Nov 6, 2005, 7:23 PM
Post #1 of 37
It being harvest time on our ranchito in Canada, I missed responding to the rural thread before lock-down.
We have Mexican friends who ranch cattle, farm and/or sell grain, are professors of veterarinary science and run their own vet businesses or do research work for companies etc. Through them, I learned a bit about their rural life in the Jalisco countryside.
Most of these people and their extended families live small villages/towns or larger cities. They own and work rural land but they don't live on it.
Some of it is related to their preference of living close to people, especially friends and family. Closer to schools for their children, and a rich social life for themselves revolving around relationships, for some the Church, activities like the Charreria or other interests, music, theater etc. Our lifestyle of living on our ranchito resembled more the life of their parents or perhaps grandparents.
AbOVE ALL: In Mexico you must be completely responsible for securing your own safety and property. In addition you could be affected by the following situations.
1)Mexican law is very generous to squatters.
When other people establish a pattern of grazing animals on your property, using your water, crossing your property, living on your property, or closing an access to your property (in which case even if it was illegal for them to close the access);
It will become very difficult to change the situation.
It will also be illegal for you to remove their fence/lock/whatever. It is also very difficult to reopen the access or move their property line via fence or other mechanism onto your property. For after a relatively short period of time they will have established the right to do that forever.
2) Importance of Credibility in the Community
Before you become a rural property owner, it is prudent to have sufficient credibility in the community to keep any of the above from happening before it starts. This means you need to be RESPECTED and a presence in the community. If you create this presence, then you may have some influence in the community. Therefore anyone living on your property, in your name, can regularly push back intrusions in any form immediately.
3) Water Rights in Mexico
A point specific to ranches or farms: in the laws relating to water: the rights you establish to water (if you are fortunate enough to establish them in the first place) are only good so long as you use the water.
This practice may run counter to the conservation minded, but this is how the law works. If you leave the place idle, you may lose your hard won rights. For example, if you left your property for awhile and then needed to renew a permit.
4)Hidden Costs of Living
Also services fail and equipment breaks. Electricity fails to flow, agua potable fails to arrive, pumps break, lines leak, restraining walls fail to completely keep out the rainy season floods, temperature and humidity extremes do crazy things to building materials etc. All of these come down to you. The lower tech your lifestyle, perhaps less responsibilities.
Dust, rust, must(mold) and rats etc.
Utilities in Mexico don't work like utilities in the US or Canada. You can't pay things over the internet. In fact, you often have to go pick up your bill in order to make a payment (sometimes you have to go more than once because there is no reliable schedule for when the bills are printed). Once the bills are printed you have a very short window for making the payment. Failure to do so sometimes results in the immediate stopping of services like electricity,
You also often have to make payments in person. If you are unable to pay on time, then somebody's got to pay electricity, gas, water and telephone bills if you have those services. In rural properties, there is no garbage collection. Somebody will need to take the garbage to wherever it is legal to dump it. There is also no mail delivery, so if there is anything you care about arriving via mail, somebody has got to check the mail regularly.
Theft may not be a problem, but in certain areas it might be a BIG problem. There is no effective police protection. In a rural property there will not likely be patrols reducing the risk of break-ins or near neighbors who might notice somebody coming or going. Some police are honest, but some are worse than the criminals. You will not necessarily know who is who. Although it is possible to secure a house with alarm systems, high walls, dogs, neighbors, etc. securing a large piece of land will face other challenges.
Perhaps the most important thing in regards to security, is that you must be viewed as a member of the community, not just a seasonal visitor. If the community supports you nobody will attack you directly, since they will know that they will have to answer to their neighbors. If the community doesn't support you, then you are fair game.
The only way to do this while being absent for periods is to employ a caretaker who is well liked in the community. This doesn't mean he has to be rich and powerful. He can be low income. What it does mean, is that his family is known and considered insiders rather than outcasts. His family has status and is not to be messed with. They have ‘presence’ in the community.
If you hire someone not like or without status in the community then it may be like you hired nobody at all. They can also be targets of theft and fraud. Also you run the risk that a person without status in the community may be looking to become instantly wealthy by running off with your property or livestock. Or bleeding you slowly over time. Not killing too quickly the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Life in rural Mexico can be like living with all the people dead and alive, past victories and injustices, feuds and love affairs. You can be affected by the ‘past’ in ways that you may not be familiar with in your homeland.
At bare minimum, you need to employ someone to pass through the place regularly to make sure nothing's amiss, pay a maid and also manage work (buy supplies, give instructions, monitor what's being done). Also they must, pay utilities, (which in Mexico is described as a big job), and to get things fixed when they break (which is also considered a big job).
You need substantial 24/7 coverage.
You can do that with a caretaker who lives on the property or with combination of maid during day/watchman at night/caretaker who passes through daily. Any way you do it, the goal is to project a full time presence (see point about being considered a member of the community).
An empty home can be left alone for a few hours from time to time, but there is no way you can do that with animals. There is the obvious issue of caring for the animals but the issue of projecting a presence. If you're not there or if you are considered invisible (which is what happens if you have 24/7 caretakers but they are not viewed as members of the community), you run a high risk that property will be encroached on over time. It is difficult to reverse that encroachment once it happens.
As a foreigner, you are not likely to find the Mexican judicial system sympathetic to what will be perceived as your inability to protect yourself. It is not wise to be weak in Mexico. Any legal problems that you encounter are likely to be long, difficult and expensive. With no guarantee of success.
And even should you win the ‘battle’ you may still lose the war.
If you have antagonized or made ‘enemies’ in Mexico, there are many ways, subtle and direct that you could be forced out. You will find it difficult or near impossible to protect yourself from these situations. Some people have just had to ‘walk away’ from their properties once an ‘incident’ has arisen.
So in my opinion, before purchasing any rural property in Mexico, a person needs to understand what they may be getting into. To work first on creating credibility in the community and finding people(caretakers) that can be trusted.
There is much more to this topic but hopefully this will give you info…and pause…on what to take care of before you invest your money in rural Mexico.