Living in Mexico will be different than you’re used to. No matter where you come from, things are likely done differently here than in other countries.
A good example of this is in real estate and rentals. In Mexico, it’s common to see the same house listed at several different prices with different agents and/or on different sites like Propiedades.com, Inmuebles24.com, Facebook Marketplace, or Homie.mx. Sometimes, the price difference can be as much as $20,000 MXN or about $1,000 USD difference for the same rental.
The Fake Rental Agent
To make matters worse, a lot of expats assume that just because they are dealing with a Canadian or American, they have no risk of being taken advantage of. And unfortunately, unscrupulous people come from all countries.
In fact, there is a big-time scammer in San Miguel de Allende who runs the Expat Resource Center at Stirling Dickenson 12, Colonia San Antonio- they offer its events and annual memberships solely as a way to draw in customers for its real estate and immigration services, as well as tours.
They also host a weekly brunch on Sundays or Coffee Tuesdays at the Expat Resource Center. So, all the newcomers who have no idea are their new prey.
The scam: she pretends she has permission to rent a place, rents it, collects the money, and it turns out the landlord had no clue she was renting it out. What’s worse is the frustration and headache the renter has to go through to find a new rental. But now she has a seriously bad first impression about living in Mexico.
And unfortunately, she’s one of many people who have taken advantage of the newbie. There are hundreds of stories of people posing as property managers, renting a place out, and leaving people homeless- because they never had permission to rent a place, to begin with!
So, please don’t ever give someone a deposit unless you have actually seen the home, signed a lease, and have keys in hand.
But not everyone is a scammer in Mexico. Not everyone is out to get the new gringo in town. Most people have good intentions. But the few bad apples that give the country a bad reputation are enough to spread the word.
No More Fake Property Visits
Picture this: you’ve set up a visit to your dream casita, but at the last minute, your agent bails.
They suggest the owner will show you around instead, sweetening the deal with a lower price. Sounds fishy, right? That’s because it is. Stick to trusted channels and only roll with agents you’ve double-checked. Don’t be the one left holding the bag with an empty wallet.
Outsmarting Deadline Email Hackers
This one’s a bit more stealthy. So be careful.
Scammers hack into your real estate agent’s email, patiently waiting for the perfect moment to strike. They’ll follow your convo for weeks, and when the finish line is in sight, bam!
You get an email with payment deets. Spoiler alert: it’s the scammer’s bank account, not the real deal. Avoid the trap by laying down the law – insist on discussing payment face-to-face, not over email.
Rental Roulette: Too Good to Be True
Newbies in the rental game, this one’s for you.
Scammers love to prey on our rental ignorance. They’ll sling an ad online with a price that’s too good to be true (because it is). You’ll schedule a visit, but to your surprise, the landlord can’t meet at the property.
They’ll rush you to pay the deposit in cash with the excuse that they have 10 other people ready to rent the place right then and there. They’ll even promise to hand over the keys somewhere else.
Spoiler alert again: those keys won’t unlock anything except your financial woes. Stick to legit listing sites, check the place out IN PERSON before dropping any cash, and if it sounds too good to be true, walk away – fast.
The Net Listing
This week, I saw the same rental listed on 4 different sites with 4 different price tags! So, what’s the actual price? The only way to know is to talk directly to the landlord or to work with a reputable rental agent.
It’s not uncommon for the same rental to be managed by several rental agents. And some may want to do what’s called a net listing.
A net listing is when the landlord tells his/her property manager they want to net X monthly rental income. So, the rental agent will increase the rental price and keep the remainder. Then guess who pays for their instant bonus? You do. It’s not illegal to do this because, at the end of the day, the landlord only wants to net a specific amount.
So what’s stopping someone from getting more?
But please keep in mind not all rental agents do this. And we certainly don’t work with or recommend any that do.
Always do your due diligence. If a rental agent can’t point you to their references or a page with their honest reviews- don’t work with them. In most cases, a simple Google search will show you if someone has a good reputation or a bad one. Additionally, you could try to only work with landlords directly- cutting out any chance that there is an untrustworthy rental agent in between.
And if you can’t find an honest and trustworthy rental agent to help you, we can recommend you our vetted contacts.
We only recommend the agents in Mexico we trust and know have a good reputation. Saving you the time and the hassle. If we get even 1 complaint about them trying to do something unscrupulous, that’s it. We don’t give second chances. And that’s how I ensure you get only the highest-rated recommendations when you’re our customer. And we never take a kickback, so you can rest assured that we have no agenda to refer you with someone.
If you’d rather find a rental on your own, you’ll find real estate companies manage some rentals in Mexico listed online. There’s nothing wrong with this. But if you want to try and deal with the owners directly, most of them will not publish online.
If you’d really like to try to find a rental on your own, you could also rely on word of mouth – you need to start asking people if they know of a rental like you are looking for. You’ll be surprised how many leads you can get quickly.
And remember, don’t buy or rent anything without seeing it first. In fact, it’s better to RENT for at least 12 months before you even think about buying. Twelve months in Mexico will give you time to make sure you love living in Mexico and that you have picked the right town, weather, and country!
The Airbnb Problem
But what if you’re only looking for a short-term rental?
A place you can secure while you look for your long-term rental. That’s where Airbnb is perfect! Until it isn’t. Let me explain
One of our customers uprooted her entire life and moved with her cats to Merida. She found the cutest 1 bedroom apartment on Airbnb at a reasonable monthly cost. So she decided to secure it for at least 4 months. Paying Airbnb 4 months upfront. When she arrived, everything was great! The place looked exactly like the pictures, and the location is perfect. This was really working out!
Until the property manager informed her they would put the apartment on the market, she would need to be flexible with showings. When she expressed not being okay with random people walking around her apartment at all times of the day, the property manager threatened her with leaving a negative review.
However, nothing on the Airbnb listing mentioned the guest would have to be okay with showings in the house. And Airbnb is not very good at responding and mitigating the problem. And to make matters worse, she’s already paid 4 months upfront.
So what’s my recommendation? While I think that Airbnb is a GREAT solution for short-term rentals in Mexico, you shouldn’t rent anything for more than a month before seeing it first. That way, if you love it, you can always extend your stay. If you hate the rental, you only have a month to live through it.
Pay It Forward- Help a New Expat Avoid Being A Scam Victim!
I would love to know if you’ve been a victim of a rental scam or any other type of scam in Mexico. Let’s pay it forward and help a future expat avoid a headache in the future.
Leave your comments below. If you’d rather send them to me privately, you can contact us here.