Digital Real Estate in Analog Costa Rica - Leveraging Tech to Better Serve International Buyers

May 11, 2023 in Real Estate in Costa Rica, Tips for Buyers, Buying Process

If there’s one thing to be said about life in the tropics, it is that the pace of progress lags well behind the “modern world.” Costa Rica is no exception to this informal rule of the tropics.  It may be one of the fastest growing developing economies in Latin America with a highly-literate, high percentage English-speaking population, but the infrastructure of Costa Rica has still been slow to develop.  In the last 10 years, South Pacific Costa Rica has benefited immensely from the extension of a paved coastal highway from San Jose, and the expansion of telephone and internet service from only in small, local internet cafes to high-speed service in nearly every community.  Most recently, fiber optic cable internet is making its way down the Pacific Coast and into our small communities, too. In fact, there is hardly a technology that you cannot find in Costa Rica if you look hard enough. And so, in the deep end of the digital age, do you really need an agent when buying property in Costa Rica?

Searching for properties in Costa Rica used to involve flying down and traveling around, listening to stories from fellow travelers, and seeking the council of the established expats and locals.  This may still a big part of the process for some, but today's Costa Rica property hunter has moved on to the digital age and is choosing to begin their search online, reading a litany of blog posts and watching numerous hand held videos of varying quality about life in the different parts of Costa Rica and what anyone can expect to experience.

Aly Yale of Forbes Magazine suggests that although it’s no secret that buyers are doing most of the home search process on their own using apps, websites and digital platforms, when they find that potential dream home, their power ends there. Even in the most developed parts of the world, buyers need to call in an agent to open the door and show them the home—as well as craft and submit their offer.  

This cannot be truer in Costa Rica, where agencies each have our own platforms for listings and marketing.  You will find very little to do with Costa Rica on the usual MLS platforms like Zillow or Trulia, and nearly every agency is relying on their own marketing powers to attract buyers and sell them on the quality of their region.  This means that although you may find your dream property on your own by scanning the various websites, you will need to trust someone to tell you if your property choice is a good one.

What do Costa Rica real estate agencies offer their clients?

Typical housing data that first world citizens have come to take for granted, like instant access to price trends, comparables and estimates, are not available on any listing service in South Pacific Costa Rica.  Because there is no central MLS platform, data is not shared between real estate brokerages and so common data is not aggregated and presented in the way Zillow or Trulia do in other parts of the world. What’s important in Costa Rica real estate is that you find an agent who can still provide you with the salient sales information for any home or neighborhood.  Even if it’s not their listing, a good Costa Rica real estate agent will go out of their way to get the data about any listing in their region and put it together for their clients in a manner that shows that the agent knows the property, knows the history of the area, and knows the comparable properties currently on market, or about to emerge.

Buyers today are doing the research to learn about the areas and the school systems they want their kids to go to, but someone has to go out and create that information.  A good Costa Rica real estate agent will be able and willing to share information about any aspect of their communities of service that may interest their clients. Skilled agents know how to negotiate a fair price for their clients based on all market variables, and they also know about the school systems and what the different schools have on offer; the healthcare system and roughly how much it will cost you per month; and  where to go and what to do in any common situation that may come up. Ideally, your agent is like you and cares about where they live. Not only do they enjoy being there every day, but they earn their commission by supplying valuable information to buyers and sellers of real estate.

Choosing properties that fit your wishlist is only a small portion of the overall home buying process.  Consumers already have access to mountains of data on the internet. What they need is access to see properties and then help analyzing the data and negotiating through a potentially complex process, with inspections, co-op boards, and so on.  A good Costa Rica agent will have good working relationships with their local real estate colleagues, tradespeople, builders, architects, lawyers, government personnel, community leaders, and they should generally be confident to contend with any person or situation that’s common in their field.

"It's clear that while homebuyers are embracing technology, most still require the guidance of an agent to help save them time, keep them organized, and successfully take them through the closing process to get the best deal," said Daniel Maloney, head of sales at Owners.com. "Technology will continue to revolutionize the real estate market, but consumers still value and rely on their real estate agent."

Having knowledgeable buyers can make the process easier because buyer opinions and preferences are more sophisticated and true to the market.  They are realistic about what their budget will allow and sellers are more attuned to what their properties are worth. But Costa Rica real estate can be a dearth of information unless you find a good agency in your area of interest that caters to providing their market with accurate and helpful information.

Justin Fox of Forbes Real Estate Council insists that as you seek out your real estate professional, consider the following:

• Do ask a trusted friend or family member for a referral.

• Do online research: Review the agent's website for information about their experience and qualifications, review online testimonials, Google their name and explore the results page.

• Do ask them questions about some of the topics in this article, brokerage support, and any tech tools that might be helpful to you.

• Don't search by price alone. The cheapest option isn't always the best.

• Don't hire an agent out of a sense of obligation. Choose your agent based on their qualifications.

Osa Tropical Properties Real Estate Services is located in South Pacific Costa Rica.  We are a team of agents who are well-integrated in our Costa Ballena communities, serving the region that includes Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal, and Tres Rios de Coronado.  Check out our digital platforms for marketing property in Costa Rica:








We love to sell real estate in our adopted home country of Costa Rica, where each of us has lived for many years.  We know the ins and outs of the local real estate process and we have helped hundreds of clients buy and sell many homes.  We know the neighborhoods, the prices, and the real estate trends for our region. We invite you to check out our website to learn more about us, and about the part of the world that we love the most--South Pacific Costa Rica. 

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