When we came to México, it was only a matter of course that we look for a place to call our own. I should mention that until recently, foreigners could not buy land in Mexico at all. The current president, Pena Nieto, however, is all about changing the constitution and allowing foreign investors in, so those laws have been changed dramatically. We really didn’t have a major issue with this prohibition, however, since my husband is bona fide Mexican and therefore allowed to own land.
It wasn’t as easy as you might think. In our area, there are no realty offices. There are inmobiliaries, (property sellers) however the majority of property owners here who are looking to sell do not use them because there is a fee. Those that do have an agent through an inmobilario office were out of our price range. So, with no easy to look at list of properties for sale, all the legwork falls on the hopeful buyer.
For us, this process entailed months of exploration. We drove everywhere we thought we might like to live, from Los Amoles to Cerano and back, up side roads and by-roads, through fields and over ditches. If we happened to come across a $ painted either on the front of a house or on a stone wall, we stopped and looked it over.
Having located a prospective property, we then set out to locate the person who currently owned it. Asking the neighbors was seldom helpful. Small town distrust placed us at a severe disadvantage. Sometimes the neighbors claimed they didn’t know or just did not want to give us information. Sometimes they would send us to the son or daughter of the current owner, or maybe a cousin or uncle that lived pa’ya (over there). So we would trudge over to try and ask for the supposed responsible party, only to find out it had already been sold, or they had changed their mind about selling.
Sometimes there was a telephone number listed and we tried to call. It very seldom was a working number. And even if someone answered, he or she knew nothing about a property for sale.
We became despondent and took to ending our searches in La Yacata, where my husband’s sister had a lot. We would sit on the sidewalk and build castles in the air. If only this were our lot….
After about 6 months of fruitless searching, we stopped at our imaginary home in La Yacata and saw to our delight that two lots across the street had a posted for sale sign. We called the number and met with the owners that very day. After a few days of negotiation, we agreed to buy both lots for a total measurement of 14 x 20 meters for $95,000 pesos. We had cash in hand from the sale of our house in the U.S. and trato hecho (it was a done deal). Within a week, my husband had the machine come to dig the foundation holes and within 3 months, we were living in our own home, unfinished as it was. Our house and animal area have been in a constant state of remodeling ever since. La Yacata also came with its share of problems. (See The Beginning of the Revolution) But how were we to know?
It is important for me to caution that it really is “Let the buyer beware” when buying property. It is in the buyer’s best interest to have the seller give him or her all the receipts (originals not copies) for los servicios pagados (water, sewage, electric, pavement, and sidewalks). However, as we found out, even having those documents does not guarantee that the utilities in place are in working order or up to code. Talking to the encargado (person in charge) of a development may or may not be helpful. After all, he or she is in charge of obtaining these utilities and will assure you until blue in the face that everything is hunky dory. One way that can eliminate some of the doubt is to buy property that already has escrituras (deed) because that means that all the urbanization required has already been done. However, it does cost more.
But, in our case, having put down roots regardless of the problems, when the lot next door came up for sale last year, we dreamed of adding just a little bit more to our property. We even made an offer, but since it would have taken 10 months to pay off the lot, and the owner didn’t want to wait and she sold it instead to someone else. This someone else, C, took out a bank loan in order to buy it and then told us he planned on putting in a pig farm. I, for one, was terribly downhearted at the news.
But when month after month came and went and no little piggies came to stay, I thought I had made peace with the loss. Then again….