If you are interested in buying a beachfront home or land in Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit or anywhere else in the Banderas Bay region, here’s what you need to know about the Restricted Zone and purchasing Mexican real estate:
POINT ONE: Use an attorney. Agents are not educated or experienced enough to take the place of an attorney for you. I recommend one who is bilingual and bi-cultural. A client needs to be told what is happening here and how it is different from what he is expecting. Many transactions have closed because a good attorney solved the legal problems of the sale. A good attorney charges a fair fee for his/her expertise and skill.
POINT TWO: Understand the scope of work of the notary. The concept of the “notario publico” needs to be explained to the foreigner buyer or seller. The Mexican notario is an experienced, specialized attorney who decides if the seller has the authority and ability to transfer his property. The notary is required to file the fidecomiso or deed with the public registry, and he is a neutral party to the transaction. He should; however, inform a buyer or seller if there are material issues which may cause harm to one of them.
Note: The notario does not have the responsibility to hold or disburse purchase funds. He is not an advocate for the buyer or the seller. He is charged to follow the state and federal laws.
POINT THREE: A notary coordinator is a good thing. An outside professional, authorized and paid by the notary, can coordinate the closing. The actual closing will be with one specific notary for a specific buyer and seller. In my experience, there is a conflict of interest if the buyer’s or seller’s attorney acts as the transaction coordinator. I have found one of the two principal parties can be put at a disadvantage. For this reason, your attorney or advocate should not be doing the closing with the notary.
POINT FOUR: Understand the use of escrow for purchase funds. Funds can be held in an approved Mexican bank. In addition, title companies with offices in Mexico or the United States, can be authorized to hold purchase escrow funds. The escrow only holds the funds, charges an escrow fee, and disburses the purchase price funds to the seller’s creditors (agents, notary capital gains payment on behalf of seller, and other seller expenses).
The Escrow company does not do prorations of utilities, HOA fees and what other expenses should be credited or owed at closing. The real estate agent does this or your attorney. The consolidated closing statement of purchase funds is done by the agents or attorney and signed by buyer and seller.
Escrow is the safest way to keep the purchase funds protected until they are transferred to the appropriate parties upon signing of the deed.
POINT FIVE: Know how expenses and funds are handled at closing. The notary is not required to make sure any bills are paid except the property tax, water, and the condo fee.
The current bank trustee will not approve the transfer of the property until the bank trust fees are current. Buyers get new trusts or assume existing trusts. If the seller trust is HSBC or Bancomer, at this time these banks take months to approve a cancellation. Offers should include language addressing this delay, with buyer and seller agreeing in the beginning that the contract will not expire if this cancellation is delayed.
This article is based upon Flex MLS reporting, legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences in the Puerto Vallarta-Bahia de Banderas areas. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of Mexican real estate conduct his own due diligence and review. If you have any other questions, contact me through my website.Harriet Murray