Many people dream of owning a house on the beach, however in the US or Europe, a beach house could cost upwards of a million dollars. On top of that, outside of Florida and Southern California, you'll probably only be able to enjoy the beach three months a year. For these reasons, many people look to Mexico to fulfill their dream. The world class beaches of Mexico are only a short flight from the US and you can have your dream house for the fraction of the cost of back home. You could even get a small place in a beach town for as little as $50,000 USD. A house that may cost a few million in the states may only be $500,000 here.
Buying Beach Property
There are a few hurdles to cross buying property in Mexico as a foreigner, especially in the "restricted zone." The restricted zone includes any property within 50km of the coast and 100km of an international border. There are two strategies that allow foreigners to buy property in the restricted zone; the fideicomiso (or bank trust) and by using a corporation.
Each of these strategies have their advantages and disadvantages:
Simple to setup and maintain
Low annual costs (varies based on property value)
"Slow"to setup (~90 days)
The fideicomiso is the easier of the two options to setup, a realtor may even be able to walk you through the process. However, I recommend finding a reputable lawyer to help you through the process. There are no qualifications to become a realtor in Mexico, anyone can say they are a realtor. They are often just trying to sell their latest project as fast as possible and collect their commission. However, there is an accreditation process for lawyers in Mexico and you can be more sure that they are working in your best interest. This is likely the best option if you are buying a single home for personal use.
More complicated setup (you will need a lawyer)
Higher annual costs
Fast setup (~30 days)
Allows opening of Mexican bank account
Easier to buy subsequent properties
Need two people
Forming a corporation (called a sociedad in Mexico) is likely the better option if you're a investor that plans to buy multiple properties. The sociedad is more cumbersome to setup initially, you will definitely need a lawyer. The benefit of the sociedad is that once it is established, you can freely buy property in the restricted zone. It also allows the opening a foreign bank account which may be advantageous depending on your situation.
The downfalls of the sociedad are that you will need an accountant to maintain the company's finances, two people to incorporate, and a physical address in Mexico. The accountant isn't as bad it seems. A good accountant can be contracted for as little as $1000 MXN (~$50 USD) per month for a simple corporation that will mostly just be used to hold property. Depending on the value of the property you are buying, this may even be cheaper than the cost to maintain a fideicomiso.
You also need two people to form a corporation or sociedad. Both people can be foreigners, however it does make some things easier and faster if one of the partners is a Mexican citizen.
The physical address is likely the most difficult part of this process. You will need a physical address where your corporation is based. This can be the place you're renting in Mexico, however it needs to be at least a year lease and be officially notarized. Another option is a virtual office which can be found for as little as $1000 MXN (~$50 USD) per month. Once you have your property, you can change your address to that property and stop paying for the virtual office.
Finding a Lawyer
Whichever option you decide on in order to buy property, even if you're not buying in the restricted zone, it is highly recommended to find a reputable lawyer. It is key when buying property in another country that you have someone that you can trust is working on your side. As stated previously, a real estate agent may not have your best interests in mind.
A lawyer can help with:
The sale agreement for the property
It's also just not a bad idea to find a lawyer you can trust for anything else that may come up while abroad. They can help you with residency and citizenship, speed up bureaucratic nonsense, and get you out of sticky situations.
The Starter's Guide to Mexico
Now that you've learned how to buy property in Mexico, it's time to take things to next level with the The Starter's Guide to Mexico. The guide not only goes into more detail on the process of purchasing property, but also covers more on how to start a corporation, open a bank account, obtain residency, and eventually a second passport. The Starter's Guide to Mexico is essential for anyone considering living or investing in Mexico.
It may seem a bit complicated to purchase property in Mexico, and it definitely is if it's your first time. However, the advantages are worth the pain. There are incredible real estate opportunities here in Mexico, and if you can wade through the bureaucracy, you can reap the rewards. If you'd like some further advice purchasing property, I will be offering personal consultations. Contact me via DM on twitter @LATAMcapitalist if you are interested and keep an eye on the email list for more details.