How to sell your undesirable house in Costa Rica

Is the house in Costa Rica that you are selling so undesirable that nobody will buy it? Have you been trying for years to sell your house but it’s been impossible to find a buyer? What can you do about it?

Some time ago, I wrote an article titled “8 reasons why your property in Costa Rica has not sold in 7 years,” which offered a simple solution to the problem, if the price is what really matters.

Your home may be beautiful, but there is a reason it won’t sell. You may think you own the most beautiful home in the world; buyers might not have the same opinion. Maybe it’s the lazy real estate agent’s fault for not promoting it enough? Or could there be another, more logical reason?

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Many sellers do not realize that a property buyer will not purchase a house that they do not completely fall in love with. Buying a house is a huge investment and to make a buyer fall in love with your house, it needs to be way above average.

There are a number of ways to find solutions for your inability to sell your undesirable house in Costa Rica, but you have to make the effort to find those solutions. Ask yourself if you are somehow scaring buyers off. If homely people can find spouses, why can’t the owner of an undesirable house find a buyer?

Here are some tips.

Focus on your curb appeal

Even if an undesirable house is located in the most horrible neighborhood in town, it can still be the nicest house in the neighborhood, right? It’s just a matter of concentrating on the details, especially on the curb appeal. Curb appeal is the first impression a buyer gets, which is very important in the buyer’s decision-making process.

Focus on how to make that curb appeal near perfect without having to spend a lot of money on it. Can you cut the hedge, paint the fence or clean up the garbage on the sidewalk? Also maybe fix the sidewalk or do something else that can make your house stand out in a positive way?

Focus on the positive features

There was a reason you bought the house yourself. This undesirable house must have a lot of positive features.

Take the time to think about all the positive and unique features your house has. Make a list of those features and then focus on them.

Find out how you can make those unique features stand out. If you don’t know what to do, ask your real estate agent for recommendations. You will need to work on it, as it won’t happen automatically.

Focus on the negative features

Now consider the negative features of your house. I doubt you’ll find that many of them. If you can’t figure it out, ask your real estate agent what is turning buyers away.

Once you’ve identified the negative features of your house, focus on how to turn them into positives. You’ll be surprised how easy it is. Most agents will tell you that you need to de-clutter, clean up, get rid of all that stuff you have lying around, clean up the dog poop, cut the grass in the yard, etc.

It is much easier than you would think to turn negative features into positive ones. Even if you have to spend money on painting those garish walls in your daughter’s room in a more acceptable color, it’s an investment that will help sell your house.

Home staging and de-clutter

The other day, I went to a house for sale that has been on the market for at least eight years. The house is quite nice but has so much furniture that you can hardly walk through the rooms. It makes the house feel small and it isn’t. But the main reason it hasn’t sold is because it’s overpriced. If the seller had gotten rid of 50 percent of his furniture and other clutter, I’m sure the house would have sold a long time ago. At the right price, of course.

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need, put it in storage, sell it or give it away. Make the house look picture-perfect for every showing.

Time frame

Houses in Costa Rica take a lot longer to sell than they do in many other countries. What is the reason for that? In my opinion, it’s the lack of real estate agents working together and the lack of a real Multiple Listing Service, but mostly because people are trying to sell undesirable houses that are overpriced and look terrible when shown.

If you try hard to do something about it, you can make the difference.

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


    Leslie anderson | January 26, 2017

  1. Thanks great article I shall write them.

  2. Thomas Patrick Rosenberger | January 27, 2017

  3. Over the past 24 years of performing construction inspections in Costa Rica, I have had the privilege of working with experienced investors who understand what it takes to sell homes all over the world. I provide Pre-Sale Home Inspections that detail all of the existing problems, so the owner’s can bring their properties up to saleable standards. In addition, the owner can give a copy of the inspection report to the purchasers so they can review the current condition of the home. This allows the purchasers to feel confident about the investment they are making and gives the owners a big advantage over other properties for sale.

  4. Ivo Henfling | January 27, 2017

  5. Homes in Costa Rica are usually sold “as is”, so Thomas’ suggestion is a real good one. Isn’t it a great idea to be able to move into a house the day you’ve bought it without having to put up with repairmen, painters, carpenters and others for months?

  6. Christina Truitt | January 27, 2017

  7. Great article – Thanks for sharing.

  8. Leslie anderson | January 29, 2017

  9. Hi wrote to the person who you list as contacy for this article: and tje message is undeliverable. So is this not the correct email address?

  10. Karl Kahler | February 1, 2017

  11. Hi, Leslie. Its, not .com.

  12. Justin Timber | February 3, 2017

  13. PURA BS! What seller in his /her right mind leaves poop around the property least of all inside.You are not dealing with idiots (Or maybe your clientele IS )..but most sellers have the common sense to clean, paint and fix up a house for sale …Now lets get to the REAL ‘ Nitty Gritty” spoken from someone who has bought and sold properties here in Costa Rica WITHOUT the use of the non existent. not to mentioned the “NON LICENSED” “real estate agents” in C.R.
    Therefore the REAL REASON that it takes longer to sell properties in Costa Rica is purely the incompetence of those of you, professing to be professional “Realtors” when you never went to school 8 hours daily for at least 6 months, then pass 6 very difficult exams to get a license.
    If you first would stop being greedy and do a service to the seller by SHARING your commission with other salespeople, then it would be a big help.
    In the many years I have lived in C.R.There has never been one person who would form and OFFICIAL M.L.S. (a multiple listing service which posts photos and information on properties for sale, therefore giving all other salespeople the knowledge of such properties.There is a ” fake one” (about as legit as the people trying to sell )
    The reason for this is as stated GREED in the one individual who has hoodwinked sellers into foolishly signing an “Exclusive listing agreement” not knowing that you are neither licensed nor cooperating with others who are trying to sell properties here.In the USA and elsewhere that practice is illegal and you would have their licenses removed for doing so because it is a disservice to all sellers who are supposed to have a fiduciary agreement with sellers.another dumb practice is here they hope to sell on a hit and miss approach (Show all properties on the market, thus bothering sellers to “clean up and prepare houses for showings” when “agents” have no clue as to comps in the area. and hope they get lucky.( a very amateur approach and without even spending time with a buyer in oder to “Qualify” them as to where and HOW MUCH $$ they wish to spend! If they do not have all cash would they qualify for a loan etc etc…
    THIS is why homes take ages to sell in Costa Rica..INCOMPETENCE! (if I had the time I would open up a badly needed real estate school here. Sellers BEWARE ! there are NO licensed professional realtors in Costa Rica, and most “Best Buys” are not “listed” and rarely advertised (No Signs etc. ) but sold privately as I have done mine, in the past. Good Luck ! but again BUYERS BEWARE!

  14. Ivo Henfling | February 3, 2017

  15. I am sorry to disappoint you on almost everything you are saying Justin. First, I fully agree with you that educating real estate agents is urgent in Costa Rica. But you probably know that thousands of realtors in the US, even though educated, are not always professional and they are greedy too. There are many competent real estate agents and brokers in Costa Rica and you are making a mistake by your statements. I have been a real estate broker for over 25 years in Costa Rica and I do know what I am talking about.
    Now, lets go to the part that you are wrong about:
    1. 80% of the sellers in Costa Rica (which is where we live and work) do not have the common sense to clean, paint and fix up. Not all are Ticos.
    2. Mitch Chandler of Tierramax MLS worked hard for 2 years to make a real MLS happen. It was perfect for Costa Rica. Brokers did not back him up because they didn’t like him as a person. Property Shelf and others have tried too. The problem is that the agents themselves are not interested because the tax people might find out about their business. AND they don’t want to be educated.
    3. Buyers are as much as fault because they keep buying from a taxi driver or a waiter.
    4. Exclusive listing agreement does make sense in small pockets of markets, like in certain beach areas where agents DO work together.
    5. Best buys are listed but you need to look for them all over the place (for lack of an MLS)
    6. Not all real estate agents are greedy, there are many of us that are not and have professionally worked in Costa Rica real estate for years. Licensing doesn’t make a person honest and knowledgeable. There are many doctors, dentists, lawyers and others that are greedy.
    7. If you read my articles for the Tico Times, you will see that I fully agree that we need an MLS, but one that educates.
    I am sorry your feeling is like many others, and I understand it comes from not having dealt with a competent real estate agent.

  16. Justin Timber | February 3, 2017

  17. correction: a Fiduciary Relationship is made between the “Salesperson” and the Seller (Mandatory in USA)

  18. Justin Timber | February 3, 2017

  19. I beg to differ on some points and we have been here 29 years (ex pro realtors in USA .I never saw your name until the last few years..So I reiterate the REASON “salespeople” do not want an MLS is BECAUSE they do not want to share a commission, which as I said is “Grounds for losing ones license there”. IF you do NOT share your “exclusive listing” nor use MLS you LOSE your license.period!.so Licenses WOULD benefit sellers. WHY can’t people who try to sell properties here not realize that HALF the pie is better than NONE, ( when they lose the listing , which is often given to a different “salesperson” for a “no sale” )
    I would never recommend buying from a taxi driver or a waiter BUT I have made some “fluke sales” of 6 figure properties in USA. by hearing some TELL me of Quiet or “Pocket listings” that they know about ..
    For that the norm was for a broker with a heart to always TIP them 1% of the net sales commission received. After all in USA there or here, they would not have the “where with all” to make a sale complete and professionally. and I since I would never have known about the FSBO if not advertised (some with no addresses given) so no greed involved and a TIP is well deserved .
    Another point I forgot to mention was “brokers” here THINK in USA we make a FULL, we would deserve it for our professionalism and the fact that WE appraise the property for the seller and APPRAISE it and put a realistic sales price on it, AND we also are responsible if anything is amiss and no known faults are not disclosed and WE pay for some of the Advertising and the INSPECTION and if as I sometimes found, a major fault, such as a cracked foundation is found we are obliged to disclose it to the potential buyers and negotiate for buyer and seller as to whether they are willing to make repairs (perhaps buy splitting the costs..) THAT is REAL “negotiations” on behalf of sellers and buyers..
    But I digress , about the 6 to 10% commission they THINK USA brokers earn ..WRONG . although we are Independent Contractors , unless we own our own offices, most have “Bosses” who take from 40% to 50% of the commission BECAUSE it is THEY who give a salesperson a desk from which to work, pay the phone bill astronomical if a good worker, pay weekly advertising and if high priced luxury estates pay for magazine ads, and any lawyers fees if needed (although since we have to have a course in Law rarely needed )
    When is the last time you ever did either that in Costa Rica? Either Appraised a property or paid for advertising or a full inspection? and WHEN if ever has a “Broker here done REAL cost appraisal (Never, for sure as they have no schooling to do the best thing they think of to say is that ” the property is OVERPRICED” well if seller knows no better that my make for a quicker commission. and if the “Realtor” here was a pro HE or SHE would have advised the owner of the Correct price ..not a low ball for a quickie commission) there would be no “overpriced properties “…thats my professional opinion and if you also stick to the pro’s rule of thumb and ONLY try to service properties within 10 miles of your homes..and not try to cover all of Costa Rica as they do here Laughable to think they are doing a service for a seller trying to sell in every port and beaches and all over Central Valley it’s Ludicrous! just another hint…STICK to where you can REALLY be ready to show at short notice with sellers permission so they are not hosting a dinner party, as has happened here, with “Brokers” just showing up without appointments..I could go on, but won’t..enough points covered for now…
    So back to the REAL reason things sell slower in CR . IS GREED ! Hence not wanting a M.LS. (no room for GREED in USA because we do cooperate with other brokers, and by mutual consent (also with your boss if you have one) the commission can also be negociable.

  20. Brian Schaller | February 3, 2017

  21. Wow Justin, you’re really freaked out over this!
    Ivo is trying to make a living in a country you really don’t understand. His remarks are well taken by most that want to have an understanding of C.R. R.E. law (as a lawyer in the U.S., C.R. citizen, seller/buyer of multiple C.R. properties, I do).
    Fiduciary duty does not really apply to realtors (like you) that don’t understand the term. As a fiduciary in the U.S., you can’t represent multiple parties.
    As an atty. in the U.S.,I was able to obtain a R.E. license without any tests, getting this license NOW is the equivalent of 6 units of Jr. College classes. Don’t wave your gringo flag too high!
    Where do you really reside? I can’t imagine anyone that has spent so many years in C.R. would be so against someone sharing a commission if they helped facilitate a sale of a property.
    You also probably believe that a single mother with two kids should be imprisoned for legal prostitution (NO trafficking, what a crock!).
    Don’t fly your gringo realtor flag here, we are here because we don’t need your misplaced values. Ivo is providing a much needed service.
    You sound like a So. Cal. realtor that is broke.
    Take a cold shower and leave the Tico pros alone!

  22. Ivo Henfling | February 3, 2017

  23. Now we do agree on most everything Justin. The good agents / brokers do advertise an exclusive property but things have changed a bit since you stopped being a professional realtor Justin. Nowadays, property is promoted through Google Adwords, Facebook, Twitter, International Real Estate portals and many other online tools. Magazines are a wasted effort and money for real estate advertising, unless you are a real estate developer. There are plenty of real estate agents that work together, such as the 27 agencies that belong to the American European Real Estate Network, located all over the country. ALL the affiliates work with other agents, it’s an obligation in the group’s bylaws. Each specializes in their own area and no one is allowed to list property all over the country, quite the opposite of what you are saying here. I agree with you, there are many agents who do work all over the country and I agree that it is ridiculous. My own agents only work Escazu and Santa Ana. Another works only Cariari and Belen, etc. etc. And yes, paying a tip to 3rd parties like hotel desk personnel is quite customary. Thank you for posting all your doubt, this gives me the opportunity to show you that things have changed dramatically over the last 10 years and to invite you over for a cup of coffee here in my office to show you all the changes.

  24. Justin Timber | February 8, 2017

  25. Well Brian Either you are an associate of Ivo’s or maybe IF he ever sells a property (VERY rarely, ) (I hope he shares his commission with people like you who LIE for him) … I know from a fact that he is known to jack prices down for a quick commission… OR you are a dumb “know nothing” Gringo.. Been here 2 weeks?
    IF you got a R.E. in USA without schooling and TEST..WHERE ??? Post a photo of it.. and we can scrutinize it as we did with Obama’s “birth certificate ”
    I think you are also a liar just to defend the non licensed Ivo…”Birds of a feather flock together” ..THERE ARE NO Competent “REALTORS” in Costa Rica .
    People like you CON newcomers who move here into thinking that there ARE such…..I doubt if things have changed for ” scamsters” to get licenses illegally in USA.. Maybe you managed it and a you LAWYER ? I DOUBT IT …ust another scam I would bet!

  26. Ivo Henfling | February 8, 2017

  27. Talk and accusing in an article is so easy Justin. Make your knowledge hard through writing over 1,000 articles about Costa Rica real estate, living in Costa Rica and other matters that are important to those who move to Costa Rica is a whole other thing. Until now, you only talk and accuse. Makes no sense to me. I invite YOU to write an article about real estate in Costa Rica, your views on it and what should be done to make it work the way you believe it should. I’m giving you the chance to earn the reader’s respect, just like I have done over the years, but taking the time to write about my real estate experiences, so other can learn from them. I really hope you take up the invitation Justin. If you don’t, every reader will know what you are all about. You can send your essay to the editor Karl Kahler

  28. Ana Izurieta | February 8, 2017

  29. Im selling my house in the mountains in Heredia ?

  30. Brian Schaller | February 9, 2017

  31. Ok Justin, let me enlighten you.
    In CA, those that hold a J.D. from an accredited law school don’t have to take all the classes one takes to receive a R.E. license (obviously we have a much more extensive study of R.E. law)nor graduate from a R.E. school.
    As well, I was licensed to practice in the District Court in 1983.
    Start Googling if you have so many doubts about just about everything. Don’t know why you’re SO angry. As to Obama’s birth certificate, that really gave you away as a very ignorant person. Angry Trump may not last four months much less four years?
    Ivo was very indulgent with your attempts to impugn him and his profession. I don’t hear from anyone else who holds your, “pro” opinions.
    P.S. While you are Googling, brush up on your English grammar!

  32. Giathi | February 16, 2017

  33. Where is the best place to promote and expose
    a home in the area of San Jose?

  34. Ivo Henfling | February 17, 2017

  35. Well Giathi, at the Tico Times of course. You can email with the details, so Martha can give you the price structure.

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