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The Most Important Things to Know Before Buying a Home in Mexico

Design aficionados weigh in on the allure of purchasing a property south of the border

Sol de Oriente in Costa Careyes, for sale with Hilton & Hyland for $7.5 million.
Photo: AVABLU

A bedroom in Marjorie Skouras’s Mérida residence, listed for $975,000 with Real Estate Yucatan. Photo: JOHN ELLIS

With its enticing natural beauty and abundant cultural charms, Mexico has become a magnet for Americans in search of relaxation and respite. “Everything you can possibly want is here,” says decorator Marjorie Skouras, who purchased a 19th-century mansion in Mérida, the lush Yucatán capital, in 2015. “It’s an elegant, old-fashioned city,” she says. “The food is fabulous, there’s music everywhere, the art scene is popping, and the opera house looks like you’re in Paris.”

Also drawn to the tropical enclave is designer Laura Kirar, a former New Yorker who breathed new life into a moldering hacienda a dozen years ago. “I didn’t realize I needed nature until I moved to Mexico,” she says. “And what I paid for 25,000 square feet was the same price as a not-very-nice studio on the Upper East Side.”

A large contingent of expats can also be found in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city in the country’s mountainous central region. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, the vibrant urban core captivated San Francisco designers Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher. “We came here on vacation, and we were in escrow before we left,” says Weisman with a laugh from their revamped home, an 18th-century former tannery surrounded by towering jacaranda trees. “San Miguel has that effect on people.”

A $13 million property in Mexico City, listed with Sotheby’s International Realty. Photo: COURTESY OF MEXICO SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

When it comes to committing, Americans buying in Mexico will find the process differs slightly from the procedure in other international destinations. All property purchases made by foreigners within the restricted zone (that is, land within 31 miles from the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean or within 62 miles of one of Mexico’s national borders) are mandated to take place through the establishment of what is called a fideicomiso, which is essentially a renewable trust in which the bank holds the title to the property but cedes ownership via an indirect title to the purchaser. (Alternatively, the home buyer can set up a Mexican corporation.) “I highly recommend making a good relationship with a lawyer, who can take care of the notario,” says Skouras, referring to the country’s system of ultrapowerful notaries. Additionally, while most people will be pleased with the very low property taxes, they should be prepared for a hefty acquisition fee, which is up to 4.5 percent of the purchase price. “No one brings it up before closing,” says Weisman. “But every American gasps when they get the bill.”

This Mexico City house, also listed with Sotheby’s, is available for $8.1 million. Photo: COURTESY OF MEXICO SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

“We came here on vacation, and we were in escrow before we left”

Jeffry Weisman

The terrace overlooking San Miguel de Allende at Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher’s home. Photo: JOSÉ MARGALEFF

While recently the market has heated up substantially, there are still gems to be found. One of which is a $7.5 million clifftop property overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Costa Careyes, a haven for artists and creatives, listed by Denise Moreno, a broker with Hilton & Hyland. “Careyes reminds me of what Cabo was when it was a fishing village,” she says. “Interest has exploded since the pandemic. Mexico, and especially Careyes, really gives you that moment of being in the present.”

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A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2021 Summer Issue under the headline “Mexico Magic.” Subscribe to the magazine.

Cover: Sol de Oriente in Costa Careyes, for sale with Hilton & Hyland for $7.5 million.
Photo: AVABLU

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