The current cost of setting up a fideicomiso in Mexico is about $3,500 – $5,000, and the annual fee charged after the second year is currently about $600 – $1000. This covers the government fideicomiso permit fee, bank set-up fee and one year’s fee. Charges may vary from bank to bank, and the annual maintenance fee depends on the value of the property.

Also, a bank takes around three weeks to issue the permit, but this is from the moment the fees are paid and all the proper documents and forms have been submitted. To get those documents and fill out those forms usually takes up to two or more weeks, so the closing time frame of a Fideicomiso is usually two to three months.

What is a Fideicomiso?

Meanwhile, a Fideicomiso de Zona Restringida (Real Estate Trust of a Restricted Zone) is a legal document with which a Mexican bank will, for lack of a better word, lend a foreigner their name so they can use and manage the property.

A Fideicomiso is the most common option chosen by the foreigners who attempt to buy property in the area. A Fedeicomiso is unique because it doesn’t have an exact equivalent in United States or Canada, so an exact translation is impossible.

Fideicomisos for foreigners act like an irrevocable trusts treated under Mexican tax law as ownership in fee. The seller is named as the Grantor or Settlor and the foreign land purchaser is named as the beneficiary or Fideicomisario, another term of art.

Note that in the Fideicomiso for foreigners, the beneficiaries are vested and they are free to transfer or assign any and all of their rights under the trust, including the ability to bequeath their beneficial interest to their heirs. Under Mexican law, only banks and other financial institutions can function as trustees or Fiduciarios, and some of them, only for real estate transactions.

However, once a price is agreed for a real estate property, and there is a signed contract for purchase signed by the parties involved, the Buyer has seven (7) days to submit the escrow deposit.

This is 10 percent of the sale price and it is held by the Closing Attorney in a separate Escrow Account used for this purpose only. This money secures and binds the contract. After receiving the escrow amount an extensive title search is conducted confirming that there are no existing liens or other title problems.

Have it in mind that this process generally takes thirty (30) to forty (40) days. A few days prior to closing, you will receive an itemized expense list and the full closing costs that are due prior to the final signing.

In Mexico, most of the closing costs are paid by the Buyer, including the cost to form the trust. These costs are based value of the property which may be lower than the actual sales price. There is a 2 percent – 4 percent transfer tax plus attorney’s fees which will generally amount to 5 percent of the appraised value of the property.

The Benefits of a Fideicomiso

The main purpose of a fideicomiso is to satisfy the Mexican Constitution by placing the legal title of the property in the name of the trustee. The trustee’s responsibility is to hold and transfer title deed under the direction of the beneficiary (buyer). Nonetheless, below are the few benefits of setting up a fideicomiso;

  1. A Fideicomiso let’s foreigners acquire real estate within the restricted zone. Mexico’s restricted zone includes property within 100 km from the border and 50 km from the ocean. The trustee (bank) is bestowed with the power to oversee the property for the beneficiary (the buyer). Aside creating a corporation, the fideicomiso is the only legitimate way of acquiring real estate in the restricted zone, allowing foreigners to buy in prime areas.
  2. Also note that buying through a fideicomiso is a secure way to purchase property, your property is not an asset of the bank, and even if the bank enters into bankruptcy your property will not be considered a bank asset.
  3. The buyer still reserves all the legal rights of a property owner; they may sell, renovate, or rent as they wish.
  4. The Public Registry still contains the names of property owners. However, if the property is held in a fideicomiso, only a trust number is published, offering discretion for those who prefer to keep their real estate assets private.
  5. In some rare situations, you can save on the setup fee by taking over the existing trust of a property you are purchasing.
  6. In a Fideicomiso, you will appoint a substitute beneficiary who will receive the property when you pass away. The heir will take over the trust/property, avoiding spending time and the expense of probate proceedings in Mexico.
  7. The Fideicomiso is renowned for being quicker to set up and easier to maintain than a corporation. But note you will pay a setup fee and a yearly fee.
  8. A Fideicomiso saves you from the stress of extra accounting obligations and the need to have at least two shareholders, submit monthly and annual financial reports, and conduct annual shareholder meetings, as mandated for corporations.

How to Buy Properties in Mexico Through a Fideicomiso

Mexican trust banks are authorised by the Mexican Government to carry out the acquisition of properties located in the restricted zone. Through a Fideicomiso, the respective bank owns the land and acts on behalf of the foreign buyer. Nevertheless, the purchaser holds all rights and responsibilities of selling, leasing, mortgaging and entrusting the property. If you are looking to set up a fideicomiso in Mexico, here are few steps to take;

1. Make an Offer to Acquire Property in Mexico

Note that almost all real estate transactions start with the seller accepting an offer from the buyer in the form of an ‘Offer to Purchase’. In Mexico, this is a type of contract that explains all the terms for the purchase including the details for a money deposit, a deadline for the seller to accept the offer, price, and payment plans.

Once the seller accepts the offer, both parties can sign a buying/selling agreement that mandates the buyer to make a deposit of 5-10 percent of the property’s value. In addition, this contract binds either party to pay a penalty fee if they pull out of the deal.

However, it is pertinent you seek the counsel of a lawyer before transferring any money or signing any contracts. Your attorney will spare you difficulties which may occur during the process and they can also offer advice on how to save money on fees and taxes involved in buying property in Mexico.

2. Setting up The Fideicomiso Trust

At this point, your notary is expected to initiate the process of obtaining the trust by checking the property’s legal status. The notary is mandated with inspecting the property for unpaid taxes or other issues by carrying out checks and gathering the needed documentation such as the property deed. They also expect to verify if the seller has the right to transfer the property by checking recent tax receipts and proof of the payment of public utility bills.

In addition, as a final part, they will also have to check the terms and conditions of the contract. The buyer, in turn, is only required to provide a copy of their identification, a bill showing their current address and, if applicable their visa or a document that validates their legal status to the notary. Together with the bank, the notary will finalise the trust needed documents.

3. Buying the Property

Have it in mind that before the final payment transaction is made, the seller is expected to pay tax on the purchase and the property deed has to be signed over to the buyer at the notary’s office. The buyer then can pay the seller and the notary fees. Once the entire process is completed, the notary will send a copy of the deed to the Public Registry of Property.

Since the acquisition of a property is of public interest in Mexico, it is expected to be registered at the Public Registry of Property to avoid any fraud or illegal possession of the property in the future. Immediately the final payment has been made and the deed closed, the title will be officially handed over to the new owner or the bank trust.

Conclusion

A Fideicomiso is the ideal way to go if you are looking to acquire a property in Mexico and use it for residential/ personal reasons that will not generate an income. Also you will find that hiring a local lawyer will significantly facilitate the process of purchasing property and will give you peace of mind throughout the process.

Adopting this solution means you don’t need to be in the country for every step of the process considering that a qualified attorney can handle the buying process up to the signing of most contracts on your behalf through a notarised power of attorney.

Joy Nwokoro