Anyone with some land or a house/business to sell can put up a sign and sell it. Here are a few things you can improve when buying properties in Costa Rica:
1. Your deposit is refundable.
Some real estate agents, or sellers, clarify that your deposit is nonrefundable. There are no hard and fast rules on this. However, DO NOT hand over much directly to the seller--you likely don't know him or her. Write a purchase contract and put the money in escrow with a provision that you will get your money back if certain conditions are not met.
2. You don't have to pay all closing costs. Usually, closing costs are split between the buyer and the seller. Be sure of this before going to closing.
3. Use an independent attorney for closing. Many times, a seller will direct you to his or her attorney. We suggest you use a third party attorney and/or someone YOU trust. The seller's attorney is likely a friend of the seller so guess who's side he's really on? Even if it costs you a little more, it's worth it.
4. Don't forget about utilities. If you are building a new house, you need to check out the situation with electricity, water and telephone service, but at Jaco Beach there is not big deal with this anyway. If any of these utilities are not present, you may be required to put them in, sometimes at significant expense. Ask your agent about this and check his or her estimates with the local utilities before signing anything!
5. Don't pay a commission to the agent if you are buying property. The seller should pay, not you!
6. Verify the asking price directly with the seller. Many agents in Costa Rica take a "net price" from the seller and mark it up--this is illegal in the U.S. but not here. If the agent or attorney won't let you talk to the seller directly, then walk away.