BUYING REAL ESTATE IN LA PAZ



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by Heather Borquez

So now that you LOVE it here… how the heck do you buy property (without loosing your mind)?

First, find a good agent!

Look for someone bilingual, as you will need them to work with Spanish-speaking agents and owners, lawyers, and tradespeople.

Diamante_90x125mmFebFind an agent who has been recommended by other buyers; one who can put you in touch with people who have bought property from them. Also, look for an agent who is working with a company that has been in business for a long time. Diamante Realtors has been in La Paz for the last 12 years, and is well versed in all aspects of property buying in the Baja peninsula.

Your agent should also be registered with the Mexican Association for Professional Realtors, AMPI. While realtors don’t yet need to be licensed in Baja California Sur, belonging to AMPI provides a guarantee of continuous training, oversight, and upgrading of skills.

Once you have found a good realtor, do try to trust him or her a little. They live here. They know the neighborhoods, and they want repeat business. Word of mouth is a realtor’s best friend. A good realtor is motivated to find you the best property for the best price, knowing that what you say about them will spread throughout the community. They may occasionally tell you that a particular property or neighborhood is not what they would recommend for you. When they say that… LISTEN!

Define Your Needs and Your Budget

Try to be as realistic as possible with your budget and with your plans for the property. Are you going to use it three or four times a year? Or will you live here full time? How many friends and children will visit? Are you comfortable maintaining a large property? While many of us dream of a large home on the beach, a practical “lock it up and go away” condo might be your best bet. You need to analyze the type of property you require, and the use you plan to make of it.

Likewise, identify the type of neighborhood you’re looking for. Are you social and like to walk everywhere? Or are you happier in big, wide, open spaces? Does the charm of a Mexican neighborhood appeal to you, or do you prefer the manicured look of a luxury resort? Will you be working? Do you yearn to see the fish being brought in to shore, or are you happiest where there is a Walmart close by? Where is the nearest medical facility? Do you prefer to drive? Or do you prefer to get around on foot? If you don´t know the neighborhoods, go out and drive or walk around. Each neighborhood is different. Some are beach communities, others are posh and upscale, others more family oriented, etc. Again, doing your homework helps your realtor find you the right house in paradise.

Join a Real Estate Tour

Pergolas - intDiamante Realtors offers real estate tours in La Paz and La Ventana during high season. To join a tour, call us at 612 157 1984. These are low-pressure, educational tours, usually with a small group. We take people around to different neighborhoods and show them what’s available for what price. During the tour, we also talk about the buying process, the bank trust (fideicomiso), and try to answer any questions the groups have for us. It is a great way to see and learn a lot in a single morning, as well as make new friends!

The Offer

Okay, so you finally found the perfect home in paradise and you are ready to buy it! Your agent will help you make an offer to purchase. This is usually done in the form of an offer to purchase agreement (Oferta) or a sales contract (Contrato de Compra/Venta), which your realtor draws up.

All terms and conditions – such as a house inspection; financing, if needed; special requests; furniture; etc. – are included in the offer or sales contract. Your agent, who represents YOU, will present the offer to the agent representing the sellers. The offer may be accepted right away, or it may go back and forth as a counter offer until a mutually-agreed price is reached.

At this point, your agent should have told you what your closing costs will be. Estimate 4% to 5% of the value of the property you are purchasing. The cost of the bank trust (fideicomiso) is an additional cost.

Set Aside 10% as Earnest Money in Escrow

Once your offer is accepted in writing, you’ll need to send or wire a certain amount (usually 10%) of the purchase price as earnest money. You will normally be asked to send it to an escrow account where it will be kept for you in trust until closing.

What Is the Lawyer Doing All this Time?

While you are sending the earnest money, your lawyer is working on the title search and land transfer tax, as well as working with the notary to prepare the fideicomiso (if you are a foreign buyer). The fideicomiso is your bank trust document. In essence, it is your deed or title. It is a very important document; multiple copies should be made and copies filed with your lawyer, in your house, and, perhaps, in your home country.

Is Title Insurance Important?

We don’t normally suggest title insurance, as it is a duplication of your lawyer’s work. The notary will investigate a property’s title to be sure it is free from encumbrances and that the taxes are paid. Before closing can take place, one of the municipal offices issues a certificado de no-gravamen (a no-liens certificate). This is a very important step. Without it, the title is not clear and you cannot proceed with closing. Your offer or sales contract should include a clause that will cancel the sale and refund your deposit if clear title can’t be obtained.

Property Closing

Once you have assurances from your attorney and notary that the property’s title is good, you will be asked to wire the balance of the funds.

Upon notification that the funds are in the escrow account, you will meet with the notary, the seller, and your attorney for the closing. Your realtor should accompany you. You will sign the contractual documents and, either right then or shortly thereafter, receive a copy of your deed (fideicomiso, if a bank trust was used).

The Fideicomiso

Every non-Mexican purchasing property within 50 kilometers of a coastline must use a fideicomiso to hold property. This is a 50-year, renewable bank trust. It provides all ownership benefits, but holds the property in a bank trust. A fideicomiso will have a one-time set-up cost of around $2,500 USD, plus an annual maintenance fee of approximately $400 USD a year.

The Notary Registers your Ownership

Though you’ll have a copy of all the paperwork associated with the property, the transaction isn’t really complete until the notary registers your deed with the land-registry office. Be sure to follow up with the notary that this step is done.

When you have your deed or fideicomiso in hand, look for a seal and a certificate of registration, which should be included with the documents.

With these papers in hand, you can go to the land-registry office. There, they will look at the registration number on the certificate and show you how the transaction has been listed in their books.

And now? Enjoy paradise!!! And go to the beach!

 

Heather is a resident of La Paz and a realtor with Diamante Associates.  She can be contacted by email at heather@diamanteassociates.com or by telephone at 612 157 1984.las pergolas

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