Real Estate

The Theory and Practice of Renting a House in Mexico

This article explores the practicalities of finding a suitable home for rent in Mexico

Property Rental

One of the first things to consider when you come to Mexico to live — whether part-time, full-time or for a defined period — is finding a house to suit your lifestyle needs.

Most people begin their search for property online, and a cursory glance at the main property portals suggests that there are ~100,000 residential properties for rent in Mexico right now.

With plenty of inventory to choose from, securing a rental should in theory be straightforward; but when you begin a search in earnest, you’ll discover the practicalities of securing an adequate rental home will present challenges and force you to make compromises.

Searching the market

A search for property in Mexico normally begins online. Realty agents and word-of-mouth are two other popular ways to find a home here. When you begin to search, you’ll find that while there’s lots of inventory, the quality and/or situation surrounding many homes offered for rental is not ideal.

Searching online: Classified ads for property have proliferated in recent years through online sites that specialize in this market. The most popular sites to search properties and connect with owners or the agents representing them are Vivanuncios, InMuebles24, MetrosCubicos and Homie.  These sites also help you to get an indication of rental prices in a given locale, which is helpful when come to negotiate the rent.

Always visit a property before you agree to rent it

While online photos and videos are an excellent way to sift through potential properties and create a short-list of homes to consider in detail, it’s crucial you visit the property before you agree to rent: we recommend that you never sign or agree to a property rental contract at-distance, sight unseen. Always explore the locale and visit the property at least once before you agree to rent it.

Realty agents: There are realty agents in every town and city who may help you find a rental home in Mexico; some are professionally established, others work informally and/or part-time.  Agents’ fees emanate entirely from landlords paying them a commission; tenants do not pay any fees directly to the agent.  The realty agents only earn a small fraction from property rentals than they earn from property sales, and homes for rent are often represented by multiple agents all vying for a limited pool of potential renters. Experienced agents often won’t deal with rentals unless they sense that the people renting might eventually become buyers in the same locale.

Word-of-mouth: If you’re already in Mexico, or have a friends or family network here, you might be able to find a rental by word-of-mouth. These can often work out to be the best arrangements as people renting decent houses prefer to have them rented through a personal referral.  You usually end-up dealing directly with the landlord, who may or may not draw-up a formal contract.  If you deal direct, we suggest you get agreements in writing to avoid misunderstandings later.

Housing types

The selection of property types depends where in Mexico you’re seeking a rental.  The most common types of rental properties are apartments, condos, and houses on their own land within a residential neighborhood.

Apartments and condos: In Spanish, these are called departamentos and condominios. These are the two most common type of property for rent; some condos are classed as ‘condominios horizontales’ which are single or two-story homes joined together at the sides instead of being stacked.  Condos and apartment blocks may also be part of gated communities.

Houses:  Casas. These are usually family homes situated on their own plot of land, usually within a residential area of the town or city.  They might face a public road, or they may be part of a fraccionamiento, or gated community.

Specialist properties: Some locations offer specialist homes, usually large country-style houses, with at least 3 or 4 bedrooms, ample reception areas (which may also include features like terraces and roof gardens) as well as extensive well-tended gardens.  Some are situated near or on a golf course, or overlook a lake or the ocean; others may be situated in exclusive neighborhoods of the village, town or city.  These special property types are sometimes found tucked away in a rural idyll, a short drive away from the nearest town.

Rental costs

Rents vary depending on the house type, location, seasonal demand, as well as other factors.  Download our guide to the cost of living in Mexico for a detailed overview of rental costs (including rent guarantees).  A common mistake made by inexperienced foreigners renting in Mexico is to overpay for rents based on their value perception of rents in their home country.  It’s worthwhile doing some local research – independent of agents’ and landlords’ say-so – to establish what homes are fetching in rent locally, to avoid overpaying. Most homes rent for 10-15% less than the price listed on ads.

Physical state of rental houses in Mexico

Most people rent apartments and condos as these are the most convenient and well-appointed homes on the market: usually of recent build, they include a range of modern amenities, their fixtures and fittings are in good shape, and security and maintenance are taken care of when they are part of a gated community. (Note that gated community fees may or may not be included in the rent.)  If you’re seeking something less ‘boxy’ and more charismatic, you’ll find that older homes in traditional Mexican neighborhoods (perhaps rented by families who no longer occupy them) can offer charm but can also exhibit significant dilapidation with fixtures and fittings that are old, outdated, and which may not be in full working order.  Landlords don’t tend to reinvest very much in these types of older properties; you might try offering a lower rent in lieu of dilapidated conditions, perhaps on the assumption that you’ll undertake repairs or improvements to make it more comfortable for your stay. Luxury homes are available and will usually be presented in excellent shape, but the rents for these normally run into thousands of dollars per month.

Gardens, maintenance and security

When you take on a rental house in Mexico, you’ll need to consider how you will take care of the property to ensure your deposit is returned. Large gardens offer attractive outdoor spaces which are ideal in Mexico’s agreeable climates, although they do require looking after. Reasonable wear-and-tear is accepted, but you’ll have to make-good any damages, plug-holes in walls and other marks when you leave.  If the rental property is not situated inside a gated community, you may need to take extra measures to defend against burglary. Read the guide to home maintenance and security for details.

Renting with Pets in Mexico

If you have pets, particularly dogs, your choice of rental properties will be more limited in Mexico.  Many property owners here explicitly forbid pets on the property as part of the rental contract, usually due to potential damage pets may cause as well as the issue of having to clean the property afterwards.  If the property you intend to rent is a house on its own with a garden, there is a higher likelihood that pets will be accepted.  Homes inside gated communities and condo buildings tend to be the most restrictive (sometimes the restrictions may be due to covenants in the building itself; for example, pets may be banned from certain condos.) If you have one cat, you might be able to persuade an owner who otherwise does not allow pets to let you rent. In any event, if pets allowed, you should expect to pay additional damage and cleaning deposits. If you are using the services of a real estate agent to find a rental property, then be up-front about having pets from the start as that will prevent them from showing you properties which forbid pets.

Dealing with house-related issues

Appliances included in the rent may fail, fixtures and fittings may break, and events like electrical storms, hurricanes and earthquakes can cause significant issues to arise that you’ll need to deal with.  If the home you are renting requires some improvement or repair and you want to do this yourself, the landlord might negotiate to have specific work undertaken in lieu of rent — in Spanish this is termed as ‘a cuenta de renta’ — and we suggest you get any agreement for proposed works in writing before committing to the expense.  For more serious issues caused by floods, storm damage, or earthquakes, you’ll need to deal with the landlord on a per-case basis.  In the event of a force majeure, the landlord will need to make-good any structural matters, but your personal goods and chattels are your responsibility.

End of term, checking-out, and deposits

Review your contract to determine when you need to start renegotiating the rental agreement, the rent to be paid, and any notice you need to give to the landlord before you vacate the property.  Provided the house is returned in the same order it was delivered – allowing for domestic wear-and-tear – your deposit should be returned to you. Some agents provide an ‘escrow’ service between the landlord and tenant in regard to rental deposits; but this is not very common in Mexico and your deposit is often paid directly to the landlord on trust of its return. Some landlords will accept the last month(s) of rent in lieu of the deposit they hold.

Renting versus buying

We recommend that people moving to Mexico rent first before buying—unless you know the area well and feel certain that you want to live there.  Some people come to Mexico and rent a home for many years through a long-term and stable contract.  However, rental contracts are often subject to unforeseen termination: two common reasons include a family member needing use of the property, or the owner or family deciding to sell it. Whatever rental home you find in Mexico, it’s unlikely to deliver everything you want; and any improvements you make will remain with the house when you leave—whether or not the landlord paid for them in lieu of rent.  If you’re in Mexico for the long-haul, you’ll need to buy a home here to get the property you really want, benefit from any improvements you make to it, and have the peace of mind to know that a landlord’s whim or personal circumstances won’t force you to move.

Further reading

You can find more practical advice on our guide to renting property in Mexico.  Our eBook guide to the cost of living in Mexico contains detailed information about the costs of renting a home here.

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