A Step by Step Guide to Buying Land in Mexico
by Christine Harrell
If you're considering getting away from the madness of the 9 to 5 and buying land in Mexico for a taste of the good life, you're not alone. Thousands of Americans have made Mexico their home and are now enjoying the relaxed pace of the "manana" lifestyle. Not only is the climate ideal, the price of real estate is only a fraction of comparable real estate in the United States. As an added bonus, buying land in Mexico and particularly the area of the Caribbean Costa Maya along the Caribbean Sea is considered by investors to be one of the hottest real estate investment opportunities in the world today.
Though living in Mexico seems fantastic in theory, what may seem challenging are the steps between dreaming about buying land in Mexico and actually holding the title in your hand. However, buying land in Mexico is actually fairly simple and the journey toward making it your own can be as exciting as spending the first night in your new tropical beachside casa. This article will take you step by step through the process of buying land in Mexico so that you can plan your move to the lifestyle you desire.
Apply for a passport: As soon as you begin entertaining the idea of buying land in Mexico, apply for a passport. In the past, a passport wasn't required for entering many parts of Mexico but today you'll want to make sure you have one to prevent being turned back when it's time to take a scouting trip. Whether or not you end up buying land in Mexico, you'll have a reason to take a great vacation.
Identify your general areas of interest: Mexico has a wide variety of beautiful landscapes and ambiances. You'll need to decide if the right place for you is a quiet slice of Caribbean beachfront like in the Costa Maya, a condo in the midst of a tourist hotspot like Cancun, an ancient yet modern city like Merida, or a place were there are no ex-pats for miles around where you can truly immerse yourself in the Mexican culture.
Choose a real estate agent: In the US you might browse through property listings online, find one you love, and then contact the real estate agent representing the property. However, when buying land in Mexico it's important to find a reputable real estate agent before you fall in love with a property. There is no such thing as a real estate license in Mexico, meaning that anyone, regardless of their intent or their knowledge of real estate, can conduct real estate transactions. The first step to buying land in Mexico is to identify a real estate agency with a solid reputation and a lot of experience selling real estate to non-Mexican nationals.
Visit the area: Though you may be tempted to purchase a property site-unseen, it's best to go and visit the property and scope out the surrounding area before buying land in Mexico. If you're buying land in Mexico in a remote area, make sure that the area is zoned for housing and that there are solutions for water, power, and phone. Ideally, you should spend at least a week or more in the area to get an idea of what life will be like while you're staying in your new vacation home.
Hire an attorney: Once you decide on a property, there are a number of paper work items that need to be handled. A good real estate agent will work with you to complete each of these steps. The most important of these steps is securing the title to the home. Even if the real estate agency has its own lawyer, it doesn't hurt to have a second review the paperwork. If you're buying land within 50 miles of the coast or 100 miles of a national border line, you'll need to set up either a Fideicomiso or a Mexican corporation in which to own the property. You'll also need the lawyer to double and triple check that the title is clear and that the area is zoned properly. Even if you're an expert on Mexican law and buying land in Mexico, it's important to have a lawyer from Mexico scrutinize the documents carefully.
Obtain a Visa: If you'll be living in Mexico for 6 months or more at a time or will be bringing a foreign plated car, you'll need to apply for an FM3 visa. These visas are very easy to obtain and will grant you non-immigrant status in Mexico. Don't confuse the FM3 Visa with the FM2 Visa. The FM3 Visa allows you to keep a foreign plated car in the Mexico indefinitely while the FM2 requires that you sell the car out of the country after 5 years. Also, with the FM3 you can come and go as you please unlike the FM2 where you can only leave Mexico for a total of 18 months during a 5 year period.
The Mexican government welcomes foreigners buying land in Mexico and has made the process fairly simple and straightforward to encourage foreign investment. Mexico is growing rapidly and property values are climbing sharply. For now anyway, buying land in Mexico is still unusually affordable and thus a smart choice for an investment opportunity as well as a relaxing vacation home.