Avoiding Scams

With some simple information, you will be able to make it through your real estate purchase without encountering additional problems or costs. Making a real estate investment is a big deal, and making one in a foreign country can have its challenges if you are not prepared.

Please BEWARE, there are con artists out there and they are waiting to find someone who is uneducated about Costa Rica, the laws, and the real estate market.  These con artists come in all different shapes and sizes they may speak perfect English, they may be very friendly, they may even be from your home country. Ask for references before you commit to working with anyone.

- All real estate agents are NOT the same. In Costa Rica there is no standard licensing requirements for real estate agents, anyone can be an agent. A person does not need to have to be educated in real estate, take a test, training, or experience to be a real estate agent. This can lead to problems for you if the person is under qualified, giving bad advice, over pricing properties, or selling property with title problems in order to make a commission.

- Just because an agent is from your home country does not mean that you can immediately trust them.

- There is no regulation over any real estate agents so if they does something detrimental in your real estate deal there is really no recourse you can take against them.

- When viewing a property, even if you love it, use your poker face and be as objective as possible.

- You CAN negotiate on a price if you like, you never know what you can get until you ask

- Often you can find the exact same property listed at different prices from different companies depending on their commission structures.

- Sometimes agents in larger deals will attach an overprice that they will split with or without the owners knowledge. This even has happened to a big Hollywood star when he purchased his property in Guanacaste.

- All legal documents will be in Spanish. If they are in English, there is also a Spanish version.  Double check to make sure they are identical and that you know what you are signing.

- Have due diligence preformed on your property before you purchase by a credible lawyer or title company.

- Aviod using the same lawyer as the seller. You need to have someone who is unbaised working for you and you only. Your lawyer needs to examine your property with a microscope to make sure there are no hidden risks.

- Know what you are buying and pay for only the portion of your property that is useful and you can build on. For example, if your property is near a creek or river you cannot build on anything 15 meters from the creek, so why should you have to pay for those 15 meters?

- Make sure your property has all its documentation in order.

- Make sure you have water & electric services, and that the municipal property taxes are paid. If not, you may have to pay huge sums of money to fix these types of issues.

- Insist on meeting the owner of the property.  If you can this it will help you avoid overpricing scams, or from buying a property that is not owned by the person you think you are buying from. Owners are extremely helpful at telling you about their home and can also set off red flags for you if there seems to be something off.

- Read contracts carefully, and be sure to seek out professional legal assistance if you feel it is a significant purchase.

- Never count on anything from a verbal agreement and a handshake, things do not work like that in Costa Rica.  If the agreement is not documented in writing, it never happened.

- You are not guaranteed the property you put money down and until closing. Up until closing a variety of different scenarios could pan out which could cause you to lose the property you want:

  1. If the commission was to be split between two agents and one decides to burn the other the deal could fall through.
  2. If an owner decides not to honor an agents commission the agent could steer you in another direction.
  3. If an owner knows that they have a committed buyer in you, they may "invent" a second competing buyer who is offering more.

While investing in Costa Rican Real Estate has provided us with an amazing lifestyle and strong returns, we have seen a lot in our real estate careers here.  If you or someone you know has been on the wrong side of a real estate scam, we would love to hear about it in order to prevent others from being scammed the same way again.

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