Take these steps to ensure a smooth transition to your new Baja life
Congratulations, you’ve finalized the purchase of your new La Paz area home! If you’ve been following our prior two articles in this series, you’ve found your dream home, and successfully navigated the purchase process. Now, you are ready to take possession of your little slice of paradise here in La Paz. Whether you are going to be living in La Paz full time or seasonally, following are some final tips to help you make a smooth transition and begin enjoying your new home here in Baja.
Schedule a home walk-through
If you are purchasing a home that was previously owned by someone else, you can ask your realtor to set up a meeting with the prior owners so that they can show you how to operate the systems of the house. Try to schedule the meeting just prior to closing, while the sellers are still available. Ask if the sellers have kept the appliance user manuals, and any building plans that were used when the house was built. Also, make sure you receive a complete set of keys, you don’t want to find out after the sale that you can’t access the garage or bodega (storage closet) after the owners have already moved away. If you are buying a newly built house (or having one built for you), make sure that you have the final set of plans, and that the builder shows you how to operate all the home’s systems. You can also hire an independent inspector to review the completed house and ensure everything is working correctly. Ask the builder to give you a contact for warranty issues; Mexico law states that a builder must provide a 1-year warranty, but it’s a good idea to get any warranty in writing before you close on your property.
Changing utilities into your name
In La Paz, establishing a local utility bill in your name is a good idea. You may need it to open a bank account, and once it is in your name you can arrange to have it paid automatically from your bank account. Try to get copies of the prior utility bills from the sellers if you can, and make sure they are paid so the account is not in danger of being disconnected. There is no time limit for changing the utilities to your name; as long as you keep paying them, the services will continue. The one exception is a landline account, as sometimes the prior owner wants to transfer their telephone number to their new property. In that case, you will need to open a new account ASAP so they can move their account to their new home.
Once you have a copy of your new title (whether escritura or fideicomiso), it is easy to get the water account switched to your name. SAPA, the water utility, will ask for a copy of the paid property taxes, and the closing attorney will have that, since they must be paid prior to closing. If you need to move a Telmex account to your name, you will need a Cesion de Derecho (session of rights) where the prior owner authorizes you to take over their account. Moving the electric utility account can be a bit more difficult, as CFE (the power company) now requires you to have an RFC number (a taxpayer number, similar to a social security number) and to get an RFC you must be a resident.
Establishing your Mexican residency
Establishing your Mexican residency offers several advantages. You can stay in Mexico indefinitely, get a Mexican driver’s license and buy/drive a Mexican plated vehicle. Also, when you arrive at a Mexican airport, you can skip the tourist line at immigration and go through the local line much faster (especially during peak tourist season). The financial requirements for resident status vary depending on whether you are applying for temporary or permanent residency, and whether you are applying as a retired person or if you plan to work. There are local immigration attorneys here who can help you figure out which method is best based on your situation, we recommend Baja Paperworks.
It’s also important to note that you do NOT need to be a resident to buy property here. In fact, one way to qualify for residency is to purchase a property and use that value to establish your resident status. Lastly, once you have successfully applied for residency, you will enter Mexico using your temporary residence visa, and you must stay here until you receive your resident cards, a process that typically takes 2-4 weeks. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s best to plan on staying in Mexico until you receive your cards.
Can we drive our vehicle in Baja?
The entire Baja peninsula is within the Mexican Free Zone, which means you are not required to import your foreign vehicle to drive it here. To do this, you must maintain valid registration for the vehicle in your home state or province, and you must purchase Mexican liability insurance. As long as these two requirements are fulfilled, you can bring and leave your foreign plated vehicle in Baja for as long as you wish. If your prior place of residence requires you to physically bring your vehicle in for smog testing, you will need to drive it back to renew your registration when it comes due. That’s why you will see a lot of South Dakota plates here in Baja, because the South Dakota registration process can be done by mail, does not require a smog test, and does not require you to reside in the state in order to register your vehicle there. You must also have a current driver’s license to drive any vehicle in Mexico, so make sure your license is up to date prior to moving. If you decide to purchase a local, Mexican plated vehicle, you must have a Mexican driver’s license (along with Mexican insurance) to drive it here legally.
Bringing personal belongings to La Paz
Whether you are buying a vacation home or planning on living in La Paz full time, you will likely want to bring at least some personal items, clothes, sporting goods, etc. with you. It’s easy to bring a carload of personal items if you plan ahead to avoid any hassles at the border. If the items you are bringing fit into your vehicle and/or a trailer and you plan on driving here, make an inventory of what you are bringing, in both Spanish and English. This generally makes it easier to pass through customs at the border. If you are bringing a house full of furniture, you are better off hiring a knowledgeable mover, such as MexPat Movers, who is familiar with the legal process of bringing these items across the border. Do keep in mind that if you bring anything still in its original packaging, you may be required to pay import duty on the value of those items. You can read more about how to prepare for a trip down the Baja peninsula in our Driving Baja Guide.
Enjoying your new La Paz home!
Congratulations, you’ve made it and now you are ready to settle in and start enjoying your new home in La Paz. Now you, too, can say “I moved here, you can, too!” If you’ve visited before and know the area well, you’ll be off to a great start. If you’re new to the area and wondering what to do or how you can get involved in your local community and meet new friends, here are some handy resources for you:
- Things to Do and See in La Paz Guide: https://bajaliferealty.com/things-to-do-guide/
- Favorite Restaurants in La Paz: our guide to our favorite local places to eat, from breakfast to tacos to fine dining and more. https://bajaliferealty.com/la-paz-restaurant-guide/
- Baja Life Realty Blog: we’ve written many articles here about local area attractions, stores and more https://bajaliferealty.com/this-baja-life
- Almost Retired in Mexico: Brighton West has created a great series of videos on what it’s like to move to and live in Mexico https://www.youtube.com/@AlmostRetiredinMexico
- Blanca Corral: offers bilingual concierge services including setting up utilities, local bank accounts, helping with establishing residency, and more. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Baja Paperworks: get help establishing residency and answer any immigration questions https://www.facebook.com/bajapaperworks
- La Paz Gringos Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/332890553419329
- Baja Dogs La Paz: help reduce the street dog population and learn how you can donate and volunteer to bring free pet sterilization and education services to local communities. https://bajadogslapaz.org
- FANLAP: nonprofit group that helps children and adolescents realize their dreams through education https://www.facebook.com/fanlap
- Hospital de FIDEPAZ: private hospital located on Abasolo between downtown La Paz and El Centenario. https://centraldeespecialidadesmedicas.com/
- Medical Center La Paz: walk-in and by appointment urgent care medical center, across the street from Fidepaz Hospital http://medicalcenterlapaz.com/Secciones/inicio
- El Nopal Spanish school: there are many great Spanish teachers here in La Paz, this is one school that offers formal classes: https://www.elnopalspanish.com/
- La Paz Ladies Luncheon Group: meets once a month for lunch at different restaurants in La Paz https://www.facebook.com/groups/1300702280082483
- The Golf Club at El Mogote: 18 hole public course situated at the end of the El Mogote peninsula (the peninsula you can see jutting into the bay from downtown La Paz) https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Golf-Club-at-el-Mogote/883358398442255
- Pickleball: join the fun group that plays several times a week at Pedregal, all levels welcome! Call or +52 1 612 148 5507 for info.