May 13, 2005

Money Transfer Process and Fees

As if the realtor's commission and the lawyer's fee wasn't enough.... there is also a cost to get u$s dollars into the country of Argentina. Short of bringing it on a carry on bag (which I do know some clients that have done that), it is impossible to get dollars into the country without some sort of fee.

After the devaluation, Argentina made it difficult to get U$S into the country. Basically the banks all automatically convert every single u$s that comes into the country and they convert it to pesos. The thing is that though that they take a few cents spread. For example: if the exchange rate is 3:1 (3 pesos for every u$s 1) they will only give you an exchange rate of 2.95. So if you transferred u$s 100,000 you would get 295,000 pesos instead of 300,000 pesos. THEN since all real estate is priced in u$s, you must convert the pesos back into u$s dollars. They stick you with another few cents spread. They might charge you 3.05 instead of the 3.0 rate. So you are effectively getting charged two times. This is VERY expensive.

Out of the dozens of surveys that I paid to the foreigners that purchased here, many had problems with the banks here. Some used money transfer agencies and the money took weeks to hit the account. The trick is that some banks and money transfer agencies are using your money and since interest rates are fairly high here, they are using the "float" for a few weeks. $100,000 might not be a huge amount but imagine if they are doing that with dozens of people every month. You are talking about a few u$s million every month in float that they are playing with.

You are probably scratching your head asking yourself, "but why would you need cash"? The answer. ALL REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS HERE ARE IN CASH. There are a few exceptions to the rule but I've only conducted one buy/sell where we used a wire transfer. Even when both parties have US or European bank accounts, the seller still prefers cash. The reason why? Because as I mentioned above, there is a cost of getting money into the country and most are using the cash to purchase something else so they would rather have you "pay" to get the u$s into Argentina. The other big reason is these locals don't trust anything but cash.

No matter how many times I buy a property for a client, it always amazes me when the seller is sitting there counting the cash. I have purchased millions of dollars in real estate here in Argentina and every single time except for one was exchanged at the table at the title deed transfer. It is an awkward site. Imagine with the technology we have these days and people are paying cash.

The cheapest and most dependable method of getting cash into the country is by using a "private bank". There are many banks but it's essential that you use a company that is trustworthy. Remember that you literally are wiring money into their bank account overseas somewhere in the USA or Europe and they are giving you the cash. The reputable ones will ask you to sign a document stating that the funds are legal and you need to be prepared to show documentation where the funds are coming from and what line of work you are in wherever you live. The ultra exclusive banks with the best reputations won't open an account for you without an introduction from a known local entity. Our company introduces you to our private bank and they open an account for you. Most transfers only take 48 hours to hit your account.

They all charge a flat percentage rate based on the financial markets at the time of the transfer. For the past several months it has been around 1.5% of the transfer amount. A seemingly steep amount but the safest and most reliable method. I do NOT recommend carrying your life savings on a carry on. All it takes is one phone call from the customs agent going through your bag to his friends to watch you as you go through the airport and rob you on the way to the city. Keep in mind that you are legally required to declare any cash in excess of u$s 10,000 into the country. As mentioned, the customs agent can make one phone call and your money would be in jeopardy. Although the private banks charge a fee, I believe it is the safest and most reliable method.


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