Selling Your Home
Though the Costa Rican real estate market has a small inventory, listings, especially those in the $200,000+ range, often stay on the market for months or even years. Selling your home for top dollar is all about beating the competition, so you'll need to hire a good real estate team, prepare your house for sale, and play to your home's strengths.
Costa Rica's top real estate agents have popular websites, extensive networks and word-of-mouth referrals – just the tools you need to sell your home. There is no listing exclusivity in Costa Rica; you can advertise your property with as many agents as you choose. They'll only receive a commission if they sell your home. Get referrals for your area's best agents, and try an Internet search for your town to find which agents' sites have the best web visibility.
If you're game for a little bit of work, consider listing your home For Sale By Owner (FSBO). You'll have to submit the listing to online listing websites and communicate with potential buyers directly, but if you end up selling your home FSBO, you won't owe any agent commission.
Costa Rica has no central Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which means that there is no centralized database of recently sold homes and those currently for sale. As a result, it can be difficult to price your home. A real estate agent will be very helpful in establishing fair market value for your home, but if you're listing exclusively as FSBO, just keep your eyes open. Search the Internet for comparable properties, and drive around to see if there are any homes for sale in your immediate area. If your home doesn't sell within a few months, it may be time to drop the price.
A well-maintained home and property will always appeal to more buyers. If your house is in need of some renovations, make sure you address these before trying to sell. Simple touches like a new coat of paint, or a manicured lawn can have a positive effect on how potential buyers view your home.
Take inventory of any and all renovations and improvements you've made to your home, such as upgraded tile, kitchen countertops, paint, lighting, and fixtures. Put a monetary value on your upgrades. Talk with your listing agent(s) about the improvements and their value, and don't hesitate to leave a detailed list of improvements for potential buyers.
Location & Livability
"Location, location, location" – the real estate mantra. If you're in a good location, whether it be an upscale neighborhood or an up-and-coming town, emphasize the benefits of where you live. Are you just a few minutes to private schools, the mall, or a main highway? Does your neighborhood have shared amenities, like a pool or clubhouse? The more livable your area, the more valuable your property. As you or your real estate agent write a property advertisement, make sure to mention nearby conveniences.
Staging & Showing
Staging your home is an integral aspect of making a quick sale. Stay organized, and always keep clutter behind closed doors. Remove personal items – family photographs and knickknacks – to make your home attractive to everyone. On showing day, bake cookies or burn some essential oil (vanilla works well) to create a welcoming atmosphere.
Marketing & Incentives
Head to Costa Rica's supermarkets and malls to pick up an assortment of glossy real estate magazines. These freebies are a great resource for finding top real estate agents or advertising your property FSBO. If you're anxious to sell, consider offering incentives like above-market commissions or a referral fee to agents and private parties.
If you've tried it all, and your home still hasn't sold, it's time to think strategically. Consider selling your home furnished, or offer an upgrade allowance to potential buyers. Throw in three months' worth of paid utilities, or contribute to the buyer's closing costs. Pay for top-placement in real estate magazines or websites, and find forums to place your listing for free. Most of your competition won't go the extra mile, and these strategies will help your home stand out from the pack.
Selling While Abroad
If you're selling a Costa Rican property while living in another country, a good real estate agent is extremely important. As always, hire someone you trust and who has excellent communication skills, especially via email. Talk to your agent about staging your property; small changes can really make a difference. Hire a reputable landscaper/gardener and cleaning service to conduct regular upkeep – curb appeal and first impressions are very important, and you won't be around to assure these for yourself.
To handle legal matters, it may be necessary to assign power of attorney to a lawyer, family member, or trustworthy friend who lives in Costa Rica. This individual will act as your legal representative for all purposes granted by the power of attorney: the right to sign legal documents on your behalf, access to utility accounts in your name, and other necessities of property management and the eventual sale of your home.