Much the same as in other countries, there is no official method set forth in Mexican law that governs or oversees property transactions using cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and its peer cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum or other “alt coins” (we’ll just use the terms crypto or bitcoin here), are not considered legal tender in most countries, including Mexico, however crypto is legally recognized as both an asset and a medium of exchange in most countries, including Mexico.
Indirect Crypto-to-Property Transactions
Due to these gray areas, to protect against fraud, and a lack of an official process, a buyer’s cryptocurrency is usually converted into MXN pesos as the first step in a real estate purchase (but later in this article we discuss direct exchanges).
These bitcoin-to-peso conversions are done through an experienced and trusted Mexican bank or financial intermediary, and overseen by a notary (Notario Publico), which functions much the same as title company in the U.S.. Sometimes a Realtor is involved (for the buyer, seller, or one agent serving as both). In most cases, the buyer hires a Mexican attorney with real estate experience who is also involved.
Most sellers, banks, agents, notaries and attorneys have no experience with real estate transactions involving cryptocurrency. Although these types of transactions are becoming more common, most still have no idea how to advise prospective buyers or sellers. However, through years of research and experience, we have formed strong relationships with the the parties required that have performed and perfected these transactions. We have helped many buyers, from investors to expats, and sellers, from developers to private individuals, connect the dots and successfully complete their sales transactions.
Direct Crypto-to-Property Transactions
An initial exchange of bitcoin to pesos is not always required as the first step in the process. Direct bitcoin-to-property exchanges also occur, although less frequently. In these cases, the crypto is transferred directly from buyer to seller. The typical situation is when a known and trusted developer has an established account with Bitso or another Mexican crypto exchange and the transaction takes place with oversight from the notary and attorney(s).
Direct transactions also occur between individual buyers and sellers, however less commonly. With these transactions, without the reputation of a developer on the line, it’s even more important to have the sale shepherded by a qualified, experienced, and trusted notary and attorney.
Trust and Oversight
The number one concern of both buyers and sellers using crypto for real estate transactions is trust. Sellers want to make sure the buyer, his “money”, and the transaction are legit and everything is done legally. Buyers want to know that their crypto funds are safe once they hit that ‘Send’ button, and that a proper and successful execution of the purchase contract will safely take place.
There are several examples online of successful bitcoin-real estate transactions. How were these buyers and sellers able to have confidence to proceed and execute their contracts?
First, similar to other real estate transactions, an escrow (or escrow-like process) is used. In “conversion” types of transactions, the bank or intermediary serves as the escrow.
Second, the attorney and notary have their reputations at stake and both of these roles have potentially severe legal consequences if fraud enters into the transaction or it does not go smoothly in any way.
Third, just as in other real estate transactions, KYC laws and regulations govern these transactions. Strongly led by the U.S. in it’s attempts to stop terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, and other types of fraud, other countries, including Mexico, require banks and sellers to “know their customer”. This is a fairly in-depth data collection process that involves the collections and validation of different forms of identification and income sources.
Fourth, and perhaps most critically, all parties must be physically present during the transaction, at a minimum to be at the final closing meeting. This may take place at the office of the bank, notary, or attorney. These safeguards not only allow a safe and legal process, they ensure the purchase contract results in a successful transfer of title of the property from seller to buyer.
Buying and selling real estate property in Mexico with bitcoin is growing more common. Much like other countries, buyers and sellers must engage the services of third parties, including attorneys, notaries, and banks, to facilitate these transactions. KYC regulations and requiring all these participants to be present at closing ensures trust, legal compliance, and a smooth sales process start to finish.