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Owning A Condo In Mexico

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#1 wpcoe

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 12:35 AM

What are the differences in condo management, owner obligations & fees, rules, etc. in Mexico vs in the US?

I own a condo in Thailand and it's pretty similar to the US: condo board elected by and composed of owners, management company contracted by board to run the day-to-day operations, annual meeting open to all owners, exhaustive list of (usually strict) rules & regulations, "common areas" maintained by management company, monthly fees accompanied with an annual general audit, etc. Is it about the same in Mexico (Merida in particular)?  Any unique pitfalls or other significant differences SOB?  (A Thai example would be that only 49% of condo buildings can only be owned by foreigners.)

Doing online searches of properties for sale, I focus on houses, but found one condo building that looks interesting, then realized I know nothing about how condos are organized, run and maintained SOB.

Also, I notice what are called "departamento" (vs "condominio") but have sales prices like homes. I thought departamento meant apartment, or is it a looser term than that, and covers units that are individually owned as condominimum as well as buildings where all units are rented by a single owner?  Or, is there some third, hybrid form of condo/apartment?

 

(To stave off potential snipes comments, I did try a few google searches, but most condo-related results were focused on how to own & maintain a rental condo in absentia.  I'm looking at the practicality of being a condo owner-occupant.)





#2 YucatanStarTours

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 02:38 AM


 


 

I always like to say "condo" but all my Mexican friends always call it departemento. I think condo sounds nicer and something that you bought, but departemento is just a term used for condo here.

 

Rules are very similar but the recent conversation in Mexico is the lack of teeth to deal with deadbeat owners who do not pay maintenance fees or allow bad tenants. I believe for the most part, condos in Mexico do well since maintenance is cheap to pay for owners and there is cheap labor to do maintenance.

 

Here are some tips when looking at condos here.

 

1. Ask about construction, is there Styrofoam in the floors and ceilings that deaden sound between units?

 

2. Before you buy,ask the maintenance people themselves what they think the problems with the complex are, you might be surprised to hear the answers.

 

3. Is sheet rock used in the unit? This is a relatively new addition to construction in the Yucatan, and as you can imagine it can mold very easily. Sheet rock has slipped into use in shopping malls an modern buildings that are usually regulated with AC all the time.

 

4. Dogs have been issues with some complexes and again, the rules in Mexico have been trying to clear up how to deal with such issues.

 

5. Units older then ,lets say 7 years, need to be looked at more closely because wiring can start to go bad and other sloppy construction methods start to make themselves manifest in this time frame. You can hide something for a while but it will come out. It is harder to work on wiring and plumbing in a condo building then a private home where you can just have at it.

 

6. New units can have pitfalls too. Make sure if you are buying pre-sale to research the reliability of the developer. Even some reputable developers have given up and packed up and left depositors in limbo. Good developers will put deposits in an escrow account.

 

7. With new construction you need to examine the paperwork to make sure they divided up the property correctly to give the right amount of titles to all the condos.

 

Hope this helps and is a little start to your research.

Sorry I had to use quote. I got booted off and cannot copy all this from what I just wrote and paste unless I quote and paste.


Edited by CasiYucateco, 07 March 2014 - 12:28 PM.
Fixed the quote and spacing for readability


#3 CasiYucateco

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 12:41 PM

There are a couple condo owners who are members of YoListo and have posted here recently. 

 

The number of condo owners versus private home owners or renters is relatively small in Yucatan state.

 

We know several people who had units in a condo building in Chelem Chuburna Puerto. They were happy overall with the entire situation. Sorry, I don't know the details, other than that there was a caretaker who did a good job. They mainly used the condos on the weekends while living in Merida in more solid colonial homes.  They all sold roughly around the same time (same year or so), as condo values escalated quite a bit from their purchase prices (profit!) and they found they were spending less time on the coast.

 

Sheetrock and styrofoam haven't been used in any of the older buildings, say roughly 10 years ago or before. Both are relatively new arrivals in construction. Unless styrofoam 'cores' are properly rebar reinforced and covered with the correct amount of cement, they can prove to be weak. Need to be used by knowledgeable builders.

 

Sheetrock has not been popular on the NW Yucatan coast. Maybe it is in the Costa Maya, which is QR, East Yucatan Peninsula cost, where there are more touristy-style condo developments?

 

Hopefully, some current condo owners will chime in with details on their experiences regarding ownership, management, fees, insurance, etc.


Edited by CasiYucateco, 09 March 2014 - 02:14 PM.
wrong city above

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#4 YucatanStarTours

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 01:20 PM

Usually maintenance fees start at 400 pesos a month and go up to 2000 pesos a month. Newer developments tend to be more expensive and if there is a pool and grounds, perhaps a communal palapa, this can up the cost of maintenance



#5 ChuckD

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 06:07 PM

Steve O''Malley has a new condo project going up in Progreso. You may want to talk to him.

OASIS DEL MAR VACATION RENTALS
https://www.homeaway...-rental/p212447 Progreso
 


#6 wpcoe

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 02:17 AM

Thanks for that info.  Good stuff to know, and overall it sounds like condo management seems like the same as in USA/Thailand.  The maintenance fees also seem similar.  Disappointed to read, though, that there's not an efficient (legal) way to handle deadbeat non-payers.  For construction stuff, including plumbing and wiring, I plan to have a professional assessment done on whatever are my final candidates for purchase.  I understand there is a reliable fellow who does that for about MXN800?  :)

 

I look forward to hearing from condo owners, who feel comfortable posting or PM'ing.



#7 CasiYucateco

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 11:50 AM

Possession is more than nine-tenths of the law in Mexico. Evicting people, even those who never had any ownership or rental rights, can be a lengthy, difficult, sometimes dangerous, and expensive process. This can make enforcement against non rent payers or non fee payers difficult. And that's just on open land or a house.

P.S.Steve O'Malley? Building in Progreso huh?
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#8 wpcoe

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 06:50 AM

At my current condo, if you are in arrears of monthly maintenance fees for (I think) three or six months they turn off the water & electricity to your unit.  It doesn't immediately bother absentee owners, but for the Land Office to register a condominium sale, they need a statement from the Condo Board saying all fees are paid up, so eventually it catches up to them.  I guess that's not a practical possibility in Mexico?

 

Another trend in condo management I've heard reported is that folks in arrears are banned from being on/in common areas, which includes the lobby and all hallways, effectively cutting off access to the condo unit itself.  It keeps intact any right that an owner can not be banned from their own unit, but they just can't get to it.  Seriously.  Again, I guess that's not gonna happen in Mexico?



#9 Joanne

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 01:47 PM

There are condos along the beach in Progreso, I can't remember if it is at Orca or at Pluma y Lapiz, but the building was painted, all except one unit.  It is on the 2nd floor, and the building is apartment style, and that one apartment's exterior was not painted.  I'd guess they are in arrears on dues.

 

We own a condo in Costa Rica.  If owners are in arrears there, the water is cut off and the unit is padlocked by the administrator.  Since we rent that condo out for vacations, we make sure to never fall behind!  We usually pay the HOA fees for the entire year at once.


OASIS DEL MAR VACATION RENTALS
 

https://www.homeaway...-rental/p212447  Progreso


#10 CasiYucateco

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 02:46 PM

In a couple situations I'm aware of, the caretaker of the small condo buildings was not of sufficient social class to challenge any of the condo owners. I don't know what sort of legal action the rest of the condo owners could take to force payment of fees, but the legal system is one people generally avoid as a rule.

 

Regarding some Chuburna condos where I spent many enjoyable visits, the caretaker is a poor man who works hard to clean and maintain the common areas. He stays in a small one room  cement 'house' at the back of the property during the week when few people were around. On the weekends, he went to his other small cement room in town, where his family lived.  If he had ever attempted to tell a condo owner what they could or couldn't do.... well, he wouldn't do that because he really needed this work.

 

In one case I know of, east of Progreso/Chicxulub, there was a dispute over condo ownership. The person holding the ownership papers, but who tried to cheat the occupant out of a pile of money, did not pay the condo fees for several years, while the occupant (who installed heavy protectores and iron door with a huge lock - refusing to vacate) did pay the dues. It looked like a heavy duty prison cell beside other normal condo units.

 

This went on for over 5 years until the reputed owner finally paid damages the occupant insisted upon, lawyers were paid, legal cases dropped, and the occupant vacated the premises. (It is a long complicated story, but let's just say the person holding the papers had been very deceptive.)

 

In other words, throughout that 5+ year ownership dispute, neither the condo board (such as it existed), nor the caretaker (a poor family in an on-grounds two-room cement hut) could do anything about the heavy protectores which were installed and the heavy iron door which was intended to insure the occupant remained the occupant despite someone else holding the actual Escritura. Nor could anyone else interfere in the situation legally, which was much more serious than simply skipping a year's worth of dues. Nor would the police do anything until the legal cases were resolved and even then might not.

 

Having been a witness (and a shoulder to cry on) for that whole episode, at least in that case, the condo board or "management" was unable to do anything at all.

 

Personally, I just wouldn't get involved in a condo situation unless I was fully ready to accept the fact that I had zero control about what was going on in the rest of the units. Just accept that you have your own space and don't have any expectations about all the rest. If that works out, then you can be pleasantly surprised by well-kept grounds and quiet neighbors if they happen, rather than bitterly disappointed that you can't control the things you don't like which keep happening.

Heck, a single family house with a neighbor who burns their trash is bad enough. You can't even fix problems in those cases. Accept loud music, voices, smells, smoke, etc.... or maybe live out in the country. This sounds much worse than it is, but plenty have complained about all those.


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#11 wpcoe

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 07:27 PM

It may take me awhile to learn the nuances about "la via mexicana," but these forum posts are helping me get there.  For example, I wasn't aware that perceived status (the "poor" caretaker vs the "rich" owners) was such a part of the SOB culture.

 

Just out of curiosity, how are foreigners (gringos in particular) regarded?  Here in Thailand we are mainly regarded as wealthy, but not granted a high level of respect.

 

Thanks for all your patient feedback to my queries!   :)



#12 CasiYucateco

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 09:44 PM

My idea is that expats are viewed as wealthy and generally get more latitude and deference than local people.

 

People generally go out of their way to help. If you know even a little Spanish, they'll try to understand and help you learn more. My neighbors even want me to learn Maya, but I just have such a hard time remembering it, particularly since I can't use it in regular conversation. There is a Maya language radio broadcast, though.

 

Even if Yucatecos don't know the right answer, they'll attempt to provide some answer, meaning you may get false leads. Many tend not to say "no" but will try to accommodate by saying "later" (manana) or maybe changing the topic or saying "that's possible" without really committing to do it.

Bureaucrats and police may not grant a whole lot of respect or deference, but that's pretty much the case with those groups in lots of places. :D   One thing the police have a habit of saying is, "This is a very serious offense! What would happen to you in your country?"  And, in my most recent encounter, I could honestly meekly answer, "It isn't a crime to drive talking on a cell phone." (Do Not do that in Yucatan!  My phone rang, I was expecting some news, absentmindedly answered near a motorcycle cop....)

 

Yucatan has the benefit of generally honest police.  They are genuinely helpful if you have a broken down car or experience crime. And if they do want a bribe, which we shouldn't pay, it is generally a small amount, not a huge shakedown.

 

Merida also has Tourist Police who speak English (and other languages) and are very helpful to foreigners. It's hard to keep up with all the types of police.

 

Yucatecos have a habit of asking and explaining over and over, to insure that we expats understand. They do this with each other, but to a lesser extent. Since people don't like to say "no," there's a conversational dance to determine what might really be expected.

 

Those are just some offhand observations. Other people may have different perceptions, but I do believe expats are on the beneficial receiving end of a whole lot of accommodation.


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#13 Joanne

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 10:03 PM

Generally speaking I would not expect a caretaker to enforce rules, especially about payment of condo fees.  The caretaker is there to watch the gate, perhaps tidying the grounds or cleaning the pool.  Why would you expect a caretaker to actually get involved in what residents or owners may or may not do?  That's not their job.  That is the job of the management company or the HOA. 


OASIS DEL MAR VACATION RENTALS
 

https://www.homeaway...-rental/p212447  Progreso


#14 CasiYucateco

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 10:14 PM

Generally speaking I would not expect a caretaker to enforce rules, especially about payment of condo fees.  The caretaker is there to watch the gate, perhaps tidying the grounds or cleaning the pool.  Why would you expect a caretaker to actually get involved in what residents or owners may or may not do?  That's not their job.  That is the job of the management company or the HOA. 

 

The point is, there is no other 'enforcement presence' in many of the smaller condo complexes. No management company (although larger complexes might have them) or HOA meetings once per year which have limited capabilities.


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#15 CasiYucateco

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 10:29 PM

For more detailed info about condo laws and management, probably best to go to a professional.  If I had to start from scratch learning about condos, rather than anecdotes, I'd probably try here and see what he has to say. He's one of the more professional agents, actually a licensed broker in the USA, and is known to answer Emails which can be an surprisingly common challenge for some "real estate agents" to overcome.


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#16 CasiYucateco

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 11:50 AM

I asked a Merida real estate professional friend this morning.  Here's what he said as I understood it:


There is basically no difference here than in the USA, Canada or Europe concerning the laws, ownership, management and condominium HOA payments and participation.

Some are better than others.  There are thousands of condos throughout Mexico.  Many also have property management services.

 

That's a general answer.  If you consider one, have your Notario (a specialized lawyer who is authorized by the government to file Real Estate purchases and sales) explain all the details of the one you are considering. 


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#17 YolistoKhaki

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 10:24 AM

 If you consider one, have your Notario (a specialized lawyer who is authorized by the government to file Real Estate purchases and sales) explain all the details of the one you are considering. 

 

Amen! Please PLEASE don't DIY a condo contract! ... especially in a foreign country and in a language that you either do not speak at all or that you do not speak/read well enough to know what you are actually signing.

 

I would even go so far as to check and see if the owner/management has ever been sued.



#18 wpcoe

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 11:13 AM

The fellow whose home I will be renting has a good friend who is a realtor who he trusts. I'll probably use her to help in my search. She's Mexican and he says she's experienced and competent, but I wanted to hear from fellow Gringos about condos. From what you've all said, I'm comfortable including condos in my search.

 

I'm checking various real estate web sites for Merida properties and have bookmarked several to check out once I arrive in about a week. I want to first walk the neighborhoods and scope out the places before I involve a realtor. I think they'd lose patience after I pestered them about the first dozen places when I'm not even 100% sure I'll buy a place.

I'm really attracted to the colonial houses in Centro, but in some ways maybe a condo may be better: exterior maintenance, landscaping, and security, for example.

 

I've noticed that the real estate market seems to be pretty active in Merida.  A couple houses I found a few weeks ago are already now sold or "in contract."



#19 adler

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 12:55 PM

Just a word on the difference between condominio and departamento

Besides the managment styles, which to the eyes to the owners or renters, can be the most noticeable difference, those terms don't correspond to the same legal figure.
 
According to Yucatan Civil Law condominio means co-property. Technically you and the others are co-owners of all the property. Then limits (for private and public spaces) must be established in the escrituraOn the other hand, departamento is the same kind of ownership you might have over a home. The common areas aren't your property but of course you can use them.
 
However always ask for an escritura and make sure all the facts match with what's written there. 


#20 wpcoe

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 01:05 PM

adler, thanks.  That's interesting.  With a departamento, since common areas aren't owned by co-owners, would they then relinquish all control over them?  Could whoever/whatever owns them decide one day to remove the swimming pool, for example?






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