The Real Reason Costa Rican Rentals are so Expensive

Ok, there are times when the economist in me just screams to get out.  So, the following questions were the trigger:

1)      Why aren’t there any Ticos trying to buy my home at only $250,000?

2)      Why are rental prices so high?

Basically, we need to blame the banks and salaries.  First, a very good salary for educated Ticos with university degrees generally run between $1000-2000 per month.  Most basic salaries run in the $500-800 category.  So, this makes qualifying for a loan quite difficult, especially if you run your own business and don’t have a salaried position.

Second, interest rates for mortgages run between 9-15%.  So, for a home of $200,000, a 10% down payment (which takes a while to save up on an income of $1000/month), and a 10% interest rate, the monthly payment would be $1579.  Again, a little hard to pay with only a $1000/month income, and even impossible to maintain at the $2000/month salary.  So, that is why there are very few Ticos in the market for anything over $100,000.

If you have followed this so far, you can now see the answer to the second question above, “Why are rental prices so high?”  Most North Americans would feel most comfortable with the more modern qualities that come with homes in the over $200,000 range.  So, if the mortgage payment plus taxes come out at $1600, why would they rent it out for $600?  And if you want a pool with your home, you won’t be looking in the $200,000 range, but in the $300,000 or higher range.  Which means that someone with a mortgage would have a payment of $2400 and so therefore, you would have to expect to pay more than that for a rental in that price range.

I never push for higher prices and as a person who has to pay everything based on a local income, I understand the need to find the lowest price possible for a rental.  However, this is the reason behind the high rental rates.  So, don’t blame the Ticos, blame the bank for the extravagant interest rates.

And just in case you were wondering, mortgages are at the lower end of interest rates.  Credit card rates start at 20% and go up from there.  And all of these great offers through the appliance stores (Gollo, Monge, etc) which persuade people to only pay 15,000 colones every two weeks to own your new refrigerator, comes with a fine print of a 50-60% interest rate.  It is completely ridiculous and it’s like receiving a beautiful package with a bomb inside.  It absolutely kills the average Costa Rican or anyone who is willing to buy into the scam.

Tina Newton is the owner and agent for Tristan & Newton Real Estate, based in Atenas, Costa Rica and has lived in Costa Rica for almost 20 years. She has a Master’s in Economics and is emphatic about sharing information with others who live here and are thinking of moving here. She is the President of the Chamber of Tourism and Commerce in Atenas and Supporting Solutions for Atenas, CR, Inc. and has founded many charitable organizations in the town. She has raised two children and now a grandchild in Costa Rica and she is always willing to answer any questions about moving to Costa Rica or living abroad. You can contact her at and through her company website at


Strike in Costa Rica and Its Effect on All of Us

As the now declared “illegal” strike continues into the 5th week, most of the expat community in the Atenas area has been celebrating that we have not been affected, but we have, and here is how.

First, it is important to explain why this strike is even going on. As we all know, no one likes change and when that change involves taxes, people get upset. Someone will get hurt, someone will benefit. The Costa Rican tax system and debt level has been crippling the economy. Something absolutely has to be done, without question. I am not an accountant, so I cannot tell you how this will affect you directly, but here is a basic overview of some of the changes:

1) Sales taxes will be required on some of the services that before did not have to be paid (in varying amounts, but most at 13%), such as internet, concerts, movies, lawyers, accountants. Other services can be at lesser amounts such as airline tickets which varies for national and international flights, health services (4%), etc. It will not include public transportation, gasoline, education, insurance, Red Cross, firefighting services, and more.

2) Income taxes will be adjusted based on income levels. The lowest level is 0% for anyone who earns under 799,000 colones per month which the government claims is 70% of the population, then as the salaries increase, up to 10%, then 15%, then 20%, and finally 25% for those earning over 4.2 million colones.

3) To improve the level of tax collection and to not allow as much tax evasion, the electronic invoices are already being required by most all businesses so that they have to report income and sales tax. So, this is trying to work on the tax evasion portion from the business side.

4) It takes away future “extra” benefits in government positions which cost the state large amounts. It cannot go back and change current contracts, but will adjust future contracts.

So, these are some of the main points in the new tax plan. This is not all-inclusive, but it gives you a general idea. Now, there are always certain “leaders” who spread false information in order to get people upset and who, therefore, scream in protest.

Yes, in Atenas directly, we have been fairly lucky in that we have not had major blockades and have not run out of many products, but if you think we have not been affected, you are wrong.

1) Most of the public schools have been closed or the majority of classes have been cancelled. These kids are required by law to attend a certain number of hours and how will they replace them? The ninth grade and eleventh grades will have graduation exams and either they will not be prepared or the tests will have to be delayed so they have time to catch up on all of the materials. By law, these exams cannot be cancelled as they can’t graduate or go to the university without them. In addition, for poorer children, the lunches that they receive at the schools are often the only meals they get in a day and those services have been on strike as well.

2) Workers who have to travel to other locations have been blocked or re-routed and have not been able to work. This means that while people who are striking are getting paid, the ones who are in other businesses are losing money because they can’t get to work.

3) Gas and propane gas have been in shortage in many locations. We have had gasoline in Atenas, but what happens if you have to travel to other locations that do not?

4) Tourists got stuck in this. Some had to walk to the airport terminals and I personally had two potential buyers who got stuck in the blockades and decided to go home and forget buying in Costa Rica. Cruise ships were turned away at the borders. When the major news networks are reporting the strikes and blockades in the center of San Jose, would this make you want to make the move to this country?

5) Family court services have been on strike except for emergencies so any changes or attempts to get child support are on hold. Many other court services are also on strike or have now “officially” returned to the office, but don’t answer the phone so they only have to attend clients who go in person.

6) Health services have been limited. Many surgeries have been cancelled, but much depends on the specific doctor.

Maybe you have been one of the lucky ones who has not been directly hit by this, but do not think there haven’t been effects. The Chamber of Commerce of Costa Rica has been reporting a loss of approximately $4.2 million each day. I personally hope for an agreement and a way to move forward for the Costa Rica we love.

Tina Newton is the owner and agent for Tristan & Newton Real Estate, based in Atenas, Costa Rica and has lived in Costa Rica for almost 20 years. She has a Master’s in Economics and is emphatic about sharing information with others who live here and are thinking of moving here. She is the President of the Chamber of Tourism and Commerce in Atenas and Supporting Solutions for Atenas, CR, Inc. and has founded many charitable organizations in the town. She has raised two children and now a grandchild in Costa Rica and she is always willing to answer any questions about moving to Costa Rica or living abroad. You can contact her at and through her company website at

How we limit our Personal Growth by Being Judgmental

How can we improve our personal growth?  By not being so judgmental.

Let’s face it.  We all feel superior.  We feel that our culture and our ways are better than all others and we look down our noses at other ways of doing things.  Admit it, we all do.

Why?  Because we feel comfortable with our way of doing things.  We were taught the way to do it or discovered our way of doing it and therefore, that is the RIGHT way to do it.  Everyone else is silly or stupid because they don’t do it our way.

Well, living in another country has taught me that I don’t always know the best way of doing things.  What I found out is that you should first watch, then ask, then try, and then decide.

When my daughter was a small baby of about two months old, I was walking in the neighborhood, slipped on loose gravel, and went down with her in my arms.  I put out my elbow since I couldn’t let go of her, and my elbow took the brunt of the fall.  However, her forehead lightly brushed the ground and everyone from the neighborhood came running.  Being that they were all Costa Ricans and speaking Spanish and I had only been in the country a short time, I had no idea what was being said.  One of the ladies went running into her house and came back with a jar of honey.  I looked at her as if she were nuts while she put honey on my daughter’s forehead.  Knowing that the honey would do no harm, I allowed it, but really did think they were crazy.  Later, it was explained to me that honey keeps the swelling down, reduces bruising, and is a natural antiseptic.  I googled it, and yep, it really is.  Good stuff.  But there I was judging something that I didn’t understand.  Had she been standing there with hydrogen peroxide or an antiseptic spray, I would have never thought about it.

When I built my house in Costa Rica, I insisted on wooden baseboards and our gypsum ceilings, both to save costs and because it was what I was accustomed to.  Luckily, one of the ladies explained to me that since we have to mop to clean the floors, the baseboards would get wet and nasty and that the bugs in Costa Rica love to get into the wood and eat it away.  She suggested putting a baseboard of the same ceramic tile and she was exactly right.  Unfortunately, I didn’t ask for advice on the ceiling and we’ve had to repair it several times as it just doesn’t work well in the humidity and with the movement from the earthquakes.  My superior thinking just didn’t allow me to consider other options.

Over the years, it has been a process of give and take.  I have shown the lady who helps me deep clean my house a few things and she has taught me way more.   We come down to Costa Rica thinking we can help or maybe just enjoy the lifestyle.  Very quickly, we get frustrated because things aren’t done in our ways.  We try to help and show them how things can be done better.  And in many ways, we do help… a lot.  I know that in Atenas, we have put on a lot of events to raise money for charities and to help the community.  The locals see this and have commented about how great this is and as a consequence, I’ve seen other groups start to try to discover solutions rather than just asking the government to fix it.  I’ve seen growth in the arts since I had the community center, Su Espacio, 15 years ago.  Now, Su Espacio no longer exists, but there is a new dance studio with far more students than I ever imagined and it is run by young ticos.

From traveling around the world, I like to think I have adapted little pieces from many of the cultures I have visited.  I have selected those things that I thought were great and even better than I would have normally done and incorporated them in little ways into my daily life.  I have simplified my life in some ways and enriched it in others.  I find it hard to see things in black and white anymore, everything is in a different shade of gray.

To grow as individuals, we have to stop being so judgmental and be open to new options in our lives as well as knowing when we may not have the solutions to all of the answers.  You must experience the unknown and the uncomfortable.  It is something I work on daily in Costa Rica, but I think it’s also something that can be taken and used within our own culture.  Even within our own culture, we are quick to judge others and I think it leads to much of the discomfort and anger that we see within the United States.  So, maybe we can take that same thought process and apply it everywhere:  watch, ask, try, and then decide. 

As a side note, in the university, I had to read a book called, “The Rise and Fall of Nations” (amazing that I still remember the name of it).  Interestingly enough, it actually dealt with the same issue but at a country level.  Once a country who is more advanced, stops improving and stops learning, because it feels it is the “best”, and other countries who are still struggling to figure out better ways to compete advance, you see the fall of the great nation and the rise of the other.  I think for us as individuals to continually grow, we also have to keep challenging ourselves and stop thinking we are superior.  Constant innovation is what it is all about.  Stop judging and start growing.  

Tina Newton is a Realtor in Atenas, Costa Rica, and owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate.  She is there to help you in all of your real estate and non-real estate decisions.  Any questions about moving to Costa Rica are welcome.  You can contact her at and check out the website at as well as on Facebook.


Doing Costa Rica on the Cheap

People come to Costa Rica for many different reasons and with many different budgets.  Costa Rica offers all levels of living from basic to ultra-luxurious.  If you are coming to retire in luxury and have unlimited funds, this blog post is not for you.  But, many people ask me how they can do Costa Rica on a strict budget, so that is the focus here.  Costa Rica is not the cheapest place to live, but most of the locals live on salaries ranging between $500 to $1000 per month, so if they can do it, why can’t you?  This is the most common question I get.  How can I live in Costa Rica on a minimum amount of money?  So, here is your answer.  Live like a local.

If you think you will come down and rent an American style home with three bedrooms, a pool, and a view on a minimum budget, think again.  If you truly have a strict budget, you have to be willing to give some things up.  How do the locals do it?

They own.  They don’t rent.  Most Costa Ricans own their land and have built a house on it which has been handed down for generations.  That eliminates the cost of housing which is a huge part of a budget.  When Costa Ricans do have to take out a mortgage in order to buy, you are looking at interest rates of over 10%, typically closer to 15%.  What that means is that the monthly payments are very high and if you happen to rent, you shouldn’t expect to pay less than what that mortgage payment would be.  Of course, unfurnished, basic Costa Rican homes will rent for far less than American-style homes, but you will give up hot water, gated residential areas, and the pool. 

So, what can you do?  If you have to rent, you can select older Costa Rican style homes, but you will have to buy some furniture.  You can often buy some used pieces from others in town or used furniture stores.  Also, get used to the “suicide showers” which are the nickname we use for the instant hot water showerheads.  The good thing about them is that you will never run out of hot water. 

Most Costa Ricans use minimal electricity.  Gas stoves are common and dryers are not, so the main electricity uses are the washer, lights, and refrigerator which should add up to no more than $30-40 per month.  Forget using an air conditioner, pool pump, or hot water tank which will quickly take your electricity bill up over $200.

Cook at home.  Food is expensive whether you go to out to eat or buy at the grocery store, but you can lower your costs by limiting meats and choosing local fruits and vegetables.

If you have the savings and plan on staying long-term, buy a home.  You can buy a local home and make improvements.  Many people will advise not buying if you are wanting to flip it quickly and that would be true.  But, if you will be here for a while and have enough saved up, invest it in a small home, make improvements, and let go of the luxuries.  You will save an immense amount on rent.  Make sure that you use a legitimate real estate agent who can advise you on the local prices and values so that you don’t overpay and can make sure that the home is legally owned and can be put into your name.  This will easily eliminate $1000 or more from your monthly bills, and if you are looking into luxury homes, it will save between $2000-$4000 per month.  That is huge.

I would never tell you to try to survive on $1000 per month.  Costa Ricans often live with multiple incomes under the same roof, so there might be two or three incomes chipping in.  But, if you are willing to give up a few luxuries, you can do it on a limited budget.

And if you have no budget, but kept reading anyway?  We have a lot of luxurious homes that will let you relax in splendor, whether you decide to rent or buy.

Tina Newton has lived in Atenas, Costa Rica for over 19 years and was a licensed Realtor in the States with Weigand and Sons.  Her business partner Cecilia Tristan is a bilingual lawyer and was one of the forming members of the Chamber of Real Estate of Costa Rica.    Their commitment to honesty and full service is their promise. You can contact Tina at, check out the website at and see the newest listings on Facebook.

When is a Recommendation just a Recommendation?

The real estate world can get a bit fuzzy on the difference between recommendations, referrals, and commission splits, especially in Costa Rica.  First of all, ALL services rely on recommendations.  A good recommendation is what we all hope for and need.  A bad recommendation can kill a business.  How is a good recommendation rewarded? Normally, through a big “thank you”, but maybe a dinner or discount on future business.  We all understand how important it is to receive these recommendations and those of us in the service business should always try to find a good way to reward recommendations. 

Referrals in the real estate business or in other businesses usually mean referrals between realtors or to related businesses.  For example, if I live in Costa Rica, but my client wants to find a home in Miami and I know of a good Realtor there, I might refer my client to that Realtor.  In this case, the fee for a real estate referral can vary, but it is typically 15% of the commission received when the client buys.  There are some agents that work this very well and can live off of the referrals without actually ever having to buy or sell a house themselves.  I have to admit, it’s one of the areas that I have to work on.  In referrals, the referring agent, gives all contact information to both sides and registers them as a referral.  No other work is necessary.

Split commissions occur when one agent represents a buyer and the other represents a seller to make the transaction.  Both sides work to make the deal.  For example, the buyer’s agent takes the buyer all around to see the homes, making suggestions, recommendations, and finding the right home.  Once this is done, the buyer’s agent makes an offer on behalf of the buyer, follows through, making sure that the buyer has all of the information about the home that is needed (registry, map of the land, etc).  The buyer’s agent represents the buyer through the whole process.  On the other side, the seller’s agent spends time and money representing and promoting the home that is for sale.  When contacted by the buyer’s agent, they make the appointments, show the home, share papers that are needed to the buyer’s agent, and so on.  In this case, the commission paid is shared 50/50 between the two parties. Simple.  It really only gets confusing when additional realtors want to get in the middle which is why they call them in Costa Rica “intermediaries”.    Does the commission get split three ways?  And what if there are more parties?  Usually the best way is to assume that anyone who started on the seller’s end, splits the seller’s half and anyone who started on the buyer’s end splits the buyer’s half.  Of course, everything can be negotiable, which is why there is a gray area.

However, it is important to recognize the difference between the three levels.  If you were to recommend your electrician, you would not (normally) go and ask for 50% of his payment to compensate for the recommendation.  You could have a deal with this person that you would actively recommend him/her for a referral fee which would be determined in advance.  So, if you let an agent know that your neighbor is selling his house, you are making a recommendation.  If you recommend someone on Facebook, it is a recommendation (a VERY appreciated one).  However, neither of these makes you obligated to receive 50% of the agent’s commission off of that sale.  To receive 50% of someone’s commission, you would have to actively represent in all ways the buyer or seller as mentioned above. 

I wish I could say that everyone understands the difference.  I have several locals who bring me copies of planos of people they know (many are related) that want to sell their properties, but they want me to advertise them in all ways, find a buyer, and then pay them 50% just for bringing this property to my attention.  When I explain that I would be willing to pay a referral fee, they get upset, but they aren’t willing or capable of doing any of the work.  I receive this on the buyer’s side as well.  Someone recommends a friend or relative and wants 50% of the commission.  Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY REALLY appreciate the recommendation, but it is still a recommendation although maybe it could fall into the referral category, but it isn’t a split commission.

How do you know if you qualify for a split commission?  The Chamber of Real Estate would make the argument that the person needs to be a registered agent–someone who pays taxes to the government on all commissions.  However, to be fair to those who might not be fully registered, I would just ask, “Will you be representing your client (buyer or seller) through the whole process?  Will you be working for your client and providing what is needed for him/her?  Or, will you really be passing your client off to me to represent them in the transaction?”  The answers to those questions determined the level of commission split.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all receive 50% of the income received from a recommendation?  I could get rich off of doctors and dentists!  Recommendations are so valuable and absolutely needed for any service provided.  I promise to always try to let you know how much I do appreciate every recommendation I get and I also appreciate the understanding that  it is my job and I do have to feed my family. 

Tina Newton has lived in Atenas, Costa Rica for over 19 years and was a licensed Realtor in the States.  Her business partner Cecilia Tristan is a bilingual lawyer and was one of the forming members of the Chamber of Real Estate of Costa Rica.    Their commitment to honesty and full service is their promise. You can contact Tina at, check out the website at and see the newest listings on Facebook.




Solutions for your Water Problems

Water problems.  Boy do we have them in all shapes and sizes in Costa Rica.  I was presented with two terrific water solution options the other day that I just have to pass along.  One involves battling mineral buildup in your pipes and the second is trying to find better ways to keep your pool clean.

Have you had problems with your water pressure going down?  Are you tired of trying to clean off the limestone that gathers on your shower head, tiles and doors?  Does your skin feel dry?  The hard water, which is so common in Costa Rica and has lots of hard minerals are causing these problems.  20171109_102132Over time, your pipes can get closed off from the mineral buildup inside them.  This requires replacement of pipes which can get very expensive.  I hadn’t had any recommendations or heard of real solutions to this problem until I was presented with the Calmat system the other day.

The Calmat system is now being offered right here in Atenas and it is an efficient and relatively inexpensive option for your home. Way less expensive than replacing your pipes. This eco-friendly system doesn’t use chemicals or salt and can work on all types of pipes.  I don’t want to confuse anyone or misquote the way it works, but it basically changes the shape of the calcium particles so that they flow on through your pipes instead of getting stuck along the way.  No minerals are actually removed; the flavor of your water is not changed. You simply don’t get the buildup or rust that the minerals cause.  20171109_101755The system saves money on the pipes themselves, but the softer acting water means that cleaning materials such as laundry detergent and shampoos work better as well so you can use less.  Your water pressure will also return over time, because not only does it prevent more buildup, but it slowly eliminates the current buildup. It really is amazing.

The estimated cost for a smaller home is around $650 plus installation at $50 (any needed materials are extra but like the install are not expensive) or you can install it yourself. It is quite simple if you are the least bit handy around the house, and it is guaranteed for 5 years (when installed properly) with an estimated life of 30 years which comes to about $2/month (while saving your pipes, shower heads and faucets.) Operating costs are less than $5 to around $7 per year depending on which unit you need.  It is manufactured in Germany which alone lends confidence in its quality.   I really think it should be installed from the beginning in every home that is built.  For me, this is a truly worthy investment.

The secondary issue is with trying to keep pools clean.  It is a constant battle.  Using chemicals is awful and expensive, but if you don’t, the maintenance is impossible.  What if you could throw a little floating device in your pool and it could use the sun’s rays to ai20171109_100114.jpgd in disinfecting the water and prevent algae buildup?  You can!  This device by Hilltop Solar uses solar panels on a floating device to generate direct electrical current (about 2 watts) which ionizes metal from an anode to aid in disinfecting the water.  The cost savings alone in reduced pool chemical costs and reduced electricity is expected to give a recuperation of its costs in just a few months. Imagine the savings you might realize. All for less than $200 total out of pocket. Yes, you still have to do a little cleaning, but it greatly reduces the time and chemicals needed.

I rarely promote products in my blog, but when I hear of something that works so well for complaints that I hear all of the time, the information should be passed along so that everyone has the opportunity to check into it.  The fabulous part is that both of these products are now handled by a distributor right here in Atenas.  Jim Livingston is bringing them in direct so you don’t even have to worry about importing them or installing them correctly.  You can contact him at or 6032-2195.  I truly hope that many of you will take advantage of this opportunity. If you contact Jim and mention you heard about his products here, he will give you 50% off the cost of the labor for installation if you complete your purchase before Dec. 31, 2017.

Tina Newton is a part-owner and agent of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Atenas, Costa Rica.  She has lived here for almost 19 years and is always open to answering any questions real-estate or non-real-estate related.  You can contact her at, on the Facebook page, or through the website. 

What NOT to Expect from your Real Estate Agent

We know what to expect from a real estate agent.  Prompt responses, promotion, and the sale of your home (or the purchase of the home of your dreams).  Unfortunately, all of us in the field of real estate have been asked at one time or another to do things that are above and beyond our line of duty.  For the most part, we are friendly people and want to help our clients.  However, there are many times that requests go way beyond our field of expertise or are just ways of getting things for free that the correct professional would charge for.  Doctors and lawyers get to charge for each visit.  Real estate agents are expected to receive nothing beyond the commission from the sale.  Unfortunately in Costa Rica real estate, where non-exclusive contracts rule, an agent might be lucky to actually complete a sale on one in ten listings.  So a lot of work goes in on properties that the agent will never receive a cent on.  That’s okay, it’s part of the life of anyone on commission.  It’s an accepted fact.  But there are many things that are not part of the responsibilities (at least for free) of your agent. 

1)       Official translations.  Of course, an agent should try to translate anything that you need to understand your sell or purchase.  However, if you want an official document translated with official power, you need to hire an official translator, a bilingual lawyer, or at least pay your real estate agent if he/she has the capacity to serve as an official translator.  This includes documents before a sale/purchase, but ESPECIALLY afterwards.  Months after a sale or rental, a real estate agent should not be expected to continue translating documents for free.

2)      Real Estate Management.  If you hire and pay an agent to manage your property, perfect.  But, just because you list a property for sale, your agent is not expected to maintain your property, pay your bills, and get your home repaired for free.  An agent is expected to report to you if they see a problem in your home that needs to be corrected, such as a leaky roof, and they can recommend someone for you if you don’t know who to call.  But if you expect the agent to call the repair person, oversee the job, and confirm that all is done well, you need to pay them for that time.

3)      Rental oversight.  An agent is hired to find a renter (or buyer), not to oversee the whole duration of the rental contract.  Once the contract is signed and the commission for the rental is paid, the working relationship is finished.  The owner and renter need to communicate directly to resolve issues or go to a lawyer if there are problems.  It is not the agent’s responsibility to collect rent, collect money for bills, and resolve issues between the two parties.  Again, we like to help, but please do not overstep your bounds.  If a translator is required, hire a translator.

4)      After the sale—transfer of utilities.  The agent is not responsible for the transfer of all utilities into the new owner’s name.  Of course, the agent will try to assist as much as possible to make sure that all of the new information is gathered and delivered to the new owners and point them in the right direction, but he/she should not be expected to sit for hours in offices walking through the whole process and translating the whole time, at least, not for free.  If your agent is willing to do this for you, at least buy them lunch.

5)      After the sale—continued negotiations between buyer and seller.  After the sale is complete, your agent’s job is done.  The buyer and seller have each other’s contact information and they can communicate directly.  Of course an agent will do his/her best to make sure that there is whatever contact needed, but again, it is not the agent’s job to spend the next six months translating between the new and old owners. 

6)      Banking and residency.  An agent wants to help you get set up in your move down or your preparation for a purchase.  Getting a bank account and residency is part of this.  However, if you want your agent to go with you and translate and help you maneuver every step of the way, you need to pay him/her for this. 

7)      Collection of bills.  When closing occurs, the agent should have confirmed with the municipality that all taxes have been paid and are up to date on the property.  The owner also confirms that all bills are paid and up to date.  However, if someone appears months after the sale of a property and says that the owner didn’t pay other bills (private trash pickup, pool maintenance, etc), it is not the responsibility of the agent to collect these bills, nor pay them out of the commission received.  The agent can give contact information for the owner, but is not responsible for bill collection.

8)      Babysitting, dog sitting, or plant sitting.  If you want a recommendation, great.  If you want to pay for these services, fine.  But to ask an agent to do these for free is not acceptable.  Can you imagine watering plants for 250 houses that are up for sale at a time?  When would we have time to do our jobs of trying to find buyers for your homes?

I know everyone is thinking is that agents get paid a large commission on the sale of a house and they should do anything needed for the client.  Please keep these things in mind: 

a)       Buyers and sellers are not locked in to one agent, so for all the work that an agent does to sell or help with the search of a property, the buyer/seller may be working with 5 or more different agents and so it’s very possible that the sale/purchase will end up going to another agent in the end.  All of the gas, time, and advertising money spent does not get reimbursed as there is no commission.   It’s part of the commission game and agents do what they can to keep the client and make the sale happen for that reason.

b)      Commissions are very rarely kept by only one person.  Usually, there are two companies involved, then there is the split among the office, so the final commission passed along to the agent is relatively small. 

Agents understand that the majority of costs will never be reimbursed and that is what the job is about. However, what this blog boils down to is…if you were to call the appropriate parties to do a job and you would be charged for it, then don’t expect your real estate agent to do it for free.  It’s not fair.  There are limits.

Tina Newton has lived in Costa Rica for over 18 years and is part-owner and real estate agent with Tristan & Newton Real Estate.  You can contact her with any questions about life in Costa Rica, moving abroad, or buying a home here.  She highly appreciates her fabulous clients who do pay for the extra services she provides.  Cecilia Tristan is her partner in the business and is a bilingual attorney who specializes in residencies, property transfers, and transitioning to Costa Rica.  The Tristan & Newton blog tries to address many current issues in Costa Rica and the website and Facebook pages have all of the current homes in the area listed for sale or for rent.

The Best Kept Secret in Costa Rica–San Mateo

What is the best kept secret in Costa Rica?  The San Mateo area.  “Why?” you ask.  Well, I’ll let you in on the secret if you promise not to tell.

The news is out about the new Orotina airport going in.  Property values around the airport and along Highway 27 have skyrocketed in the anticipation.  But the focus has been on the Southwest side of the highway.  The best secret is on the other side, to the Northeast.  The area of San Mateo has, so far, been ignored.  From Desmonte to Esparza, this area is close to highway 1, just minutes to Highway 27 at the Orotina entrance and it’s on the other side of the planned airport location.  It’s perfect, even now, for all of the businesses and people who will be working on the construction of the airport.  And guess what??  It’s still cheap!  And I mean CHEAP!  Land for as low as $7 per meter squared.

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This area is so close to everything and there are bargains, as well as luxury properties, to choose from.  It is the little area that will explode, as soon as the secret is out.



Some of the fabulous homes and properties in this area:

20170930_083749 (Copy).jpgSan Mateo land, starting at $9.50/m2.  Each have 4 hectares (more than 40,000 m2) , which can be divided.  Both have electricity and water access.  One has a a paved road all the way to the property which is located only 700 meters from the central church and soccer field in Labrador.  Hundreds of fruit trees and both howler and white-faced monkeys make the creek area their home.  The other property is located right on the road between San Mateo and Orotina.  Flat land for building or dividing into lots, and a beautiful creek that runs along the base.  Each of them is priced at $400,000.

Casa Metamorphosis_pq_Florian Kuster-119 (Copy)EcovillaA Utopia in Costa Rica.  Incredible and unique homes that are located in an eco-friendly and self-sustaining neighborhood.  There is a great alternative school and homes of every style.  A common swimming pool and yoga platform as well as a rancho for entertaining too.  MLW-triskel-2622 (Copy)The community has a common garden in which the vegetables are distributed to the neighborhood.  Homes for sale in this neighborhood start at $285,000.



Villa Adriana.  002 (Copy)Two fabulous homes OUR HOUSE orotina (Copy)for sale in this amazing neighborhood located just off the main road between San Mateo and Esparza.  One is a great family home and the other is an estate with a mansion, a guest house, a guest dormitory with room for a large group, and two swimming pools.

Vista Mar.  Just minutes from Orotina but on lots with breathtaking views.  This neighborhood is on the mountain between Desmonte and Orotina so it has fresh mountain breezes and views both to the ocean and over the central valley.  Two homes and a lot are up for sale.  The lot is only $100,000 and the homes have fabulous pools and views to die for while being very well-priced, starting at $450,000.

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Esparza.  A great 4 bedroom family home in a quiet neighborhood minutes to downtown Esparza is only $320,000.  IMG-20160331-WA0002 (Copy)There are also two large properties which are perfect for developments available starting at $7/m2.  One is 4.6 hectares for $320,000 and the other is $10/m2 for 5.5 hectares.  Again, really great bargains and in areas that are minutes to the beach or the new airport.  Just off of Highway 1 and easy access to Highway 27.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in Kansas with a master’s in International Economics and Sustainable Development and is now an agent and co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Costa Rica. She has resided in Atenas, Costa Rica for over 18 years and has raised two children and now a grandbaby there. She is always open to answering any questions about living in Costa Rica or buying/selling /renting a home there. You can contact her by email, through the Facebook page, or through the website.

In the Eyes of the Buyer

Ok Sellers, we are officially in a Buyer’s market in Costa Rica. So, when you put your home on the market, you have to look through the Buyer’s eyes.

1) Price. When searching for homes in the general area, is your home priced within that range, or even at the lower end for a quick sale, or are you priced above and beyond? Even if your home is nicer, you have to look at your competition because the buyers are. That is….if you really want to sell.

2) Curb and internet appeal. Even before someone drives up, your photos online are what will capture a potential buyer’s interest. Is your home appealing to the eye? A little paint or a few flowers can go a long way. Professional photos can also be very helpful, although even making sure that your home is clean and de-cluttered to make the photos nicer, can be all that is needed. Buyers no longer want to be taken blindly to various homes. They want to see photos, know exactly where it is located, and every detail before they waste their time.

3) Once you’ve been able to capture a prospective buyer, comes the showing. Be ready to show when needed and cooperate. If a buyer wants to see the house on a certain day, try to make it happen. Because if not, they will see everything else on the market except yours. Which means, you don’t really want to sell.

4) Don’t be there. Let your agent walk them through the house pointing out all of the extras and the wonderful features that your home has. If you follow them through the house, even if you don’t say anything, the buyers feel uncomfortable because it is YOUR home. We want them to see it as THEIR home. They need to be able to vision their things there and that may include opening closet doors and measuring areas which are things they won’t feel comfortable doing if you are there. Even if you are the best host ever, buyers will feel like guests, not buyers. Questions can be answered for them after the showing if the Realtor doesn’t know the answer on the spot.

5) Take your pets with you. They may be loving members of the family, but not all buyers are pet lovers and some may be allergic. In addition, as much as I love dogs, having them jump all over me and my car upon arrival is not pleasant and distracts from the home. Have your Realtor call you when he/she is on the way and then take your pets out for a walk during the showing.

6) A clean home is a welcoming home. You may not see the mess or feel that people will understand that you have kids in the home, but they won’t. A dirty, or stinky, house will have people leaving before they even look around and appreciate what you have underneath. Do a quick wipe-down of the sinks and have a covered basket that you can quickly toss things into. And do a quick spray with an air freshener. You may have gone “nose blind” to your smells, but others will identify those smells quickly.

7) Keep in touch with your Realtor to see if you need to change something or to report if you have already changed something. As much as it would be fabulous if every Realtor were able to check back with you each week, it’s just often not possible. They are out there looking for your Buyers, promoting homes, and looking for potential leads. Getting a report back from them is important, but be proactive and check in with them too. It’s a team effort.

In the end, it IS a team effort. A Realtor is rarely a miracle worker. Your efforts will help make your home the most presentable home on the market and easier to sell. Forget that this is your home and look through the eyes (and nose) of the buyer as THEIR next home.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in Kansas and is now an agent and co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Costa Rica. She has resided in Atenas, Costa Rica for over 18 years and has raised two children and now a grandbaby there. She is always open to answering any questions about living in Costa Rica or buying/selling /renting a home there. You can contact her by email, through the Facebook page, or through the website.

The 10 Secrets to Happiness

Living in Costa Rica, which has often been rated as the “Happiest Country on Earth”, has taught me a few things about finding happiness.  It’s not about living in a tropical paradise.  It’s about finding peace within.

1)      Don’t wish for a different path in the past.  Use the past only to help guide you in the future, not to keep you stuck there and wishing for something that is gone.  Don’t sit and wish how things should have been done differently.  Again, let past mistakes give you experience to apply in decisions for the future, but changing one decision in the past would prevent your present and no one knows what that other present would be like.  Let it go.

2)      Don’t live only for the future.  Although it is important to set aside funds for the future, don’t forget your present by denying yourself everything for the plan of enjoying the future.  We don’t know what the future will hold.  We don’t know if we will be around to enjoy the future.  We don’t know if the people we care about will be around to enjoy the future with us.  Don’t wait until “tomorrow” to give the time needed to a loved one.  Life is short.  So, don’t leave all great experiences for the “future.”

3)      Live in the present.  Don’t live for the past nor for the future, but open your eyes, ears, and heart to the present.  For example, how we treat a child each and every day affects the child’s future.  Taking time each day to look around and be “here”, in the present and being your best each and every day.

4)      Don’t wish for someone else’s life.  The grass is always greener on the other side.  Don’t think that everyone else’s life is so much better.  Everyone has problems and until you have walked in their shoes, you have no idea the trials that person is going through.  We see it every day with suicides of the rich and famous, in these lives that appear perfect.  Celebrate the successes of others so that it makes you happy instead of letting jealousy bring you down.

5)      Enjoy what you have.  Right along with living in the present means appreciating everything you have.  The people you have and the life you have.  Find something every day to be happy about and give that significance in your life.

6)      Get rid of anything and everything that doesn’t allow you to be happy.  That means cutting off contacts that make you feel bad and blocking Facebook people who get you all riled up.  My great-grandmother stopped watching the news because it was only about wars that were happening around the world or other terrible things that she couldn’t do anything about.  So, she stopped stressing herself out and never turned on the news again.  She focused on local efforts and within our family where she made a difference every day.  I doubt any of us could be quite that absolute with our need for news, but you get the idea.

7)      Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you.  Positive people who both help you see the great things in your life and are willing to be with you in all of the low times but to see you out of the rough times, not to keep you down in it.

8)      When something bad happens, see the good side in it if possible.  If I am waiting in a long line at the bank, at least I am in air conditioning in a chair instead of standing in a line in the heat.

9)      Spread happiness.  If something hasn’t happened to make you happy, send something nice to someone else.  Giving creates happiness.  Saying something nice to someone or helping someone naturally gives you a sense of happiness.  Being grumpy spreads negativity.

10)   Pura Vida!  C’est la vie!  Sh– happens.  That’s life.  The ability to get hit with an unpleasant situation and to be able to throw up your hands and use one of the above expressions is one of the reasons that Costa Ricans can be so happy.  Don’t get mad.  Shake your head, laugh, and move on.  Pura Vida!


Tina Newton is an Oklahoma girl who has spent the last eighteen years living in Costa Rica.  She has raised her two children and wonderful grandbaby there.  She originally studied international relations with an emphasis on the Former Soviet Union and then finished with a Master’s in International Economics and Development at Oklahoma State University.  After working as an analyst for a while, she felt the need to get out and help people and so she got certified as a Realtor in Kansas.  Upon moving to Costa Rica, she opened and ran a community center, “Su Espacio” for 10 years, tried out another stint in the corporate world at Proctor & Gamble, and then came back to doing what makes her happy in the field of real estate.  Finding homes and guiding people in the process is what she enjoys.  She is always available to answer questions about living in Costa Rica.  You can send her an email, catch her on the Facebook page, or send a message through the website for Tristan & Newton Real Estate.