By Ivo Henfling
Costa Rica has never really had a good MLS system and that is mainly because the two Costa Rica real estate boards have not organized themselves enough to make it happen. And most real estate agents in Costa Rica prefer 50% commission of nothing instead of working together. This makes it harder for a buyer to find the right home or lot for sale and this in turn makes many buyers not stay loyal with just one agent. I turned in my CCBR (Cámara de Corredores de Bienes Raices as well as CCCBR) real estate license many years ago for the same lack of organization.
To my opinion, having a license from the CCBR real estate board doesn’t give my agents or me any value at all, except maybe for the 4-day course they teach and without doing an exam, you’re entitled to call yourself a licensed CBR real estate agent in Costa Rica.
That’s why in 1998, with Kjersten van Horn and Barry Ashworth, I started the American European Real estate Group, the first mini-MLS in Costa Rica, now with 23 agents from coast to coast. All our agents have done the CCBR real estate course, but few are still a member.
MLS means Multiple Listing System for those who didn’t know. It is a well-organized listing system where you can search for property for sale in a certain area, with all the correct information and price. For years, the CCBR has had an MLS but you would find the same Costa Rica property for sale for for rent listed many times and offered at different sales prices and with different information. A good MLS system allows a real estate company or agent to have an option to do a search from the companies' website on the MLS through an IDX.
It was also very unfortunate that Tierra Max, a fantastic MLS system, especially written for Costa Rica and with great rules and regulations did not get a chance to prove itself to the local real estate agents for lack of interest of making it work. What I liked most about it was that it was managed by a non-realtor, so the rules and regulations would be followed for sure.
It doesn’t help buyers and sellers to have an unorganized real estate market with no real license and no one who controls the ethics of the real estate professionals. I hope they'll make a come-back soon as I believe in what they've done.
To my opinion, it is necessary to have an MLS system that is not written for the US or Europe, but for Costa Rica specifically because everything is different here. First of all, in most areas in Costa Rica, real estate agents use an open listing system and not exclusive listings, so you have many agents selling the same properties, all at different prices. Only in beach towns like Jaco Beach and Tamarindo, you will find that professional real estate agents use exclusive listings to protect themselves from losing a property sale because a bartender or a taxi driver got ahead of them. Second, we have no addresses and the real sales prices are not shown at closing, therefore no comps.
In the Central Valley, you will find probably 12,000 real estate agents, between housewives, waiters, masseuses, gardeners and professional real estate agents, which makes it difficult for the buyer and seller to know which way to turn. I think it’s amazing why anyone in his/her right mind would want to buy a house from anyone who is not rightfully trained as a real estate agent. Most sellers do not care who sells their property in Costa Rica, as long as it sells, just as an owner will rent his property without using a real estate agent. But should a buyer just trust anyone to do a good job? Many buyers and sellers do not understand the value of a good real estate agent until they meet one.
Maybe one day I will sign up for the CCBR real estate board again if they get their latest MLS to work. I will celebrate the day it will, if they have good rules and regulations in place.
By Ivo Henfling, your Costa Rica real estate agent who can show hundreds of good testimonials of happy clients because to him, a good real estate closing needs 4 happy parties: the buyer, the seller, the real estate attorney and the real estate agent. See Ivo’s real estate listings and contact him now for a showing.