The precept that lawyers have the legal and moral obligation to act in their client’s best interest seems to apply in any legal system, and Mexico is no exception. If you are buying a property in Puerto Vallarta and you hire a real estate attorney, this attorney should work just for you, without having other interests in mind, such as the interests of real estate agents or the developer. In Puerto Vallarta, it is a common practice for closings to be handled by what is called a Closing Coordinator (which would be the equivalent to a closing agent in the U.S. and Canada). Most of the time this closing coordinator is also a Mexican-licensed attorney. However, in real estate transactions there are differences between what a Closing Coordinator does and what a Real Estate Attorney does.
So how is the work of a Closing Coordinator different from the work of a Real Estate Attorney?
A Closing Coordinator is neutral, and therefore he doesn’t represent either buyer or seller. The job of the Closing Coordinator is to put together all the paper work so that closing takes place on the date established in the offer. The Closing Coordinator is chosen by the Real Estate Agent representing the buyer and therefore the Closing Coordinator considers this Agent as the client. The Closing Coordinator gets paid by receiving a participation from the fees charged by Notary Public granting the purchase deed.
On the other hand, a Real Estate Attorney is chosen and hired specifically by either buyer or seller and therefore represents only the interests of the party who hired him, and this party will be his only client. Among other things, a Real Estate Attorney will review any document for his client, do a title verification, search for leans, and negotiate the terms of contracts, always representing the interests of his client. A Real Estate Attorney gets paid directly by the client by charging a specific fee.
When in doubt about for whom a lawyer is working, … just follow the money.
If a Closing Coordinator tells you that he or she will represent your interests without any charge or charging a commission to the Notary, then that representation is a severe conflict of interest. Also, if you hire a lawyer specifically to represent you and handle your closing, ask the lawyer what is the amount corresponding to his/her legal fees from the closing costs estimate. If the answer is again that they are charging no fees or that they are charging a commission to the Notary, this will also turn into a conflict of interest, so you should establish with this attorney what his/her legal fees will be and then sign a contract where the fees and duties of the attorney are clearly stated and this way you’ll have a better guarantee that this attorney will act in your best interest.
There is a saying that goes: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. This saying should apply to any real estate transaction in order to avoid a conflict of interest. If you are planning to purchase property in Puerto Vallarta, you should keep that saying in mind and for sure you’ll be able to get proper legal representation.