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The Gringo's Investment Guide

Review by Carl Franz

The Gringo's Investment Guide,
by Ginger Combs-Ramirez, 1994, Monmex Publishing, Box 1158 Ennis, Montana, 59729, (406)-682-4967, $24.95.

The Gringo's Investment Guide is a book of laws and legal advice, so let's be honest: as attractive as the idea of buying your own hacienda in Mexico might be, many gringos fear they'll lose their shirts ? and perhaps their precious sanity ? in a morass of Mexican papaleo (red tape). On the one hand we know that tens of thousands of foreigners are living "happily ever after" in Mexico, but on the other we hear disquieting rumors of hapless gringos caught in webs of legal chicanery and endless title disputes.

What to do and whom to believe? Based on my own long experience as the (sometimes reluctant) owner of Mexi-can real estate, I know that 'straight answers' to legal questions are especially difficult to find in Mexico. For better or worse, Mexico's legal system is much different than our own.

Recognizing that it is better to take nothing for granted when considering investment in Mexico, The Gringo's Investment Guide sets out "to educate Americans about their rights and responsibilities as property owners in Mexico." In addition to the author's considerable experience as an American selling real estate in Mexico, one of the greatest strengths of The Gringo's Investment Guide is the legal expertise provided by her brother-in-law, a Mexican attorney, and her husband, an attorney and estate planning accountant.

The author begins with chapters on "Real Estate In General," "Fifty Ways To Hold Your Title" and "Your Dream Casa." In addtion to providing excellent tips on how to deal with Mexican bureaucrats, this is the clearest, most concise overview of Mexican real estate that I've ever read. In fact, these chapters answer basic questions about real estate that people (like me) may not even know enough to ask. As a realtor in Mexico, Ginger Combs-R. has obviously fielded these questions countless times from anxious gringos: "What happens to my house when I'm not in Mexico?" "How do I verify clear title or discover hidden liens?" "Is the price negotiable?" "Who pays closing costs?" The author answers these questions and many more. Speaking from personal experience, Combs-Ramirez also illustrates her points with interesting examples, and suggestions on how to identify and avoid possible problems.

By Chapter 4 we're ready to take the plunge. In a no-nonsense but sympathetic manner, the author tells us exactly what documents we need, then walks us carefully through the procedures for a title transfer. Along the way, sidebar-style "Gringo Guide Tips" remind the reader how to avoid cultural blunders and being taken for a ride.

Next on the list: "Mexican Trusts," "Wills and Probate," "Taxes," "Employees," and "Working In Mexico." Considering the painful cost of face-to-face legal advice, each of these chapters is probably worth the price of the book.

Finally, the book ends with a very useful Spanish-English legal glossary, a bibliography and an index.

The Gringo's Investment Guide more than fulfills the promise of its subtitle ? "Every legal thing you need to know about buying real estate in Mexico." Ginger Combs-Ramirez offers readers an invaluable combination of personal experience and clear, step-by-step legal advice. The book is tightly written and very well organized, making it especially useful for quick reference. The author's reassuring authority should give readers the confidence they seek to turn dayreams of owning real estate in Mexico into reality. If you're considering an investment or retirement in Mexico, The Gringo's Investment Guide definitely qualifies as a 'must read'.

Order Gringo's Investment Guide from Powell's in Portland
©1972-2000 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens
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