By Michaela & Ricardo
Questions To Ask When Purchasing Property in Lake Chapala
My partner and I have been building a home in Lake Chapala, Mexico and we have learned a lot during the process. If you have thoughts of buying land and building your dream home in Lake Chapala then you would be best advised to learn from our experiences. You can follow along through the whole process from beginning to end on our Facebook Page “Retire In Lake Chapala” #buildinginlakechapala
So imagine you have been working with your Realtor, looking at land, and have finally found a lot you really love. You are ready to make an offer….. but wait! What steps should you take next to ensure you are purchasing good land? It’s time to call in the help of the professionals.
Survey the Property
This is a very important step and should be done BEFORE you make an offer on a lot. The property survey will ensure that the measurements of the property match those of the cadastral and the measurements that are written on the deed. You have two options, You can hire people to measure just with a tape measure or by GPS. While tape measure measurements are probably adequate for the purposes of purchasing, you will have much more accurate information for your architect to work from with a GPS survey. This is particularly true with properties that have a slope to the land as the elevation is measured as well, thereby providing valuable information as to where to place walls to step down (or up) on the property.
What kind of infrastructure is in the area? Is there access to Municipal water on the roadway? If not, then do you have access to a well? If so, will you have legal rights to use the water? Where are the nearest CFE electrical poles? If it is located in front of your property, how will that affect your entryway/garage? How large is the nearest transformer and will it be capable of supplying sufficient power to your lot. In our case, when getting our electrical connection with CFE (the local electrical company) there was a doubt that the local transformer was big enough to handle another house. As it turned out, it was okay but if it wasn’t we were told that we would have to canvass the neighborhood and try to get all our neighbors to pitch in to purchase a new and larger transformer. If they were unwilling to contribute, it would be up to us to fund the costs of a new transformer! Consider all the costs related to supplying your lot with utilities. To hook up water with Simpa or dig a well? What about sewers? Are there municipal sewer lines available or will you be installing a septic tank? Is there internet and TV services available in the area? Now with fiber optic cable available in the Lake Chapala area, if you live anywhere with telephone poles, you should have access to it, but if you are considering purchasing in a gated community then you might not as each gated community will be voting on bringing it into the community or not.
What is property access like? Does the property you are interested in have access straight off the street or do you cross properties owned by others? Will you have the rights to access? Who maintains the road? In most cases, the municipality does but in some cases it is the responsibility of homeowners using that street.
Inspect the Lot
An inspection team can be hired to take core samples and examine the lot. Why would you do this? In our case, we found out afterward that our lot was full of garbage fill. This is a common practice in Mexico and we were forced to remove truckloads of plastics, bricks, house parts, and other general garbage to find proper earth in which to build upon. Then because we had to remove so much, we were forced to bring in good fill and compact it to build up the property level. An inspection of the lot also tells the architect how deep he needs to go to place the foundation based on how many pounds per square inch the earth can take. Here we build with bricks and concrete and the buildings become enormously heavy. Consider how your lot will be able to handle water drainage. We get a lot of water during the rainy season and it is often torrential. Look at the slope of the lot. Retaining walls can be surprisingly expensive and can add considerably to the cost of construction. Items such as these are normally outside the quoted price of construction.
Rules, Regulations, and Zoning
An important point to keep in mind is that there are no zoning laws in Lake Chapala. Take a close look at the neighborhood and what is already built. Are there Eventos nearby? Are there other empty lots that have the potential of becoming Eventos, woodworking shops, welding shops, etc. If you are purchasing in an area already built with residential homes then the risk of having a noisy business nearby is reduced. If the property is located in a subdivision, then make sure that the rules of the HOA allow you to do what you want and keep as many animals as you want. Most subdivisions for instance are restricted to 2 dogs. Will they allow rentals? A Casita? If pink is your dream color, are you allowed to paint your exterior pink? Are two stories allowed? Miradors? Carefully check the HOA rules before making the offer and make sure they fit your needs and wants.
Ejido land is basically common property farmland and cannot be owned by foreigners. Be very careful when purchasing land in a rural area that it is not Ejido land or you may not be able to gain title to the property.
Liens or Encumbrances
Finally, as part of purchasing your property, the Notario will be the one making sure the deed is good, with no liens or encumbrances and clear title. Your professional real estate agent will be the one to recommend a reliable and trustworthy Notario.
Thank you for reading! If you are looking for a property to call your own it would be my pleasure to help you find one and guide you through the process. Contact me today!
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