Home Expat Blogs Lifestyle and Real Estate in San Miguel de Allende

Lifestyle and Real Estate in San Miguel de Allende

Courtyard in San Miguel de Allende
Credit: Alejandro from Mexico City, Mexico | Wikimedia Commons

Hola and welcome to my new blog, “Life Between the Fat Mermaid and Skinny Coyote.” I’ll be writing about the lifestyle and real estate in San Miguel de Allende in the months to come and hope you find something of interest.

It’s been a long – sometimes very long – journey from Jennings, Louisiana, my birthplace, to San Miguel de Allende, which I am delighted and blessed to call home. Since I came to live here in 2002 I find that when I tell folks where I live their responses fall into three categories: “Where/what is that?”, “Do you know so and so?”, and most commonly, “Can you buy land in Mexico?”

The answer to this last question is like a lot of questions in Mexico: “Yes, but with some conditions and caveats around the edges.”

Let’s begin with a brief historical overview of the origins of real estate law in Mexico.

We celebrate Independence and Revolution in this country. Independence is the conclusion of our successful fight against Spain for independence in the early 19th century. Revolution is the successful conclusion of a series of battles among political factions within Mexico in the early 20th century, which gave us the Constitution of Mexico that is used today.

Following independence from Spain, the country – much larger than the U.S. at the time – did not easily come together. This led to an invasion by France in 1862, culminating with placing Maximillian I of Austria as Emperor of Mexico in 1864. His tenure was short lived. He was executed in 1867 and Benito Juarez, Mexico’s previous president, was re-established as head of government.

During the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century, Mexico was led by Porfirio Díaz, a former general who built better roads, telegraph services and an integrated national mail service. Foreign investment established mines and large commercial ranches, and a great deal of material progress was made. The benefits, however, were not shared by all. In a very unjust way, land was taken from the Mexican people and given to wealthy foreign investors or to powerful local citizens. During Díaz’s presidency, through purchases and gifts, the Catholic Church came to own one-third of the country.

When the Mexican revolution began in 1911, land ownership grievances dominated popular resentments. As a result, the constitution forbade foreign ownership of land. As is often the case in Mexico, a way around this prohibition was found by using bank trusts (called fideicomisos). This was the standard way foreigners purchased property in Mexico until 1994. By and large, this system worked very well.

But in 1994, the fideicomiso bank trust requirement was removed for foreign buyers of land in Mexico, except for the purchase of property 62 miles from the land borders and 31 miles from the ocean borders.

Today, buyers in San Miguel buy land fee simple, so buying a property in San Miguel de Allende now is very similar to buying a property in the U.S. or Canada. There are differences in regional practices, though, just as there are between regions in the U.S.

If you have been a party to a property transaction in the U.S. you will recognize the steps. My firm, Realty San Miguel, encourages all transactions to go through an escrow process just as in most states in the U.S., but that is not a requirement of Mexican law. It’s not your father’s Mexico. It’s much more recognizable … and much easier.

My goal for this blog is to find answers to the many questions you might have about buying or selling real estate in San Miguel de Allende or what life is like here and in Mexico. If you have questions, be sure to contact me at BenPitre@gmail.com.

And next time, I’ll let you in on the story behind the name of my blog!

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Ben Pitre
Ben Pitre has worked in real estate for decades as a builder, renovator, sub-divider and syndicator in the U.S. and San Miguel de Allende. He has also been a long-term residential and industrial landlord. He is almost certainly the only real estate agent in San Miguel who has both demonstrated Japanese flower arrangements for the San Miguel Garden Club and fought in public boxing exhibitions (4-0). Ben is an agent with 1st International Realty and can be reached at benpitre@gmail.com.