Legal Steps to Safely Buy Property at Lake Chapala Ajijic Mexico

October 29, 2008

Legal Steps to Safely Buy Property at Lake Chapala Ajijic Mexico

As long as you are legally in Mexico you can buy property here as a foreigner. I’ve sold homes to people here on a tourist visa they got on the airplane flying down.

Choice of Title:

You can own the property through a Mexican bank trust or in your own name. A bank trust (fideicomiso) is where a Mexican Bank holds he “legal title” and the buyer is the beneficiary of the bank trust.

Your interests in the trust are transferable. There are some advantages in certain circumstances, but most people want to own property in our area by direct deed in their name.

Should you decide to own property in you own name, a deed called an escritura, must be prepared by a Mexican notary public. In the Mexican state of Jalisco where we are located it’s possible to name beneficiaries in the deed as long as they are your spouse, your parents or your natural children.

If you want your property to pass to others you should then have a Mexican will prepared to save on probate and other fees at the time of death.  A US will will work, but much better to have a Mexican will done, if only to cover the property you own here in Mexico.

 The Notario Publico:


 There are great differences between the United States Notary Public and the ‘Notario Publico in Mexico. Yes, the name sounds similar, but the jobs and authority are vastly different .

In the United States the notary public may be the local butcher, the new accounts clerk at the bank, the secretary at the office, or practice any other occupation and still hold a Notary Public Certification.

In Mexico, the (notario público) is a public official appointed by the State Governor. He/she has the capacity to attest and certify documents  and the Notario Publico is  the only official who can legally transfer land.

Some of the requirements for becoming a Mexican notary public are as follows:

1.    must be a Mexican citizen;

2.    must by thirty-five years of age;

3.    must have a law degree;

4.    must serve an apprenticeship under a practicing Notario.

5.   must take and pass an examination and then must wait to be appointed by the State governor.

There is supposed to be one notario for each 30,000 people in the state.



Legal Documents involving land transfers
In Mexico, every legal document, such as deeds, wills, powers of attorney, constitution of corporations, establishment of trusts as well as legal transactions must be made before a Notario in order to be valid. If the document is not notarized by a Mexican Notario Publico it’s not legally completed.

The Buyer’s Realtor will help you to find a Notario Publico as the buyer chooses the Notario Publico by custom. For real estate transactions you do not need to hire an attorney as the Notario Publico (a form of an advanced attorney) is completely capable and legally authorized to carry out real estate transactions.
If buying property from a developer, be sure that the Notario Publico checks to see that the developer has the proper permits for the development and for the construction.
Have the Notario determine that the land is not ejido land (communal agricultural land). The right to use this type of land can be purchased, but is full of legal technicalities and I would not advise buying this type of land.

Insist on making all real estate transfer agreements before a Notario Publico.
The standard initial payment (Earnest or good faith money) in our area is 10% of the offered amount.

The Notario Publico will need full information from both buyers and sellers to the transaction: proof of full names, marriage certificates, proof of dates and place of birth, official identification with a photograph, (passport ), and your visa to prove that you are in Mexico legally.
The Notario Publico needs from the seller: 1. his deed; 2. Up-to-date tax receipts, water bills, subdivision fraccionamiento) fees, and other public utilitity bills, paid up to the date of sale.
The Notario Publico will determine capital gains taxes through an official appraisal (Avaluo). The seller is responsible to pay any Capoyal Gains tax unless he complies with the requirements for some form of exemption.
Closing the Deal

Cash or money changes hands the minute the seller signs over the deed, usually in the notary public’s office. The buyer pays the Notario’s fees and other related closing expenses when the title is signed over.

The process is not over yet — the Notario Publico must register the escritura in the Registro Público d  la Propiedad (Public Registry of Properties). This normally takes a couple of months in our area.
As Your Exclusive Buyer’s Only Agent ….I will hold your hand through each step of the process so you won’t stumble.










  • Robert Koester

    I’m looking for property to develope a agricultural greenhouse facility with water access to lake.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Robert, Thanks for your comment.

    You can go to which is our MLS website to see all the property listed for sale at or near the Lake. Lake front access property is in general quite expensive.

    Not sure just how much land you might need for what you’d like to do, but due to the high demand over the last few years and the wonderful climate land in the Lake Chapala area is not inexpensive.

    Compared to other countries with similar climates and amenities I think we are reasonable. Many people have the mistaken idea that land in Mexico is cheap. Perhaps out in the sesert, but not the prime land with high demand that we experience in our area.

    There are raspberry farms and other crops being grown near the lake on the SOuth Side of the lake, but I don;t know if they are using lake water to irrigate or not. I doubt it.

    The land used for these purposes may very well be ajido or other communal land not available to be sold to outsiders.

    Sorry to sound so negative, but I just am trying to tell you like it is.

    If you have more questions or want to give me more of what your looking for please send me an e mail to and we can explore the subject more.

    All for now. Siempre tu amigo, Sid

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