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Old 07-10-2010, 12:43   #1
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Buying Land in Other Countries (Mexico, Central America, etc)

Just wondering if anyone has any first (or close to first) hand experience. I know it can be risky as hell because of unregulated brokers, titles that mysteriously pop up later, etc.

I have no serious plans to do anything but the idea of picking up a couple of acres somewhere on a beach always seems somewhat appealing.

I found this online which only covers Mexico: MEXonline.com guide to Buying Property in Mexico - Real Estate

So short of the "don't do it the corrupt tin pot governments won't protect your investment" warnings, anyone have any info?
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Old 07-10-2010, 13:18   #2
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The Mexican restricted zone includes all beach front properties. You won't pick up a couple of acres on a Mexican beach; unless you get into a bank trust (the bank owns it, you use it).
Pick a country. Someone may offer up some specifics.
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Old 07-10-2010, 14:27   #3
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Gord, I think Mexico recently liberalized their rules to allow gringos to actually OWN land. Of course, damned foreigners are only allowd to lease it in Bermuda.<G>

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If you want to buy land someplace, you've got a whole lot of research to do, and it probably should start with "their" consulate. Rules will be different in every country. Liability? Contractor's liens? Mordida for permits? Oh, wait, corrupt building inspectors are just a US tradition.<VBG>
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Old 07-10-2010, 14:35   #4
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I hear Panama is nice, but have no first hand experience.
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Old 07-10-2010, 14:43   #5
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Gord, I think Mexico recently liberalized their rules to allow gringos to actually OWN land ...
On, or near, the beach (coastline)?
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Old 07-10-2010, 18:03   #6
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I hear Panama is nice, but have no first hand experience.
There are two ways to obtain a property in Panama. 1. Titled (same as in the US) and 2. Rights of Possession (something like homestead). Rights of Possession are the way to protect the island and coastal areas and give government tools to control it. A lot of people advise against owning RoPs.
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Old 07-10-2010, 18:23   #7
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You will get a local attorney and ask all the questions: Water, access, development rights, permits, surveys, taxes, etc. ... Of course this is rarely done, even in the USA, as folks are just too lazy.
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Old 07-10-2010, 19:05   #8
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problem with buying land in mexico is every so many years they purge that land owned by outsiders and re sell it to the natives. they buldoze it and make resorts. all kinds of unprotection happens there. isnt like buying land here--isnt forever or until the lawyers steal it from probate--is forever or until mexico comes back to get it--could be 10 yrs, 20 yrs-- more or even less. are you willing to take that chance? i have watched 2 purges in the last 15 yrs in mexico. i wouldnt buy land there--isnt for sale. even if it says it is. you only get to keep it until they decide to purge again. is easier to rent that same land for long term at 400 dollars per year or what the going rate is this time around.
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Old 07-10-2010, 19:24   #9
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Here in the Philippine's foreign ownership of land is strictly forbidden...but there are ways around it, if you want usage.

You can own 'part' of the land, by setting up a corporation which you own no more than 40% of, and can also write directly into that corporation's bylaws/whatever that transfer of title/ownership/use must be at your discretion, making you essentially the controlling interest.

Another way to do it is to purchase the land in a filipino's name, and then have them grant you a 25 year complete lease with an automatically renewing additional 25 year lease. This gives you essentially your entire lifetime to use it as you see fit. An interesting side-note is that any and all improvements on the land (say, a condominium or small marina) can be directly owned by a foreigner, which can further insulate you against local politics and also provide some security for your investment.
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Old 07-10-2010, 20:08   #10
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There are two ways to obtain a property in Panama. 1. Titled (same as in the US) and 2. Rights of Possession (something like homestead). Rights of Possession are the way to protect the island and coastal areas and give government tools to control it. A lot of people advise against owning RoPs.
I know some people who have ROP properties in Panama and have done well with them, but there is always a concern that the government will do something funky...like give the rights to someone with more money. If the property is titled, you have as good of protection as you do in most reasonably civilized countries (title insurance etc).

It has been a while since I looked into it, but I believe there is a need for a trust to hold ownership as well but not positive about that. There are still some very nice deals if you get off the beaten path. A pretty area on the Pacific side is Santa Catalina.

See http://www.santacatalinabeach.com

There are some good deals on the Caribe side because they are very hard to get to!
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Old 07-10-2010, 20:08   #11
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Foreigners can own land legally (until the next purge as mentioned above) more than 100km from the coast. There is actually one small area in Baja that is 100km from every coast and some really smart American guy bought up the whole thing and is trying to sell it all to Americans.
At some point the Mexican government took a lot of land away from it's owners and formed Ejidos. They gave the Ejidos to poor families and since it's been a long time there are a lot of heirs. Sometimes a couple of the Ejido owners decide to sell without the other owner's knowledge. Later, when the other owners find out about it they can sometimes get the government to give the land back to them and the new owners who thought that everything was kosher lose everything.
Deeds and surveys aren't as reliable as in some other places, sometimes there are several deeds to one property. I think that whoever has the best local connections and the most money wins that battle. Kind of like here, I guess, now that I think about it.
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Old 07-10-2010, 20:16   #12
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There are alot of nice places in Philippines. and as NQL state, there are ways.. El Nido In Palawan Is beautiful and the land there is inexpensive.. Also in Tonga you can find good deals in land. in Tonga a foreigner cant own legally a land, but they give you leases for 25, 50 and 100 years...
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Old 07-10-2010, 20:36   #13
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I dont know much about mexico or the philipeans but i did just purchase an acre and a half in nicaragua's south west coast. Foreigners have the same property rights as locals do and the southwest of the country is becoming more and more touristy. Land prices are still reasonably cheap compared to places like costa rica and panama.
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Old 07-10-2010, 20:56   #14
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I have no serious plans to do anything but the idea of picking up a couple of acres somewhere on a beach always seems somewhat appealing.
The smart move is to not act on that impulse. You would just be asking for possible troubles/financial losses. (Don't overlook that squatters have rights to your land.) And why would any died-in-the-wool cruiser want to be tied down to a bit of stinkin' earth? Now if you had many millions of $$ and routinely visited the Bahamas or wherever, buying your own private island there may make sense since you could afford your own guards/militia, lawyers, and local politicians and cops..
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Old 07-10-2010, 21:08   #15
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There are some good deals on the Caribe side because they are very hard to get to!
Not much of the titled land on the islands and right on the coast...
Titled tends to be more expensive. A lot of people (included myself) decide to get RoPs because the location beats inland. Imagine your boat on the buoy in front of the property
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