Real Estate Business Hard Work but Worth It

February 25, 2005

INTERESTED in becoming a realestate agent in Costa Rica? You may be infor a few surprises.Legally, the only requirements youneed to become a realtor here are a residencypermit and a work permit – nolicense is required. Becoming a memberof the Real Estate Chamber is optional,although Spanish speakers may find ashort orientation course run by the chamberuseful.The course costs $175, takes placeonce a month and is 32 hours long, completedin four days full time or eightevenings part time. Participants are taughtthe technicalities of construction, brokerage,contracts, customer service, ethicsand basic Costa Rican laws.“Not every real estate agent is a memberof the chamber, but the responsiblepeople are,” said Emilia Pisa of the RealEstate Chamber. However, some of therealtors interviewed by The Tico Timesdid not feel it was worthwhile to be achamber member, and said they did notfind the meetings beneficial.THE general consensus of many realestate agents is that the ease of becominga realtor means some people do not dobusiness as well as they should.“I’ve seen a lot of shady goings-on,”said Ron Douglas, manager of SurfsideProperties in Potrero, on the northernPacific coast. However, he added, “CostaRica is the place to be at the moment; themarket is hot. If you work hard, work longhours and are honest and effective, youwill do well.”ALEXANDRA Lancaster runs AlexiReal Estate, her own property business inthe Central Valley. She had several yearsof experience and was licensed in threestates in the United States before startingup in Costa Rica 15 years ago.How did she become a realtor here?Lancaster remembers she started out withvery little money.“I think I had to borrow money for myfirst advertisement in The Tico Times,”she recalled. From the response to theadvertisement, she began helping interestedpeople buy houses. Her flair and experiencebrought her success, but she said itwas very hard work.Lancaster now builds homes, works asa consultant and is working on a projectfor “affordable housing for non-wealthyNorth Americans” just outside the CentralValley. Fluent in Spanish, Lancaster saidhalf her clients are Costa Ricans.Other agents, such as Douglas, admittedthey don’t speak a word of Spanish.“Almost all of our clients are English speaking,”he said. A working knowledgeof Spanish would obviously make lifeeasier, but the predominantly English-speakingclientele means it is possible todo business without knowing the language,particularly on the Pacific coast,where holiday condominiums or retirementhomes are very much in demand.LANCASTER has some advice foranyone interested in becoming a realtor.“Prior experience is essential, and beprepared for extraordinarily hard work. InCosta Rica you must be prepared to workin an unregulated business. It is not a part-timejob, but the rewards can be great, andit’s enjoyable because it’s a great way tolearn about the country.”

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