Exclusive listings

Let the seller beware!!! Do NOT EVERY list your property for sale with a Realtor under an exclusive listing. There is no MLS system in Costa Rica contrary to what your Realtor may try to tell you there is not and never has been. Some Realtors work together and combine their listing but that is the extent of it.

One of my clients leaving Costa Rica got totally screwed by a Real Estate Company that knew no one lists their properties as exclusive but yet locked them into a years contract so that he is the only one that can show their property. This limits the exposure to their property to only those that come to him for property and that is not a lot of people as he is not very well known in Costa Rica.

This is wrong wrong wrong and my client is suffering because of it. These people want to return to the states after being in Costa Rica for only a few years and everything that could go wrong is going wrong.

It is not right for a Realtor to take advantage of the ignorance of North Americans that are used to Exclusive listings thinking that they will be put on the MLS and their property will sell quickly.

This is a beautiful property up in the mountains with lots of land and surrounded by national forest. It is the perfect property for someone that is looking for peace and tranquility and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This family has done a lot of remodeling of the property bringing it up to US standard with all new GE Profile stainless appliances.

If you know anyone looking for a property like this email me and I will make arrangements for you to view their beautiful property.


Mortgages in Costa Rica

Mortgages are becoming more and more available in the local market for expats who want to borrow money to buy property.  There is a lot of money available for financing from local financial institutions.  Private parties also have money to lend, but usually the interest rates are higher.

What most foreigners do not know about borrowing money in Costa Rica is how the foreclosure process works if one should default on a loan.  Unscrupulous private lenders, attorneys and real estate people take advantage of the ignorance of homebuyers and, in some cases, use this knowledge to steal back properties they have sold.

On the other hand, deadbeat debtors can betray honest creditors with Costa Rican legal magic and procedural sleight-of-hand tricks.

In Costa Rica, a mortgage is a hipoteca.  In English, there is a similar word hypothecate. In Roman law it meant the most advanced form of a pledge. Today in civil law it means a lien or a mortgage.  A mortgage applies to real property whereas a lien applies to movable property or chattel.  In the foreclosure process, the procedures are very similar.  However, it is easier to hide chattel, and some debtors do so.

A mortgage in this country is a right granted over a piece of real estate to guarantee payment of an obligation.  Mortgages are most common in the purchase of property but can be a source for financial capital for other uses.  When the maker of a mortgage cannot pay, the creditor forecloses and goes to public auction, called a remate.

First mortgages are supreme. Any mortgage after the first are usually worthless here.  In the case of an auction based on the first mortgage, the judge will erase anything behind it when turning over the property to the winner of the auction.

This is what happens in a foreclosure:

A lawyer files a petition with the court attaching a national registry certification of the mortgage along with providing other requirements based on the country’s civil code.  If the court does its job correctly, it should set an auction date and request the lawyer in charge of the case to publish the designated date in the local judicial newspaper.

The court should send a notice to the national registry annotating the property about the foreclosure.  Smart lawyers request the court to prepare the documents for publication and the annotation for them to pick up, and they deliver them to their destinations. Otherwise the court will use its snail mail system.   In Costa Rica, these snails are slow.

When the auction date arrives, the creditor can suspend the act up to five minutes before the judge starts the auction process.  This usually happens when the parties reconcile or otherwise agree to an out-of-court settlement.

If only the creditor shows up, he or she can take
the property back in payment of the debt.  The creditor can attach other property of the debtor for interest, legal expenses and court costs.  If the creditor does not want the property, he or she can request the court to hold other auctions until there is a successful one.

The starting bid at an auction is the amount due.  Each subsequent auction reduces the opening bid amount by 25 percent until the starting bid is zero.

If bidders show up, they must deposit in cash or by certified check 30 percent of the auction base to bid.  Creditors cannot bid but can raise the base of the auction upwards to cover interest and costs.

The winner of the auction must pay the balance of a winning bid to the court in three business days after the auction.  Shill bidders sometimes show up at the auction, deposit the required 30 percent deposit and then never pay the balance to cause the judge to call a void auction.  Debtors can use this ploy as a delaying tactic so they can gain more time to look for funds to pay a creditor.

If everyone plays fair — it does happen on occasions — the highest bidder pays the court, the judge approves the event and prepares the court documents necessary to turn over the property to the new owner.  If there are any tenants living in or on the auctioned property, the judge also prepares the paperwork to evict them.

Many auctions happen in Costa Rica on business days.  Some of them are real bargains. Others turn into nightmares because there are hidden problems just waiting to show their ugly heads.

When a piece of property is going to foreclosure, it is common that the debtor’s attorney will start a litigious nightmare for the creditor.  The first thing a debtor’s attorney tries to do is to look for a trumped up way to file a criminal case against the creditor to suspend the auction.   This simple legal ploy can hold up a legitimate foreclosure for years.  In other cases, crooked notaries just cancel the mortgage with a bit of flashy paperwork.

There are other financial instruments to borrow against property like mortgage certificates and trusts. Financial institutions prefer a first-degree mortgage.  To borrow money, it is best to use a reputable bank. To lend money to others, it is better to use financial experts that know the ins and outs of the game.


Realtors in Costa Rica

There are as many Real Estate agents as there are lawyers in Costa Rica.  Everyone is selling property or knows someone that is selling property including your taxi driver or maid.  Real Estate is a lucrative business in Costa Rica.  The problem is that not all of these real estate agents are looking out for your best interest in fact many of them are not.

It is very easy to buy a piece of property in Costa Rica if you have the cash to do so but it is not as easy to sell your property if you decide you have bought in the wrong location.  Everyone has a “deal” that isn’t going to last if you don’t sign the contract right now but beware of those people because often times what they are selling you has an elevated price tag above what the market value is.

There are good and honest realtors but it is not likely you will find them yourself.  The dishonest and bad realtors seem to do the most advertising to sucker someone into buying something often times without even seeing it and this is bad news.

There is ONE company that I know of in Costa Rica that represents only the buyers and look out for their best interests and not the sellers.  In the states it is common to find “buyers brokers” but this is a new thing to Costa Rica. If you can find a realtor to look out for YOUR best interest and not that of the seller you will win hands down.

This particular company mentioned above is located in San Jose but has property all over the country.  They are good Christian people that genuinly care that you find the right home for you and not just that you find a home.  For more information about this company and other reputable realtors that can help you find your own little piece of paradise, email us and we will be happy to pass your contact information on to them.


Suspected property fraud

Reported in AM Costa Rica by Garland M. Baker
An amazing scam unfolded in Costa Rica in the past two weeks. Events surprised the buyer as well as the owner of a unique beach view property.

Quick thinking and a nearly unknown legal maneuver locked and saved the property before the Registro Nacional closed Friday even though the institution again refused to take immediate administrative action in a suspected property fraud case.

The purchasers did not know they were buying something the true owner had no intention of selling. The intermediaries involved would have received millions in the transaction. Where the money would have gone is anyone’s guess. Scammers are scheming, crafty, aggressive and malicious people.

The intermediaries involved may not have even been aware of the manipulation in the property registry — thus they could have been innocent third parties. They were asking enough money for the excellent parcel not to send up warning flags. However, they were anxious to close the deal and wanted their money. In itself, this is not strange. Most agents and brokers push hard. They were constantly warning that other buyers were interested in the deal.

However, a California consultant to the would-be buyers with many years experience in Costa Rica did his due diligences at the national registry and read between the lines.

The paperwork looked corrrect, but there were some filings over the past months regarding powers of attorneys that led the consultant to ask the intermediaries for original documents. They agreed but did not produce them.

Powers of attorneys end with the death of the maker, unless given by stockholders in a corporation or shareholders in a limited company.

This beating around the bush lead the consultant to find the name of the owner of the property so he could make personal contact via telephone and ask for an explanation.

The buyer needed to leave the country. The consultant needed answers. What he found floored him. The owner, shocked by the phone call, explained a spouse recently died and the family company holding the land was in an updating process. The owner knew nothing more except that people had been walking on the property.

The property had been put on the market by persons who claimed to have powers of attorney enabling them to sell the land.

Studying the national registry documents in more detail showed that people knowing of the death of the spouse hurried to take advantage of some of the language in the corporate documents to make the powers of attorney for the brokers. Again, possibly the brokers were innocent to the swindle. There is no way of telling. It does appear someone in the national registry was helping the scammer or scammers.

A.M. Costa Rica regularly reports that crooks read obituaries to find properties to steal. The crooks usually look for foreign individuals who held property — not people who have died leaving legal holes in a corporation or limited company. This is a new twist.

The long-time lawyer to the family scurried all last week trying to find a solution to lock up the property before the thieves could sell to someone, anyone. The national registry sent him to the Judicial Investigating

Organization to file a complaint. Registry workers said they would not look at his paperwork without one.

The attorney got all his paperwork in order and presented it again to the national registry. The workers told him it would take days to review the documents before there would be any action to freeze the property.

Desperate for a solution, he remembered a conversation regarding freezing one’s own property in the national registry in case of an emergency. Some deep research pointed to articles 266, 267 and 268 of the Civil Code, articles 49C and 51A of the national registry rules along with Article 41F of Law 3883 of 1967 regarding registering property.

He put together a voluntary immobilization of his client’s property and filed it at 1:36 p.m. on Friday, one hour and twenty-four minutes before the institution closed. His diligence saved his client’s property, which could have been sold over the weekend.

The initial buyer went home, not leery of investing in Costa Rica but well aware of the potential pitfalls created by stealthy scam artists and the importance of his consultant’s due diligence. The consultant felt vindicated because he fought his own property fraud case for many years and satisfied that he had helped both his client and buyer avoid a long legal battle that would have left a buyer “in good faith” and an unaware owner battling for years. Both are safe after being alerted to the fraud.

The lessons here: Education, experience, and a healthy dose of skepticism are the best defenses against becoming a victim of fraud. Property owners and buyers need to know who corporate officers are. If they buy an off-the-shelf company, they have to make the needed changes in the corporate makeup. They also need to know what the rules are regarding what corporate officers can do and what they cannot. If someone dies, they need to get professional assistance to eliminate any legal loopholes.

And they can use the voluntary immobilization of a property as a legal tool to freeze real estate assets in emergencies.


House for sale

We have listed our home for sale with a dozen realtors and while it is an excellent property, it is difficult to get maximum exposure since there is no MLS in Costa Rica.  So the key to selling a property is to tell everyone you know and get as many realtors as possible to list it on their website.

Our home is very large at 440 meters of construction or 4700 square feet.  When we purchased the house at only 4 years old, the finishings were very cheap and in extremely poor taste so we ripped it apart down to the concrete walls.  We reconstructed all the bathrooms, all the wood finishes (doors and cabinets) Put in a new gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and an island, all stainless appliances and truly made this a show home.

Although we are part of a secure community we have a private backyard with a large private wood deck (like something you would find in the US, very unusual for Costa Rica).  We have 4 large bedrooms with private baths and walkin closets in each room, 2 living areas, 2 dining areas (casual and formal) very warm and cozy setting.  In addition to all of this space is a huge office on the upper loft or mezanine area and a very large servants quarters on the lower level comparable to a small apartment.

Anyone interested in seeing this property should contact us at or call us at 506-832-2450 in Costa Rica or 631-418-8422 in the US.



Often people come to Costa Rica and have no idea where they want to live or buy property.  This is one reason we strongly recommend that you rent for 6 months to a year before jumping in and buying property.  Since there is no MLS or central registry of property there is really no way to see all the properties that are available.

There are no laws in Costa Rica that require realtors to have any experience or training. Realtors here are not required to be licensed. Any taxi driver or store clerk can claim realtor status. There are no professional organizations they must join, though there are realtor associations. Anybody, at any time, can represent themselves as an expert realtor.

There is no Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in Costa Rica. Several people have tried to start one, but in order for an MLS to work, all (or nearly all) realtors must be members and reports all sales to the MLS who then maintains pricing information comparisons (comps). These comps would help both buyer and seller to assign a realistic value to a property.

There are a ton of agents here both good and bad. You must be careful when choosing a realtor as all are not looking out for your best interest and often time there is a dual pricing problem.  The better realtors act as the go-between and provide introductions to realtors and potential buyers. The right realtor can provide a valuable service. These agents often have knowledge of available properties in several locations.  Different realtors will have different properties so often times it is best to check with several realtors to see more options when it comes to finding that right home for your family.

One example of how different realtors are needed…We have our home listed for sale with 11 different realtors at the present time and in order to give us maximum exposure and it would help to list it with even more.


Homes under 50k

I’m often asked for homes in the 50k price range like some of the books of Costa Rica say are available.  Unfortunately those books are outdated and with the real estate boom in Costa Rica prices have gone up considerably. Homes under 50k are a thing of the past in San Jose area. If you choose to live in a remote area of Costa Rica, I’m told these prices can still be found (I haven’t seen them), but what you are giving up to live there are the comforts of close medical care, close proximity to schools, shopping and other conveniences of the Central Valley. Anytime you come close to a major city, the prices will go up.

I’ve checked with several Realtors to see if these properties are still possible and get a resounding NO!  Some have gone further to say, you can get a chicken coop for that price but not anything one would want to live in.


Helping People

I have always been empathetic to other peoples problems and therefore I find myself being very helpful to those in need. When I have sold real estate it was the joy I got from helping people find their dream home more than the money that gave me my high. This is why it seemed so natural for to me to start a business helping people adapt to Costa Rica once we got over the hurdles ourselves.

Because we went through so much difficulty and heartache upon arriving in ‘Paradise’ I knew others would follow with the same problems we had. And to be fortunate enough to be able to help and make lifelong friends along the way has been so rewarding. This is the greatest job I have ever had. Not only do I get to help people who genuinly need assistance with finding their way around Costa Rica, I get to meet lots of great folks in the process. We get to go through the ups and downs of moving to Costa Rica one step at a time together and it seems that I have been able to make a difference in peoples lives that have worked with us.


Real Estate in Costa Rica

All individuals and private companies , local or foreign, can own land and property in Costa Rica.  Potential real estate investors, and their lawyers, must first go to the National Registry for a title search, to the Ministry of the Environment and Energy for an environmental impact study, the local municipality for zoning laws and building permits, and perhaps to the other ministries and institutions for pertinent information.  There are some excellent Real Estate agents (not all agents are honest and looking out for your best interest so be mindful of this when choosing one to help you) who can find you the property you want, as well as Title Companies that can perform the necessary Title Searches.

Home prices begin around $100,000 and if you can prove income in Costa Rica, banks will finance up to 80% of the appraised value of your real estate purchase.  Monthly payments can not exceed 30% of your monthly income.

Legal residency is not a requirement in Costa Rica to own property.  Foreigners are entitled to the same ownership rights as citizens of Costa Rica.  Unlike Mexico, some beachfront properties may be purchased. However, the 200-meter strip of land along the seacoasts is owned by the government and for public use.  It is prohibited to build anythying within the first 50 meters of the high tide line.  This some is for the public and can not be turned into a private beach.

Beach front property is being bought up fast, and the price of this and other prime real estate is soaring – with much of it overpriced.  There are also condominiums, farms, lots and ranches for sale at reasonable prices, depending on the location.

There are no capital gains taxes on real estate currently so it is an excellent investment for the right piece of property.  You do have to pay yearly taxes, but they are low by U.S. standards.