San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city in the central region of Mexico, has established itself as one of the top vacation spots in the world. Lush tropical climate, upscale amenities and facilities, and awesomely warm year-round weather matched by the warmth and hospitality of its people – it’s obvious why SMA sees a lot of repeat tourists. Some of them have even made it their permanent home.
Looking to learn more about this picturesque Mexican city? Read on and get to know what makes San Miguel de Allende an ideal destination not only for tourists but for home buyers, as well.
OVERVIEW OF SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
San Miguel de Allende’s location in the heart of Colonial Mexico practically guarantees an ever-permeating Old-World charm that’s evident in its cobblestone streets, 17th-century buildings, and tons of historic sites. The best aspects of small-town living, combined with well-known big-city indulgences—like over 550 restaurants on Trip Advisor—is what drives people to stay here longer. They can’t help but find themselves drawn to its highly livable residential communities.
Located 150 miles north of Mexico City, SMA has been crowned the Best Small City in the World for a whopping six years in a row – from 2017 to 2022 – by readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine, one of the most renowned publications in the travel industry. Some of the more popular attractions here include spas and wellness centers, hot springs, artisanal shops, art galleries, nightclubs, shopping malls, and restaurants serving international cuisine.
History of San Miguel de Allende
The town was established in 1542, its growth spurred by its proximity to Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi, both of which were thriving silver mining towns at the time. Transporting silver from the mines on the Camino Real down to Veracruz for shipment back to Spain meant passing through San Miguel, and this is what primarily made the city wealthy. By the mid-1700s, grand mansions and villas of the silver merchants and businessmen who benefited greatly from the mines virtually dotted the town.
As the silver mines ran out and the War of Independence from Spain broke out, people started to leave and the town went into a gradual decline. By the 1900s, SMA’s population was reduced to around 7,000 – a quarter of its peak in the 1700s.
The town managed to turn its fortune many years later by becoming a national and global destination for the arts. Bellas Artes, a former monastery turned into a fine arts school, was the catalyst for this renaissance. After being featured in a 1948 TIME magazine article as a haven for those looking to study the arts, people came in droves to study at the school and become part of the growing local art community.
Today, SMA has a good number of art schools, attracting aspiring artists from across the globe. Aside from Bellas Artes, art is also being taught at venues such as Allende Institute, Atotonilco Gallery, San Miguel de Allende Public Library, and DV Mexico Painting Workshop.
Aside from having a global reputation as a venue for the arts, SMA has also become a popular destination for vacations and weddings. Most weekends, SMA teems with tourists and wedding groups from Mexico, the US, and the rest of the world.
Geography and Demographics
The city of San Miguel de Allende has a territory covering 594 square miles. It is part of the state of Guanajuato and serves as the core of four arroyos: El Atascadero, Las Cachinches, La Cañadita, and El Obraje.
The small city’s current population is close to 170,000. The number of foreign residents ranges from 20,000 to 25,000, and it is estimated that the majority of the foreigners hail from the US. Aside from Americans, Canadians and Europeans make up the bulk of the foreign nationals who now live in San Miguel de Allende neighborhoods.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
A section of San Miguel de Allende was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 8, 2008, in recognition of its historical architecture and the role that it played in Mexico’s independence. The UNESCO area of designation covers much of Centro, the heart of San Miguel – the city’s historic center is primarily made up of well-preserved buildings that feature 17th and 18th-century architecture.
EXPLORING THE SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE REAL ESTATE MARKET
San Miguel de Allende has been attracting a lot of attention as a real estate investment destination. Post-pandemic property sales broke prior records for sales volume, and while the under seven-figure market slowed slightly in 2023 in conjunction with the U.S., experts expect the Luxury market to remain hot in the near future. The vast potential of the real estate here is an indication that now is a great time to invest in real estate in San Miguel de Allende. Whether you’re shopping for a permanent home or a vacation rental, this paradise city offers some of the most sought-after properties in the country.
The city offers a wide range of real estate to choose from – you can find studio-type condominiums, apartments, single-family homes, villas, and mansions – for a fraction of the price of properties in big American cities. On the high end of real estate in San Miguel de Allende, you can snap up a gated-community custom-built luxury estate with every American amenity—from the elevator to the radiant floors—a four-minute walk to the town square for under $1.4MM! The farther you are from the center, the more affordable the real estate prices become.
If you are working with a budget of $500,000 for homes for sale in San Miguel de Allende, that’s more than enough for a three-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot property. A budget between $250,000 and $400,000 can fetch you a three-bedroom condo or home slightly outside of Centro.
Living in San Miguel de Allende
Moving into San Miguel de Allende, you’ll immediately feel very safe. The city is well-known for being one of the safest Mexican cities and this is backed by its low crime rate score. Tourists and locals can feel at ease walking around the city whether during the day or nighttime. Visitors and residents need only take the same precautions they would in Paris or London.
Local health and medical services in San Miguel de Allende are top-notch—local Doctors can perform open-heart surgery here—and even the most unique medical specialists can be found only 45 minutes away in Queretaro, a city of 2.5MM people. The town hosts several hospitals – both public and private – and numerous clinics. Aside from general medical care, specialized services are also available including cardiology, obstetrics, and orthopedics. Emergency services are also available – just dial 066, the local emergency number. The city also has plenty of alternative treatment centers offering massage, acupuncture, and other holistic therapies.
Parents with school-age children will enjoy the fact that the city has a good number of bilingual schools such as Escuela Bilingüe José Vasconcelos, Newland, and Victoria Robbins School. While it used to be difficult for expat families to find good schooling for high-school level students, that is no longer the case today with multiple schools from nearby Queretaro now opening branches in San Miguel.
When it comes to getting around town, San Miguel de Allende is a highly walkable city—the entire city core can be walked from one side to the other in 25 minutes. Many essential retail and commercial establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants, hardware stores, and hospitals are easily accessible even without a car. However, if you feel the need to explore, the town has multiple transportation options available, including taxis—at a fixed fare of only 60 pesos, they are very affordable—shuttle services, rental cars, and buses.
TOP COMMUNITIES IN SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
The number of residents in San Miguel de Allende has nearly tripled since 2000, which comes as no surprise. People who come here for a vacation end up falling in love with the place, and within days, some of them are already shopping for homes for sale in San Miguel de Allende. If you’ve been struck by the same magic and are looking to buy into the real estate in San Miguel de Allende yourself, here are some of the best San Miguel de Allende neighborhoods to live in.
As the heart and soul of the city, both Centro and Centro Historico—the UNESCO designation—are where the best colonial houses for sale in San Miguel de Allende are located. It’s an area bursting with life, complete with fountains, courtyards, market squares, small unique shops, upscale restaurants, and endless historical value. As one would expect—due to demand for the location—this is where you can find the most expensive real estate in San Miguel de Allende.
Properties available in Centro Historico include single-family homes, apartments, and condominiums. Prices can range from $500,000 to $6.9 million.
This residential neighborhood abuts Centro and proves a great option for homebuyers who want to purchase colonial houses for sale in San Miguel de Allende that prove less activity-packed than the city center. Despite the quieter atmosphere, everything you need is within reach. Tiny grocery stores are present on almost every street, and you can get your car washed, buy a hammer, pay your utility bills, and purchase meat and vegetables – all without leaving the neighborhood. Colonia San Antonio is also popular for its wide array of restaurants that serve mainly local dishes at affordable prices.
Types of properties available in Colonia San Antonio include single-family homes, apartments, condominiums, and lots. Prices can range from $350,000 to $1.5 million.
For foreigners looking to live in a “true Mexican neighborhood,” Colonia Independencia is a local neighborhood just on the cusp on gentrification. Aside from the mixing of cultures, some of the homes here offer an excellent view of Downtown, and the sunsets here are spectacular. Spend a day in Colonia Independencia and you’ll immediately understand why so many people consider living here, locals and extranjeros alike.
Types of properties available in Colonia Independencia include single-family homes and apartments. Prices range from $340,000 to $762,000.
Known as “the Arts District of San Miguel,” Colonia Guadalupe is where colonial architecture meets urban art. It’s inarguably the hippest among all the San Miguel de Allende neighborhoods, with murals decorating the streets from end to end. For the artistically inclined, Colonia Guadalupe is simply the place to be. For convenience, the community boasts Fabrica Aurora, an old factory now hosting a collection of art galleries, antique stores and restaurants. Those into eating healthy will be happy to know that there’s a variety of local restaurants in Guadalupe.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE HOME-BUYING PROCESS FOR FOREIGNERS
Most foreigners can purchase a property in San Miguel de Allende with no legal restrictions and only a few requirements that must be met, like obtaining an SRE Permit to purchase property as a foreigner, a simple rubber-stamp application process managed by your Realtor’s closing team.
Many newcomers to San Miguel de Allende—especially those who may have visited Mexico’s beach towns—are often under the misconception they cannot own property here outright, like in the U.S. In fact, coastal communities like Cabo San Lucas, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta require that buyers own property through a bank trust called a fideicomiso. Not true in San Miguel!
Since San Miguel de Allende is located in the heart of Mexico, all foreigners can own their home here fee-simple, just like in the U.S. or Canada—in other words, you hold a deed in your name, it’s yours forever until you sell it. That proves to be a big advantage for home buyers buying homes in San Miguel de Allende because they know they have full ownership of the home.
Another big advantage for buyers seeking to invest in San Miguel de Allende is that the entire real estate process here works very much like in the U.S. or Canada, unlike many other parts of Mexico that remain rooted in 19th Century tradition. Here, a plethora of U.S. brand-name franchises give Buyers better security knowing they’re working with a company regulated by a parent company. Unlike other parts of Mexico, real estate agents in San Miguel de Allende are usually licensed—be sure to only work with a licensed Realtor. Home inspections are just like in the U.S. Money is held and disbursed by an American-style escrow company—be sure your escrow company is insured and bonded, many are not—to ensure your funds are always protected. And listings here are almost always exclusive listings, meaning the price can’t suddenly change on the Seller’s whim, like in other parts of Mexico, nor will there be six different real estate agents trying to represent the same home.
Work with a Local Real Estate Agent
It’s in your best interest to work with an experienced, licensed, and brand-name affiliated local real estate agent before you begin shopping for a property. Even in record years, San Miguel still only sells about 370 properties among 240 licensed real estate agents, so it is imperative that you choose someone with considerable expertise—ask how many homes they sell annually—dealing in properties in San Miguel de Allende to avoid mistakes due to lack of experience. Hiring an agent from a reputable, brand-name agency with a long-term local tenure is the best way to ensure the safest and most secure purchase experience when buying real estate in San Miguel de Allende.
Find Your Ideal Property and Make an Offer
Your agent can help you find the right property for your needs and budget. An experienced agent’s vast knowledge of homes for sale in San Miguel de Allende can help speed up your search and narrow down your choices. Once you’ve identified the ideal property, your agent will help you make an offer and open negotiations with the seller—in fact, your agent here manages the entire home-buying process for you, including all the special details buyers needn’t think of in the U.S. When you arrive at mutually agreeable terms, you can begin the process of owning a home in San Miguel de Allende.
Have the Property Inspected
The signing of the sales contract signals the beginning of the home-buying process. Once the sales contract is signed, a buyer usually has seven to ten calendar days to have the property inspected by a professional inspector. If the inspection reveals serious issues that affect the habitability of the home and the seller refuses to address these issues, the buyer can then refuse to remove their inspection contingency and the sale is terminated before money has even been deposited into escrow.
Pay the Deposit
If you are satisfied with the results of the inspection and decide to proceed with the purchase, you can then pay the Earnest Money deposit which is typically 10% of the sales price. Buyers will wire transfer their funds to an insured & bonded escrow company, and if the entire transaction is in USD—as most purchases among north-of-the-border buyers are—then the funds go from the buyer’s American or Canadian account, into an escrow account in the U.S. and then finally get disbursed to the Seller’s U.S. account—the funds never even leave the U.S,
Obtain a Permit to Complete the Purchase
All foreigners are required to secure a permit issued by Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the Secretaria de. Relaciones Exteriores (SRE) permit – before the property’s deed can be transferred in your name. The permit guarantees that you will not seek the legal jurisdiction of your home country while in ownership of the property. In other words, you will need to follow Mexican property laws in dealings concerning your real estate purchase. This is a rubber-stamp process that everyone easily receives, there is no background or credit investigation, and the fee is now 10,000 pesos per person.
Close the Home Purchase
The closing of a real estate transaction in San Miguel de Allende involves several steps, including:
- Signing the escritura or deed
- Making the closing payment
- Paying taxes and fees
- Registering the property in the property registry
Your real estate agent will be able to guide you through the closing steps to ensure that you fully understand your rights and obligations as a foreigner who owns a San Miguel de Allende property. They will assist you with the escrow process so that all your closing costs—approximately 5.1% of the purchase price—are deposited into escrow along with the purchase price. Those closing costs will then be disbursed from escrow to the Notario, the Mexican government for the acquisition tax, and the various city fees.
TALK TO A SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE REAL ESTATE AGENT TODAY
Shopping for colonial houses for sale in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico? Call us – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colonial Homes San Miguel – via our international toll-free number, 877.217.5959 , or send an email here. You can also reach out to Brokers Greg Gunter here or Alma Cecilia Ramirez here to schedule a consultation.