Buying property in Argentina is still a favorable option for many foreigners. Even though inflation is an issue, property prices have remained lower than in many other Western countries. It is important to remember, however, that banks won’t issue mortgage loans like they will in many other countries. The loans that banks will give people (only citizens or naturalized residents) will only be for a small portion of the total cost of the property, and at interest rates upwards of 30%. So, in order to purchase real estate, one really does need to have the price, in full, in cash. Due to the difficulty in obtaining financial assistance in Argentina, many foreigners who do buy property, do so as investors with the intent to rent the property to tourists. The majority of foreigners who relocate here tend to rent because of the vast range of options and the financial flexibility it allows.
Real Estate Agents
If you do want to buy a house or apartment, the first step is to find a real estate agency, known as an ‘inmobilaria’; real estate services are also advertised as ‘propiedades’. Most are local and neighborhood-specific, but there are some good citywide agencies. See the websites listed below. The best way to find a good real estate agent is to ask around, or visit some of the more local agencies that specialize in the neighborhood where you’d like to purchase. Most agencies aren’t open on Saturday, and none are open on Sundays. Normal business hours are 10am-6pm, but remember that these hours are very flexible.
After you pair up with an agent, realize that they will try to sell you from their stock so that they don’t have to split the commission, which is usually 4% for the buyer and 2% for the seller.
Once you find a property, you will be required to pay a ‘reserva,’ which will reserve the property for you while you continue the purchase process. The reserva is typically AR$1,000-$2,000. Only after paying the reserva can you make an offer on the property. As with anything, there is room to negotiate, and do not expect the buyer to take your first offer. Counter-offering is part of the process, and your agent will be able to advise you during the negotiations. If your final offer is rejected by the seller, the deal is off, and you lose the reserva you paid.
If the offer is accepted, you proceed to the payment process and the signing of the ‘escritura’. This can be the most difficult part, as it involves direct wire transfers of money. Sometimes the seller or contractor (for newer properties) will have a US (or foreign) bank account, and the transfer is a simple process. Other times, however, if the seller only has an Argentine bank account, you will have to transfer money into the country using a Casa de Cambio (Exchange House), with a fee of 2%, typically. There are Casas de Cambio throughout the city, with a high concentration on Av. Lavalle, in Microcentro. However, a reliable option is Banco Piano. To avoid suspicion of money laundering, be prepared to prove where the money came from with either paycheck stubs, bank transaction history, or anything else that shows the money was earned legally.
In order to sign the escritura and transfer money, you have to first get a Tax ID in the Argentina Federal Tax Agency (AFIP). This is a fairly simple process that begins with a visit to the comisaria (police station) closest to where you are staying at the time. At the comisaria, ask for a ‘Certificado de Domicilio,’ which costs $10. Be sure to take your passport with you. Typically, they will bring you the certificado the next day. To find the police station closest to you, visit http://www.policiafederal.gov.ar/esp/salc/comisarias/index.html.
Once you have the certificado, you then have to go, in person, to the AFIP location that corresponds with the address on the certificate. To find locations, visit http://www.afip.gov.ar/. Take two copies of your passport with you, and once at the agency ask for the ‘formulario CDI.’ Don’t expect the agents to speak much English. They’ll give you two copies of a form to fill out. The form is in Spanish, but rather basic, so even those with limited language abilities shouldn’t have too many problems understanding what is expected. Be sure to take a number before filling out the form, as you may be waiting a while. Once your number is called out, you should have your Tax ID within a few minutes.
To validate the contract, you have to use a Notary, or ‘Escribano.’ To find an Escribano, check the Yellow Pages or ask your realtor to make some recommendations. Choosing the Escribano is your right as the buyer. There is no formal inspection process in Buenos Aires, but you can consult with the agent and the Escribano to ensure that language regarding the property’s pre-sale condition is included in the contract.
The last step is the actual contract itself, which is called the ‘Boleto.’ When you sign the Boleto, the buyer will stipulate that you pay a portion of the sale price, typically 30-50%; however, it can be as much as 80%. After the boleto is signed, you then receive the possession of the property, called the ‘tradición. This is a separate formality that has to also be done with an Escrituro. At this time, you will have to pay the full amount of the property price. Be prepared to go over every small detail of the contract at this time.
It is wise to have an Argentine lawyer who speaks English to look over the contracts, as they are required, by law, to be in Spanish. The propiedades (your real estate agent) have lawyers on staff to assist you in this. Unless you command a fluency in Spanish, it is highly recommended to use a propiedad for this entire process. As with anything else, talk to a few before deciding on an agent.
To get an idea of prices and what is available in the different barrios, check out La Nacion’s classifieds section online at http://www.lanacion.com.ar/, or Clarin’s classifieds section online at http://www.clarin.com/.