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.


Spring Cleaning in Costa Rica

Now that “winter” or the rainy season is heading out and “summer” or the dry season (and high season) is heading in, it’s time to do some serious spring cleaning. The rains can do damage and leave everything smelly and moldy.  So, to prepare your house for the high season, it is important to do a little “spit shining”.  What to do and where to start?

Start from the top and work your way down.

1)      Check the roofs and the gutters to make sure all is in good shape and that there are no left over blockages in the gutters that will produce mosquitos until everything dries out completely.

2)      Check the ceilings for any spots that might have been caused by backed up gutters in the heaviest rains or from mold which can build up just from the humidity in the air.  Replace, clean, or repair.

3)      Check the paint inside and out.   Are there areas that might have been damaged or need a bit of refreshing?  Even a good scrubbing can take away some muddy dog prints that might have been left on the walls.

4)      Check in and behind the furniture and closets.  ALL of it.  Especially with wooden or leather furniture, mold can hide behind from the humidity and smell really bad.  For some people, they won’t even know what is wrong but will get a sudden headache from being in your home and it might be something you don’t see but is lurking behind the furniture or inside drawers.  Personally, I wipe it down and Lysol it as that is supposed to kill most mold spores.  I’m sure there are other options out there as well.

5)      Air everything out.  Things just get stuffy in the wet season.  Air out mattresses and covers.

6)      A deep down scrubbing on the floor will get the tracked in mud out and then you will be back to just sweeping and mopping dust again.  Don’t forget the entry way and the front and back porch areas as well.  The cleanliness of your home is seen long before anyone steps in the front door.

Now you know why the locals call the rainy season, winter.  So, in the transition month of November, get your cleaning gear out and prepare for the sale.  Spring cleaning, here we come!

Please add your own best cleaning tips and share them with everyone.  Tina is a Realtor and half-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate.  Feel free to send her any questions at her email and check out the properties in Costa Rica on the Facebook page (like to see the newest updates) or on the website.

Do you need residency to buy a house in Costa Rica?

No, you don’t.  Anyone can purchase a home with their passport or local identification (cedula).  However, living here on a tourist visa can be a hassle as you have to leave the country each 90 days and then return on a new tourist visa which is normally automatically renewed for 90 days for North Americans or Europeans.  Unfortunately, it is up to the agent at the counter for the length of renewal and you might assume you were renewed for 90 days and then look at it later and see only a 60 or even a 30 day renewal.  The government is also always threatening to crack down on “perpetual tourists” which are those that constantly enter and leave on a tourist visa.  It hasn’t really happened yet, but it’s always good to be prepared.

There are a few different ways to qualify for residency.  In my case, I was married to a Costa Rican and qualified in that way, but if you are not, then you have the “pensionista” or “rentista” options in which you must show a monthly income of $2500 per month or you can be an “inversionista” which means you have invested at least $200,000 in the country.  This can be in a business or by buying a home.  As I was writing this, a new Tico Times post just popped up on Facebook with the same general topic, so I’ll share the link here.

Applying  for residency requires some patience, but it’s much less stressful if you bring the needed documents in advance and if you have a trusted lawyer to file it all for you.  You will need your birth certificate, your marriage license, and a police report which need to be apostille or certified by the State Department office in your area or certified by the consulate.

Finding a great lawyer is a must in Costa Rica because basically all documents and processes require a lawyer in some way, including every property transaction.  You can also set up your own Costa Rican corporation which is very beneficial if you aren’t currently a resident.  For other processes, you might not need a lawyer, but having someone to represent you who speaks the language can make these tasks, such as opening a bank account, a lot easier.  Once you have gone in and tried to understand the logic and requirements in opening an account, you will understand completely.

Tristan & Newton Real Estate is always glad to help with all of the home purchasing and selling decisions and make everything go as smooth as possible.  Any questions you might have about real estate or living in Costa Rica in general, just email Tina or check out the website for more information.  For any legal or residency issues, Cecilia Tristan with Tristan & Newton and the law firm, Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan, is always available and enjoys guiding people through the process.  Both are bilingual (Spanish and English) and can help you in whichever language you feel more comfortable. 



The 5 Factors in Selling Your Home

If your house doesn’t sell immediately, it’s the fault of the Realtor, right?  Maybe partially, maybe not.

There are five main factors in why a house doesn’t sell right away. 

1)       Price.  If a home is not priced right, buyers won’t look at it, and it won’t sell.

Pricing above market values will not mean that people will look and negotiate, it means they won’t select it at all.  On the other hand, pricing way under the market will often trigger people to think there is something wrong with the property or it may not fall in the range that they are searching in.

2)      Market.  Even if a home is valued correctly, a down market may take a while to sell and the seller has to be patient.

If it is a down market and no one is buying, it won’t matter what price you have on your property (unless maybe you have it so low that is an irresistible bargain), because no one is buying.  You might want to wait to sell until the market picks up or just know that you have to wait it out.

3)      Realtor.  A Realtor has to keep promoting your property and not just hope that someone will see the listing the next day. 

It’s important that your realtor has your property out there and prepared for the right buyer.  In a down market, your realtor will have to be even more pro-active, doing what he/she can to be constantly searching  for buyers.  Check back with your realtor to see what they are doing, what new ideas they have, and how you, as the seller, can help.

4)      Seller.  Yes, the seller has a big role in whether a property sells quickly or not.

  • Agreeing to set a reasonable price based on the market is important.
  • Having the house in viewing conditions that will make the potential buyer want your home, not make them want to turn around and walk out.
  • Having incentives such as financing or other kinds of assistance when the market is low.
  • Being  flexible with offers or trying to come to an agreement when possible.
  • Letting people know and getting the word out.  Some of the best potential buyers are neighbors and friends and building the “social network” of those that know it is for sale. 

I once had a seller tell me that they wanted to sell their house “discreetly”.  I had to ask what they meant by that because I don’t know how to market something “discreetly”.  I was told “no internet, no MLS, no sign, and no photos”, so basically I could only offer the house to my current buyers looking for that exact house.  I told them I couldn’t do it.  Of course, I would know it was for sale if I had a direct buyer looking for exactly that, BUT I couldn’t in good faith offer to “sell” their house and represent it without actually marketing it and there was no point in getting a bad reputation for not being able to sell the home when I had my hands tied behind my back the whole time.  Cooperation between seller and agent is important.

5)       Luck.  Yep, luck.  Sometimes, just having the timing and good luck to have a buyer come along at exactly the time you put your home on the market can make all the difference in the world.

And if all goes well, you can put that SOLD sign on your property too!  Contact Tina at TrBroyles SOLDistan & Newton or on the website or Facebook for listings of properties or any questions you have.

What happens when you tell an agent that your home is for sale?

20160325_120347 (Copy)When you call up an agent and say that your property is for sale, it just magically goes out to the world, right?   Nope.  The number of steps that it takes to get your property out to the world depends on your agent.  Some agents might just hear of a property and start publicizing, but it is very important that certain steps be followed.  Does it take more time?  The amount of time actually depends on the owner and what documents have been gathered in advance.

1)       Call the agent and inform them that you are thinking of putting your home on the market.  It is very important to have someone who is a member of the Chamber of Real Estate of Costa Rica so that you have someone who follows the appropriate steps and can be held responsible.

2)      The agent should visit the property, make suggestions for preparing your home for sale, and discuss price.  If further market research needs to be made to give a good market value, that should be done after this first viewing of the home

3)      The plot of the property (plano) and name and i.d. number that the property is registered under should be given at this time to the agent   This is one of the most important steps.  Why?  The property needs to be confirmed that all is legally in the system and matches.  If this is not done, then you could have a buyer who cannot legally purchase your property due to an error in the system or a previous sale never being updated.  On the buying side, it is very important that you are working with agents that have done the due diligence and made sure that everything is legally correct and ready to sell.  If everything is up to date and correct, then the property can be sold immediately.  However, if not, then this can take time  so it is important to have it checked up front and not when there is a buyer standing on the porch.20160401_142426 (Copy)

4)      Photos can be taken during this first meeting if the house is ready for sale or at a later appointment if things need to be fixed or cleaned.  Remember these photos will go out to the world, so taking photos when the house is not ready for showing will give a bad image to potential buyers and limit the number of people who will want to see your home.  Having professional photos or drone photos can be a great option as well, but make sure they are realistic.  Gorgeous photos followed by disappointment at the reality of a home rarely results in an offer.

5)      A contract should be signed by the owner and agent determining commission, ways of advertising (sign or no sign, internet, etc), and giving permission to the agent to publicize and sell your property.  Whether you decide to go with an exclusive contract (where you have one agent who represents you) or a non-exclusive contract (where you contact all agents and only the one who brings the buyer gets the commission), this should be done so that there are no misunderstandings at the time of a closing.  All costs should be mentioned in the contract including commission and sales taxes.  The contract should be very specific about the owner and property as well so there is no confusion later.

6)      As soon as the contract is signed, the property can be placed in the MLS (Multiple Listing System) and other advertising methods and your home is out to the world.

pool at night (Copy)How long does this process take?  If you have your home ready for photos and the documents on hand when the Realtor visits, it should only take a couple of days maximum to get everything ready and put together.  So, it all depends on you and the follow-up of your agent.  So, get the right Realtor and get everything ready and you will be on your way to the sale of your house.

Tristan & Newton Real Estate works directly with the Consortium Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan Legal Firm to make sure everything is ready for your sale.  For further details, feel free to contact Tina at Tristan & Newton,, or through the Facebook page.  The website and YouTube videos have more information about Tristan & Newton Real Estate and properties as well.