Real Estate & Property Information for San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a rainbow kaleidoscope of color. Bright blue sky backdrops the spires of a pastel-pink church and the green of the clipped trees in the main plaza. Buildings in shades of lemon-yellow, tangerine, cobalt and crimson line the cobbled streets. Flowers burst from balconies and courtyards.
This town has cool, fresh nights and warm, sunny days and average temperatures of 50 F to 80 F. And, a long history…
The town was officially founded in 1541. It got rich when silver was discovered in the nearby states of Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi. The main route for the silver to get to Mexico City passed through San Miguel. That brought wealth to the city.
San Miguel reached its peak in the 1750s. That’s when many of the grand mansions and palaces we still see today in the city were built.
Then began a gradual decline, mostly caused by the depletion of the silver mines. The War of Independence from Spain and the Mexican Revolution impacted the town, too. In the 1930s, its population hovered around 7,000, a quarter of its population in the 1700s. Buildings lay in ruins. Burros outnumbered cars.
But the city’s fortunes began to move upwards again. This time around, art, not silver, triggered the next wave of its development.
Life magazine covered San Miguel in their January 1948 edition. Under the headline “GI Paradise,” they reported that 50 military veterans and their wives had come to study at Bellas Artes, a former monastery turned fine-arts school, in the town. Some of the delights of San Miguel outlined in the article were its crisp air and warm sun. And, the low cost of living. At the time, the G.I. grant was $65 a month. The article showed an apartment in San Miguel that rented for only $10 a month. Good rum or brandy cost 65 cents a quart and cigarettes 10 cents a pack. Paradise indeed.
When the article was published, it reportedly led to 6,000 more veterans applying to study art in San Miguel. It cemented the city’s status as an artist’s colony, which is still the case today.
San Miguel today has its artists and art schools, but it also attracts well-heeled Mexicans. It’s 170 miles from Mexico City and 60 miles from the thriving industrial and commercial city of Leon. That makes it the perfect weekend retreat and vacation destination for wealthy Mexicans from these cities.
And it’s now a big wedding destination. Every weekend San Miguel is thronged with high-end weddings from Mexico, the USA, and the Latin world.
The main plaza is a favorite spot for locals, expats and tourists alike. People gather here in the afternoons and evenings. Food carts offer snacks and drinks – tacos, churros, popcorn, and home-made ice-cream. The ice cream comes in exotic flavors like rose petal, avocado and mamey (a sweet, creamy, tropical fruit). In the evenings, there’s often some form of entertainment around the plaza—music, fireworks, dancing.
Around the main plaza, cobblestone streets wind up steep hills, past local eateries and cantinas, farm-to-table restaurants and hip bars. You’ll find little stores selling hand-embroidered tops, antiques, fine jewelry and furniture. Some stock locally produced glass, ceramic and metalware. Fabrica La Aurora, a former textile factory that’s a 10-minute walk from downtown, is now a trendy art hub. You can watch artists at work and shop for art, antiques and furniture.
Some of the city parks like Parque Juarez host weekend markets selling plants, produce and pottery. Mercado Sano is an open-air organic market with delicious local produce (like avocado, figs, beets).
You can eat fine Italian fare in Firenze or sip expensive cocktails on the rooftop terrace at the Rosewood hotel. You can tour the vineyards and wineries around town and learn about wine pairing. The city hosts a jazz and blues festival, a chamber music festival, a performing arts festival. There’s plenty to see, do and enjoy in San Miguel.
But what about real estate?
Real estate in San Miguel de Allende runs from incredible colonial mansions in the historic core to comfortable homes and condos in the neighborhoods close by. Here’s what you need to know about buying property in San Miguel.
Centro in San Miguel
Centro is the heart of downtown San Miguel. It’s a mix of residential and commercial, with stores, hotels, offices, restaurants, cafes and bars. Covering 30 blocks, it’s a locale with winding streets and gorgeous historic homes…where doorways and arches, strung with roses or tea lights, lead to art galleries, little cafes and quirky stores. You never quite know what you’ll find when you step in.
It’s a perfect spot for walking and wandering, stopping off for a flaky pastry or hot chocolate on the way…
Centro is where early buyers in San Miguel snapped up crumbling homes and restored them to their former glory. But prices soon became crazy expensive. For a dream colonial in Centro these days, you’re looking at $1 million plus.
There are strict permitting and zoning laws in place to protect the city’s heritage. You can’t just tear down an old building and throw up condos…or re-design the façade of a historic home.
Living in the heart of San Miguel, you’re a stroll to everything from stores, markets, dining and entertainment. The biggest trade-off is likely the traffic. The city’s narrow cobblestone streets were not designed for modern traffic, and there’s a shortage of parking. Noise is also an issue—from chiming church bells, to fireworks and mariachi bands.
Here’s a sample of some listings on the market in Centro:
–A one-bed one-bath apartment, just under 500 square feet in size. The apartment is in a gated community with 24-hour security, a swimming pool and gym. Price: $199,000.
–A three-bed three-bath home (plus two powder rooms) with a garage, heated pool and covered outdoor patio. The house has lots of features including stone fireplaces, beamed ceilings and tile floors. Each of the three bedrooms has its own bathroom. There’s a traditional-style kitchen, spacious living room and dining room, and lots of outdoor space (including an impressive rooftop lounge). The house is sold fully furnished and equipped. Price: $795,000.
–A 4-bed 4-bath home plus a 3-bed 1-bath casita in a lot of just over half an acre. The main house has stone walls, beamed ceilings, cupolas, colorful mosaics, and Saltillo tiled floors. Outside, there’s ample parking, multiple patios, a lily pond, a heated outdoor pool plus wet bar, and a bocce court. Potential for development or as a B&B. Price: $2.4 million.
Other Neighborhoods in San Miguel de Allende
Guadiana is a prestigious, mostly residential neighborhood that is close to Centro, but quieter. It’s also walking distance to restaurants and the organic market.
Property Samples in Guadiana:
–A pied a terre with a garden and terrace. It’s a two-bed three-bath home and comes furnished. Price: $299,000.
–A home that needs some TLC. This is a historic house covering more than 3,000 square feet, with 4 bedrooms and bathrooms. It has some vaulted brick bovedas ceilings, wood and tile floors and lots of natural light. It needs some updates. Price: $395,000.
–A large 4-bed 4-bath home with two sitting rooms and a large studio. The lot size is almost a quarter acre. There is parking, a big swimming pool with jacuzzi, lots of fruit trees and an impressive rooftop terrace. Price: $995,000.
Colonia San Antonio is an up and coming neighborhood south of Centro. Unlike much of San Miguel, it’s flat….so getting around is easy. It’s a mixed neighborhood where you’ll find cafes, yoga studios and some art galleries. Your real estate dollar buys much more here than in Centro.
Property Samples in San Antonio:
–A house currently laid out as two homes, with their own entrance and electricity meter, which could be turned into one large home. It needs a remodel. It’s listed at 2.1 million Mexican pesos (just under $88,000 at the time of writing).
–A house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, and a traditional feel. There’s a spacious patio, a garage, and a large terrace on the second floor. The house has almost 2300 square feet. Price: $299,000.
–A home laid out as three separate apartments. Two are two-bed two-bath units and the third is a one-bed one-bath. Features high ceilings, wood beams, polished cement countertops and Talavera tiled bathrooms. Outside space includes terraces and a patio. There is also a garage, two laundry facilities and a beautiful roof top terrace. Price: $395,000.
Guadalupe is north of Centro and close to the Fabrica La Aurora Art & Design Center. This is an artsy neighborhood, with lots of street art and galleries, organic stores, and also some good cafes and restaurants.
Property Samples in Guadalupe:
–A 2-bed, 2.5-bath penthouse condo with private terrace and 1900 square feet of living space. The condo has an open plan layout, tile floors and granite counters. Community amenities include manicured gardens, heated pool, tennis courts, and a club house. Price: $315,000.
–A large, three-bed three-bath home with more than 3300 square feet. There are two master suites, fireplaces, beamed ceilings, Saltillo tile floors, and an outdoor sala. It’s an easy flat walk to the main plaza. Price: $499,999.
Balcones sits on top of a hill, so the streets are steep—but the views of the city and mountains are amazing. This upscale neighborhood is close to the Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden and has hiking trails to a forest reserve.
Property Samples in Balcones:
–In between Balcones and Centro, a spacious condo with two bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s being offered turnkey (fully furnished and equipped). Price: $240,000.
–A 3-bed 2-bath home designed by an award-winning architect. The home is almost 3,500 square feet in size, with high-end finishes like custom walnut cabinetry and black granite counters. There’s a double height great room, gourmet kitchen, spacious master suite and plenty of outdoor space such as the rooftop terrace with views and a fire pit. Price: $499,000.
Better Real Estate Buys?
There are some real estate bargains to be had in San Miguel—but they get even better when you follow the expert’s recommendations.
Ronan McMahon, who is director of Pangea, International Living’s preferred real estate advertiser, has identified some strong moneymaking opportunities in San Miguel for members of his Real Estate Trend Alert group.
In February 2018 Real Estate Trend Alert members had exactly the right play in San Miguel: the chance to buy two-bedroom condos from a discounted price of $159,800.
The location of the community is perfect, just a 25-minute walk from San Miguel’s historic town center and close to shopping, cafes and markets. It’s a brand-new development but with the cobblestone and colors of yesteryear. It’s a smart move to combine old-style charm with the modern comforts of a new condo development, and a reason why there’ll be a strong demand for these condos.
In July 2019, the developer of the project set his retail prices. The members-only condos at $159,800…the retail price was $212,292.
So, Real Estate Trend Alert members who got in were sitting on a paper gain of $52,492.
That’s how profitable the right real estate deal can be…
What You Need to Know About Buying Real Estate in San Miguel de Allende
Buying San Miguel real estate can be easier and more affordable than you might have imagined. There are properties to suit most tastes and budgets.
Still, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind if you’re considering buying in San Miguel.
The Buying Process
The first step is making an offer on the property. Always do your research, so you have a very good idea of the fair market value of the property. Never go in at full list price.If you don’t like haggling, ask your real estate agent to do this on your behalf.
Make sure that the property you’re buying has good, clean title (fee simple), without any liens, mortgages or restrictions. Also check that the seller is indeed the registered legal owner of the property.
Once you’ve agreed a price, your attorney will draw up a Promesa de Compraventa, or promissory purchase agreement. This outlines the terms and conditions of the sale, including any penalties. It should have a clear close date when the title transfers to you.
At this stage it is typical to pay a deposit to the seller. Normally, the agreement calls for a penalty if either party backs out. This means forfeiting your deposit and any additional stage payments you’ve made if you back out—so ask that the seller faces an equal penalty if they back out.
No matter how you plan to buy property in Mexico, you’ll need to get an approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the purchase. Your attorney or the notary (see below) will apply for the permit on your behalf before the closing. This is more a matter of formality than anything else and usually doesn’t take much time or carry a high cost.
You will need the services of a notario (notary) to help with the closing. The notary will check that everything is in order with the transaction and present all the relevant documents to the public registry. Do follow up though and ensure that all steps have been taken to register the title in your name—don’t assume that this will happen without you pushing to get it done.
It’s important to talk with your attorney in Mexico and your tax advisor back home to figure out the best way to hold the property. This can either be through a direct deed, a local corporation or a fideicomiso bank trust.
You may already know that in Mexico, all residential property purchased by foreigners that is located within 100 kilometers from any international border, or 50 kilometers from any coastline, will need to be acquired through either a Mexican corporation or a bank trust called a fideicomiso. This does not apply in San Miguel…so foreigners can purchase property and hold it directly.
One thing you do need to watch for is water. Getting a water supply (whether through a public water company or a private well) can be complicated in some areas in and around San Miguel, so make sure before you buy that the property has an existing, legal, water supply.
Additionally, in Mexico, if land was formerly ejido (indigenous-owned) land, tread carefully. This can be a potential landmine, as someone may be able to lay claim to your property in the future. Ejido land can be titled but it’s a complicated process and your attorney will have to do extra checks to make sure that the title is clear, and the privatization was done correctly.
Once you have these issues checked out, you can start enjoying your San Miguel real estate…and your holding costs will be low. Though property taxes (called predial) vary by municipalities, on a $300,000 home, you can expect to pay about $500 per year in property taxes. There are usually discounts (of 15% in 2020) if you pay the full annual fee upfront in January.
Condo fees vary from community to community but are generally much lower than what you would pay at home.