If you are staying in Mexico for an extended period, or even planning to buy property, the chances are you will need to rent beforehand. People who rent property in Mexico far outweigh the number who buy. This is because property prices are much higher than average incomes will allow people to afford, and although mortgages are now being proffered by Mexican banks, at an average of 15% a year, they are expensive by current US and European standards.
As access to long-term credit secured by real-estate is becoming more widespread, this is slowly beginning to fuel demand for land and house sales, but on the whole, the majority of the population still rent. As a result of this rental properties are plentiful, commonplace and varied – and there is something to suit every need, and every budget.
Expatriates tend to reside at the larger cities, especially Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara. Most houses in the cities have, in general, three bedrooms with bathroom and a maid's room, family room, study, laundry area, kitchen, living and dinning room. Gardens are small, and in Mexico City and Guadalajara swimming pools are not easily found in houses.
You will need to be able to speak some Spanish to effectively rent property on an independent basis, especially outside the main tourist areas. Wherever you are in Mexico, if you only speak English and don't employ the use of an agent, your options may be limited and you may not end up negotiating the best deal possible.
Renting a Property
Renting property in Mexico can be either surprisingly inexpensive or apparently overpriced, depending on location. For example, if you wanted to live in a Colonial city, you might choose somewhere like San Louis Potosi, where you will likely pay US$500 and upwards per month for a reasonably sized house, or you could live in a smaller city like Zacateces, where you may be able to find a house for US$100-400. The same holds true for the beach areas and northern desert states. In short, the smaller the town, the lower the rents. On the whole, in the main cities, rents can be anywhere from US$1,000 for a small apartment to US$10,000 and above for a modern house in the suburbs.
Finding a house to rent can be a challenge in Mexico as many go unadvertised and owners often rely on word of mouth to find renters. Knowing this, the best way to find rental property is simply to ask around. Everybody always seems to know someone who has a house for rent.
Rental contracts usually state that you must pay the deposit and first month's rent in advance. Your contract may specify a minimum term (say, 1 month), and also specify how much notice you have to give before you leave. Be sure that you understand your commitments fully before signing the agreement.
An inventory should be carried out with the agent or landlord, noting down any major defects that exist when you start the rental agreement. Any items missing or (further) damage would be charged to your deposit.
Some rentals will have a 6 or 12 month minimum stay: some may be as short as a week, although the latter tend to be holiday homes or apartments and are likely to cost more.
If you are in any doubt about your contract, or if you cannot read and understand Spanish well, either use an agent, or get someone to translate it for you. Although the contract may have an English version, in a dispute, only the Spanish version will be recognised by law.
If you are on an extended stay, be aware that rents in Mexico tend to go up annually. Unless otherwise specified in your contract, rents can go up by any amount the landlord sees fit, and you may have only a week to move out if it's too much. In the majority of cases, increases are modest and in line with Mexico's inflation.
Buying a Property
Foreigners are allowed to purchase property in Mexico, but the process is quite different from that in the United States or Canada. First, there is no title insurance. The entire process is handled by a Notary Public (Notario Publico). Notary Publics operate differently than in the US – they are completely authorised to handle property sales, and are, in fact, the best way to handle a transaction. Some attorneys will try to become involved, but they generally serve no purpose and tend to charge high fees and hold up the process.
Once you have decided and found a property that you are interested in, simply take everything to the notary public and allow him/her to check the property to make sure that everything is in order. After he/she has reviewed them, sign all contracts in front of him/her and exchange all monies in his/her presence. A notary public is to be trusted because he/she is held responsible by the government for any errors that he/she makes.