“Three years ago we wanted to sell our big house in San Ramón de Tres Ríos (east of San José) and move into something smaller and more affordable,” said Melvin Pereira. After dozens of visits from prospective buyers, Pereira and his wife succeeded. But they didn’t do it alone.
Rather than go through a real estate agency, Pereira placed an advertisement in 4 Sale By Owner, a free monthly magazine and Web site through which anyone looking for a home to buy or rent in Costa Rica can get in touch directly with homeowners and land developers.
“We help market the properties and what we offer is to expose them in all the ways that people are looking – through Web sites, the magazine and with yard signs,” said 4 Sale’s general manager, Vanessa Pardo. But unlike agencies, which typically charge about 5% of the selling price, here sellers pay for ad space. “We’re a one-stop-and-shop place,” Pardo said. “Give us your pictures and your info and we’ll post you everywhere.”
Perhaps not everywhere, but in addition to supermarkets, pharmacies, car rental agencies and other businesses around the country, the magazine can also be found in some pretty far-off spots.
“The family that bought my house in Escazú (the western suburb) was from Venezuela,” said Liliana Quintero, another happy customer. “They discovered the house in a 4 Sale magazine sitting in the Costa Rican Embassy in Venezuela.”
It took Quintero just one month after placing an ad last November to sell. It had taken much longer with previous sales when she used an agency, she said. After Quintero followed advice from a friend to try Pardo’s by-owner system, she got quick results.
Online, at www.forsalebyownercostarica.com, homeowners or developers can fill out a form describing the specs and finer points of the property, offering up to six photos that serve as a virtual tour for interested buyers.
Upon receiving a confirmation e-mail, payment for various ad sizes is arranged.
The company wouldn’t divulge the cost for publication, but said there are two rates, one for developers and another for individual properties. All packages include the ad in the magazine, a listing on the Web site, a yard sign and a how-to-sell seminar.
“With the Web site we give (sellers) a login and a password and they have full access to their listing; they can change their pictures and information whenever they like.
And then if they want a change in the magazine, they can just call us and let us know,” Pardo said. “What we want is to allow flexibility and make it easier for them to sell.”
Prospective buyers can search the Web site by houses, apartments/condominiums, commercial properties, farms, lots and international properties.
The San José-based company belongs to the U.S. For Sale By Owner Publishers Association, but Pardo said things work a little differently down here.
“It’s a whole other market and concept here. You have to Latinize the concept. In the States it’s all organized by addresses and Zip codes; we don’t have that here, so it’s kind of complicated,” she said.
She added that the Costa Rican company offers to run ads for a longer time.
“In the States some publishers will offer only one (magazine) edition because their market moves faster,” she said. “We allow your ad to run for four editions in the magazine, six months on the Web site, because your home will take longer to sell (here).”
The magazine advertises mainly mid- to upscale homes, according to Pardo.
A pointer to prospective buyers: “Usually people will overprice (the home they’re selling), then they adjust and end up lowering the price eventually,” Pardo said.
More tips, she said, are available at the monthly seminar 4 Sale provides (in Spanish, but soon to be in English, too), in which guests including lawyers and financial experts prep homeowners with key, how-to information for closing a deal.
Set on moving out of his big house, Pereira said the advice he received was crucial to the sale. 4 Sale recommended he “depersonalize” his home, he said, by taking away family pictures, the piano, pets and pretty much any personal objects he was planning on taking with him.
The company also advised him to give interested buyers some time alone in the home – in two visits, a couple in their 40s spent about 10 hours total, he said.
“They needed the right to dream about themselves living in the house without me being there, so that they wouldn’t feel like intruders and I wouldn’t feel like I was being intruded on,” he explained.
More information about this service can be found on the 4 Sale Web site or by calling 290-8181.