Important facts about property ownership in Costa Rica

Here are some important facts about property ownership in Costa Rica;


  • A foreigner has the same ownership rights as a Costa Rican (with one exception which is concession property, which we will explain later).
  • You do not have to have residency to own a property in Costa Rica.
  • You can open a bank account in your name or your Costa Rican corporation.
  • Yes, you can ship your household goods to Costa Rica, but you have to pay import taxes (same with a vehicle). We did this and can share your experience if you would like.


  • We have several different types of property ownership;
    • Titled properties
    • Concession properties (the first 250 meters of the coast - measured from the high-tide mark, of which the first 50 meters are the "public beach" and no one can own. The next 200 meters are "Maritime Concession" properties which means you can own the home, but you lease the land from the government. (Jaco beach is 100% exempt from this rule and ALL properties are titled on the beach).
    • Derecho properties are properties of which you own a percentage of the entire property - your specific lot is not indicated.
    • Co-Derecho properties


  • You will also need a Costa Rican attorney to represent you during the closing process. Make sure the attorney is a real estate attorney and has expertise in the area you are purchasing!! (Very important). Your real estate agent should be able to refer you to trusted and professional real estate attorneys in their area.
  • We highly recommend you use an insured escrow company that is registered with SUGEF (Financial regulatory agency in CR) to wire your funds for your deposit as well as closing. The escrow company should be independent of your (or the seller's) attorney. STLA is a highly recommended escrow company (



Interviewing potential Real Estate Agents to represent me as a Buyer

Buying a property in a foreign country can be scary and exciting at the same time.

Take your time to interview a Real Estate Agent and make sure you trust him/her to your best interest at heart.

There are some important questions you can ask potential agents;

  • How long have they been working in Real Estate?
  • Do they do this as a full-time job?
  • What is their area of expertise? (if they tell you they can represent you in the entire country or providence - be cautioned)
  • How many sales have they closed last year?
  • What is their average sales price?
  • Ask where they live to make sure they are familiar with your preferred area.
  • Are they registered with SUGEF? (The General Superintendency of Financial Entities ( Supertendencia General de Entidades Financieras, SUGEF) of Costa Rica public entity overseeing the stability, resilience, and efficiency of the national financial system; and inspects and regulates the operations and activities of the financial entities.)
  • Beware that there is no official MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in Costa Rica so make sure you work with an agent that works inside a reputable company that has been around for a long time. They will have the data needed for comparisons, property sale history, development history,...
  • What is their relationship with their competitors? (Your agent can represent you "the Buyer" for any listing you find, even if it is with a competitor, so you need to make sure they work well with others). You can ask how many deals they closed with their competitors.


Hire a specialist!! (You would not hire your landscaper to perform your heart surgery)

For Sale by Owner versus hiring a professional



Option 1: You would like to do this yourself


In order for you to get your home ready to sell, make sure it is "show ready" and have all your relevant paperwork ready to send to the buyer's agent for due diligence.


  • Keep in mind that you will have very limited exposure unless someone drives past your property and writes down your phone number.
  • You will have no way to pre-qualify your potential buyers prior to a showing
  • You can save the 6% commission


Option 2: You want to hire a professional (highly recommended)


Find an agent you want to work with that is part of a reputable Real Estate Company. Here in Costa Rica, a lot of people are Real Estate Agents without any qualifications, certifications, or training. (there is not NAR - National Association of Realtors, nor is there an official Real Estate License requirement). Make sure your agent has the resources, training, and the appropriate data available to actually get your property listed, exposed to potential buyers, and sold. Choosing one of the major international companies not only ensures that they have the knowledge and the tools to assist their agents, but there is also accountability to their broker and the franchise.


  • This is your agent's JOB (you wouldn't hire your landscaper to perform heart surgery)
  • Your agent can pre-qualify all potential buyers prior to a showing.
  • Your agent will write the offer, connect the buyer with an attorney, help the buyer open up the escrow account (so you get paid) and take care of all the property research with your attorney.
  • You will be happy to pay the 6% commission if you see all the work they do to represent your property.



Exclusive versus Open (non-exclusive) Listing Agreements


What does an agent mean when they mention "exclusive" or "open" listing agreement and what is the difference?


Non-Exclusive aka. Open Listing


  • The agent makes listing live on their website
  • Open listing agreement
  • You share property information with every agent
  • Everyone represents you
  • Everyone can show your property
  • No marketing dollars spent
  • Every agent needs keys or access to the property


The commission you pay = 6% (plus the corresponding sales tax of 13% on that commission that your agent pays directly to the "hacienda" (tax agency in Costa Rica) 3% to the Buyers agent and 3% to the agent representing you.


Exclusive Listing


  • The agent makes listing live on their website
  • Exclusive listing agreement
  • Share all your property information with only 1 agent
  • 1 agent (team) represents you
  • 1 agent shows your property while accompanying buyers and their agent
  • Only 1 agent has the keys (access) to your property
  • Marketing specifically for your property
  • Property featured in local publishing (also in print)
  • Ability to control the listing
  • Agent shares your listing with all other agents (and other companies)


The commission you pay = 6% (plus the corresponding sales tax of 13% on that commission that your agent pays directly to the "hacienda" (tax agency in Costa Rica) 3% to the Buyers agent and 3% to the agent representing you.


Our recommendation? Have 1 agent (or 1 team) represent you and your property!!


Now that you are ready to list your property exclusively with the agent of your choice, time to review their contract.

Please read the whole agreement and ask questions if you do not understand something.

Top 9 things you should look for on a listing agreement


  1. Make sure the Listing Agreement has the correct FINCA number (also referred to as the Matricula or Folio Real). This number should consist of 4 parts
    1. The number of the province (Costa Rica has 7 provinces)
    2. The property number (matricula or numero de Finca)
    3. In case the property is in a condominium, the number is followed by an "F" that stands for Fina Filial.
    4. At the end of the property number, you will find either 000 or when there are several owners, it will show as 001,002, etc.
  2. Make sure the Listing agreement has the correct PLANO number. The Plano Catastro is also known as the survey plan and is the recorded / titled property. The Plano is a detailed survey of the property boundaries, Folio Real number, size, ownership, and the date it was registered.
  3. The correct location of the property
  4. Your full name (as on your passport or Cedula)
  5. Your Passport number or cedula number (your agent should ask you for a copy)
  6. Your corporation name and ID number that holds the shares of your property (unless you own the property in your own name)
  7. The commission rate (you are hiring a professional for their services - standard rate is 6%)
  8. Length of the contract (typically 1 year)
  9. Signature and date from yourself and the agent.

Seller, these are the things your agent will need from you to sell your pro


In order to prepare a closing statement (financial tracking sheet for all the funds exchanging), your agent will need to prorate all the utility bills, they will need;


  1. Last 3 months of your electric bills (typically from ICE - national electric company), account number (NISE number), payment due date, and cycle date.
  2. Last 3 months of your water bills (example form AYA - water company), account number (NIS number - if AYA), payment due date, and cycle date.
  3. Copy of your last property tax payment (from the Municipalidad - City Hall)
  4. Last 3 months of telephone payments (if you have a hard line)
  5. Receipts of the last HOA payment (if applicable) and an official letter from the HOA manager stating that the property is current with all payments.
  6. Rules and Regulations for the HOA (If applicable)
  7. Good financial records for any rental income
  8. Contact info for the property manager to coordinate showings or access to the booking calendar (if rented)
  9. Executed Listing Agreement

What should I do BEFORE a showing of my property


So you just got the call!! Your agent is scheduling a showing for your property with a potential buyer,

Time to get busy...

Buyers are curious creatures and will look everywhere (yes, even in your medicine cabinet and sock drawer)



Roll up your garden hose

Clean up kids toys

Organize your garage | storage area

Sweep your patios

If you have a pool, make sure it is clean and free of leaves and debris

Walk around your home and clean up as needed


Inside the home

Make sure the dishes are done and cleaned up

Clear your countertops (as much as possible)

Make the beds

Tidy up your closets

Close your toilet seats

Place some fresh flowers on your table

Turn on every light in the house

Open up every curtain

Turn on every ceiling fan

On a hot day, make sure you cool off the house and have the AC's running

Go out for a walk during the showing - let your agent sell your property


What to expect during the showing?

Buyers will test the water pressure, open cabinets, walk around the property


After the showing

The agent will finish all showings scheduled for the day and send you a follow-up to let you know how the showing went and share the probability of an offer. (Keep in mind that the average time on the market in our area is 6-18 months and requires a lot of showings as most clients are purchasing a second home and typically not in a rush to purchase.