You might wonder what I mean by the title to this article. Usually it’s the other way around, offering tips to realtors on how not to treat their clients or things clients should look out for in their realtors. These are valid topics, but they’ve been done before and will be done again.
Truth be told, clients aren’t perfect either. I’ve wanted to write this article for a long time and sum up my years as a professional realtor here in Costa Rica in order to kindly remind those out there to show a little courtesy and understand the following points.
First of all, there is no mandatory licensing in Costa Rica. There are, however, a few reputable organizations with voluntary licensing, such as CRGAR (Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors) and CCCBR (Cámara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raíces). Being a member of either or both of these shows that the realtor that you are working with considers ethics, morals, networking with other agents, and a future Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system important. Very few agents in Costa Rica hold active real estate licenses in their home country. Even fewer of those worked as agents before coming to Costa Rica.
2. Multiple Listing Service
There is also no centralized MLS in Costa Rica as of today. There are, however, many MLS type systems. Most real estate agents are tied into one or more of those MLS systems to assist with finding suitable properties for clients.
3. Visit first, decide later
If you are serious about buying property in Costa Rica, I encourage you to visit first, tour the different areas you are interested in on your own, and then decide if Costa Rica is for you. Real estate agents are not tour guides. Our time is valuable and gas and cars are expensive. If you want a tour, rent a car or hire a tour guide. Many real estate agencies can set up real estate tours to view many different areas at a very reasonable price.
4. Know where you’re investing
If you want to buy to rent out (investment only) and are dependent on rental income, it’s best to buy in areas that are desirable to travelers. That means areas that have more of a tourist population.
Getting financing in Costa Rica is extremely difficult and the interest rates hover around nine percent. Basically those who don’t really need financing are the ones who are approved. If you are not a resident of Costa Rica, it’s best to consider private financing. It’s easier and cheaper, but will limit the amount of properties you will be able to choose from. If you need financing, it’s always best to get in your home country.
If you are looking to purchase in five years, then it’s best to explore the area on your own or pay for a real estate tour. There’s no sense in asking an agent to see properties now for five years down the line. Inventory will change. Prices will most likely be up.
7. Know the country
Please understand that Costa Rica is a very small country. Many of us agents know one another, and certainly all the best ones do. When you contact me, and contact two other agents in the same area to look for property, we will find out about it. The reason we find out is because when searching for the type of property you are looking for, we email requests to other agents and find out we are looking for properties for the same buyer. If I find myself in this “multiple real estate agent” situation, I choose not to be a part of it. Loyalty goes both ways. I personally don’t have time to waste with a client who is not loyal to me. Be loyal and respectful as a buyer and choose one real estate agent, not five (especially in the same town!). Of course if you work with an agent and decide she or he is not a match for you, or you are not satisfied with the service to you, then feel free to switch.
8. Don’t bypass the agent
If an agent shows you property and you choose to buy that property by bypassing the agent, they will find out about it. In most cases, agents register a client when showing a property to protect commission. I have personally had a situation where I showed a property to clients, they bought directly with the developer, and I not only found out about it, but was also compensated.
9. We’re not used car salesmen
People who compare real estate agents to sleazy used car salesmen or don’t see the value of using a professional real estate agent have obviously not worked with the right people and did not do their homework when choosing with whom to work. Do your homework! The Internet is an amazing tool where you can find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about anyone. The days of every taxi driver and tour guide being a real estate agent are long gone.
10. It’s not easy
Being an agent in Costa Rica is 100 times more difficult than being one in the United States. I know because I was one and still hold an active Florida license. Without a true MLS, networking is key. In order to locate that perfect property, there is a lot of back and forth with phone calls and emails. Despite what you think, we’re actually working our tails off.
11. Do the math
Finally, if you want to meet with a real estate agent and decide to stay at a hotel one to two hours away from the office, it’s your responsibility to get to us. I find it funny that I have had clients that expect me to drive to pick them up, bring them back to my office area, show properties in my area, and return them back to their hotel. If you do the math, that is four hours of driving just for picking up and dropping off the client. That doesn’t even include the hours of looking at properties. I figure if you are serious about buying, then you would arrange your own transportation to the area, whether by taxi or rental car. From there, I am happy to tour the surrounding beach areas that I service and cover.
Rebecca Clower was born in Chicago, grew up in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from Arizona State University. Rebecca is fluent in Spanish thanks to her mother, who is Tica. Rebecca is a licensed real estate agent (Florida), vice president of the Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors (CRGAR), the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), an international investor, and legal permanent resident of Costa Rica. She is currently the broker/owner of Blue Water Properties and Blue Water Adventures in Guanacaste.