Tuesday, March 10, 2015

moving to mexico -- pitfalls of buying a house (part 532)

The knocking at the gate was insistent.  Not really knocking.  "Pounding" would be a better noun.

The type of knock you would expect before the NSA agents or SWAT team breaks through your door up north.  But, then, there would be no knocking.

By its insistence, I almost expected to open the door and discover my Escape in flames.  What I found, instead, when I opened the gate, was a Mexican bureaucrat.  The reason for the loud knocking was easily explained.  I was playing my music at Grateful Dead volume.

I almost wish he had stopped by to tell me my Escape was on fire.  He could speak no English; and I feigned I could not speak Spanish -- a role for which I was type cast.  But, by the forms in his hand, I knew why he was there.  He was from IMSS (the Mexican social security agency), and he was not there to help me.

For those of you who have not built a house in Mexico, let me give you some context.  Mexico's social security and workers' compensation system is funded through assessments based on wages.  When a person hires workers to build a house, periodic payments must be paid to IMSS on behalf of each worker -- to provide insurance during the building project and to fund an eventual pension.

The contract will usually establish whether the contractor or the homeowner is responsible for the payments.  Each payment generates a receipt, and, when the construction is complete, IMSS issues a certificate that all payments have been made, and the benevolent goddess of bureaucratic compliance smiles on the new homeowner.

I have seen the IMSS form, demanding a property owner to provide proof of compliance, before.  One showed up at our church property a year or so ago.  Everything was quickly resolved.

When I bought the new house, two friends urged me to demand a copy of the certificate of compliance before the sale closed.  I did, and received assurance that the bank would not allow a trust without it.

The first thing that was completed in the closing was the bank trust.  I thought all was well, and the closing took place in mid-October.

When I returned from my trip through southern Mexico in January, I discovered the same IMSS form we had received at the church -- informing me to provide the necessary documentation to prove all withholdings were properly deposited with IMSS.

I asked the former owner about it.  She said she was taking care of it.  That surprised me because I was under the impression the closing could not take place without the necessary certificate.

Then the IMSS inspector showed up at the house in mid-February, leaving a hand-written document (where he had torn off "$170,000" written at the bottom; I still don't now what that was), and telling me I had two weeks to correct the matter.  I contacted the owner, who said she was still working on getting everything worked out.

On Friday morning, a very pleasant woman called from IMSS.  She told me I had one week to get payment to the office in Puerto Vallarta.  If I did not, she would start the process to place a tax lien on the property.  A lien that would be my responsibility.

My realtors and the former owner are now talking with the Puerto Vallarta office about a matter that should have been resolved before the closing.  We are still baffled at how the bank trust could be established without the documents.  (Of course, I still do not have the bank trust documents.  Apparently, I should not expect them for a couple more months.)

If I lived north of the Rio Bravo, I would most likely be burning a hole in my stomach from the inside out.  But one thing I have learned down here is patience.  It will simply take time to get to the resolution that is in my future.  For a former control freak, this is a major change in my Weltanschauung.  Not to mention mental hygiene.

So, here is the life lesson for anyone buying property in Mexico.  Do not sign anything until you have the physical documents in your hand showing that the IMSS assessments have been paid in full.

It was a lesson I knew before I bought the house, and it is a lesson that may be costly to me for not following.

I will keep you updated.  I suspect the last half of that prior paragraph is simply not going to occur.  I am an optimistic sort of guy.

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