There are two questions you need to ask any real estate agent in Costa Rica before starting to work with them. The very first question you should ask them is, “Are you registered with SUGEF?” The second is to ask if they are a registered active member in good standing with either of the only two government recognized real estate associations, CRGAR (Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors) or CCCBR (Cámara de Corredores de Bienes Raices).
Now you might be asking what is “SUGEF” and why does a real estate agent need to be registered? Well, let me start with this then move on to the associations.
“SUGEF” is the Spanish acronym for “Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras” in English it is the General Superintendent of Financial Institutions. This is the Costa Rica government agency that oversees all the banking and any company in Costa Rica that receives third party funds from abroad. For example, escrow agencies, and property managers. The main reason SUGEF is placing more types of businesses under their umbrella is to help prevent money laundering, drug trafficking, and funding of terrorists.
Starting roughly last year, SUGEF starting adding different types of companies and occupations to the list of those that need to be registered with them. Real estate agents were one of the professions, along with lawyers and others. The requirements to register are quite detailed. I had to disclose every real estate transaction I was involved in from April 2019 until March 2020. The items to disclose were:
1) Do I do real estate in my own name or the name of Costa Rican Corporation
2) The number of transactions that closed from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.
3) Was the buyer a foreign entity or a Costa Rica entity?
4) Was the buyer using a Costa Rican Corporation or their personal name?
5) How many employees does my company have that are receiving benefits of the social security system?
6) What bank accounts and IBAN numbers are associated with my company?
7) How many vendors do I utilize to operate my business?
All this information had to be entered into their web platform utilizing a digital signature, which thankfully I already have.
The second question you need to ask is if the agent you are considering using is registered with one of the two legal real estate associations. “Why?” you ask? Well, would you get real estate advice from the cashier at the local grocery store? Or maybe your favorite bartender? Or the one I like the most, the tour guide with whom you spent the entire day doing zip lining, mud baths, and nature tours. I am not knocking these folks/ They have a service they provide and may do it extremely well, but real estate is not one of them.
Use a proven real estate professional, one that legally can work in Costa Rica and can prove it by showing you their residency card that says “Libre Condicion” (Free of Conditions) or their citizenship card called a “Cedula”. The real estate agent should own property in Costa Rica. It shows two things: permanence and that they have the knowledge of how to close a real estate deal in Costa Rica so they can help you do the same.
Again, the same question: is the agent an active member of a real estate association? A true professional will have taken the time and expense to learn the real estate laws of Costa Rica. As agents, we have taken courses and are required to take “continuing education” courses from these associations so we can properly guide you through the entire buying process.
Now you know the two main things you should ask a Costa Rica real estate agent before you decide to work with them. Being registered with SUGEF and at least one of the two major real estate organizations is a minimum to protect yourself.
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