying Real Estate in Mexico
Can I own property in Mexico?
This is one of the first questions often asked by foreigners. The answer is a resounding YES! Home buyers from Canada and the United States are familiar with purchasing property through the process of “Transfer in Fee Simple.” While much of the process of buying property in Mexico is similar to this, there are a few minor differences.
To provide some history – the Mexican Constitution previously prohibited foreigners from owning property within 100 kilometers of the border and 50 kilometers from the coastline. These areas were and still are known as restricted zones. The entire Baja California Peninsula is considered a restricted zone.
In the early 1970s, a presidential amendment to the Mexican Constitution allowed foreign ownership of property in the restricted zones by way of a bank trust, or fideicomiso. Under a fideicomiso, a foreigner is able to buy property in the restricted zones with the property held in trust by a Mexican bank. Under the bank trust agreement (fideicomiso), the foreign owner, as a Beneficiary under the Trust, is able to enjoy the same rights as a Mexican citizen owning property in Mexico; i.e., they are able to build, rent, sell, etc.
The Mexican government issues a Trust Permit to a Mexican bank. The bank acts as purchaser, maintains the official Title of record to the property, and is designated as the Fiduciario or Trustee. As Beneficiary of that Trust, the purchaser is entitled to enjoy, develop, and use the property as he or she so desires. The Beneficiary may also instruct the bank to sell the rights of that Trust at market value.
Banks have a statutory responsibility to follow instruction submitted to them by the Beneficiary – an obligation that is not to be taken lightly. Banks are highly regulated in Mexico and their fiduciary responsibility is pivotal to the fideicomiso. They are the cornerstone upon which the entire process functions.
A purchaser should pay careful attention to the names that appear on Trust and Title documentation. At the time of purchase, it is best to name a Substitute Beneficiary in the event of divorce or death in order to facilitate future transfer of that particular Trust. Beneficiaries are easily transferable.
One big advantage of a Trust lies with the Beneficiaries and Substitute Beneficiaries. The Beneficiaries of the Trust are the original purchasers of the property. Often this is a married couple or partners. If the couple or partners split up or one dies, it is a fairly simple procedure to eliminate one from the Title without incurring title transfer taxes. If something happens to all of the Beneficiaries (such as death), then the property passes to the Substitute Beneficiaries who are the heirs of the original purchasers. Once again, it is a simple procedure, but the added bonus is that the property does not have to be probated. No will is needed with a Trust as long as the Substitute Beneficiary is appointed and mentioned in the Title. Saving your heirs from probate is probably one of the best gifts of time and money you can give them, especially if they have no expertise in dealing with Mexican law and bureaucracy.
Originally the Trust was set for a 30-year period, but the government has since amended the Trust Law and all new agreements last for a 50-year period with further Trust renewals of additional 50-year periods. The property owner has the obligation to pay the annual Trust fees to the bank holding the Trust on their property. Normal fees run between approximately $350-$500 each year depending upon the bank.
For more information or any questios, contact us! Momentum Realty is a full-service, dedicated team of real estate professionals. Our team works every day and are experts in the transfer process, as well as bank trusts.