Wednesday, October 01, 2014

moving to mexico -- buying a house

Computers and finances are a natural marriage.

Or so I once thought. 

When I moved to Mexico, I set up banking accounts that would let me shift dollars to pesos with the touch of an enter key.  It was a brave new world where any payment could be made without touching a currency note.

That is why Felipe's bafflement over why I am physically in Oregon trying to deal with banking matter deserves a better answer than I have provided to this point.  I have given the glib impression that I am only interested in mining relationship gems.  Unfortunately, the real answer is far more irritating.

As you know, two days before I flew to London, I made a cash offer, that was accepted, on a house in Barra de Navidad.  The closing process shifted into high gear with the realistic date of putting the house in my possession within 30 days.  The problem was finding a way of getting the cash offer into an account where I could transfer it to the realtor's bank account for "escrow."

The major portion of the money was in equities.  All I needed to do was to request the investment company to transfer those funds to my bank account.  I could have done that in Mexico.  It was merely a matter of making a telephone call, and the funds were transferred electronically.

The remainder of the funds were in a deferred income account with the State of Oregon.  PERS seems to be several decades behind the rest of the financial world.  Nothing can be done electronically.  My request to close the account required several forms to be filled out by hand and mailed to the head office -- just as if I had a checking account in London in 1776. 

There is still some question whether PERS will cut a check (that will be mailed to Nevada) or if the funds will be directly deposited to my bank account.  That is one reason I am in the Willamette Valley right now.  Either way, it appears that nothing will happen for at least another week.  The mantra I keep hearing is that the transaction will take "from 30 to 90 days."  To obtain my money.

Then the frustration begins.  Assuming the full amount is in my bank account, I thought it was going to be a snap to simply electronically transfer the funds to the realtor's account in The States at one of the country's oldest and most prestigious banks.  After all, many a film script is based on that premise.

When I tried to set up the transfer, I was told I could not send the money electronically because my bank does not have a transfer agreement with my realtor's bank.  My banker suggested a cashier's check.  Of course, because of FATCA, that will not work.  No Mexican bank will accept an American check denominated in dollars.

That left a wire transfer.  Easy enough, I thought.  I will set up the wire transfer with my branch, return to Mexico, and ask the money to be wired when the PERS funds show up.

No can do.  I must be physically present at the branch to swipe my card to authorize the transfer.

So, I have extended my stay in Oregon for another week to facilitate buying a house in Mexico.  And I have unwittingly put together another reason why I have decided to live in Mexico.  This over-regulation of my money has sprouted a college era pin to show up on my collar.

Sparks raised the question that I may be talking about my finances in too much detail on these pages.  Maybe I am.  But I hope this may be a cautionary tale for other Americans buying houses in Mexico.  Do not presume the transfer of funds will be an easy exercise -- even if not a single dollar ever leaves the confines of The States.

Of course, I am not too concerned about anyone knowing the stream of my finances.  If all goes well, I will not have to touch any instrument that purports to be money.  And I am not certain that is a very reassuring thought.  The fruits of my labor have been reduced to the equivalent of a video game.

Here's hoping that when I return to Mexico in ten days, this stay in Oregon will have born its own fruit.  A walled compound for my family.

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