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How to Assemble Your Costa Rican Real Estate Team

 It takes a lot of research to purchase a property in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, the country does not have a national multiple listing service (MLS), and laws can be confusing for foreigners. This makes it difficult to find a property that suits your needs, unless you are working with a team of knowledgeable real estate professionals. There are many real estate agents, attorneys, and other professionals in Costa Rica to choose from. Weigh your options carefully before committing to a decision.

Your A-Team of Real Estate Professionals

There are several different types of real estate professionals. Each has a unique area of expertise that can prove invaluable when buying or selling property. Here are some of the professionals that you will probably need to collaborate with.

Agent (Broker)

The agent is responsible for most aspects of the real estate transaction. Some reasons that you’ll need to have a good agent on your side include:

Access to Listings

A good agent has access to a variety of real estate listings. This requires a lot of connections and a strong presence in the local community, since they don’t have access to a national database like agents in the U.S.


Unfortunately, some agents are biased towards the seller, because the seller pays them a commission as a percentage of the sale. An honest agent will act fairly and objectively towards both parties. Our agents are fair and honest to both the buyer and the seller.

Knowledge of the Local Market

Experienced agents should have a thorough understanding of the local market. They can help you find the property that best meets your needs. Agents can help you locate a property close to the school your children will be attending, your place of employment, and other important locations. They can also provide advice about local weather patterns, crime, and other risk factors that can influence your decision.

Real Estate Attorney

Real estate regulations are much more lax in Costa Rica than in the United States. However, the laws that could come into play can still be rather complex. You may need to work with a seasoned real estate attorney to navigate them.

There are a number of reasons it's important to have a knowledgeable real estate attorney on your side.

  • The average home in Costa Rica costs at least $212,000. Be very careful about writing a check for that amount of money in Costa Rica, since you have few legal protections if you don’t have an airtight contract in place.

  • Your attorney will draft a letter of intent after you have committed to purchasing a home. They will make sure the seller is legally bound to sell you the home after you reach an agreement.

  • Your attorney can also identify signs that the seller is being unscrupulous. They will carefully review your contract for any red flags.

If the seller violates the contract in any way, your attorney can help you seek restitution.

Real Estate Stager

A real estate stager is responsible for showcasing the property. As a buyer, you probably will never need to hire one. However, if you're planning on flipping the property, then you'll definitely need one on your team. A good real estate stager will help you put your best foot forward while selling a property. They understand the role that lighting and aesthetics play in influencing buyer decisions.

Do Your Due Diligence

Always conduct due diligence before hiring a team of real estate professionals. Make sure you’re not working with anyone who is dishonest, biased toward the other party, or who lacks the competence to provide the services you need.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right professionals when buying or selling a home.

Ask for References and Testimonials

Real estate professionals are in the marketing business. They may know how to talk a good game, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they understand the local market or have a great track record for striking the best deals. Request references before agreeing to work with anyone. Any respected real estate professional will have plenty of former customers or colleagues who are willing to speak on their behalf.

Ask for Their Average Closing and Asking Prices

As a buyer, you should make sure that your agent isn’t trying to push for a higher price to earn a larger commission from the seller. Make sure that they can negotiate a better price on your behalf. There are a few ways that you can determine an agent’s willingness and ability to negotiate for you. Start by asking their references whether they were satisfied with the deal. Next, ask the agent about their average asking and closing prices. The differential between the two can shed some light on their ability to negotiate for the buyer.

Ask to See Credentials

Unlike in the United States, real estate agents in Costa Rica do not need to be licensed. However, credible agents are usually members of a trade group, such as the Global Real Estate Brokers Association of Costa Rica or the Federal Council for Real Estate Agents. These credentials show that they are competent professionals. The qualifications for real estate attorneys in Costa Rica are similar to those in the United States. All lawyers must have completed law school and be members of the Costa Rica Bar Association. Request to see a copy of their bar card to verify they are licensed.

Find Out Who They Are Representing

Find out which party the agency represents. Some sellers work exclusively for buyers, while others are dual agents that represent both parties. Dual agents aren’t necessarily a bad choice, but you should ask if they have a track record of delivering for both parties. And if they are a dual agency, you also need to know if they are paid a flat or a performance-based commission.

Make Sure They are Bilingual

You are in a peculiar situation as an American real estate buyer. Unless you are fluent in Spanish, you’ll have difficulty negotiating with the seller. Even if you could speak the language and dialect, you would lack the market knowledge to negotiate effectively. Hire a bilingual agent to represent you. It’s almost unheard of for real estate agents in Costa Rica not to speak Spanish fluently. However, it can be more difficult to find an agent who is fluent in English as well. Ask if they are bilingual so they can bridge the communication gap between you and the seller.

Understand the Nuances of Property Laws

While there are fewer property laws in Costa Rica, it can still be difficult for you to make sense of the ones that exist. While the laws for most transactions are pretty straightforward, there are regulations for unusual purchases that can be difficult to understand, including:

  • The Maritime and Terrestrial Zone Law. The Maritime and Terrestrial Zone Law was passed in 1977. It stipulates that all land within the first 50 meters of high tide is public property, so you cannot build in this area. There are other restrictions within the next 150 meters that you must also be aware of. If you're planning on purchasing a property by the beach and doing any renovations, then you must make sure your lawyer or agent can advise you properly.

  • Luxury property tax laws. Costa Rica has a Luxury Home Tax (domestically referred to as Impuesto Solidario). This tax requires owners of luxury properties to pay a 0.25% tax on the government-appraised value of the property. The property is valued by the National Registry, which has changed the valuation process since the law was enacted. This has been a bane for many luxury homeowners who found that their taxes rose sharply after revisions to the law were enacted. You want to hire a team of real estate professionals that understands these laws to lessen your future tax obligations.

Find out if your lawyer and real estate agent are both familiar with these and other regulations. Some provinces have their own laws that you need to be aware of, as well.

Sign the Contracts With Your Respective Real Estate Professionals

Once you have found a team of qualified professionals to represent you, it’s time to sign a contract with them. The contract will stipulate the level of service you can expect, any retainer fees, and other details of doing business. Read the contract carefully to ensure you will be receiving the service that you deserve.

Have you ever had to hire a real estate team in Costa Rica? What steps did you take? Feel free to share your comments below: