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9 Tips for Successful Condo Living in Mexico

Condo pool in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Credit: Harriet Murray

For most of you who have owned single-family homes, buying a condominium is a new experience.  This type of ownership gives all owners the opportunity to influence core decisions and procedures in managing one of your most important assets. If you are considering purchasing a condo, here are 9 tips for successful condo living in Mexico:

1.   A good start begins with learning what laws affect real estate ownership in Mexico. This may sound basic, but over the years I have seen many problems caused by lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of procedures, laws and customs. Understanding how the meetings should be held, what topics the board can rule upon and what decisions involve the general membership, are very important

2.   Many owners want to lease their condos short term. This is a big subject for the owners to discuss and to decide upon. Airbnb and VRBO have transformed the short-term rental business for the owner.  Now it is essential that proper income taxes be paid to the Mexican government for this earned income. Now an owner needs a Mexican accountant to file the returns and comply with the law. You, as an owner, can still make money to use against your HOA fees, property taxes and trust payments.  And it is still acceptable to give the paid tax information to your accountant in your country of origin to use as expenses for your tax return there.

3.   Pet ownership is an ongoing issue that has to be settled in order to have a successful experience in your condo.  Being “pet friendly” is a requirement for the majority of buyers. Well-thought-out rules for pets need to be taken very seriously. For example, big pets may be quiet, small pets loud and yappy. It is reasonable to allow owners to have pets, and up to the owners, together, to consider letting renters have them as well.

4.   Be prepared to compromise and negotiate for the common good. Meeting other owners or holding some informal parties or get-togethers is not necessary, but it can be valuable to understanding your fellow owners.  Appreciating your co-owner’s background and experience can go a long way to successfully running a building.

5.   The type of ownership you purchase is as substantial a part of the property as its location, floor plan and amenities.  Happy, well-run associations improve the value of everyone’s property.

6.   A checklist before purchasing a condominium may include questions like:

  • Do I want to have to “work” at negotiation/compromise when it comes to my home
  • Will I want to serve on committees or as an officer?
  • Am I more of a loner?  Being a loner can be OK, if you are all right with others making decisions.  Being a recluse might be harder in a condominium.  Others can invade your space. Your neighbor’s friend may sometimes park in your parking space. Your co-owners may enjoy their grandchildren at the pool in the summer.

7.   What are the advantages of owning a condominium?  You can lock up and go away, knowing there are people responsible for maintaining the building and taking care of emergencies. You are sharing the cost of the maintenance and have piece-of-mind that there is some security in a group living in close proximity to each other willing to watch out for each other.

8.   There are successful associations and there are those that struggle.  What I have seen of those that are successful, the boards and administration make sure they communicate clearly and honestly with the owners.  They keep them informed.  There is discussion and sharing of ideas. A consensus is better if everyone has their say, and earnest discussion and sharing of viewpoints that answer a lot of questions and concerns.

9.   It is important that the owners trust their board. Boards that are comprised of frustrated control freaks don´t work. Boards that are arrogant and too ego-centric do not work. Boards who pay themselves to be administrators, who take perks or over-use the staff, are unacceptable. These boards should be dissolved legally.

This article is based upon legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences in the Puerto Vallarta-Bahia de Banderas areas. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of Mexican real estate conduct his/her own due diligence and review.