Is it insane to hold an open house in Costa Rica?

Is it insane to hold an open house in Costa Rica or does it make sense to forget about it and promote the sale of your house in a different way?

If you ask the seller of the home, you will get one answer. If you ask the real estate agent, you will get another. And the neighbors will give you a totally different answer.

Ivo Banner American-European

The concept of an open house — where you open the doors of a home for sale to anybody who wants to tour it — was created before the Internet existed. Now, real estate offices use virtual home tours, slideshows, video and even drones to show aerial footage. You can see a house inside out, without even driving to it.

Have you ever seen invitations for an open house in Costa Rica? I have not. Well, maybe a few organized by real estate brokers for real estate brokers.

The neighbors

Let’s start with the neighbors. They love open houses. They’ve been dying to get into their neighbor’s home for years but were never invited. Now they’ll be invited and can roam your home and even look in your closets without interference.

Will a neighbor purchase the house? I doubt it, but you never know.

So will holding an open house sell the house faster?

The seller

Many foreign sellers of a property in Costa Rica assume that the listing system here works more or less the same as those back home. When there is a formal multiple listing service (MLS), the seller chooses the best possible listing agent to attract potential buyers quickly. By signing an exclusive listing agreement with the agent, the seller can expect broker cooperation. In some countries, one open house for buyers and another for real estate agents may be enough to sell a house in a week, or at least collect several offers.

None of that will happen in Costa Rica, where it would take a miracle to sell a house in a week. There is no broker cooperation, no list of people ready to buy. I wish our real estate market were so perfect.

The real estate agent

Only a real estate agent with an exclusive listing agreement from the seller would invest the money, time and effort to hold an open house in Costa Rica. There is not much broker cooperation here, and the lack of a formal MLS doesn’t promote the use of an open house as a marketing tool. You will find very few agents using open houses to market a property.

The buyer

We have two types of buyers of Costa Rica real estate: local and international. An open house in Costa Rica is useless to someone who is in Arizona, China, France or Polynesia on the day of the open house.

So let’s have a look how a local buyer behaves. Costa Rican real estate buyers shop around forever. They start shopping a long time before they even decide to put their house on the market.

Most local buyers do not use a real estate agent to look at properties. They look on Facebook, for sale by owner, newspapers and drive around neighborhoods looking for signs.

I’m sure they would love those yard signs that say “Open House.” You might get hundreds of visitors opening your closets, using your bathroom and probably even looking into your fridge.

Open house in Costa Rica

Does it make sense to hold an open house in Costa Rica? Personally, I would advise against it. I think it’s a waste of time and effort and there are many better ways of promoting a property for sale. There are many reasons that an open house doesn’t make sense in the Costa Rican real estate market. The main reason is the lack of a formal MLS.

All the above does not mean you shouldn’t try to hold an open house in Costa Rica. Advertising an open house can be as easy as posting it on Facebook, asking your friends to spread the word and posting a sign on your gate.

If you are determined to hold an open house to help sell your home, take the following five steps:

1. Drive up to your house yourself and look at it through the eyes of a buyer. Check your curb appeal, cut the hedge, paint the gate, cut the grass and clean up the dog poop.

2. Get rid of all the clutter. Throw out everything you don’t want to take to the next house or give it away. De-clutter every room, one by one. Get the house ready to show, paint wherever necessary and fix anything that needs fixing. Don’t hold an open house before your house looks picture-perfect.

3. Put away all your valuables, photos and any other personal items you don’t want strangers to see or touch.

4. Meet with your real estate agent, discuss and formulate a sound strategy: who to invite to the open house, how to advertise it, where to put signs. Don’t forget the guest book so all visitors can sign in and leave their name, phone number and email address.

5. Bear in mind that security may be an issue, so ask for assistance from friends or relatives.

Ivo Henfling founded the American-European Real Estate Group in 1999 — the first functioning MLS in Costa Rica with affiliate agents from coast to coast. You can read other articles like this on his blog. Contact Ivo at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at


    Christine | November 14, 2016

  1. As a non US person I don’t know how many non-US folk would understand what an MLS or “open house” was. Have bought property over the years in 3 continents, only come across MLS and open house” in USA.

  2. Ivo Henfling | November 14, 2016

  3. Thanks for your comment Christine. There are several online International Multiple Listing Services, and many countries have one, such as Philippines, Hong Kong, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, Colombia and many other countries around the world. Quite a few countries don’t but most have tried to in the past.

  4. bento | November 15, 2016

  5. How I bought my house………….I saw a ” for sale sign by owner” I invited myself in and few

    minutes later I was the proud owner of a beautiful house. I have been happy ever since.

  6. lindy | November 15, 2016

  7. It would be insane. Any potential robber would be able to see everything in your house or at least the level of luxury. Or tell someone who is. That is the biggest reason. Also, it has been said that most houses in the US are not sold as the result of an open house. It is so the real estate can get potential clients. That is what I have heard from agents. You don’t need the hassle or potential robbery as a result.

  8. Ivo Henfling | November 15, 2016

  9. Great Bento, congratulations with your purchase then. Nothing better than a happy home owner.

  10. Al | November 15, 2016

  11. Good article Ivo.
    During a public open house or private showing, there have been instances where a would-be buyer is simply there to case the joint or look for jewelry, money or PRESCRIPTION DRUGS to steal. When a couple shows, require them to stay together without splitting up.My advice let this pain in the neck job to a Realtor agent(“Ivo team”).
    Have a nice day.

  12. Ivo Henfling | November 15, 2016

  13. Thanks Al, for leaving the pain in the neck job to me, as you describe it so well. 🙂

  14. Thomas Patrick Rosenberger | November 16, 2016

  15. An open house sounds like a nightmare that could only be surpassed by a garage sale !

  16. Ivo Henfling | November 16, 2016

  17. In a garage sale, you can keep them out of the house Thomas. I’d prefer the garage sale over the open house for security control

  18. Rafa | November 16, 2016

  19. Ivo, thanks for shedding light on the Open House issue. You are right, the Open House was a marketing tool from the dark ages before the internet. Here in Costa Rica it is an invitation to those that would render the homeowner victim of a home invasion at some future date. Personally, I wish that local brokers would do a better job of prequalifying potential buyers before showing a property. I’ve had brokers in Belen attempt to set up appointments to show my property without even knowing the last name of their customer. No thanks. Keep up the good work, Ivo. In this tough market you are the voice of reason and experience.

  20. Ivo Henfling | November 17, 2016

  21. Thanks Rafa, for your comments. I agree with you on the pre-qualification process, but as always, there are reasons for that. You just gave me the idea for a next article. Thank you!

  22. durabo | November 21, 2016

  23. Petty thievery runs rampant in Costa Rica – at ALL socio-economic levels. I would NEVER allow an open house.

  24. Brian Schaller | November 23, 2016

  25. Petty theft is not prosecuted, therefore many engage in stealing because there are no consequences unless a armed or otherwise protected possible victim is ready. By the way Ivo, have you come across an increase in potential U.S. refugees/buyers because of the Trump election?

  26. Ivo Henfling | November 23, 2016

  27. You’re right about the petty theft Brian, which is everything less than ¢210,000, called “hurto” in Spanish. And yes, lots of emails and calls since election day. Mostly low budgets and rentals…

  28. Angela Passman | November 24, 2016

  29. Speaking from experience, an open house in Costa Rica is a terrible idea. What they don’t take when walking through your home supervised the DO come back later to acquire. Ivo your on point with all comments above.

  30. Julieta | November 29, 2016

  31. Love your dog. What is his/her name? So photogenic….

  32. Ivo Henfling | November 29, 2016

  33. Thanks Julieta, I haven’t given him a name yet. It’s a male. Any suggestions?

  34. Warner Montoya | November 29, 2016

  35. As a Costarrican citizen and lawyer, I find the five advice given in the article very interesting, wise and suitable for every eventual buyer in C.R. Especially for the foreing ones. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!

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