Ownership Responsibilities in Mexican Real Estate

After working here for several years, I have realized that two of the biggest hurdles for buyers from the USA and Canada are learning how to belong to a condominium HOA and how a trust differs from a will.   

Suggestions regarding HOA ownership:

  1. Do some homework. Jalisco and Nayarit have advanced condominium laws to cover ownership in common. Each state differs, so search on the internet for books translated from Spanish for these state laws. And they are updated in Spanish on government websites.
  2.  Realize your knowledge of condo law elsewhere is different. Being different is ok and sometimes even better than what we already know.
  3. The best condominium HOAs are run by professional people who show respect for owners, and owners show respect for the staff and administration. 
  4. Do not take shortcuts and have informal meetings to decide something, and expect your opinions to be followed.  
  5. Have events or get-togethers socially and for learning as a break from legal formalities. 
  6. Learn to control anger. Do not start threatening to sue anyone or hire an attorney. You should already have an excellent accountant and a bilingual attorney at your meetings. Be kind and learn to be a good negotiator. 

Your Trust is Important to Understand

It is the entity that allows us to live in the restricted maritime zone of Mexico. It’s the zone where all the wonderful beaches and ocean exist. 

The trust is 50 years and renewable for another 50. The trust department in a Mexican bank holds the trust as owner with the primary beneficiaries given the rights to occupy, rent, sell the property, name their beneficiary upon their death to acquire the rights.

The trust bank collects a yearly fee as administrator. No action can be taken by the bank unless the beneficiaries direct them in writing. An example can be the primary beneficiary changing her secondary beneficiary to another person. 

The primary beneficiary is the legal representative for the trust. What does the trust do? It holds the property in the trust and avoids violating the Mexican Constitution. No foreigner can own the maritime zone directly.

Note that the names for the trust are the primary beneficiary and secondary beneficiary. No terms such as ‘owner’ or ‘heir’ are used.

So, this means the trust is separate and apart from any will a person writes to leave his assets such as money, jewelry, pets, etc. 

This article is based on legal opinions, current practices, and my personal experiences in the Puerto Vallarta-Bahia de Banderas areas. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of Mexican real estate conduct his own due diligence and review.


  • Harriet Cochran Murray

    Harriet was born and raised in Louisiana. She has a BA in Art Education and has lived in Vallarta since 1996, founding Cochran Real Estate a year later. She is also a Certified International Property Specialist and a long-time Realtor who travels the world to attend courses and give presentations.

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