Buying Isla Mujeres real estate is not complicated but you do need to exercise a certain amount of caution because buying Isla Mujeres real estate or indeed real estate anywhere in Mexico is not the same as elsewhere in the world. its a different process and you cannot assume that all the checks that a lawyer would carry out in other countries applies in Mexico.
When we first started building in Isla Mujeres fifteen years ago, we bought our first plot of land. After we had completed we discovered that a stretch of land three metre deep, running the length of the plot didn't belong to us because it had been taken by the local government for a road widening scheme. We assumed that this was part of the notary's duties to establish that we had clear title to all the land but we discovered that unlike other countries this did not form part of their duties. We learned the hard way that buying Isla Mujeres real estate is not like buying real estate elsewhere.
We soon started had to carry out our own due diligence, so on our second purchase of Isla Mujeres real estate, once we had agreed the sale we went straight to the lots and carefully measured them and discovered that they measured completely different from the measurements stated on the escritura (needless to say they were smaller).
This is again something that would be inconceivable in other countries but not at all uncommon in Mexico and many individual buyers of Isla Mujeres real estate fall foul of these quirks in the Mexican system. Over the years many Americans planning to buy land and build their own property have come to us for our advice and we have always done our best to advise them.
When it comes to building the first thing we recommend is that they get an Architect to draw up what is known as a Catalogo de Conceptos. This a document of between forty and fifty pages which stipulates all the material to be used and all the labour involved in constructing the property.
The purpose of this document is that the builder cannot fail to take something into account and more importantly cannot later claim that items were not included in the original estimate. This document often causes difficulties because those who have traditionally built on Isla Mujeres real estate are not qualified builders, so have never previously encountered a document like this. Others decline to complete it because this prevents them from later charging for extras. When we first ventured into Isla Mujeres real estate we did try to use local builders but found that to build to the standard we required we had to bring in our own skilled labour; our site managers are both qualified builders and engineers. We then use local labour for the unskilled work.
So what are the do's and don't for those who plan to make an investment into Isla Mujeres real and build their own property?
Use a qualified Architect to draw up the plans and a Catalogo de Conceptos
Use a builder who is prepared to complete the document
Once it is completed get your Architect to check it.
When he finds anomalies (as he inevitable will) challenge the builder.
Have an Architect or Engineer check the site regularly and at crucial stages (this vital)
Arrange a stage payment contract approved by the Architect
Use a builder who is not prepared to satisfactorily complete the Catalogo de Conceptos
Proceed with a builder where you can't check his previous work
Pay large sums of money up front
If you don't speak Spanish use a builder who doesn't speak English
After all our years of being involved in Isla Mujeres real estate we still find by far the most difficult aspect of completing a property is decorating and furnishing it to a high standard. In the States it would take us a few weeks, here it takes us on average seven months and most of what we use to furnish our properties is hand made to order in the city of Merida; it is the only way to get the standard we require.