My Experience Applying for a Mortgage in Mexico as a Permanent Resident

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If you go to the expat forums here and ask about getting credit in Mexico, especially a mortgage, you’ll hear outdated lies like “Cash is king” and that it’s impossible for a foreigner to get credit here. There really are not a lot of resources for English-speaking immigrants to Mexico as we’re seen as expats who will always have a foot in their home country. Well, returning to Canada is a non-starter for me, so I need to figure out how to make a life here, and figuring that out involves a lot of figuring things out for myself because the resources just aren’t there. So maybe this post will help someone else like me in building their life in Mexico. For those who are new here, note that I do speak Spanish and do everything in Spanish, and that that makes a bigger difference than the non-Spanish speakers realise.

In January 2021, I was given the opportunity to buy the house I’m renting. The way I pulled that off is alien to Americans and Canadians, but my bank account manager said it is absolutely the way things are done here, by building a deep personal relationship with sellers in order to make a deal like they would with a family member. But even if you didn’t have that, I think that my experience in applying for a mortgage will still be valuable.

The deal was that the sellers would act as the bank for three years, at which point they would consider themselves paid and I’d have to make a huge balloon payment to clear the mortgage on the house, whether that be with cash or by obtaining my own loan.

I knew that paying cash was going to be near impossible so I immediately looked into what I would need to build a credit history here to be able to have a chance of qualifying for a mortgage by February 2024. The steps really aren’t that different than those of establishing a credit history in Canada — you just need to find the first bank willing to extend you credit.

I’d had a bank account with HSBC for a few years, so I started with them and asked for a credit card, with the hope being that I could build credit with them and just do a transfer of the existing mortgage they were holding from the sellers’ names to mine. But I was not surprised when I was declined as HSBC treated me like a tourist through our entire relationship, going so far as to freeze my account every time I bought something they didn’t think a tourist should be buying.

I decided to try out BBVA and they were great from the beginning. They did not fuss about my being only a permanent resident and gave me a bank account, a savings plan, and a path towards getting my first Mexican credit card. From that point, my journey to building my credit here was easy.

I got a couple of increases on my card and before I knew it, I had an offer on my phone to take a personal loan. I was advised to take the loan, make payments for a few months, and then pay it off. The loan was stupidly/dangerously easy to get — I literally just had to press “accept” on my phone and I had the funds. The interest rate was sky high, as interest rates usually are here, but it was a means to an end.

The next step was to see if another bank would extend me credit, so I was advised to try out for something like the Costco or Rappi Visa cards. The Rappi card was interesting to me as this is a delivery service I use a lot and I could do the entire application process through my phone (rather than having to travel to Costco). I was immediately approved and the card was delivered to me the next day!

At this point, I was advised to not ask for more credit and to keep my credit card balances low. I do have a balance on my BBVA card for items bought with “months without interest” promotions, but was told that’s not a problem as I’ve been making the monthly payments and the card balance is very low compared to the limit (which is now six times what it was when I opened the account).

So to recap, over two years I’ve obtained credit products and used them responsibly. I’ve also been careful to even out deposits into my bank account to show that while I might be an “autonoma” (freelancer) I have steady, regular, reliable income. Also part of my credit history, although not nearly as important to a computer algorithm as I’d hope, is that I have been paying the existing mortgage myself for over two years without fail.

In late July, I went to to the bank to see if I was ready to apply for the mortgage. I was told that if we did this, we’d have two to three months to close, so I had to make sure the sellers would not mind closing out the contract early. They know I’m at this stage and are standing by, so I’m good to go.

Now, here is where my application process is probably going to wildly differ from someone walking in off the street with a house they are interested in buying and no equity in said house. You’re probably going to need to have up to 60% cash available as a deposit. I, on the other hand, am looking for a loan for less than half the value of the house I’m buying. There is absolutely no way the bank can lose in such a scenario, so spoiler, I was approved for a loan to cover not only the existing mortgage balance, but also all closing costs, with enough leftover to do some renovations if I want.

Here’s the paperwork the bank needed for my mortgage application. By the way, they wanted everything digitally even though I arrived with a stack of paper!

-copy of my Canadian passport photo page
-copy of my permanent resident card
-copy of my birth certificate (which was thankfully accepted despite being in French)
-copy of my CURP (“social security number”) certificate
-copy of my “constancia fiscal” with RFC, which is a document from SAT/Hacienda saying I’m tax-compliant and which provides my tax ID number. I got this back last August, clever me!
-comprobante de domicilio (proof of address, a power bill)
-three most recent bank statements
-three local, preferably Mexican, references (I put a call-out to almost everyone I know and was shocked by how fast the references came in, with some, like my handyguy, having everyone in their family send me their info!)

In addition to this, added to the file were the house purchase contract, the last mortgage statement from HSBC, and a letter I wrote outlining what I was asking for and why. Ultimately, the contract means nothing to this transaction, but my account manager used this extra paperwork to push through with a more senior person after I was denied by the computer algorithm.

Once all of this was reviewed, I was further asked for statements from my Canadian bank and PayPal as the source accounts for my deposits here and an explanation of where the money was actually coming from. I gave a full year of statements and supporting documentation showing steady payments from the same clients and said I could go back a full three years showing these same clients paying me every month, and even further back showing that I’ve been supporting myself for 12 years as a freelancer, which is how I got my initial residency visa.

After all this was reviewed, it was time for a telephone verification. This took a few tries as their phone system connection isn’t great and I couldn’t really understand the callers. They finally found a line with a better connection and then the call was easy to deal with, so it really wasn’t a language barrier issue. I can’t remember everything they asked me but some of the questions were:

-When did you last apply for a credit product, whether approved or not?

-What is the balance on your non-BBVA credit product?

-What is the balance and limit of your BBVA credit card?

-What is the balance on your store credit cards, if any?

-Do you have a car loan?

-Then there were some fairly random questions, like a multiple choice of which city I live (none of them), that I think were for identify verification.

-Finally, some questions about the service I’ve received from BBVA.

I didn’t find anything up to this point particularly onerous and I was able to come up with all paperwork and reports in minutes, so I wasn’t scrambling for anything bizarre.

This morning, I got confirmation that my loan was approved and the terms thereof. Honestly, it feels like I won the lottery.

Next steps are to do the valuation of the house and the fideicomiso (trust), so I need to get a huge pile of documents from the sellers. They travel a lot and are always busy, so I told them we have three months to close and I’m not in a hurry, which I’m really not now that I know everything is in place.

I feel like I’ve reached port after an extremely long voyage that started on September 4, 2008, when a naïve and intrepid girl pointed an RV north into the wilderness of l’Abitibi. I thought my port was going to be Haven, I honestly did, and I would have been happy for the simple future that Haven would have afforded me if I could have made a living there, but it was just a port of call on my way to a life I hadn’t even dared to dream of and so am still having difficulty envisioning.

“Peace and rest at length have come
All the day’s long toil is past,
And each heart is whispering, ‘Home,
Home at last.”

June 2023 Highlights

(It’s July 2023 and I’m backdating a post for each month that I have not blogged.)

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June was a bit of a write-off. I worked six weeks in three weeks in May, so I just wanted to chill with my girls and get caught up on my fun reading.

I’m still going to the dentist regularly, Dr. Javier wanting to perfect my bite. One of those visits coincided with a day off so I decided to go to Altabrisa mall across the street and treat myself to a mani-pedi if anyone was available. I can’t remember the last time I did that!

I don’t remember why I picked a food court lunch, but I probably just wanted tacos and those from La Parilla are as delicious as they are beautiful!

cucumber lemonade in the background

I’m still working on sorting out my kitchen and it was time to tackle the freezer. I wanted some plastic containers for my most-used items as bags just get lost and often open. So I searched for a Tupperware rep in my neighbourhood, got a catalogue, and found what I needed, and on sale to boot. It took a few weeks to get my order, but it was worth it.

What a thing of beauty. I can find everything and I “shop” from the deep freeze.

A huge treat most evenings is to go up to my air-conditioned room around 9PM and read a few chapters of a novel. I’m currently working through the C.B. Strike detective series by “Robert Galbraith” (actually JK Rowling). Here I am on page 100ish of 650ish. It’s been about two months since that photo and I’ve finished that book, read the 1000-page next book in the series, and am 200 pages into the book after that. It’s true that the only way to eat an elephant is a bite at a time!

I had a day off with only some PDF work to do and no Pilates, so I went for a long bike ride, then ended up at Ritrovo for brunch and to do my PDF job.

My bike was wobbly and the brakes almost non-working, so after eating I dropped it off at the shop for some much needed maintenance after all the kilometres I put on it! I’m so grateful that I can bike again! The bike shop owner would, at pickup later that day, inform me that my rims were bent, my brakes were completely shot, and my handlebars were unaligned! He was going to ask where I’d been biking and then remembered where we live! LOL The cost of the maintenance was only 100 pesos.

In addition to biking and Pilates, I’ve been doing some virtual The Conqueror walks to keep me motivated. My big project is walking virtually from Lands End, at the very south of England, to John O’Groats in Scotland (am currently between Coventry and Leicester just east of Birmingham), but I’ve done a couple of shorter walks that have earned me surprisingly beautiful and hefty medals. Here’s the one I got for virtually walking from Tulum to Chichén Itzá.

I wish I could say I do a good workout every single day, but even though I don’t I’m happy with my daily average over these past six months!

Here I am at the dentist yet again at the end of the month receiving yet another new retainer! I don’t pay for these and I pretty much only pay for every other visit, so it’s not like I’m being bilked out extra money for my orthodontic treatment! I was amused that my current colour obsessions are pink, purple, and turquoise and he found me a turquoise box to follow the purple one.

Finally, Xtiga is really coming out of her shell and is the only one of the girls to ask for my lap when I’m working, a rare treat, but it does happen sometimes. Here I am teaching her how to type. 😉

May 2023 Highlights

(It’s July 2023 and I’m backdating a post for each month that I have not blogged, so scroll down to get the other three posts I did yesterday.)

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The most significant thing to note about this month is that on May 5th, 2023, WHO officially declared the end of the pandemic, exactly 1150 days after the world shut down. For me, it was a year too soon (sorry!), as I’ve got that itch to get going again, but am not in a good place to do so. But it has definitely had me thinking about what my post-pandemic, house payments becoming manageable, high income life is going to look like. I feel like I entered the pandemic still a young woman and emerged middle aged, realising that the adventures and concessions of youth are behind me and that when I venture back into the world, it will be with the expectations of doing so with adult responsibilities and the spectre of retirement and aging ahead of me.

May was an absolutely insane work month, even by the standards of the last couple of years. I earned six weeks of income in three weeks. I was only able to keep up the pace because I stuck to my Pilates routine, made an effort at meal planning, and have a wonderful cleaning fairy who comes twice a week now to do all the daily cleaning, change sheets (such a luxury), and perform other small household tasks like fold and put away laundry. Our society’s standards were built at a time when one person in the household made money for the entire household while someone else kept things running smoothly, so the criticisms I get sometimes that I should be able to do everything alone or that I’m lazy for not being able to do so are as hilarious as they are outrageous. Having that help on the little things helps me stay on top of the big things.

A highlight in May was returning to the Van Gogh exhibit as my Pilates partner got free tickets to the full VIP experience. This included my first experience with virtual reality, which was incredible. I was sat on a stool and felt like I was moving through a fully realised three-dimensional world. I would love something like that for my home gym. Can you imagine a simulation like that combined with a treadmill? There aren’t really any places to go for long walks in nature around Mérida, plus the heat and sun can be dangerous, so the virtual option sounds great.

After Van Gogh, we had giant beers and dinner at La Negrita cantina. I had to bow out after the music started as it was much too loud and I need to protect my hearing.

May is when I decided to change direction regarding finishing the kitchen. The case is ongoing so I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk too much about it right now, but let’s just say that I did a lot of sleuthing in these first few months of 2023 and built an iron-clad case for myself, including locating parties who tried to disappear and as well as witnesses. I was hoping to actually finish work in the kitchen in June, but it’s still at a standstill in July. I did spend some time in May organising the fridge and freezer, decluttering, making usable the under counter space where the garrafones used to lived, but, frankly, the kitchen is a bit of a nightmare for lack of meaningful storage space and I really hope to get this nonsense sorted out by the end of the year.

Found a picture of the final touch of the bathroom update! This tile was the closest match we could find. If you saw the other patches in that room, you’d be as satisified as I am! Don’t mind the dirty sink — we hadn’t cleaned up yet. I thought a black sink would be a nightmare to keep looking nice, but between a wipedown every time I use it, which I do with a white sink as well, and my cleaning fairy, it always looks great. 🙂

My gardener/maintenance guy is now coming twice a month when he can, which is fantastic as he spends one day on maintenance and cleaning and the other on gardening. Now that the property is finally cleaned up from all the kitchen mess, having him here twice a month really makes a difference. I was looking for him one day and found him literally in one of my cedars, which inspired a joke by a friend that I had to turn into a meme!

April 2023 Highlights

(It’s July 2023 and I’m backdating a post for each month that I have not blogged, so scroll down to get the other two posts I did tonight.)

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Honestly, there was nearly nothing of note in April. Work this year has been firmly 200% busy or 0% busy. I’m grateful for the steady income, but have to say that I’m looking forward to refinancing the house to lower my monthly payments so I can start working more humane hours!

I went through the pictures I took from April and it’s all cooking, cats, and memes complaining about the heat, which has been the worst this year since the start of recorded history, absolutely relentless. We didn’t get a winter this past year, four to six months of low to no humidity, so it’s been pretty intolerable.

I did have a leak in the bathroom upstairs, so I had to replace the year-old sink cabinet. Let’s just say that while that contractor did a lot of good work for me, I’m starting to see problems with the plumbing and electrical work his contractors did for me and so I think I’ve moved on to my new guy.

My new guy suggested that he just make me a bare concrete counter since I still had a ton of material left over from the kitchen reno (which, a full year on, is not over, so you can look forward to an update about that!). I loved the idea of having a counter spanning the width of the room, so I told him to go ahead.

The job didn’t actually get finished until late May, a full month later, but the space was usable in the first few days of May. I was just missing those two tiles and it took a while to find ones that would kind of match. The black sink was a complete surprise. My contractor buys materials and then I reimburse him. He saw it, thought it would look good (he clearly likes black, based on the kitchen), and figured he could get a refund if I hated it. If he had told me he found a black sink, it would have been a definite no. But I could not imagine one with a matte finish like this and I love it! The new space, including the faucet, is an absolute dream and I’m delighted with the upgrade. The old sink cabinet did not go to waste, nor did the rest of the construction materials. My cleaning fairy wanted it all, so I paid the $500 for a flete to come haul it all away for her.

Another water-related upgrade happened in April, one that was a long time coming — a reverse osmosis filtering system so that I could drink my tap water and stop relying on garrafones! I’d seen the ads for Bebbia on Facebook for ages. They are a subdivision of Rotoplas, the folks who make tinacos. I asked around and found lots of people who have used Bebbia for years and are happy with the service, so I signed up. All you pay is a monthly fee and the equipment, installation, and maintenance are included. I currently pay about $250 per month and that’ll go up to $350, barely more than I was paying for garrafones without any of the hassle!

I met all the installation criteria, so it was a very quick and clean installation. I was a bit nervous about making a hole in my new sink, but it was worth it!

I’m a little frustrated there’s no cover on the filter system itself. I can’t see it behind everything I have in front of it, but I bet it’s dusty back there. Oh, well, it’s their problem!

The water tastes great. I’ve been washing my produce and rinsing rice with tap water for years as it would be too much garrafon water to do so, so I appreciate unlimited drinking water at the tap now. The unit has its own pump, so filling a water jug or ice cube tray is so quick and convenient now. I also regained a ton of space under the counters. My first maintenance is due in October, so we’ll see how “after sale” service is.

March 2023 Highlights

(It’s July 2023 and I’m backdating a post for each month that I have not blogged, so scroll down to get more new content. This is the second of three posts for tonight.)

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March was a busy work month, so this one’s mostly full of cat pictures. But the first thing I’ll note is that mid-month, I had the roof done properly with a seven-year coating. Writing this after a big afternoon thunderstorm in the rainy season makes me really glad I did!

As for my girls, they really started to get integrated in March. Xtiga is still working on it at time of writing in July, content to spend most of her time in her room, but she sometimes likes to come say hi and join me on the couch for a movie. Dodger is a fully fledged member of the household now and she and Alma get along great. They both like to come up to my bedroom door in the morning and sing the song of their people while Xtiga waits patiently for her treats. They’re wonderful company and I’m so happy they are here.

Mexican standoff. I swear this is where they came to some sort of an understanding because now they are inseparable.

Xtiga, like Alma, loves climbing the bookcase in the guest room. I don’t see Alma in there much now. It seems that she and Xtiga have delineated their territories very clearly while Dodger and Alma share spaces. Dodger is of course allowed in the guest room to hang out as the two sisters are still quite close.

Xtiga is my only proper “lap cat.”

In March, I picked up my knitting needles and started to make hats and scarves for charity. Unfortunately, I’m suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, so I have to be careful how much repetitive work I do, especially with all my time at the computer. So while I’ve had a steady production, it’s not as voluminous as I’d hoped for.

End of March, I had quite a treat, a chance to go to the travelling Van Gogh exhibition. I somehow missed out on the VIP 3D experience, but, spoiler, I had a chance go again in May. 🙂 We all know how much I love Van Gogh’s works!

As another birthday present to myself, I asked my handy guy to install a rooftop pump for my water system to give me pressure in the house. I haven’t really appreciate it much in the shower, to my surprise, but it’s been routine-changing in the kitchen to always have a strong steady stream of water rather than a trickle, plus it makes the hot water come immediately rather than after a few minutes. It also makes a load of laundry take nearly half the time! This was a great addition to the house, even if it’s one more thing in the finicky water system to maintain. Spoiler, it stopped working in June, after just three months, but I suspected it was gunked up with sarro (limescale) and was right. My handyman came over the day after I reported the issue and he had it resolved in five minutes. So I expect more problems in September!