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How to choose a qualified real estate agent in Costa Rica

Choosing a real estate agent

Costa Rica real estate is largely unregulated by the government. While the system for registering Costa Rica property is sophisticated due to a centralized national database of properties (Registro Nacional), the country does not as yet have a system of registering and monitoring Costa Rica real estate agents. As a result, the onus is on buyers to apply caveat emptor or buyer beware, not just in regard to property, but also to the real estate agent they select to represent them. But since 2019, there's extra steps taken by the government to ensure that real estate agents are legally working and handling real estate transactions. All agents now must be registered SUGEF, the public entity overseeing the stability of the national financial system.

Ensuring that you’re dealing with a registered SUGEF agent is a first important step. Then choosing an expert who knows the area, the market, and the best properties should definitely be part of any due diligence process for buying property in Costa Rica.

One great way to determine if you’re working with a professional agent is to do an informal interview. The following questions can act as a guide to help you learn more about an agent's qualifications:

How many years have you worked in real estate in this area?

Remember, Costa Rica is a diverse country, and an agent who knows San Jose well may know next to nothing about property, developers and lifestyle on the coast and vice versa. Would you work with a realtor from Chicago if you wanted to purchase or sell in Florida? Not likely.

Do you live in my area of interest? How long have you lived here?

As we don't have an MLS in Costa Rica, the agent that will help you finding your property needs to know the area very well. 

Do you personally own Costa Rica property in the area I’m interested in?

If the agent owns a property, he has been through the process and will be in better position to understand and help. 

Do you have an office?

We’ve seen people operating out of restaurants where they can get free wireless for the price of a coffee. They don’t have an office, own a home, or personally invest in Costa Rica. These are not experts, they are oportunists looking for a quick buck. Ask your agent where his or her office is located. Find out if they are as committed to Costa Rica as they are trying to get you to be.

Are you a member of any international real estate associations like the National Association of Realtors (NAR)? 

It is not mandatory to be member of any association but it's highly recommended by the RE/MAX brokers. The intent of these questions is to ascertain whether or not your prospective agent is really a professional. Has he or she expended the time, effort and expense necessary to belong to a professional association or achieve a specialty designation? Does this person even qualify to belong to a professional association or represent you? 

Are you registered with an International Real Estate sales organization such as RE/MAX? If so, for how long?

As mentioned above, even though Costa Rica’s system for registering property is very detailed, agents go largely unregulated. The fact that an agent is associated with an international organization offers you some additional security since they are generally required to abide by the international standards of the organization. RE/MAX even performs background checks prior to allowing a franchise purchase.

Can you give me references of clients who have used your services in my area of interest?

Satisfied clients are one of the best indicators of the quality of your agent’s services. Don’t be afraid to ask them for references. If he or she is an experienced and legitimate agent, they’ll have no problem complying with your request.

The decision to make a property and lifestyle investment in Costa Rica can and will be enjoyable IF you take the time to do your homework. Want to know my credentials? Just ask!