If you are planning on renting, which nearly six-out-of-10 expats who are considering moving to Mexico are, here are a few things to consider when you rent in Mexico.
The First Thing
The first thing you should know is that you really need to be “on the ground” in order to scout a place out. This is true for several reasons, the main one being that many homes for rent are simply not listed online. Some of them are, but often they are not.
Things Are More Informal in Mexico
One thing that might strike you as very different from your home country is the general informality of the real estate industry here. Those who rent and sell properties range from very professional firms with names you would recognize to individuals who simply want to earn a few thousand pesos a month by renting out a property they own.
Most professional real estate and rental agencies in Mexico have websites and active social media programs, but many individuals and small companies rely on Facebook, which also has pages dedicated to finding places to rent or buy in specific communities.
Craigslist also features for sale and rent properties in 16 cities in Mexico. For those of you who know a little Spanish, you can try Vivanuncios.com, which has an eBay kind of feel. These are all good options for getting an idea of what is out there and the price range for homes in the community in which you want to live.
Get on the Ground
While online is a good starting place, the only way to really figure out where and what you would like to rent is to take some time and come to Mexico. An option I have often recommended to people is to rent an Airbnb and plan on staying for at least a few weeks. This will give you ample time to explore the community and decide which areas you like, what exactly you are looking for, and get an idea of the price ranges for what you want.
Hint: Many places that are for sale are also for rent. If you see a for sale sign on a house that you like, give them a call; they might be willing to rent it.
Find a Spanish-Speaker to Help You
If you plan to move to Mexico but do not yet speak Spanish, I highly recommend getting help from someone who does, preferably someone who speaks fluently and who has at least a basic understanding of how property is rented or bought in Mexico.
If you are moving to a touristy area where many speak English, this might not be as necessary. However, I would still recommend it. You will want someone “on your side” that understands all of the conversations being had on your behalf.
Most Places Are Sold and Rented “As-Is”
When you are shown a house, condo or apartment, chances are you are already seeing exactly the condition in which it will be handed over to you, should you choose to rent it. This is true especially for places that are not considered high-end. There is typically no tradition of getting things cleaned up and freshly painted before a new tenant moves in. If this does happen, consider it a bonus.
That said, most landlords will allow you to do things like paint, install shelves and light fixtures, and generally make changes as long as they can be changed back in the future. For those who love “taking over” wherever they live and decorating to their heart’s content, this could be an ideal situation.
If you are looking for a place that is new, fresh, clean and decidedly not a fixer-upper, expect to pay a higher-than-average price compared to most Mexican homes.
While most home renters will make sure that all the bills are up to date before you move in, be sure to double-check this. You would hate to get a huge electricity bill on the second day after you move in! And as nice as people generally are down here, there is certainly an entrenched habit of many who say that something will be taken care of and then just not quite get around to it.
Another note on responsibilities: When you rent, you are, for the most part, responsible for any needed repairs that come up. In my experience, many landlords justify this because they are renting as they say at “such a low price.” If the toilet breaks, or the sink gets stopped up or there is a leak, it will most likely be on you to fix it. The times that I have told a landlord that something does not work or needs fixing, the immediate response is usually that it was “fine when I last checked it,” implying that you must have done something since the discovery was made on your watch. Be ready for this, and give thanks that calling someone to make repairs is generally quite affordable in Mexico.
Not all landlords are like this, but in my experience, most are. Be sure to specify this sort of thing in writing before-hand in a contract. It will be in Spanish, so have an attorney review it before you sign on the dotted line, if you can.
Odd Things You Might Not Have Guessed
When renting, the name on the bills you receive will be the owner’s name, not yours. You are not expected to change this, but you are in charge of paying them, whether or not they actually arrive in your mailbox, and sometimes they do not.
Electricity should be mentioned here, especially for those who want to live in coastal cities where air conditioning is a must. Electricity is charged at different rates based upon consumption. Remember, using a fan is very cost effective compared with A/C. You can save a lot of money by only using the A/C in the room(s) you will be spending most of your time. Most homes use mini-splits in specific rooms within the house.
Another thing that frequently comes as a surprise for those unaccustomed to living in Mexico is the issue of gas. Be sure to find out if you have a natural gas line, for which you will receive a monthly bill (in my experience, uncommon). More common in Mexico, though, is a gas tank on the roof of your home. You will need to check your gas meter frequently and call for a gas truck when you are getting low. LP gas can also be delivered via tanks, if your home is set-up that way.
You will also want to make sure you know how the water heater works, including how to turn it on and off and re-light the pilot. They tend to get blown out when there is heavy wind and rain, and getting it back on, if you have never had to deal with that kind of thing before, can be daunting. It is a good idea to know how old it is, too, and who to call or how to fix things if you start smelling gas, a problem that will need to be taken care of immediately.
It is not that landlords or sellers do not want to warn you about these issues. It is simply that they likely consider it all common knowledge because it is exactly that to Mexicans.
If you decide to go an informal route with no rental contract be prepared for some difficulty. If something goes wrong and the landlord does not keep his or her word, there will not be any legal backing to protect you. Diana Cuevas’ article on the legal rights of tenants will help you know ahead of time what you should both demand and expect.
Likewise, once you move out, I would caution you not to expect your security deposit back. It will save you a lot of frustration and heartache to simply let go of it before-hand, and be pleasantly surprised if you do get it back.
If you are renting a house that is also for sale, it will probably be put into your contract that you must allow the owner to show the house while you are currently living there. If you do not want the intrusion or uncertainty, take a pass on renting a home for sale.
Finally, when you come down to explore your rental options, be sure you have a list of questions ready, starting with a checklist of what you want. Here are a few things to consider:
- What’s the security situation like in the neighborhood?
- Are the roads paved?
- Are there street lamps?
- Where are the closest stores to shop for basics?
- Are there many children in the neighborhood?
- What are the local school options, if applicable?
- What types of shops and restaurants are in walking and/or driving distance?
Start making your list now and happy home hunting!