My first advice is to obtain as much information as you can. In general, the most important thing to do before making a commit to buy any property in Mexico is to conduct a small due diligence and verify what the property looks like from a legal perspective. Specifically, you must obtain documentation the proves ownership, verify that the property is free and clear of any liens and encumbrances, that the owner is the rightful owner recorded in the public registry and that the property is up to date with payments for items such as property taxes, water and sewage, electricity, etc.
Very importantly, I always advise especially foreign customers that if they are going to sign an agreement for purchase that they hire an attorney because the attorney will be the one that will be looking for basic information and will identify red flags.
You would request from the seller or the realtor that is showing the property the basic documentation of the property, including the title, and that title should be recorded in the public registry. So when your attorney receives that document in particular he or she would review the same, attend to the public registry offices and verify that everything is in order. And for those purposes as well, prior to the transaction closing, the real estate attorney will obtain certifications from the government that will reflect the current status of the property, meaning the description of the property is okay, that the rightful owner is your seller, the measures and boundaries, that the property is current with property tax payments, etc.
The closing costs can vary on a case-to-case basis. In Mexico, there are set fees that do not change even if you are buying a US $50,000 property or $1 million property. Those set fees include certification from public registry, certification from the municipality, certain permits at a government level, etc. In addition, there are other fees that are charged as a percentage of the purchase price, including notary fees, taxes and duties, among others. As a result of the fees that are charged as a percentage, the total closing costs as a percentage will be lower for a higher priced property. For example, if you buy a $1 million property more or less you will pay closing costs between 4% to 4.5% of the purchase price, while if you buy a $350,000 unit you’re going to pay closing costs equal to around 6.5% of the purchase price.
The closing cost is divided as well in multiple areas because we have to approach multiple service providers. For example, there are notary fees, taxes and duties. Foreigners cannot own land directly in Mexico, so if you as a buyer are a foreigner, you will have to form and maintain a trust, which means you will have to incur entrusted back fees and expenses. In addition, I can give you the costs of an attorney, using Stewart Title as an example. Stewart Title would provide multiple services such as escrow, closing legal support, title insurance, among others. When a customer wants to buy a property, we send them a closing cost estimate that will contain an itemized list of payments that they need to incur from closing because no one likes to be surprised by unforeseen costs. From the moment the client walks in, if he or she works with us, they will know exactly how much they are going to pay from beginning to end. We provide the level of comfort that everything will be done properly.
From a legal perspective, in Mexico, the seller pays capital gains and the buyer pays broker’s commissions and closing costs.