Buying property

Is it best to use an attorney...or a Real Estate agent??

You definitely need an attorney!  Most "real estate agents" became one by saying they are one.  I know two Americans and a Cuban fellow that practice real estate in our area because they decided they could.

You need an attorney, and you need one that is highly recommended by at least a few other Gringos or one or two that you know very well.

Also ask your attorney to make sure that you're going to have the right to build and access the land you are buying. If it's a house, then you likely already have those rights. But if it is raw land then you want to make sure you have Utilities in place or make very very sure you can get them, and make sure you have access to the property and that you have the right to build on the property.

Sometimes an attorney only wants to look at whether the property is titled or not, but there is more to it than that, as above.

Real Estate Agencies are a frace in CR.There are nno licences needed and many pose for Gringos as "Professional  realtors" when they have not had an ounce of schooling (Unlike USA and other ccountries where heavy schooling is needed to get an R.E Licence..The closest People in CR have come to getting a real estate degree..is by having a business card rinted up SAYING that they are professionals...takes a while to get to know this . Be .CAREFUL

pebs :

Real Estate Agencies are a frace in CR.There are nno licences needed and many pose for Gringos as "Professional  realtors" when they have not had an ounce of schooling (Unlike USA and other ccountries where heavy schooling is needed to get an R.E Licence..The closest People in CR have come to getting a real estate degree..is by having a business card rinted up SAYING that they are professionals...takes a while to get to know this . Be .CAREFUL

It is true. But what counts is that you have a good attorney check it out as I mentioned above. The "real estate agents" really only exist as sales people, gathering properties that are for sale, and showing them to you, taking you there etc.

Otherwise it is up to you to check and make sure of the things I mentioned above, the title is good, no liens on it (this is a big one to have checked), right of entry to the property, ability to build on it (uso de suelo) and availability of power and water. Look for an electric pole nearby.  If you don't see one you may have a problem. Same with water.

All this above is true.Find a reputable attorney not associated with the seller or the real estate company you are working with.

Here's a statement from my current lawyer just some heads up info for you.

Attorney/Notaries in Costa Rica have competent public authority to prepare and close Purchase and Sale Agreements on any Real Property in Costa Rica.

General qualifications and legal obligations of Attorney/Public Notaries in Costa Rica:

To be a Notary Public in Costa Rica, (unlike the United States) you must be a Licensed Attorney in Costa Rica.  One must be dully incorporated into the Costa Rican Bar Association. One must also be inscribed at the National Directorate of Public Notaries. One must be current with one’s financial obligations to both the Bar Association as well as the National Directorate of Public Notaries.

When a Notary Public is designated by the parties (Buyer and Seller jointly) to prepare and authorize closing documents on real property, there are a number of legal duties and responsibilities that the Attorney/Notary must perform:

According to the Law which governs all Attorney/Notaries in Costa Rica, (Notary Code), Attorney/Notaries, must act impartially and objectively in relation to all persons involved in the acts or contracts granted in their presence.

Attorney/Notaries are obliged to preserve the professional secrecy of the details of any Purchase and Sales Agreement or contract which is signed before them.

Attorney/Notaries must follow the strict protocol as is rigidly defined by the Costa Rican Code of Ethics for Attorney/Notaries.

Attorney/Notaries have the obligation to clearly inform the parties about the value and legal significance of the terms of a given sale or transfer or any Real Property as defined by a Deed of Trust.

On Real Estate transactions, Attorney/Notaries must, in the performance of the due diligence and legal scrutiny of a given property, properly evaluate, in finite detail, all of the elements of Title, Water Rights, Liens or Impending Judgements (if any) against the property which would in any way, adversely affect the Buyer’s security in the purchase of a given property.

The Attorney/Notary must properly draft the Deed of Transfer and clearly inform the parties about the legal encumbrances, if any, that affect the property.

Many Buyers of property within Mar Vista have chosen to use my services for the closing of their purchase.

The Seller and myself always give the Buyer the option to choose their own counsel.  We never have, nor will we ever, discourage any Buyer from seeking their own independent counsel. If you decide to hire another Attorney/Notary Public, to draft the closing documents, I will be happy to provide him with all the documents and information that he may need to perform his duties.

When I am chosen by both parties to prepare closing documents of a Real Property, I prepare. a comprehensive report to both parties (before the due diligence term expires) of all of the key points of diligence (both in English and Spanish). 

In Costa Rica we have a Central Registry (National Registry), in which all the information of the Real Properties is recorded. Attorneys/Notaries can perform a complete scrutiny of the Title and Cadaster survey plan of all the recorded properties.

If you as a buyer are offered to use the attorney of the seller don't do it.
Look at it this way:
The attorney who works for the seller (i.e. works for the realtor) may get a lot of business from that realtor.

If he finds something wrong with the property when he is doing his due diligence, he may just pretend not to notice it or tell you the buyer that the property is fine, all is good, when it is not.

This happened to me with a realtor's attorney who was highly recommended by many gringos.

To be safe, use your own attorney; never the attorney of the realtor handling the deal. YOUR attorney represents YOU. The realtor's attorney is more interested in the realtor than you. He wants the deal to go through for his friend/employer/client.

It may work out in many cases, yes; but it's not worth the risk.
Get your own attorney is my advice.

You need an attorney for legal services. I recommend hiring a fully bilingual real estate attorney. It's like visiting a dentist when your foot hurts. If you can find a real estate attorney in the area where you're buying, that will serve you best, if not, use one in San Jose. Buyer and seller should never use the same attorney for a real estate closing. NEVER use the real estate developer's attorney when buying from a developer. Make sure you use escrow services for any money involved.

As for a real estate agent, you will not hire one for legal services of course. Use an agent who lives and works in the area you're looking to purchase. Use one who knows what he/she is doing, it's easy to check them out online. Make sure the agent also shows property listed with other agents, since we don't have a formal MLS in Costa Rica. You can hire a buyer's agent, although a dual agency is quite common and legal. Real estate licensing is not mandatory but that doesn't mean an agent is not knowledgeable. I know licensed agents who don't have a clue what they are doing and the other way around.

Just like in any business anywhere in the world, you want to surround yourself by the best. on't go FSBO, hire responsable profesionals, they're there.

godutch :

You need an attorney for legal services. I recommend hiring a fully bilingual real estate attorney. It's like visiting a dentist when your foot hurts. If you can find a real estate attorney in the area where you're buying, that will serve you best, if not, use one in San Jose. Buyer and seller should never use the same attorney for a real estate closing. NEVER use the real estate developer's attorney when buying from a developer. Make sure you use escrow services for any money involved.

As for a real estate agent, you will not hire one for legal services of course. Use an agent who lives and works in the area you're looking to purchase. Use one who knows what he/she is doing, it's easy to check them out online. Make sure the agent also shows property listed with other agents, since we don't have a formal MLS in Costa Rica. You can hire a buyer's agent, although a dual agency is quite common and legal. Real estate licensing is not mandatory but that doesn't mean an agent is not knowledgeable. I know licensed agents who don't have a clue what they are doing and the other way around.

Just like in any business anywhere in the world, you want to surround yourself by the best. on't go FSBO, hire responsable profesionals, they're there.

Curious why you say not to go FSBO (For Sale By Owner). I say going FSBO is fine. Most of the realtors I have known have not really done much anyway other than drive me out to show me the property.

So when you say " Use one  [a realtor] who knows what he/she is doing, it's easy to check them out online. ", What is it, exactly, that he or she should know to do ? And how does the buyer know if the realtor is doing it or not?

The ones I have worked with, all they really do is check to see that the Title is good (though the checking may not be very thorough, at that - that's why you NEED your own attorney!)... and other than that they don't seem to do much at all. The main thing they do, it seems to me, is to show you where the properties are. And that's valuable, yes.

But if a buyer knows of an FSBO (For sale by owner) property, and he knows how to get to it or the seller is willing to guide him in, and if the buyer knows how to check  the title and check for liens at the registro, knows how to check for electricity and water and right of entry, uso de suelo ... then why not buy from an owner? (FSBO) The buyer is going to have an attorney check it all out anyway!

Also, some realtors do NOT check on things like whether or not electricity or water is truly available, or if the right of passage to enter the property is legal, and so on. So you really don't know what they check and what they don't. This is why you need an ATTORNEY more than you need a realtor imho. 

I had a well known realtor years ago try to sell me a property that was not titled, let alone whether I would have been able to get elec. and water to it... His attorney also assured me the Title would be no problem... After doing some work on it, he assured me it was okay. I put the deposit down...  I nearly lost a $5000. deposit  because of this crooked realtor and attorney! The title has liens against it and was not fully titled! Yet they both lied and said it was.

Just saying... So: Yes, do get referrals on your OWN attorney, always... and on your realtor. But it's really hard to know if a a realtor has truly checked on things they should, or not.

And in the end I think the buyer needs to check on these things himself AND have an attorney do it as well. So in the end I think the realtor is not necessary, (though may be helpful in some cases) and buying FSBO is fine as long as you and your attorney do  your due diligence. Just my 2 colones.

And as a seller I am open to using a realtor or not using one. But from what I have seen, the realtors don't do much other than get clients via their web site. Again, which is a good thing, but that seems to be about all they do.

Hi SanRamon.
I say don't go FSBO because there are always many issues that a lawyer will not do/check for you. A lawyer will for example not go to the property to check the survey with the property itself. There can be issues with road access that a lawyer won't see. There are sometimes issues with landslides, or the water, or the power, or easements. You know that's why I always write my blogs about. I receive emails almost daily from people who have bought FSBO (or from a real estate developer) because they have problems and if I can help. But, if you feel happy to buy FSBO, go for it.

godutch :

Hi SanRamon.
I say don't go FSBO because there are always many issues that a lawyer will not do/check for you. A lawyer will for example not go to the property to check the survey with the property itself. There can be issues with road access that a lawyer won't see. There are sometimes issues with landslides, or the water, or the power, or easements. You know that's why I always write my blogs about. I receive emails almost daily from people who have bought FSBO (or from a real estate developer) because they have problems and if I can help. But, if you feel happy to buy FSBO, go for it.

Checking all that stuff you mention here is the mark of a good realtor.
However I'm quite certain many do not do it.

But if one buys directly from an owner he/she can have their attorney check all of the above.
As a buyer, when you visit a property look for the water and electricity connection. Go to ICE electricity office and the local water office and ask them about getting water there if you buy the property (If you don't already see the water there). Generally speaking if you see a transformer at the property then you will be able to get electricity and if you see water there you will be able to get water.

Look around for things like landslide issues.

Do a search on theRegistro Nacional web site and look for Consulta Por Numero de Finca, (or have your attorney do it) and make sure it says you own the driveway to enter the property or "servidumbre de paso". This will of course also show who owns the neighboring properties and whose name the Title of this property is listed.

(You have to sign up on the registro web site before you can use it but all they need is a working email address.)

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