The real estate scene here is fascinating. If you've been shopping, you already know there are a gazillion Costa Rica real estate websites. I used to list them here, but it was endless. I've left on the few true (as far as I can see) For Sale By Owner, aka fsbo [fiz-bow], sites. As you go looking for real estate, prepare to be overwhelmed. We were.
This list is by no means a recommendation of who to use!!! Be alert. Many real estate sites, even the fsbos, advertise old information, property already sold, old pictures. Many have information only on the developments or family parcels being sold by that salesperson. Among all the advice I've heard, two things stand out:
Thing 1: Don't buy when you first arrive. Live here for at least 6 months. You will get this advice over and over and over again. Listen to it. We are so glad we did!
Thing 2: Have your own lawyer. In fact, have two. DO NOT GO WITH THE LOWEST BIDDER. Lawyer jokes apply here, too.
Once you have decided to buy, you'll need to remember two other Very Important Points when looking at Costa Rica real estate:
Point 1: There are no real estate licensing laws. If you want to be a real estate salesperson, you just have to say "I'm a real estate salesperson" and POOF: you are one. No annoying classes to attend, tests to take, no ethics guidelines to follow. All you need to really make the big bucks are some business cards and a website.
Point 2: There is no comprehensive database of listings for sale. No MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, as we call it in the states. There is no one site with a comprehensive listing of everything for sale. There ARE sites that claim they have that. But they don't.
For this reason it is CRITICAL that you work with a knowledgeable experienced honest real estate salesperson who KNOWS YOUR TARGET AREA. I sold Key West real estate for over a decade. I know Key West like the back of my hand. Yet, thirty miles up the road is Big Pine. While many of the contractual details are the same, the area itself, its idiosyncracies, customs, flora, fauna, Key deer, even the people, were so very different. It wasn't my area, so for the most part, I referred customers to a Big Pine salesperson.
Likewise, Costa Rica is a small country on the map, but a big diverse place… It boasts 90 different mini-climates, each with its own flora, fauna, wildlife (that would include snakes and spiders). It would take a helluva salesperson to be an expert in every area! If I were shopping for real estate, I would only use a salesperson who lived and worked in the area I liked and one with at least 2 years full-time experience.
Also, since there is no “MLS” in Costa Rica, your agent needs to know HOW TO FIND the property you seek. Not just her family's lots for sale, or just in the developments in which he has an interest! You have to be particularly diligent here in finding a knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy agent. You will be depending on your agent to help you find the perfect property. THEN to advise you on property rights; make sure your title is clear (no trifling matter); refer you to a good competent trustworthy attorney (every sale requires an attorney) and more. At the very least, ask for references and then check them.
Click here to visit the Costa Rica Living Group. It's pretty comprehensive. A local forum is particularly important in a place with no licensing laws. If you are working with a salesperson and want to check him/her out, ask about that salesperson on the forum, see if anyone else has experience with this person.
Good agents are available – I have MANY friends and acquaintances who have successfully and happily purchased property here. Buen suerte!