I am so excited and proud to be sharing the results of buying a pre-construction property in Mexico (specifically Tulum), from my new apartment! Many people, including myself, were skeptical about this process, but I am happy to share that mostly everything went smoothly!
In this post I’ll go over the process and the frequently asked questions about it!
NOTE: Like my apartment, this post is a work-in-progress! It’s written in mostly story-telling format as well, so check back for more stories as I continue to put my home together!
Why I Decided to Buy a Pre-Construction Property in Mexico
For starters, let’s talk about why I chose Mexico. That’s easy for me; I LOVE it here! I’ve been back and forth to Riviera Maya (mostly Playa del Carmen) for years because of how beautiful and digital nomad-friendly it is. It’s only an hour flight from where my mom lives in Florida, and the quality of life here is absolutely incredible.
Now for why I decided on pre-construction instead of an already built property. Also easy; it’s a hella lot cheaper! Sure it takes longer and seems risky, but I saved about $75k, and now my finished property is already worth that much more!
Why I Chose Tulum to Buy My Property
A few years ago I was very Anti-Tulum. As one of the original “travel influencers”, I now sometimes get annoyed with what has become of it (everyone acting like they are one and taking endless selfies everywhere, which happens a lot in Tulum).
Then I actually tried living there for a few months and saw a different side of it. There is so much incredible nature aside from the beach, like the jungles, cenotes, lagoons, and ruins (not nature but you know what I mean). Upon further exploration of the beach zone, I found it was like a Caribbean version of Bali, but with Mayan culture instead of Balinese Hindu.
Tulum is also way less chaotic and modern-commercialized than Playa del Carmen, and I feel extremely stress-free living a simple yet fabulous life here. Well, when I’m actually here. I still travel full time for work.
Anyway, some more super important reasons why I chose Tulum to buy my property;
- Tulum had the cheapest prices for pre-construction properties versus Playa del Carmen
- The architectural designs in Tulum are exactly my style
- Tulum is one of the current most popular cities in the world, so potential to rent my place out is high
- They are building an airport and adding a luxury outdoor mall, which will also increase visitors
Do I Think or Worry that Mexico is Dangerous?
Would I live in a place if I thought it was dangerous? No. So think about that and also why I’m choosing NOT to live in USA.
I personally think it’s ridiculous how scared people are of Mexico. Sure, there are some areas with high crime, but hello, have you not heard about the daily shootings in USA? We’ve had maybe five shootings in the last few years in Riviera Maya, and they were cartel-related, meaning not targeted at tourists.
Tourists, expats, foreigners, are all basically protected here, because that’s how the locals make money. I travel and live in Mexico solo, and I don’t think it’s dangerous.
Check out my safety posts about it though:
Can Foreigners Buy Property in Mexico if it’s Near a Beach or Border?
YES! The law that forbade buying property in Mexico near a beach or border is like two hundred years old, and it was because this is how USA took over Texas and California. Now, the government has created a very easy loophole around this!
It’s called a “fiedecomiso” (translation: “bank trust”), and it’s basically a contract you and the developer sign, then do all the payments through a third party bank. So basically the developer gives the property to the bank, and you buy it from the bank.
Do You Need a Residency? Or to Stay in Mexico a Certain Amount of Time?
No and no. Remember, these properties are aimed at foreign investors, meaning they expect most buyers to never even come there. You don’t have to live in or even be in Mexico to buy a property.
That being said, you also don’t need a residency or citizenship, unless you want to stay more than 6 months at a time (the typical visitor visa). Residency also gets you some discounts though, so maybe something to consider. You can get your residency or long term visa through the same lawyers you use to buy the property.
Do You Own the Property in Mexico Forever?
YES. This isn’t Bali, there aren’t leaseholds that limit how many years you own a property. Once you buy your property in Mexico, it is YOURS until you sell it! Well, or if you don’t make the payments on it!
Some people have asked things like, “Can the government just come and take it away?” My lawyers said highly unlikely, unless there was a massive political movement to socialism or something. And again, maybe if you don’t pay your taxes!
My Personal Experience Buying My Pre-Construction Property in Mexico
Here’s the easiest way I can explain my personal experience buying my pre-construction property in Mexico!
May 2022: I went to Tulum and was connected (via IG) with a trustworthy realtor…who I trusted because they were on Home Hunters 😉 He connected me to one of their female realtors from Spain who also speaks English, so that she could help translate or explain anything to me.
I told her my ideal budget and preferences, such as one bedroom, rooftop pool, location, and so on. She then went through her inventory of current pre-construction properties in Tulum, and sent me all the ones that were a match.
The way I first looked at pre-construction properties was via “renders” which are digital images of what it will look like finished. Obviously this isn’t very reassuring to buy something based on a digital photo, but they were very appealing.
Next I went with her to look at the actual construction sites. This is something hardly anyone does. Most people who buy pre-construction are investors, so they see the renders and pricing, and purchase everything virtually.
But since I wanted to actually live in mine, not to mention, it was all of my savings, I wanted to see with my own eyes that the construction was happening, and also the locations.
I didn’t have much luck because all the units in my price range were studios, and I really wanted a one bedroom.
Someone gave me the advice to check with multiple realtors as well just in case. So I went with a guy someone I knew from LA referred, and he was a total typical “machisimo” (but a gringo one) realtor. This American guy treated me like my budget was low and he didn’t really care about making the sale since his commission would be low. He also had a young beautiful Mexican “assistant” follow him around, yet couldn’t afford to drive me to see the properties like the woman realtor did.
Anyway, he took me to two properties that weren’t what I asked for, and told me he didn’t have time or something to show me the last two. That was fine with me because I didn’t like his vibe anyway. But when I looked into one of the renders he sent but didn’t show, it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for!
So I sent it to the woman realtor, and she immediately called the developer, made an appointment, and drove down to take me to see it the next day!
VISITING THE CONSTRUCTION SITE
Mexico is a lot different than the US. In the US, there’s no way in hell you’d be allowed to just walk into a construction site. In Mexico, we did it, and also in flip flops, dresses, and with my little Pomeranian Oscar.
The building I was interested in was basically just the bare bones, but I had faith. We were taken to see the one finished unit that was the show room, and although it was a bit small, it was a one bedroom, and that’s what I mostly wanted.
We started talking with the project manager (who only spoke Spanish, so having my realtor was very helpful) and he was showing us the blue prints of what units are available.
This is where fate stepped in, and why I am SO GLAD I actually went to the construction site.
There was a blue rectangle added onto one of the units with the word “piscinita” (translation: “little pool”. I asked what that was about, and the project manager said they had just decided to add plunge pools to a few of the second and third floor units.
Without showing my excitement, I asked if they had increased the price because of it. He said no, so I asked to see that unit. We went up the very dangerous-looking stairs, to a unit that was also stand-alone, meaning it didn’t share walls with any other units.
Low and behold, it was a one bedroom, one and a half bathroom, and it had the little plunge pool, plus a large side terrace, and a balcony in the bedroom. Right then and there, I knew it was the one.
Without asking anyone else’s opinion or advice, I told my realtor I wanted that unit, and I wired a deposit to the lawyers I’d be using for the whole process.
Getting a Property Lawyer & Why I Recommend it
Typically I hate anything to do with lawyers since it usually involves a lot of money, but the property lawyers in Mexico made this whole purchasing process extremely easy. I used MexLaw, who has an office in Playa del Carmen, but you can do everything with them virtually.
I went into the actual office though (again something no one ever does since most people are investors) and had them walk me through all of the paperwork.
They translated all of the contracts for me in English, and also explained what everything meant in English. I can speak Spanish, but conversationally, not contract-signing-ly.
The first contracts I signed were stating that I was putting a deposit down and had about two weeks to decide for sure if I wanted it or not. My realtor also submitted a form to the developers with negotiation terms.
We wanted to negotiate that if I put even more down up front in cash than what they were asking for, I would get a bigger discount. More on that in the next section.
Negotiating an Even Lower Price
With my pre-construction property in Mexico (and all of them here) you get major discounts if you pay cash up front. This is obviously because that’s how most projects are even funded.
Most pre-construction properties offer things like:
- 5% off if you pay 30% down, 50% in the middle, 20% completion
- 10% off if you pay 50% down, 50% at compeltion
But I went ahead and offered 80% down, 20% at completion, and got 15% off. I think I saved about $10k this way.
Anyway, this wasn’t an existing offer. I asked my realtor about it, she submitted it, they approved, and my lawyers made the contract.
Making the First Down Payment
Sending the 80% payment was fairly easy yet of course, terrifying. It was the majority of my savings, and I had no idea if this project was even going to be completed. Actually I did, because one of the contracts stated that if it wasn’t I would get my money back, and if it wasn’t on time, they would have to pay me for each month it was late.
Anyway, I wanted to send a wire transfer through Revolut since they don’t charge transfer fees. This almost backfired, because they basically accused me of laundering money, and made me prove the cash came from my savings account, and also that I was purchasing a property. It finally went through, but I used my regular Bank of America account after that.
All transactions get logged by the lawyers as well and they sent me confirmations from the developer.
AUGUST 2022: Checking in on Construction
My pre-construction property had a finish date of December 28, 2022, so all I could do for the rest of the year was wait. That was fine since I had about 20 countries I was planning to travel to for work and fun.
I came back to Tulum after my Africa group trips in August to check on the progress, and it was very minimal. In fact, I was slightly disappointed because it seemed like there was no way it would be ready by December 28. Most people are Ok with late delivery, but I was already planning a big birthday and NYE party, and really wanted it to be done.
DECEMBER 2022: Waiting for my Pre-Construction Delivery
I returned to Tulum after my Antarctica group trip in December. It was at the beginning of the month, but I figured I could start looking for furniture and moving things in. But my unit definitely did not look ready. In fact, the sinks, refrigerator, and stove were not yet installed.
Again I started losing faith, and hoped I wasn’t going to regret my decision.
I bugged the developer endlessly, and he kept telling me it would be ready, but would push the date back little by little. He said for sure by my birthday (January 4th) it would be ready. To me that meant ready to stay in it. I don’t know what he meant by “ready” though.
JANUARY 2023: Still Waiting for Completion…
My NYE rooftop party didn’t happen, and neither did my birthday party. Well, at least not at my apartment, we definitely had a lot of parties at the beach clubs.
By January 4th, my unit was not in fact fully ready, so my entire family and friends who flew in to see it, basically just took shots of tequila and ate cake in an unfurnished box. I was disheartened, but everyone really loved it! This was something I was worried about, especially with family members. I thought for sure they’d think I was crazy for spending my money on a pre-construction in Tulum!
My Family’s Feedback
My mom was skeptical when she first saw it back in August, but in January she was really proud and excited. My aunt and uncle, and also a cousin, who are all big in real estate, said it was really nice and in an excellent area. So although I was bummed I couldn’t show them the final outcome, I at least had support!
FEBRUARY 2023: Still Waiting…
I stayed in Tulum at an apartment nearby for two months waiting for my apartment to be ready to stay in. It sucked because I was wasting $50/night staying just a few blocks away from a property I owned. But there wasn’t much I could do.
And I didn’t want to stay there anyway because about twenty workers were still there daily. Instead I attempted to start furniture shopping, which was an absolute nightmare.
Furniture Shopping in Mexico
In other areas of Mexico like Mexico City and Puebla, this would have been a lot easier. But in Riviera Maya, not so much. There are a few muebles stores (“furniture) in Playa del Carmen, but many are very expensive! The cheaper ones are not exactly cute. But that’s where most investors furnish these places with.
I wanted my place to be perfect and unique, so I spent endless days trying to figure out the furniture situation. Most of which were failures, but I finally figured it out.
For my couches, I randomly found handmade bamboo benches at a shop near Coba ruins. I bought three of them plus a table for about $400 and sold one of the benches for $150. The bench I chose for my living room I then needed to figure out how to get cushions for.
So I found a “sasteria” (translation: seamstress) in Tulum. I bought the fabric and stuffing in Playa del Carmen, took the measurements of the bench, then she made me all of the cushions and pillows, plus a dog bed, for about $45.
Finding a bed was an absolute nightmare. And I do literally mean “finding”, because Amazon delivered my first bed to the wrong place and I had to search for it for two months without luck. I even put up flyers for my missing bed…
By the way, Amazon.mx works well here, as long as you give the exact correct address, which I didn’t have since the building was still under construction. Hence why my bed ended up in the wrong spot.
I got impatient and ended up ordering a small kitchen table and a bed I didn’t love, but was do-able, off the Mexican department store website Coppel.com. My building developer felt bad about my missing table and went and picked it up for me in Playa, but I had already left for my travels by then.
The rest of the items for my apartment I found either at the Chedrauli Selecto (like a fancy Walmart in Tulum) or Amazon. All of my decor though comes from my international travels!
APRIL 2023: Getting Ready to Return to Tulum
Between March and April, I had hosted two big group trips in India and Japan, and also went to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Philippines, and Indonesia. During that time, I also continuously bugged the building developer about my apartment being ready by the date I was set to arrive on May 6.
We coordinate on whatsapp throughout April, mostly me asking over and over again about the refrigerator being installed and my bed put together.
He arranged for me to pay someone 1000 pesos ($50) to put together my bed, table, and to hang some things up before I got there so I didn’t arrive to nowhere to sleep. One day, he sent me the photos of the bed being set up, and I nearly screamed.
There were TWO beds in my room. The second choice one I ordered from Coppel, and the freaking one that was missing for two months from Amazon. He had no idea where they found it, but knew I was very annoyed, and said they could take one out when I got there.
Before getting back to Tulum, I stopped in Florida to pick up my dog, and any US Amazon items I had ordered that don’t ship to Mexico. I brought over two massive suitcases with home items, and my global decor, which was drastically cheaper and safer than shipping (don’t ship to Mexico, it’s impossible).
MAY 2023: Arriving at my New Home in Tulum!
On May 6 I arrived in Cancun, rented a car, stopped at Home Depot to get curtain rods, then finally pulled up to my brand new apartment in Tulum. Construction on my unit was officially finished, and for the first time, I could sleep in my little home (I am calling it “CasitAlyssa”), even if it did have two beds in it.
…to be continued