House Hunting in …Mexico City

March 29, 2012
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House Hunting in …Mexico City

$1,109,930 (14,000,000 MEXICAN PESOS)

This two-story glass-walled modern house in the Bosques de las Lomas neighborhood of Mexico City has 4,844 square feet of space in an open-floor-plan design that pays homage to the stark and the industrial. It has exposed beams, exterior walls of tempered glass, and glossy concrete floors. The sleek structure is surrounded by a lawn, plants and robust ficus trees. “You really feel like you are sitting outside when you are in this house,” said Karen Boda of Re/Max Platino, who has the listing.

Dating to the mid-1980s, the house underwent a gut renovation two years ago. Both floors have high ceilings with recessed lighting. The sunken living room in one corner of the first floor has a suspended fireplace and unobstructed views onto the leafy side garden. The dining room is adjacent, and it opens onto a gleaming industrial-style kitchen with dark-glass cabinets and stainless steel appliances made in Mexico. A gas stovetop is at one end of a long counter; the other end functions as a small dining bar, surrounded by stools. The first floor also has an office, two maids’ rooms off the kitchen, and a half bath with a concrete sink.

A suspended staircase with a glass guardrail leads to the second floor; the master suite has a large walk-in closet and a teak terrace that overlooks a purple jacaranda and a kumquat tree. The bathroom has a whirlpool tub, a shower and an oversized sink, all in concrete. Nearby is a TV room with a skylight and a door to the teak terrace; the second floor also has two additional bedrooms, each with its own bath. Another room — potentially a fourth bedroom — is being used as an art studio.

A bronze-colored metal gate encircles the 8,073-square-foot corner property, which is lushly planted with elephant ear, bamboo, bromeliad, aloe vera, and yucca. The garden has a grill and a stone-covered fire pit with seating. The house has a two-car garage, but no heating system or air-conditioning because of Mexico City’s temperate climate.

The two styles dominating the upscale neighborhood of Bosques de las Lomas are Mexican colonial and contemporary. “This is one of the most modern houses,” said Ms. Boda, the listing agent. It is in the Miguel Hidalgo section of the neighborhood — which is considered safe and has a security patrol. Movie theaters, stores, restaurants, schools and offices are all less than 10 minutes away, Ms. Boda said. Depending on traffic, the airport is about 45 minutes away; downtown is half an hour.


The market in Mexico City was not deeply shaken by the global economic downturn. Mexicans tend to buy homes with minimal to no financing, so they were spared the subprime mortgage-driven banking crisis that soured the economy and housing market in the United States. “The Mexico City market was soft, due to the Mexican economy as a whole slowing down,” said Jonathan Pikoff, a law partner with Pikoff y Asociados who practices in both Mexico and Texas, “but desirable locations in Mexico City, like most big cities, are always desirable.” In fact, affluent Mexico City residents are eager to invest in real estate, Ms. Boda said.

As far as Mexican resort areas are concerned, Mr. Pikoff noted, properties geared toward the North American second-home market have lost value, because many Americans either can’t afford them or are wary of buying a second home. In Los Cabos, for instance, prices are down 30 to 40 percent.

Mexico’s well-publicized crime wave is also likely to have made some American buyers skittish, Mr. Pikoff said. But in Ms. Boda’s view, drug violence elsewhere in Mexico has ended up protecting values in Mexico City, which is generally considered safer than many other parts of the country.


A large percentage of foreign homeowners in Mexico City are from the United States, although there are buyers from South America, Europe and Asia. Ms. Boda estimated that 65 percent of the homes in Bosques de las Lomas are owned by Mexicans, 30 percent by Americans, and the remaining 5 percent typically South American or European. Foreigners attracted to Bosques de las Lomas want single-family homes, while apartment seekers buy in neighborhoods like Condesa or Polanco.


Most buyers in Mexico City use a notary public rather than a real estate lawyer. The notary is responsible for researching the title, certifying that the property is being transferred free of lien, and executing the purchase and sale agreement. “I would say 90 percent of buyers are comfortable with that,” said Boris Otto, a managing partner at the Mexico City office of Chadbourne & Parke, a law firm based in New York. Even so, Mr. Otto added a caveat: “If you are talking about foreign citizens who are not aware of the system, don’t feel comfortable with the language — notaries don’t have to speak English — for comfort’s sake, I would recommend it. But not for a specific legal concern.”

The typical property purchase in Mexico City starts with the buyer and seller writing a “promise to purchase” agreement, Mr. Pikoff said. The agreement covers how much the initial payment will be, usually 10 to 30 percent; it specifies the date of payment to the seller, and stipulates that the balance is due when the deed is signed at the notary’s office. Closings involve a simultaneous signing of the deed and transfer of funds in the form of a bank check or wire transfer. Mr. Pikoff says most foreigners, especially North Americans, tend to obtain financing in the United States or Canada, where interest rates are generally less than half of those in Mexico. Foreigners are able to obtain peso loans through Mexican banks like Banamex and Bancomer, as well as most Mexico City branches of international banks, although there are stringent requirements. Ryland Apsey, president of Mexican Capital Mortgage, a company that obtains dollar loans for clients, says a mortgage recipient in Mexico must: be a legal resident; have a one-year employment history; and have income traceable to a Mexican account, among other requirements.

via NY Times

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