U.S. homeowners look to Mexico for more property

A growing number of U.S. citizens are looking across their nation’s southern border, searching for a home or investment property in Mexico.

“There are now about 1.5 million former U.S. residents living in Mexico, and that number is increasing,” said Adrian Arriaga, a Texas-based broker and consultant specializing in properties in Mexico. “Mexico is the No. 1 destination choice for U.S. buyers of property in foreign countries.”

Compared with prices of U.S. real estate, properties in Mexico are bargains, and there are other incentives for buying a property in Mexico. Cities are rapidly developing. Infrastructures have improved dramatically during the past couple of years, and such developments are continuing. Many growth areas offer outstanding opportunities for real estate investors.

One of the first concerns expressed by prospective buyers relates to legal structuring of Mexican property purchase transactions.

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“Generally, the laws of Mexico regarding the purchase of real property are similar to those of the U.S.,” said attorney John Vernon. “For example, Mexican law recognizes real estate mortgages and various types of security interests in personal property. Also, in most real estate transactions, Mexican banks can act as escrow agents or trustees.

“However, there are some differences. When Americans participate in their first real estate purchase in Mexico, they are often surprised to learn that title insurance is not widely available. Foreign purchasers should take steps to ensure they have full title insurance. And there is no widespread use of purchase and sale agreements as such documents are understood in the U.S.”

It’s always a good idea to work with a Mexican Realtor and/or attorney in structuring a real property purchase.

“The good news for investors is you can own property in Mexico free and clear, easily and forever,” said Dave Ash, author of “The Boom in Mexico Real Estate.” “Having lived in Mexico for six years, I am amazed at the changes and modern times that seem to have flooded into this area. Small fishing villages have evolved into modern cities with American-style life and mega shopping centers.”

For individuals and families who are interested in relocating to Mexico, some intensive education in the language and culture of the targeted area is wise before making a property purchase and move. Many of these buyers are looking for a reasonably priced permanent home in a scenic area with mild climate – some for a retirement home. Others want a Mexican residence for part of each year.

There are schools that offer special courses and programs that address those needs. For example, Universal Center for Language and Social Communication, based in Cuernavaca, Mexico, is operated by a group of language instructors seeking an innovative way to teach Spanish within a cultural context. They offer intensive Spanish programs combined with a local homestay. Programs are designed for adults and children.

In addition to language instruction, this school offers community involvement programs and opportunities for independent field work, primarily in Cuernavaca and its surrounding valley.

“Many people who take classes at Universal are thinking about owning a home and living in Mexico,” said one of the school’s teachers. “One man from San Diego is doing just that. He is retired and wants to buy property in the Cuernavaca area. He was initially interested in coastal property, but now wants to stay in this area.

“A woman student in her 70s is planning to move to Mexico with her husband after purchasing a home here. She’s a teacher from Minnesota. They want a warm place where they can retire in comfort. There are many other such examples.”

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