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.