It is usually better to rent first prior to buying. If you need a referral to a trustworthy realtor in San Miguel de Allende, please email me and I’ll be happy to share excellent resources. I can also supply renters and property insurance for anywhere in Mexico.
May I suggest you check closely to the colonia (neighborhood) where your potential house will be located. There are few building codes and restrictions. Hence, you may be in an area with a carpenter or metal shop, event center or retail outlet very nearby. Or, one may appear at any time. That little store selling soda, bread, junk food, and beer may seem handy but quite possibly on a Saturday night, it is a local hangout for beer drinking, crude language, loud music, etc. Children play on the street as many homes have no yard. Complaining may result in retaliation and you being forced to move.
Fireworks may initially be a novelty as as well as church bells but after some time a distraction. They may also create anxiety and fear in both children and pets.
Most foreigners are likely not familiar with Mexican building techniques and the lack of codes. So, while the granite is impressive the wiring, plumbing and construction may be less so.
There are no apprenticeships for any of the trades including electrical, plumbing, construction, carpentry.
Single-pane windows with glass held in by silicone is the norm. Wind, rain, cold, heat and noise are issues with these windows. On cool mornings, condensation runs down the inside. Double pane windows are highly recommended.
Plumbing drains are schedule 20 vs schedule 40 as required by law in Canada and the US. That means drains for sinks and toilets are half as thick as what should be the norm.
Circuit breakers are 20 amp and 12 gauge wire and should not be. Small appliances and light fixtures are made to withstand only 15 amps of current and they may short out, burn and cause a fire as the 20 amp breaker would trip to stop the flow of electricity. Breakers should be 15 amp and wiring 14 gauge as found in Canada and the US. Also, wiring connections are to be held with Marrette connectors and not twisted wires with tape.
Large open expanses for windows and sliding doors usually have a concrete beam for support and not a steel beam. Structurally, this is a weaker option and it has been known to create structural issues.
Look for door thresholds at the bottom of outside doors to keep out water and insects as they almost never exist.
Ensure there are screens on windows that open and doors where needed.
No heating and cooling are common. And, a heat source being an indoor, non-vented flame creates safety issues with carbon monoxide. A wall furnace with outdoor air intake and outdoor exhaust is recommended.
Concrete is frequently mixed on the ground by hand. There is a lack of proper ratio of concrete to sand; the mixing is inconsistent. This frequently leads to cracks, water leaks and structural issues. A cement mixer should be used for mixing concrete.
Majority of roofs are flat. Leaks are common. Boveda ceilings are especially prone to water leaks when not protected from rain. Elastomeric paint needs repeated applications and is the last choice to seal a roof. Sheet waterproofing materials are self-adhering rubberized asphalt membranes. And, an excellent choice is liquid rubber.
Often homes and all condos are attached to one another. Sound barriers between units often do not exist. You may be able to hear most anything throughout the walls. A lack of side windows means you need lights on much of the day. In winter attached, concrete homes may be very cold and then hot in summer as there is not a lot of air flow.
Electricity for lighting, heating and cooling may be very expensive.
Realtors have no licensing nor formal training in Mexico unlike the US and Canada. Anyone, may be a realtor tomorrow! My husband was trained and licensed as a real estate broker in Canada and the US as one of his careers. All the specs I noted in my original post he would know about as construction is part of the training for realtors in both the US and Canada. And, people suggest having a home inspector when buying. There are no credentials nor licensing for a home inspector. Anyone could be a home inspector tomorrow so save your money. In Mexico you are really on your own when it comes to home construction. I hope I have helped some with my post. The house below I have for sale in San Miguel. Construction is 245 sq m / 2637 sq ft and lot is 283.57 sq m / 3052 sq ft. Double pane windows, solar electric panels, 3 bedrooms with 2 complete bathroom and 2 two piece bathrooms.
The house below I have for sale in San Miguel. Construction is 245 sq meters / 2637 sq ft and lot is 283.57 sq. m / 3052 sq ft. Features include double pane windows, solar electric panels, solar hot water, cement block walls, bathroom fans and 3 bedroom with 2 full bathrooms and 2 half bathrooms.
Pre-construction and pre-builds of condo complexes and new large developments at times are a major risk. There are literally thousands of buyers who have paid a large deposit and lost it all. The condos and houses are never completed or they take 2 and 3 years longer to complete versus what was promised. This happens throughout Mexico. As well, some developers have large mortgages on the property. So, while you may be able to occupy your home for which you have fully paid, the large mortgage of the developer may not be paid. You will not receive title until the developer pays off the mortgage which may literally be years. Without title you may not sell your home nor obtain a building permit for renovations.
Deed versus Fideicomiso
Some property falls within a ‘restricted zone’ and cannot be owned outright by non-citizens. This includes any land situated within 100 km (60 mi) of an international border and any land situated within 50 km (30 mi) of the ocean. In 1993, this was adapted so that foreigners can purchase property in the restricted zone, but in a trust, with the bank as the holder of the title. It was a way to allow foreign development in tourist zones. This vehicle, or trust instrument, is called a fideicomiso—it remains valid for 50 years and is renewable. It’s in your name, but the bank holds the paperwork on your behalf in a trust. There is an annual fee paid to the bank.
Deed ownership is the type of ownership we are most used to north of the border. There is a title to the land which is held directly by the owner. If you’re not in a restricted zone (most of the country), this is the ownership you’ll have.
Real Estate Agents
Visit a few local real estate websites and send emails. See who is responsive. See who you click with. Ask for recommendations on expat forums and Facebook pages.
Sometimes, it is hard to get agents to show houses that belong to other brokerages. You may need to be proactive.
There is limited MLS meaning at times there is no formal market comparison on sale prices. Someone could list a property for $800,000 but only get $500,000—you don’t know in México. It may only be what the agent tells you.
There are good agents out there but you have to find the right one for you. There is no state licensing, no certification requirements, nor regulated training although this is about to change. For example, in the state of Jalisco licensing and training will be the norm in 2024. My husband was a broker in Ontario, Canada and in New Mexico in the US. I am happy to recommend good real estate agents in San Miguel de Allende.
Mortgages are available with a typical rate of 8 to 12% interest. Some Mexican banks and financial institutions will lend to foreigners. Monthly commission to the banker who arranged the mortgage plus life and property insurance are common. Mortgages may have to be paid off by the time you are in your 70s but some financial institutions have raised the age to when you are age 80. So, one of your first questions will be at what age must my mortgage be paid off.
To qualify for a mortgage, Mexican banks usually only consider your Mexican credit score and the amount you deposit into a Mexican financial institution. However, some other mortgages sources will consider your US or Canadian credit score. If a bank will not consider your foreign credit score my suggestion is to open a Mexican bank account. Once you have done so, obtain a charge card. Initially, the limit on your card will be low and 5000 pesos limit is not uncommon. You can have your bank automatically pay each month’s charges in full and therefore avoid high interest which are typically 50 to 65% with the upper range being more common. Frequently buy items on credit or buy an item with several payments with zero interest. When allowed, increase your card’s limit.
A mortgage takes many weeks to approve. There will be pages and pages of forms, all in Spanish. Typically, plan to start an application 3 – 4 months in advance.
Unlike north of the border, the seller may be in the house when there is a showing and they may also be at the notario’s office with you on closing.
I suggest to wire transfer the funds when the home purchase is closed. This is the way Mexican notaries normally receive payment. Seldom do notaries / lawyers retain an escrow company as they are barely regulated by Mexican law. Plus, they charge a high fee just for transferring funds, which you may do yourself.
For the deposit on a property purchase, 10% is common. On closing, often the buyer pays the seller directly.
Generally, people don’t use home inspectors. You can find them but there is no formal training nor licensing.
You may be given a day or two to inspect the house prior to signing on the dotted line.
A few weeks to months after the transaction is complete, your deed is ready.
If you’re buying a home in Mexico, you will face closing costs of 5–10% of the property’s value, including professional fees and taxes. I would round out 10% in your planning to be safe.
The property tax on homes (impuesto predial) is due in the first 3 months of each year and there are discounts for paying before the end of March with the greatest discounts bing offered in January. Depending on your region and services (cities are generally more expensive) and what you own, your property taxes will start at about $2,000 pesos and seldom over 20,000 pesos per year on a private residence. Kiosks are set up in many cities to facilitate payment.
It is your responsibility to pay your property tax (and all utility bills). Do not assume that a bill will arrive in the mail. You need to be proactive and note when bills and taxes are due and please pay them on time.
Paying Property Taxes in San Miguel.
Property taxes are to be paid in the first 3 months of the year. Should you pay in January there is a 15% discount. If you pay in February, there is a 10% discount. Your account number is on your tax bill called CUENTA PREDIAL. It is 12 digits and when you pay online please omit the first two digits.
Your property taxes may be paid in person:
Cajas de SAPASMA en Prolongación de Alcocer No. 2 de 8:00 a.m. a 3:15 p.m.
Cajas de Palacio Municipal in centro de 8:30 a.m. a 8:00 p.m.
Or, you may pay your property taxes on line:
Select the Type of Property (Urban or Rustic)
Select: check amount and then go to pay.
Continue your payment online safely with the service provided by BBVA Bancomer and BanBajío.
You may also print the bank reference to make your payment at the bank of your choice.
Heating and Cooling Homes
Heating and cooling in homes in Mexico are a plus and sometimes a must. In places with higher elevations including San Miguel, each winter the temperatures do go as low as the mid to upper 30’s. In the north of Mexico, it is often below freezing and snow is common. Every few years you will see a little snow in the mountains including only a few minutes from San Miguel’s downtown. As well, each year from as early as march to mid June the day time highs reach mid 90’s in much of Mexico and the coast above 100 F for weeks. With climate change expect more extremes.
Electricity for a source to heat or cooling for a large room or house is extremely expensive unless the home has solar electric. A combination of solar eclectic and mini-splits may be a huge plus in many areas in Mexico. Fireplaces are sometimes not vented, always inefficient and they may be dangerous. Any open flame as a source of heat may be deadly. Propane for a heater is usually stored in a relatively small tank meaning there is a need to fill often. Concrete homes once they get hot or cold are difficult to make comfortable and not just for a day but sometimes for weeks. A house, attached to another on each side may be even harder to heat and cool as there is a lack of windows to let in the sun and for ventilation. A safe source of heat is a wall furnace. They take in fresh air from outside and vent to outside. They have varying flames and fan speeds based on room temperature and set temperature. Rinnai makes excellent wall furnaces. You may start by seeing them on Amazon.
Please be careful with propane. In November 2023, a friend in SMA lit her propane oven and it exploded. Sadly she died. Another friend in 2023 turned on the gas clothes dryer and initially there was a small explosion. He was singed from the flame. He quickly left the room and it exploded blowing out windows and a door.
In Mexico, natural gas and propane appliances sometimes lack the safety features found in Canada and the US for example. You may inadvertently bump into a stove and the gas to a burner is now on. That would lead to an accumulation of dangerous gases.
Unfortunately people sometimes keep trying to light an oven or stove-top burner or a hot water heater. If it doesn’t light quickly, it requires you to stop and the flow of gas needs to be turned off. You need to allow the area to ventilate before trying again.
Sometimes on a gas cooktop for example, with a window or door open, a breeze may extinguish a low flame. The gas now accumulates. If a person then tries to re-light the burner an explosion may result.
Please, never use propane indoors without a carbon monoxide monitor. And, propane and natural gas for cooking and heating produces a lot of contaminants in a house and leaking propane indoors is extremely dangerous.