North American real estate connections (Mexico, Canada, and the USA) have many similarities besides their obvious physical proximity. Their citizens move back and forth between all three for business and pleasure.
Each of the countries rates the others at the top of their list for second homes. Currently, Puerto Vallarta is enjoying an important first position for expat interest in Mexico.
With popularity, comes visibility and the potential for many individuals and businesses in the chain to benefit personally and economically. With visibility, come scrutiny. With scrutiny comes responsibility.
In principle, these three countries defining North America benefit more if everyone benefits. How to manage benefits versus being disadvantaged requires knowledge, skill and a commitment from all three business and trading partners.
SECOND HOME MARKETS
A second home market signifies buyers have enough discretionary income or credit to take care of a second household.
The three countries share some basic requirements for want in a second home:
- Favorable Climate (Snow or Tropical)
- Safety and Stability: TRUST
- Transparency in Markets
- Activities, Entertainment, Culture, Friendliness.
- Municipal Infrastructure including services and transportation
- Variety of Second Home Options
- Buyers and Sellers
- Legal parties
- Real Estate Agents
- Support Services
- Property Management
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PLAYERS
If anyone of the elements needed for a buyer to overcome the fear of loss enough to go for a gain are missing, the percentages of buyers going through with a transaction are reduced. The market share for a second home buyer decreases as more elements are missing from the list above.
For example, assuming the basic requirements are in place, but the players are unorganized, dishonest, or
unprofessional; the percentages of success go down substantially. If another market in the N American country is on top of their game, they will win over their competition.
If the developer does not finish the project and has pre-sold units taking money payments directly, the buyers are at risk for losing their money; or at the very least spending more money to fight legally for their reimbursements.
If closing transactions are difficult, expensive, non- transparent, buyers will advise their friends it is not worth buying in that market.
If real estate agents do not understand their fiduciary responsibility is to protect their client and the loss of his funds, there are problems. The story of the misdeeds of an agent can spread like wildfire, and it should.
For a Buyer or Seller in Mexico, here are three recommendations:
- 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.
- A notary coordinator is a good thing. An outside bilingual 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 at a disadvantage.
- Know how expenses and funds are handled at closing. Buyers assume that all prorations of utilities and expenses of the property will be paid at closing. This may not be the case. In Mexico, the escrow company only holds the purchase funds so they not in the possession of either the seller or buyer. The notary is not required to make sure any bills are paid except the property tax, water, and the condo fee.
The bank trustee will not approve the transfer of the property until the bank trust fees are current.
The real estate agents need to make sure the utility bills and services are paid. They (or client’s attorney) write the escrow instructions to wire funds to the different parties receiving payments. Net proceeds go to the seller.
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