In the world of real estate, as in the world at large, knowing what you want is vital for a successful real estate transaction. As a buyer in an exotic land, that importance is ten fold. Being focused and organized with clear ideas of what your "dream property" would look like should be your goal.
For the real estate professional, to efficiently and effectively serve you, the valued client, the client needs to be clear, honesty and flexible. Having an open mind also makes a big difference because things may not always be what you "dreamed" they would be. To the end of a common goal, we have created a short questionnaire to better determine the best way to find you your dream property in paradise. At first glance the questions seem typical and straight forward, but they can be more complex than first thought. By explaining each question from the professional's point of view, the answers you provide will be key to getting exactly what you want.
Have you visited Costa Rica before? When? The most basic of questions, is a very important one. Why you ask? By knowing wether or not you have been to the country, we will know what you may and may not be familiar with, such as basic topography, climate, culture, government, services and amenities. Also knowing when you visited will give us an idea of how things may have changed since your last visit.
Are you working with any other Real Estate Agents at the moment? What most buyers don't realize is that in Costa Rica, exclusivity in real estate listings is NOT COMMON. What is common are OPEN LISTINGS, meaning, most agents in a particular area work the same listings. This can often create tension between real estate offices and agents when clients go on "tour" with more than one agent. Being loyal with your real estate professional will result in your agent being loyal to you. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. This will also eliminate the overlap of viewing the same properties over again.
What do you want from us as your Real Estate Representative? From the beginning, if you are very clear about what you expect from the profession you are working with, there will be no room for error. Be specific. Let us know how familiar you are with real estate in your desired area. What are you looking for? You may have many ideas and be open to a wide range of things, so let us know. A good agent will LISTEN, and read between the lines, finding you exactly what you are looking for. If after viewing several properties, you have not found what you are looking for, there are two possibilities: The real estate professional is not listening and doing their job or the buyer has not been clear from the beginning. On both sides, complete honesty is KEY.
Have you viewed properties in Costa Rica in the past? If you have viewed properties in Costa Rica, it will indicate to us that you have at least an idea of what the market offers. Use your past viewing experience to fine tune what you like and want to see durning your next outing. If you are "green', then have you agent give you an overview of what is available. More times than not, this will happen a few weeks or months before your arrival via photos and links to listings that give descriptions of the available inventory.
What type of Real Estate are you interested in? This could be a multi faceted questions but the most important points are:
Purchase (Vacation, Retirement, Main Residence). If you are going to be making a purchase, what will be the main use of the property. Chances are if you are going to live full time in the property your needs will be much different than if you are going to use it as a rental or investment property. Most buyers are less likely to compromise details for their main residence.
Rental. There are two distinct types of rental properties in Costa Rica, long and short term. Rarely do they overlap, meaning most long term rentals will not rent for short periods of time and visa versa.
1.Long term (12 months or longer). Generally speaking long term rentals are for periods of 12 months or longer. Long term rentals can be furnished or unfurnished, so it is important for us to know exactly what your needs are.
2. Short term (1 week to 6 months). These are typically vacation rental homes, or retirement rentals for retirees who winter in the tropics. These will be fully furnished and all inclusive. Amenities will vary from property to property, so again be specific about what you want and wish for.
Investment. Because Costa Rica is a very popular tourist destination, rental properties, especially vacation rental properties are very popular. If you are looking for an investment property, then it would make sense to look at properties that have a rental history or currently have tenants. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Also what are your goals in terms of ROI? A well versed agent can give you realistic expectations. If you are looking for a 20% ROI and the agent is say YES, you can find that, I don't want to burst your bubble, but that scenario is highly unlikely.
What is your time frame for this transaction? Knowing when you expect to make a purchase will determine the availability of inventory. If you are six weeks out then properties an agent provides today will most likely be available. If you are a year out, inventory turns over, so you must be aware of that.
What is your price range? When making a purchase, from the smallest item to a luxury property, we know our budget. Many time we don't want to share that information, but by providing this key piece of information, the agent can guide you to the right properties and honesty let you know if your expectations are realistic or not.
What area of Costa Rica are you interested in? Costa Rica is diverse, with 12 different "micro" climates, mountains, beaches, rivers, lakes, volcanos and everything in between. We all know that in real estate, location is key, so be very sure of what you want and where you want it. Your lifestyle and level of activity will play a pivotal roll in determining what region is best for you. Working with an agent that is knowledgeable about the area you are interested in will make the difference between success and failure. If you are inquiring about properties in Atenas, Grecia or the surrounding areas, we are the go to guys, but if you want to purchase in, Limon, for example, I can't honestly provide you with quality information or listings. Having said that, most agents have a good network of trusted agents they work with and should have no problems referring you to a qualified professional.
How many square meters/square feet of living space are you seeking? In real estate, size does matter and always dictates price. Here in Costa Rica, square meters/footage is quoted "under roof" not in "living space". Also, homes tends to offer open floor plans, with large, covered outdoor spaces, perfect for tropical living, eliminating the need for extra indoor space.
How many bedrooms/bathrooms are you seeking? A retired couple looking to live in paradise full time will have much different needs than a young couple looking to purchase a vacation home. Are you expecting guest often? Would you prefer to have a separate guest house?
How much land are you seeking? Often times clients are in search of privacy and large tracts of land for gardening, or room for expansion. Many have ideas for creating retreats, a bed and breakfast, or some other type of business. Others seek a small, low maintenance property that they can just lock up and go. Another point is that in a diverse country like Costa Rica, views come at a price. More times than not, you will have to sacrifice usable land for a great view, and visa versa.
What are your "must have's" in a property? Most of us have things that we cannot live without in our homes. For some it's a dishwasher, indoor utility room, or double vanities. For others it's pool. Many things that are common back home are common in Costa Rica too, but there are a few exceptions. Bath tubs, for example. It is becoming more common in new construction to install at least one bath tub in a home, but traditionally speaking, showers rule in Costa Rica. Be very detailed when giving your "must have list" to your agent.
What do you "not" want in a property? Are there deal breakers in a property? Something that would make the difference in making a purchase or not? How important is that dishwasher, bath tub or double vanities? Does an unpaved road bother you? Is living in a gated community important?
Do you have any special needs or requirements? Are there any handicaps or disabilities that need to be addressed when purchasing a property. For example, for someone who uses a wheelchair, a one story home with wide doorways, flat floor surfaces, and lower countertops are often a must and can make life a lot more pleasant.
Are there any concerns you would like addressed? Do you have questions or concerns about the real estate process in general? Owner rights in Costa Rica, for example? Do you have any legal questions, such as contracts, holding title, title issues or escrow responsibilities? Immigration concerns? All of these are VALID and important details!
Please give us as many specific details about the property you are looking for, including "wish or dream" items. This is very important for us as the smallest detail may make all the difference in our search. In my case, I am a very visual person and specific details and tidbits of informations help me to give the best possible service. Knowing things like: "I love to paint and have always wanted a studio" or "We traveled to Bali last year and fell in love with the architecture", or "My wife loves animals and nature and wants to take up birding" and "My husband has many tools and loves to piddle" are little details that can help a good agent zero in on a dream property.
This preliminary guide will hopefully serve as the start of a successful, pleasant, and rewarding real estate transaction. Keep in mind that by being up front and honest as well as having clear, focused, organized ideas, you will create a partnership with your real estate agent that will result in the success of realizing your dream in paradise. Pura Vida!
Costa Rica Realtors Chamber
Tours in Costa Rica
Pure Life Development of Atenas is a full service tour company. We feature full vacation packages and day trips for the family. Our tour director Nelson Conejo is very experienced and provides a personal service and attention to detail second to none in Costa Rica. Please write Nelson or give him a call to arrange your next Costa Rican vacation at (506)2446-0447 or
Retirement Living in Atenas
Interview with Pure Life Development co-founder and certified realtor Dennis Easters, about Costa Rica ranked by AARP as "one of the best places to retire abroad".