How do you find a GOOD Realtor in Costa Rica?

A good realtor will find you exactly what you want for the price you want or help you determine if your wants are completely out of check with reality.  A good realtor will help you negotiate the deal and make sure that the property is completely legitimate.  A good realtor will help you with advice on good , dependable people you will need to make your home buying complete—a great lawyer, architects, builders, or repair people.  So, you know that you NEED a Realtor in Costa Rica, but obviously you don’t want someone who will cheat you or rip you off.  So, how do you find a GOOD realtor in Costa Rica?  Ask around.  Ask the potential agents directly.  Do your homework.

1.       Start by checking to see if they are with the Chamber of Real Estate (www.camara.cr).  The Chamber offers classes to its members and helps to legitimize the crazy number of people running around claiming to be real estate agents.  A serious business and agent will be registered.

2.       Experience.  What kind of experience does the agent have?  What kind of training have they had, either in Costa Rica or in another country? 

3.       Knowledge.  The agent needs to have knowledge of the market to be able to give you advice on prices and areas to buy and sell.  He/she also needs to have knowledge of issues in the area, such as water or electricity and knowledge of the people in the field that you will need to depend on in the future.  In addition, the agent needs to know how to read plot maps, registry papers, and understand the basics of the laws related to real estate.  Even though a lawyer will handle the actual transfer, your real estate agent will be your front line person helping you sort through properties before you get to the point of putting in an offer and going through a lawyer.

4.       Paperwork.  The agent cannot be someone who does everything on someone’s word or a handshake.  I have seen so many deals fall through because there was an oral agreement and a couple of weeks later the seller reconsiders the amount they had negotiated and wants a higher price.  Everything from an initial offer to the contract should be done in writing with signatures from both sides and the property properly defined.  Everything from closing costs to furniture that stays should be listed.  Having everything very clear up front will reduce confusions and anger later.

5.       Dedication.  The agent should be a full-time agent who deals in the market every day, not someone who does it on the side or is really just an intermediary, meaning they hear of a property and do a matchmaking deal without investigating the property.  In addition to dedication to the job, the agent should be dedicated to you whether you are selling or buying a property.  You need someone who is constantly looking for the buyer or seller for your home.

6.       Works with other realtors.  The agent should be someone who doesn’t focus on receiving the most commission possible by showing only homes they personally have listed.  If you are a buyer, you want someone who is checking for sale by owners and with other agents to see if they might have listed the perfect home for you rather than forcing you to accept one of their own listings.

7.       Access to homes.  The agent should be someone who can search online for your home, but also have the local connections to be able to investigate among the locals to have the widest search option available.

8.       Creativity.  The agent should have both the knowledge on how to make a deal work but also the creativity to investigate new options.   There could be an option for a swap or owner financing that hadn’t been considered.  If the owner really wants to sell, and the buyer really wants to buy the property, then there should be a way to make it work.

9.       THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL—TRUST.  You must be able to trust your agent.  The name of the company doesn’t really matter in the world of real estate where agents are independent.  The name of the person does.  So, search for recommendations.  Get recommendations from people who know the agent, both as an agent and as a person in the community.  The agent must be respected and known to be honest.  In this way, you can not only trust the agent for your purchase, but can also trust the agent to give you good recommendations for other professionals that you will need.

Interview potential agents.  Talk to them and ask them all kinds of questions.  If the agent doesn’t like being interviewed, then trust may be an issue.  The agent should be glad to show you how dedicated and worthy he/she is of your time.  Because your time is valuable.  You are important.   And you should only have the best.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in the States and has lived in Costa Rica for 18 years.  She is co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate with her business partner Cecilia Tristan who has been a broker in Costa Rica for 40 years and is an attorney and notary public with the firm Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan.  They are always available to answer your questions on real estate and life in Costa Rica in general.  Relocation is their specialty with everything under one roof.  Check out the website, Facebook page, or send them an email.

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Why you really NEED a Realtor when buying property in Costa Rica

Sometimes being a Realtor is not the most respected profession.  I understand that there are lots of people out there, and especially in Costa Rica, who are not professional, are crooks, and don’t know what they are doing.  And therefore, I halfway understand when a local says they don’t need a real estate agent and will go directly to the owner.  However, when I hear a foreigner say that they want to buy a property directly from a local with no agents involved, I shiver.  What can go wrong?  After 18 years of living here and hearing horror stories, here are five things that can go VERY wrong.

1)       You could end up paying WAY more than the property is valued.  You don’t know the value of the land.  Every local will tell you that the property is “ganga” or cheap, even if they’ve priced it at $1,000,000.  I adore this country, but I have been told so many times by locals that they will put a high price on it and eventually someone will come along and pay it.  A good realtor will know the value of the land and other properties in the market.

2)      You might have bought a property that can never be transferred into your name.  Well, maybe NEVER is an exaggeration, but it could easily take 10 years in the courts.  You don’t know if the person who says they are selling the property is truly the owner in the registry.  Sometimes, it could be someone out to fraud someone, but often it is people who honestly believe they own the property and don’t.  How?  A grandson has inherited his grandfather’s property, but nothing was ever changed in the registry, and the grandfather has passed away so there is no one to sign over the property to you.  Or, there was a divorce and the property is no longer in the person’s name who is trying to sell it.

3)      You might have bought a property with liens and mortgages attached.  You could have bought a property that only has rights to half of it, or a mortgage that hasn’t been taken off the registry.  Even if a mortgage is paid, it must be requested by a lawyer for it to be taken off of the registry.  These must be cleared before you consider buying a property.

4)      You might have bought a property with concessions, allowing roads to be widened or high tension electrical wires to run right through your property.  Sometimes these are on the registry papers and sometimes they aren’t and it’s important to know what is going on in the community to know.  Imagine buying a property in Orotina that will be directly next to the new airport. 

5)      Can you live without water?  Unless you have been in the area for an extended period of time, you don’t know which areas have good access to water and which ones get shut off for hours at a time.  You very well could be buying into a development with no water rights at all.  And forget building anything if you don’t have water approval.

Now, it’s true, not every agent out there will check on these things in advance.  They should have, but not all will.  So, it is important to know your Realtor, get recommendations and ask these questions.  If they can’t produce a copy of the registry and plano (plot) for each home you want to see, be careful.  But to say outright that you don’t want to use any Realtor for the transaction is like going into surgery without a surgeon or going into court defending yourself in a murder trial.  NOT recommended.  Will you save money if the owner doesn’t have to pay the commission?  Look at number one.  If you are paying the market rate or better, wouldn’t you prefer that to paying double?  The seller pays the commission so even if you look for properties with an agent and decide not to buy, you don’t pay anything.  So, do your research and select someone who can truly help you and guide you in the Costa Rican jungle.  It’s worth your weight in gold.

Tina Newton who is part-owner of Tristan & Newton real estate is always glad to help you in the search for a home, to sell a home, or even to just answer any questions you have about living in Costa Rica.  Check out the website, facebook page, or send a direct email to find the home of your dreams.