Choosing the right listing agent just got easier with this great guide based on one from HGTV and applied to our practice in Costa Rica.

The world is full of people who sell real estate. Some of them are smart, efficient, focused, versatile and willing to go the extra mile. And some of them aren’t.  This doesn’t change, no matter if it’s Costa Rica or Canada. And in a small but fast-growing community like ours in the Costa Ballena, everyone is friends with at least a few real estate agents.

Finding an agent who will sell your home using a range of marketing tools; who will get you the best deal possible in a reasonable amount of time, all while charging a fair rate, takes some effort.  Interview at least three candidates before you sign a contract because your best friend may not be your best choice for representing your most valuable asset in Costa Rica.

Here are 10 questions you really want to ask so you can identify the best real estate agent to sell your property:

  1. How much? Ask potential agents how much they think they can sell your home for. If two agents say $600,000 and the third says $700,000, think hard: it’s likely the high bid is an exaggeration to attract your business. In the trade it’s known as buying a listing. In the end, it’s you, the seller, who pays because the high price will scare away potential buyers before you inevitably drop the price.  We often see this happen to unsuspecting sellers as we are touring new listings. Consider how the agents arrived at the suggested list price.  Did they present a current market assessment, showing you recent sales of comparable properties, and the current properties on the market that will be your homes’ competition, which buyers will be comparing your home against?   As a serious seller, the best policy is to price your property reasonably competitively in the current market and attract serious offers instead of having buyers perceive your property overpriced and present low-ball offers.  As your sales agent, there is an art to negotiating a deal, and we will do our part to lead you through the negotiation, but let’s not play games. Acting as a buyers agent, we may love your home and want to show it to our buyers, but if it has been over-priced by another agency, it will be obvious to our buyers in how the property is presented in comparison to other properties we will show them within their budget.  Over-priced properties stand out and cause buyers to be confused with the pricing of properties in a market, and that’s just not helpful for anyone. The best policy is for agents to price properties correctly, using the available market data, then both sellers and buyers win….and that is the desired outcome in the art of the deal.
  2. How will you market it? Listing it on the Internet shouldn’t be the only answer. The realtor should be able to talk about what kinds of people are likely buyers and how he/she will reach out to those specific people.  Our agents show potential sellers a listing presentation that includes the quality of our listings in comparison to our competition (professional photography, videos, virtual tours, and more), shows comparable properties in the region and what they have sold for, comparable properties currently for sale that will be the competition, and the various far-reaching marketing efforts our office will undertake for promotion of the property.  We have a dedicated team that works to advertise our clients’ properties, and Costa Rica in general, to the right channels all over the world.
  3. How has your business changed in the last five years? If an agent doesn’t talk about website tours,smartphones and SEO, chances are this is not a highly wired agent. Tech-savvy realtors sell more properties because they are more connected! Our team uses an instant messenger and client retention service to stay in close contact with our client buyers, so as a seller you will benefit from the knowledge that buyers are receiving numerous touches or “nudges” about your property and its’ various appealing features.   Due to Costa Rica being a predominantly vacation destination, buyers are quick to come and go and our market is all about grabbing the opportunities as they arise.
  4. Tell me how your last two deals surprised you? Every agent has a success story, but this question will give you a much better feel for what this realtor is like as a salesperson.  And in a land where buyers and sellers may be in or out of the country at various points throughout the deals, there are a lot of surprises that can and do happen regularly in our local real estate market.  What counts is how an agent deals with these surprises. Are they timely? Organized? Patient? Willing to help?
  5. What’s your specialty? If you’re selling a starter home in a community full of young families, hiring an agent who specializes in seniors is probably a bad idea. It doesn’t mean that if he only sells condos that he can’t sell a house, but he may not be geared up to do the best job.  In our region, if you want to sell a home, lot, or business in the Costa Ballena, we specialize in selling any of these. See our recent ‘solds’ here:
  6. How many people are you selling homes for right now and what are you doing for them? It may not be a bad thing that a  highly-successful agent is juggling 15 homes, but can you expect them to give you dedicated personal service?  On the other hand, be wary of an agent with few other clients because they may lack experience and contacts.  Our agents take on enough listings to keep them busy, and our sales are our best advertisements for getting new listings in the area.  We are always busy selling listings and taking on new ones..
  7. What do you expect of me? A good salesperson will have expectations of their clients. They may want you to leave and take the dog when the house is shown, or to paint the bodega, move some furniture around and scrub the tile in the bathroom. It shows that your agent can think like a buyer and that’s a good thing.  We have so many showings every week that our finger is on the pulse of what buyers are looking for today,  We are able to give advice that has afforded our sellers to be able to list for higher than they could originally, when it may be something as simple as spending a few hundred dollars on landscaping or fresh paint and selling for $10,000 more.
  8. What advice would you have for me if I get an offer from a buyer who wants financing? It wasn’t very long ago when the right answer might be run the other way, but these days, buyers are asking more and more about financing.  Although it is difficult for buyers to get a loan in Costa Rica (banks and private lenders both have high interest rates), more often sellers are offering seller-financing to sweeten their deal. Good real estate agents should be able to help you through understanding the seller-financing process and engaging with the closing attorney to ensure the documentation is correct and protects the parties according to Costa Rican laws.
  9. What’s your fee?  Although you may find an agent or agency who is willing to drop their commission, our office and most brokerages engage the industry standards set and agreed upon by the Cámara de Corredores de Bienes Raices (Chamber of Real Estate Brokers) in Costa Rica. For this fee, we guarantee our full attention to your listing, to deliver on the various marketing and sales initiatives as promised in our listing presentation, and ultimately  to bring forward successful closure on the sale of your property..

Can I talk to one of your previous clients? It’s often best to hear it directly from those who have worked with us in the past.  Get in touch with our team if you have any questions or would like to speak to one of our previous clients. In the meantime, please visit our website to read dozens of testimonials from our past clients and present neighbors.  Because when you work and live in such a small, tight-knit Costa Rica community, the best business card is word-of-mouth: