Caribbean Living

Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about Playa del Carmen Real Estate but were afraid to ask

American Realty

How can I, as a non-Mexican, own property?

History of rights as a foreigner

The Mexican Constitution was drafted and passed into law in 1917. Although there have been amendments instituted since its inception, this original document is still the supreme law of the land, just like in the US.

In the Constitution, there is a provision that creates an area known as the Restricted Zone. The Zone is 100 km (62 miles) from the borders and 50 km (or 31 miles) from the coasts. In this Restricted Zone, only Mexicans could own land. After so many years of being a possession of someone else, this provision was done for their own protection, and at the time, it made sense.

However, in the 60s the Mexican Government realized that there was a lot more money outside of Mexico than inside. In 1970, in an effort to create foreign investment, a Bill was passed into law which created a legal and viable opportunity. The Bill stated that a trust, called a 'Fideicomiso' in Spanish, could be set up with the foreigner as the sole and exclusive beneficiary. This trust now satisfies the requirements to purchase property in the restricted zone. The beneficiary (foreigner) controls the property outright. Because of the 1970 Bill, major foreign investment flowed into both the manufacturing and tourist centers of the country. Not only Cancun, but also Cozumel, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, and Cabo-San Lucas began development thanks to this law.

In 1994 the newest Bill was passed pertaining to the Restricted Zone with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This law states that a Mexican Corporation, wholly owned by foreigners, is now a legal Mexican entity. Now, you can own a corporation and hold all its assets.

In addition to the confusion that results from the different types of corporations available to form (Limited Liability Corps, S-Corps, Partnerships, to name just a few), there are specific situations in which it is beneficial to own a property through a trust and when the benefits of a corporation are better. The important item to note is with either vehicle, you are completely protected as long as the process is done properly, with guarantees going back to the 1917 Constitution. This is how every Multinational Corporation in the country has a presence here.

Isn’t the Trust just a 99 year lease?

No. This is a popular misnomer that comes for 2 sources. One is custom in Mexico dictates that within the articles of incorporation for a Mexican Corporation, a specified term of 99 years is stated. This is not law, but nearly always done.

The second source is on the West Coast of Mexico near the California boarder, which has a long history of granting land leases on beachfront parcels used by weekend vacationers. The lack of understanding by these lease holders, coupled with bad information from Mexican sources has culminated in the 99 year lease misnomer that is still perpetuated.

Why would anyone want to own a property though a trust?

Trusts are how the rich and financial savvy own their properties. In addition to a number of tax advantages, a trust protects you, the beneficiary of the trust, from legal action against you personally. Lawsuits, divorce, bankrupts are just a few of the instances where those who own trusts are protected when they otherwise would have been subject to liabilities that a property in their name would have been subjected.

Does the Mexican Government have a stake in allowing Foreign Ownership?


The Government has made it very easy for foreigners to own property in Mexico. So much so, that the revenues from Foreign Investment & Tourism now surpasses the revenues from the Oil & Gas industry. It should be noted that in Mexico the government owns the monopoly, PEMEX, which controls all oil & natural gas in Mexico. The revenue it collects is from the DIRECT sale to the public. However, the taxes from the industry of foreign investment and tourism exceed those of oil & natural gas. Foreign investment & tourism - is now their cash cow and the Government welcomes your participation.

Can the government just take my property if they choose?

No. There is a reason that Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer in the country, and ScotiaBank is largest bank in all of Latin America, Mexico is a land of laws. There are very exact laws for Real Estate.

Prior to closing, your attorney will have reviewed the title history and when you close on your property, you (through either your Corporation or Trust) will hold clear title to your property.

There is one important note. Just like in the US or Canada, you must pay your property taxes. If you do not, the government may claim your property after due process. But they will not just take your property. Educate yourself on why over 1 million Americans already call this lovely country home.

Do many Americans go to Mexico every year?

Not many people know this, but Mexico is the # 1 destination for Americans annually. Over 20 million Americans travel to Mexico every year, making it by nearly double the most visited destination on the planet.

Living in Mexico – is it safe?

Statistically you are safer as an American in Playa del Carmen than ANY major city in the US or Canada. Regardless of the sensationalism of the media, facts are facts. Feel free to ask us for the reports by the US State Department that verify this.

The boarder is different story. Cities such as Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Mexicali are dangerous and should be avoided. But those places are over 1,000 miles from Playa del Carmen, and have as much to do with the Caribbean as inner city Detroit has to do with Des Moines, Iowa.

Tell me about Caribbean Living, it seems to good to be true.

We get that a lot. After looking at the building quality, the location, and the price points, buyers often say that, but we assure you, it is true.

How can those prices be so low?

In a word, macros. The developer bought the land before the boom here in Playa. Today land cost is the driving factor behind real estate prices.

As of today there are nearly 350 million Americans and Canadians who have no idea they can buy a place in Paradise at this price, but word is getting out. If the low prices bother you, don’t worry, they will be going up very soon.

Is there really, smart home technology at this price?

We know, it just keeps getting more ridiculous, but it is true. There is a digital system that controls the consumption of power, water and gas, and internet based closed circuit security you can view from anywhere on earth.

But has the developer thought about what I really need?

If by what you really need you mean high speed WiFi in your home, low maintenance fees, a swimming pool that is always fresh and clean, beautiful parks, walking paths, and a family type atmosphere, then yes.

I am interested in the environment. Is Caribbean Living doing anything to protect the world around us?

All homes are built with the environment in mind including energy efficient building materials whenever they are available, and the preservation of the natural surroundings of the neighborhood preserved whenever possible.

Is it true that the common areas are powered with renewable energy.

There is a lot of sun in the Caribbean, so why not take advantage of some of it? Whenever possible, common areas use solar powered lighting, which is good for the environment and keeps your maintenance fees low.

How can I trust the Developer?

First off American Realty would never represent a product or developer we have not thoroughly vetted. Second, even though this developer has built over 15,000 homes in the country, and has won “Developer of the Year” award 5 times, we leave nothing to chance. Our alignment with PlayaBuilder, the only construction company in Mexico that adheres to US Quality and Standards, assures you that your unit will come exactly as it is represented, and all at a very fair price.

How much are property taxes?

Annual real estate taxes are quite remarkable. Depending on the model you choose they range from $100-400 USD/year.

Why are prices of Real Estate in Mexico in US Dollars?

Thanks to their very close ties to the US, Mexico is one of the few places in the world that legally allows Real Estate to be priced and marketed in either the local currency or USD. In the tourist areas, like Playa del Carmen, Real Estate is nearly always priced in USD. Buy today in USD, sell tomorrow in USD, no currency worries.

Do I have to be at the closing?

It is not necessary for you to attend closing. You may close in absentia. This is done by your attorney via Fed-Ex the necessary documents. Whether the timing is not convenient or just to save the expense of a quick return visit, most buyers choose to close in absentia.

I absolutely cannot live without my Football/Hockey.

That is why we have made a special arrangement with a local company. You can now get Dish Network, Star Choice or Direct TV here in Playa. This is the first development to offer it.

Can I really get a maid to clean my entire house, wash my clothes, iron them and put them away for $20/day?

Yes you can.

What is this about a turtle sanctuary and a plant nursery?

The developer is committed to the sustainable construction of communities that will be enjoyed for years to come. Two of the many things that they have done that go above and beyond the call of duty are the plant nurseries and turtle sanctuaries. Every time a pond is discovered on site where turtles nest, they are transported to a safe area, and after construction is finished, reintroduced into their natural habitat.

With the flora, literally thousands of plants are re-introduced into the area every month. Before the project is done, hundreds of thousands will have been re-introduced.

Is there good golf in the area?

Great Golf in fact. Not (yet) known as a golf destination, we currently have 15 operating golf courses with the only PGA Event outside the US and Canada (The Maya Koba Classic) and a number of other important tournaments. The most recent addition is the Bahia Principe course which is located about 20 minutes south of Playa. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, the course is a Masterpiece in golf course design and construction, truly world class and if you are a golfer we highly recommend it.

I have heard a lot about salt water fly fishing in the area, what’s that about?

Some of the best salt water fly fishing is only a short drive to our property. The Sian Kaan (Mayan for where the sky meets the sea), a UN Biosphere Reserve located south of Tulum has some of the best salt water fly fishing in the world. The fishing lodges located there have gained international acclaim with their expert guides and knowledge of the vast fishing areas within the reserve.

The area boasts bone fish, snook, tarpon, and permit, with the ultimate to get all 4 in one day, commonly known as the “Grand Slam”.

What is health care like in Playa?

In addition to giving all people, citizens or legal residents (such as homeowners) Universal Health care, Playa is also a leader in private health tourism. With 8 world class hospitals in the area and a number of private clinics, our clients often tell us that the service they receive here meets or exceeds what they are used to back home.

Are beaches in public here?

All beaches in Mexico are a public. The Mexican Government owns the first 20 meters (66 feet) from the high water mark inland. No one is allowed to restrict access to this area

I hear there is a lot to do? Tell me about it?

There is so much to do down here it could fill volumes. In fact it does. Ask us for our free e- book, “Places to Go” for more info.

I hear the delays clearing customs can be a pain, how do I avoid them?

The Cancun Airport is the busiest in the Caribbean. Like any International Destination there can be delays at customs coming in. These mostly happen when a number of flights arrive at the same time, so although there is no way to eliminate them entirely, they can be minimized. Here are a few suggestions we have learned over the years:

1. Don't fly in on Saturday afternoon. This is when we have had the majority of our complaints as most all inclusive packages are Sat to Sat.

2. Do try to get in on earlier flights if possible. The bottlenecks seem to happen more in the late afternoon than in the early afternoon.

3. Stay positive. Remember the officials at the airport are just doing their job, and they want to get you through as quickly as possible. You are coming here to be on vacation, so go with the flow and you will get through with plenty of time to spare.

I hear that downtown playa has a long cobble stone outdoor mall feeling, more like Europe than Latin America.

Playa is a really special place. Tourism wise, it is about 40% American / Canadian, 40% European and 20% South American. This means that the City itself has a cosmopolitan mix of cultures not found anywhere else in this hemisphere.

As of this writing there are 650 reviewed restaurants in Playa del Carmen, which is quickly making a name for itself in the “foodie” world. We suggest not missing the Cancun Riviera Maya food and wine Festival in March, or the Taste of Playa in November.

What is the history of the Mayan culture and how can I learn about it on my trip?

This area is steeped in History. Our suggestion is take a day and go on a guided tour of the Coba ruins, about an hour and a half drive from Playa. It is the largest Mayan city found to date and is a great day trip to learn a lot about the culture.

For further reading we suggest:

“A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya” by David Freidel and Linda Schele

Do I need Mexican currency and how much?

Bring some cash with you. Although most places do take credit cards, all do not, and American Express is particularly expensive for vendors outside the US, so many will not take it.

Although US Dollars are taken nearly everywhere in the Riviera Maya, we suggest you use Mexican Pesos when you are out and about. In addition to getting a much better exchange rate at a change house or a bank than you are going to get with dollars, it is Mexico and that is the official currency, so it helps to break the "Ugly American" stereotype.

All ATM"s in Mexico distribute Mexican Pesos, that is the easiest way to get it. The best rates are at ATM’s in banks.

What about passports and other docs for kids?

Everyone who comes into Mexico needs a passport. In fact the US airlines will not let you leave without one, no matter their age. This is actually less to do with Mexico and more to do with the US will not allow back in the country without one.

What is there for kids?

There is a ton to do for kids in the area, depending on their ages. Ask us for our free e-book “Vacations with Kids” for more info.

Everyone talks about the I need to be certified, where do I go?

must know and understand to perfection so if you are not certified you can also dive but you have to take a basic introducing program that usually takes about 5 hours.

It is best to make sure that anyone you dive with is PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or NAUI certified.

If you want a personal suggestion just ask us!

I want to Party where can I go?

If this is your scene, Playa is world class. Just stroll along 5th Ave any evening, to see what is new.

If you're looking for dancing till dawn, you should go to the 12th Street. There you can visit the famous Coco Bongo which has a very particular style because of its unique atmosphere: DJ music mixed with short live shows. You will find many places next to the beach where you can dance electronic or pop music.

What are the good and bad times of the year to go?

If you are talking about the weather, the Riviera Maya has one of the sunniest climates in the world, but to balance this, there are occasional rains and strong winds during the months of September, October and November, but do not worry, it’s almost guarantee that you will see the sun every day of your stay.

The average temperature is 77 F with fluctuations of 5-7 degrees. But it can often reach 86F degrees during the day and night down to 60 in the winter.

Is Mexico really committed to Free Trade?

Mexico has more Free Trade agreements than any country on the planet. 43 as of this writing. These agreements have made the economy much more open and created millions of jobs of the last 10 years.

Who recently called Mexico “the New China” for investment in this decade?

Jim O’Neill, former head of Global Asset Management for Goldman Sachs and the Economist who coined the term BRICS (referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China, where he saw vast amounts of capital to be invested in the early 2000’s) recently called Mexico the best place in the world for investment and sees it at the top of the list for destinations for global capital in the next decade. The Economist, who started an influx of hundreds of Billions of dollars in China a decade ago, calls Mexico “the New China”.

How does the Reservation Agreement Work?

That’s when things get easy. Here’s the process: Once you have picked the model type you want we call the developer for the most up to date list of available units. From those you pick the one you want most, with a secondary pick in case that one is taken from the time we get the information to the time we submit it. This is done in conjunction with (refundable) earnest money. Once it is confirmed that this unit is available, the Developer signs the Reservation Agreement and we move to a contract of sale. This locks in your price against any increases. You now have a week to get in your 10% deposit which is transferred to American Realty’s escrow account. That is when we get to the real work. Forming your Bank Trust and preparing for title transfer. Once that is done you can take possession and ownership of your new Caribbean Home. It really is that easy.


Chat with Caribbean Living on Whats App

× How can we help you?