1. They work for an agency. We see many people in the area hawking properties. Your local taxi driver will likely offer a ton of properties on your way from the airport. If you buy a cold coconut in the street, well, that guy probably has something more to sell you. A REAL-tor will be working for or own a brokerage here in Costa Rica. We strongly advise that you don’t buy a property from a taxi driver, LOL.
2. They are affiliated with real estate organizations. There are two major chambers of REAL-tors here in Costa Rica. One is CRGAR – Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors and the other is CCCBR – Camara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raices. Your REAL-tor will be a member of at least one of them. Each of them requires that they be a resident or citizen (he can work legally in Costa Rica). A top notch REAL-tor will also have a membership with NAR – National Association of Realtors in the U.S.A. A membership with NAR requires that your REAL-tor abide by the normal standard of ethics you are accustomed to. Furthermore they will also likely be a member in CILA, FIABCI, or one of the many other international real estate organizations
3. They show up in a clean car they own. Ok, ok, ok. Sure, there are two seasons here…dust and mud. Your REAL-tor may have the outside of his car with either of the aforementioned but the inside of his car is prepped and clean for you. You shouldn’t have to sit in his kids spilled candy or chips! You shouldn’t have to get his surf gear out of your way to get into the car! You shouldn’t have to wait for him to move the trash out of the way when you get in! Oh yea, he is gassed up and ready to go!
4. This is their career. Your REAL-tor lives from working in real estate. If he is a jack of all trades, well, their daily focus isn’t making sure he is on top of trends, comps, new listings, and you! There is no standarized MLS or Zillow type services in Costa Rica so REAL-tors here really have to be on top of their game to insure that you are getting the best buy for your hard earned money.
5. They live in Costa Rica full time. Did your REAL-tor mention that he comes here for winters and then travels back to his home country for summers? How is he able to keep on top of what is happening in the real estate market if he isn’t here all year round?
6. They are vested in the community. Almost all of the career oriented REAL-tors we know are active in their community. They participate in volunteer beach cleanups, they are active in a non-profit organization, they give to the community you are going to become a member of to insure that the future in that same area is brighter than it is today.
7. They are interested in showing you all listings. Your REAL-tor makes money from selling you real estate and they can make much more from selling you their exclusive listings. However, if they are really interested in seeing you reach your goals first and not theirs, your REAL-tor will show you not only his companies exclusive listings he will show you other agencies exclusives, and listings that are ‘For Sale by Owner’.
8. They have a list of quality lawyers. So often we hear from clients “my lawyer never gets back to me”. Well, your career oriented REAL-tor has likely worked with a 100 or more lawyers over the years and he has his list whittled down to a select few that he works with personally and professionally because those lawyers focus on real estate law and they actually get back to their clients!
9. They are legal residents and live in Costa Rica. You are making a big investment and changing your lifestyle immensely. Why would you work with an agent in your home country promoting a handful of listings in Costa Rica? Your home country agent doesn’t know anything about Costa Rica real estate law. If he is promoting listings and selling them from your home country he is essentially working illegally in Costa Rica. Once you are here, how is going to keep representing your best interests?
10. They are committed to your needs. Your REAL-tor is committed to you. In your home country, after the sale is made, you really don’t need your agent anymore until you sell. However, here, your relationship with your REAL-tor really just begins at sale. He is the one you are going to count on for a host of needs. Ask your perspective agent in CR how much he will help you after the sale.
Real estate in Costa Rica can be easy or very complicated depending on the type of property you are looking for. You should definitely grill your perspective agent prior to making a commitment to them to insure that you have an actual REAL-tor. Once you fell comfortable you can relax and, most importantly, you should work with just that realtor who will represent you from start to finish. Don’t work with multiple agents. It is a no no. Your REAL-tor is going to give you his all so that you have a seamless transition and transaction. If you work with multiple agents none of them will likely give you the dedication that you deserve. Why should they? You wouldn’t go to your job if you had the expectation that you might not be getting paid for your hard work.
Larry Graziano CIPS is a long time resident in the country. He is a member of the board of CRGAR, a founder and board member of his local chamber of commerce, and a founder and board member of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the areas Howler Monkey’s. He travels to the annual National Association of Realtors convention each year to represent Costa Rica.