Escrow Services, Real-estate Agents, Property Donations, and more

Tony and Donna from Laguna Beach, California, write:

Dear Angel,

We have been looking to buy a home in San Miguel de Allende and wondered if you recommend using an agent or buying something that is listed directly through the seller? In our case, the home we are renting is for sale without an agent. What would be the benefit of using an agent versus the cost of their commission? Thanks!

Angel responds:

Hi Tony and Donna,

First, let me clarify that you as the “buyer” would not be responsible for the “commission” so you have everything to gain from using an agent. Here in Mexico, there is an AMPI certification for real-estate agents. This is something you want to make sure your agent has, as it ensures their knowledge on the subject. Second, a qualified agent will walk you through the process of purchasing a home here, which is “similar” to buying in the United States or Canada, yet has its subtle differences. An agent will help you with completing your “due diligence” or point you in the direction of a Title company, like Inmtec Title Services. An agent will ensure that the price is correct (i.e., at market value) and “hold your hand” through the entire process of inspections, SRE permits, appraisals, and such, all the way through to closing. Third, since you are buying in San Miguel, you have access to literally the best and most honorable as well as knowledgeable agents in all of Mexico! If you would like a recommendation, please contact me directly as we have several agents that we work with who are consistently exceptional.

James Knudson from Tampa Bay, Florida, writes:

Dear Angel,

I am getting mixed messages about using escrow for the purchase of a condo in Puerto Vallarta. I am being told that it is not necessary, very expensive, and useless. I have always used escrow for my purchases in Florida. Is there some reason not to? How much should it cost? Why would the person selling the condo not want to use this service? Gracias!

Angel responds:

Hello James,

The long and the short of it is…always use escrow. The average purchase for a condo unit in Puerto Vallarta is US$195,000 and the cost of an escrow account is US$600.00. That comes out to a hair over 0.3 percent, less than one half of one percent. Escrow services protect your deposit as well as your closing monies. The contract is tied to your “purchase agreement” and is a key component of getting your money back if there is a breach of contract or non-compliance on behalf of the seller. I have seen, however, that as this is not historically “customary” in Mexico. There can be some push back by Nationals selling their property. Typically, as Mexicans, we “like” to receive 10 percent in our hands for taking a property off the market. I can’t stress enough the importance and security that using an escrow service brings to any deal.

Sandra from Little Rock, Arkansas, asks:

Dear Angel,

My husband and I own two homes here in Mexico. We both have wills and medical advance directives (Thank you!), but I am now wondering if there would be any benefit to what I read in one of your articles about the Living Inheritance. Could you please explain?

Angel responds:

Hello Sandra,

Nice to hear from you. In short, the benefit of using the living inheritance (donation process) is to avoid Probate Court. As all inheritances in Mexico must go to probate, there are additional costs and lengthy time frames that can be avoided by using this mechanism. Probate can take from 3 months to a year when the will is properly constructed and is not contested (a common occurrence here). The probate process can take years under a contested will or in the worst-case scenario properties have been lost due to a poorly constructed document. The cost of probate and time frame can vary greatly depending on whom you use for your legal representation as well as costs for the transmittal of the real property can present themselves as a substantial variable. The safest, quickest, and least expensive way to bullet-proof your heir’s inheritance (family members only) is to save them the process of probate and the court ordered transfer of your properties by giving title to your children or direct family members while still alive. Plus, as a bonus, you get to see the smile on their faces!.

Thank you all for your questions this week.


  • Joyce Barnett

    Dear Angel,
    I have owned a house in San Miguel for 22 years. I am a permanent resident. I believe that I will
    pay less tax when on the my son who does no live here. Is that correct? If so, I’d rather sell it
    myself now.
    Thanks, Joyce

  • Joyce Barnett

    Sorry, that message was poorly written and I cannot change it. Should say:
    I believe I will pay less tax on the sale than my son who does not live here

    • Hi Joyce it’s great to hear from you. It would be a pleasure to advise you on the issues you are talking about. Would you like to schedule an appointment with one of our experts to help you? You know where our office is in San Miguel, we would be happy to receive you; just let me know if you think it’s a good idea and give me your land line number to confirm.

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