San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Real Estate Associations Push for Licensing and Training of Realtors

WITH land in Costa Rica being bought and sold at a furious pace, it seems that just about anyone who knows of property for sale can show the site or building and make a deal. That’s because licensing is not required by law in this country, though not for want of trying by the two primary Costa Rican real estate associations.Both the Costa Rica Global Association of Real Estate (CRGAR) (, 653-0300) and the Costa Rican Real Estate Association (CCCBR) (, 283-0191) support mandatory licensing of real estate agents. The two groups had hoped to see eight-year-old draft legislation aimed at regulating Costa Rica’s real estate industry pass the plenary session of Congress; however, it has now been permanently filed, and must be resubmitted before it can be brought before the government again.Earlier this year, the CRGAR proposed a study of the original bill in an attempt to avoid whatever stalled it the first time, and to further efforts toward required licensing of real estate professionals here. The CCCBR has sent four bills for consideration and has never received any answers.IN an interview at his Tamarindo Century 21 Coastal Estates offices, Nicholas Viale, CRGAR president, discussed the ongoing process of legal licensing of realtors in the country.“We are in favor of raising the standards of the industry, as well as controlling of our ethics, because we are customer oriented,” he told The Tico Times. “Of course we are in favor of regulated licensing, but we know it will take time in Costa Rica.”According to Emilia Piza, president of the CCCBR, who spoke to The Tico Times on the way to a real estate conference at Liberia’s Do It Center, her group’s main concern is “to protect Costa Rica and do everything legally.” She cites a number of foreigners who are working without legal residency or work permits; by breaking Costa Rican law, Piza said, these realtors are not following a code of ethics.“Some of them don’t even speak Spanish or have work papers – they’re tourists,” Piza said. “They are buying and selling our lands for X amount of money and reselling it to another foreigner for absurd quantities, making huge profits for themselves. This isn’t close to what the ethics code stipulates.”She added that the CCCBR will keep pushing its position for stronger laws to protect the Costa Rican people who are having their land taken away at cheap prices and sold for much more.THE CCCBR sent its bills to the Legislative Assembly with the hope that their passage would eventually “help to take stronger measures against anomalies.” After making no more progress with the government than its fellow real estate association, CCCBR members decided to police themselves for quality and principles by implementing a code of ethics, as well as licensing requirements that would only be fulfilled following training courses.The CRGAR took a page from its fellow association’s book and developed its own code of ethics; the group began training its members for organizational real estate licenses years ago.“Instead of focusing on getting the government to force licensing, we created a CRGAR license, complete with training of our people, including approaches of general law and constitution in Costa Rica, and specific real estate matters such as condo law, contracts, development and escrow,” Viale explained. “This training gives our brokers a good knowledge of real estate laws. We also give membership cards with the license and certificates when training is completed, in a program of very specific classes led by the best real estate lawyers and professionals in the country.”SUCH a course was offered to CRGAR member agents, brokers, property managers and developers in September.Entitled “Legal Aspects of the Condominium Law in Costa Rica,” the four-hour class covered the essentials and updated participants on the latest regulations, as well as conflict prevention and resolution.“Our members start with basic training, then move on to further studies in their areas of expertise, such as this recent program in condominium law, or perhaps corporations,” Viale said.“They continue to learn, and each time they complete a new training course, they get a specific certificate.” “Generally, we focus on training in the CRGAR, and that’s the best guarantee we can give our customers,” he concluded.ADAPTING and adhering to the individual ethics codes within the two real estate organizations is another important point emphasized by both Viale and Piza, especially when discussing the risk prospective buyers or sellers take when dealing with unlicensed people acting as real estate agents in the country.This was the strongest point used to seal a recent deal that has resulted in a bilateral partnership between the CRGAR and the U.S. National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest association of real estate agents in the world, with more than a million members. Once again following the lead of the CCCBR, which is already in accord with NAR, Viale will sign the deal on behalf of CRGAR this month at the NAR’s annual convention in San Francisco, California, allowing members of his organization benefits such as the ability to legally call themselves Realtors®, a registered term. Other perks include access to the NAR resource center, its international training programs, the right to use NAR’s Web site and the opportunity to join the International Consortium of Real Estate Associations, leading to still more benefits, such as a secure international referral system and a global information center with outstanding resources.These links between real estate groups in Costa Rica and organizations in the United States, as well as connections to international associations, are the future of the real estate business, Viale said.“The way of selling real estate has changed lately,” he commented. “It’s all about connecting our association and its resources with other associations and their resources through the Internet, and new venues such as these organizational linkups.”WHAT about the possibility of CRGAR and CCCBR merging into one Costa Rican real estate unit? Piza is no stranger to affiliated benefits, and said she’d negotiate with CRGAR if the situation were right. After all, she’s not only president of the CCCBR, but has been a member since she started working in real estate in 1974, and is also enrolled in the International Federation of Professionals in Real Estate, the Federation of Chambers and Associations of Real Estate of Central America, Panama and the Caribbean, and in the NAR.“It’s better to have two separate associations,” Viale asserted. “We might be able to organize a better lobby for, say, the eventual licensing of realtors, but also other real-estate-related laws and projects. Also, having more than one group in Costa Rica offers more alternatives to our members, and more experience and tools for clients and real estate agents to draw upon. We recognize (the CCCBR’s) training program and we would give each licensed CCCBR member a license in CRGAR without having them go through our basic training.”

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