So, you’ve reached a point in your life where you think that you’ve learned a little about business, finance, contract negotiating, real estate, etc. and have at least a layman’s knowledge of law pertaining to each. Being that savvy, you might also be aware of the incredible retirement locations and values south of the border; furthermore, you might even be considering Mexico as your retirement destination. If so, you might as well forget everything you’ve learned and leave your law degree at home!
Mexico, as beautiful as it is, has a somewhat different way of doing business and a completely different set of laws. Additionally, all legal transactions, including real estate transactions, are done in Spanish. Therefore, for those of you that may be considering locations in Mexico as possible retirement destinations, the following information should give you some insight as to how the Mexican real estate industry works, list some of the possible pitfalls, and most importantly, give you the guidance required to assure a pleasant and safe experience.
In 1984, we made our first real estate purchase in Puerto Vallarta; a condominium in Mismaloya, about seven miles south of town. Our second purchase, two years later, was the adjacent condo. A year later, we removed the wall between the two condos and remodeled them into one very spacious three bedroom condo. For thirteen years, while still working in Houston, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting Vallarta two or three times a year. home inspector woodland park co
At some time after the purchases of the two condos, we noticed that our original escrituras (legal property documentation similar to a title or deed that is held in a fidecomiso or bank trust) showed the property values to be about one third of what we actually paid for them. When we inquired about the discrepancy, we were told that the lower values were used in order to reduce our annual property taxes.
It wasn’t until many years later, when we decided to sell the condo, that we learned that capital gains taxes were due on the huge difference between the selling price and the documented purchase price. Ouch, we owed substantial taxes on a paper gain; when in fact, there was very little real gain! We then learned that the condo developer entered the extremely low sales prices on all the escrituras in the condo complex in order to evade paying substantial capital gains taxes. As we later learned, the developer could have entered the selling price, the appraised value, his cost of construction, or just about anything imaginable into the escritura, and we, being the naïve Americans that we were, were at his mercy!
Upon the sale of the condo, we bought a beautiful new mountainside villa with a panoramic view of Banderas Bay, El Centro, and the Sierra Madres. We saw the new villa advertised in one of the local magazines and asked our realtor friend to show us the property. He showed us what seemed to be every property in town, before reluctantly taking us to see the villa in the magazine. Some time after buying the villa, we learned that our realtor friend received only 10% of the commission on the sale because that was all the listing agent was willing to pay. The listing agent ran the ad in the magazine and didn’t feel that an agent representing a buyer was necessary in order to sell this beautiful new villa. Therefore, our agent spent a couple days showing us nothing but properties listed by his agency before caving in to our demands and taking us to the villa of our dreams; one that we have thoroughly enjoyed for more than a decade.