Real Estate Agents
In Costa Rica, there is little governmental regulation of the real estate industry. However, a knowledgeable real estate expert will be invaluable in helping you with many aspects of your purchase or sale.
In general, a good real estate agent performs a more critical role than stateside agents as the system in Costa Rica is far less sophisticated. There are few formal escrow companies, mortgage companies or banks that assist in the process. Attorneys will often use an escrow company to hold and distribute funds. Since Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, Hermosa and Manzanillo real estate is a distance from San Jose, sometimes it is helpful to get a local attorney to check the property. Sometimes it is advisable to use a combination of a San Jose lawyer and a local lawyer.
In some ways, this puts more responsibility on the real estate agent. For example, all listings must be thoroughly researched before a property can even be considered, especially in rural areas like Santa Teresa, Mal Pais and Manzanillo. In some cases, a real estate agent will not only show you property, but also work directly with the lawyer, the surveyor, the property owner, the registry, and follow up on a host of details until the transaction is completed. The real estate agent may represent both the buyer and seller so that when it’s time to draw up the sale document, all issues are discussed and agreed upon before closing a transaction. The real estate agent’s commission is normally paid by the seller, but in some cases the buyer and seller may split the commission if agreed to in advance.
Beware of people off the street: bartenders, taxi drivers, hotel owners, etc. (Costa Ricans AND foreigners) that offer to sell you property. They have no sense of real estate as a business and the attraction of a commission may outweigh their concern for the protection of the parties. Their myopic view of the situation and limited knowledge of inventory and pricing means that you are getting a very biased and limited snapshot oft he real estate market in Costa Rica. There are many properties in Costa Rica where ownership rights are unclear, borders are undefined or contain hidden conflicts of one sort or another. Getting a lawyer is not enough. A knowledgeable field agent that knows the area and the history of the property will not only show you qualified properties, but will help work out many issues before it’s time to finalize the details with a lawyer. A good agent will also help educate you so you can make an informed decision.