Achieving A Dream: Becoming a Property Owner in Another Country

When Dave Harmon recently finalized the purchase of a home in Mexico, what had previously seemed like an impossible dream became his life-changing reality — but it took a year to get there.

Walking in Mexico

Finding The Perfect Place

It all started with a summer spent studying Spanish in the small colonial city of Guanajuato, Mexico.  Harmon was instantly smitten with Guanajuato and found himself going back regularly, imagining what it would be like to live there. In his mind, the ideal spot would be in the historic center, close to the central plaza and the city’s main university with a view of the mountains. At first, that seemed like an impossibility, but after dabbling in real estate in his home town of Austin, Texas, the intimidation factor dissolved away. As soon as Harmon found a house in that perfect spot that would one day become his, things really became interesting.

Harmon’s home offers a breathtaking view of Guanajuato from the upper patio

(PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVE HARMON)
Walking in Mexico

A Foreign Landscape

Harmon says that purchasing a house in another country requires a steep learning curve and is not at all like buying a home in the U.S., where escrow, insurance and backout provisions are taken for granted. Instead, as is common in many parts of the world, Mexican home property purchases are typically all cash. For a non-citizen, that’s often because it is difficult to get financing from a local bank. In the end, it seemed the easiest part was finding the property in the desired location. The hardest part was negotiating a real-estate deal with the 29 family members who owned a piece of the property. With help from a local notary (in Mexico, notaries are licensed attorneys who also perform the functions of U.S. title companies), Harmon navigated the twists and turns of what became a very complex process.
Man carrying hats

Relying On The Expertise Of Strangers

A crucial part of this journey was evaluating how to transfer a large amount of money from the U.S. to Mexico, and Harmon looked beyond his bank to find a better exchange rate. After doing some research and due diligence, he selected OFX. “The folks at OFX were a huge help. Corbin Ragan at OFX steered me to a forward exchange contract so that I could lock in an exchange rate as the peso rose and fell. And when the process of buying the property took longer than expected, OFX was there to help make sure I didn’t lose that rate. I don’t think I could have done the deal without Corbin’s help.” Corbin said that by the time payments were sent to each of the owners, the two of them were definitely not strangers.

Harmon is renovating the 50-year-old house, getting it ready for his next trip to Guanajuato — and to rent to short-term visitors when he’s not there. With an ideal location just a five-minute walk from the Central Plaza in a quiet residential neighborhood, it is sure to be in high demand. The home includes a terraced yard with fruit and shade trees and a breathtaking view of the city from the upper patio.

Asi es la vida! This is the life!

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