Why Is There No Zillow In Costa Rica? If you thought you could find real estate in Costa Rica on Zillow, this article is for you.

Costa Rica is a country famous for its lush, plentiful jungles and the local real estate market is often viewed as one of them! People from the United States who come to Costa Rica looking to buy property are used to operating in one of the most transparent real estate markets in the world. Websites like Zillow and Trulia are universally used in the U.S. to find out the important details about a property before even contacting an agent. But this is not the case in Costa Rica and new buyers can feel confused and overwhelmed by the lack of a central MLS system for the country.

If you are one of those new buyers feeling confused or overwhelmed without the handy Zillow app you’re used to, here is a guide explaining how Costa Rica real estate works and why choosing the right broker is key to finding the best property for you.

Why is there no MLS in Costa Rica?

On Multiple Listing Services (MLS) in the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world, you can only promote properties through a licensed real estate agent. You must register with your license number and the brokerage firm you work for.

There is no official MLS in Costa Rica, although there have been many attempts made and there are currently a few websites that claim to be an MLS here. Websites claiming to be an MLS are misleading as it is nearly impossible to have such a system in this country. There are currently very few properties with official addresses and most properties are designated by description and plano number.

Costa Rica’s best property web portals are locally managed by individual brokerages, which strive to share their exclusive listings with other brokerages and to include listings from other offices in their website. Our office website has a curated list of most of the properties for sale in our Costa Ballena communities, with the rare exception of properties that we have determined are not worth listing because of major issues such as a lack of access to utilities or improper title. Websites like Zillow would not likely account for these details and may misrepresent the true market situation.

Finding a realtor in Costa Rica

When it is time to contact a real estate agent in Costa Rica, foreigners often come with the expectation of working with a licensed realtor like they would be in the U.S. or Canada. This is not a guarantee in Costa Rica, nor is it mandated by law. However, if you can get past the idea that Costa Rica should operate like the U.S., we would like to explain why an app like Zillow is not the best option for learning about properties in Costa Rica and why you should spend the time to find a great realtor to help you in your search.

Good market comparables are how people decide if a property is priced appropriately. But properties in Costa Rica are typically very unique with people often designing their dream homes with the expectation that someone else will one day enjoy their dream when they sell. It takes an experienced eye with years of practice to know what the market will value a property when it goes on the market. Our office has listed thousands of properties since we opened in 2006 and we have seen all manner of construction and condition. We have also witnessed what hundreds of buyers and potential buyers have valued different homes and lots for sale in Costa Rica. There is no algorithm that could replicate the knowledge base of a good local agent.

Costa Rica real estate practices

In the U.S., you must be licensed to be a realtor. This requires a certain amount of time and effort to study and pass the real estate agent exam. Realtors must also work for an existing brokerage firm and cannot start their own company. Not following the rules can get you in trouble with the real estate commission and this gives buyers confidence that their realtor will work with integrity. 

Costa Rica has something of a real estate chamber called “Camara de Corredores de BienesRaíces”. Realtors in Costa Rica can choose to participate in their course to become a member of the chamber. In this course, realtors learn about the legal types of properties in Costa Rica, as well as basic sales training and how to close a property. This is an optional course and not a requirement for practicing real estate in Costa Rica, however the majority of realtors in our region do opt to take the course and have been licensed in the U.S. or Canada prior to moving here. 

Being licensed in Costa Rica does not guarantee that a realtor will be honest and do their job to the best of their abilities. But this is also the case outside of Costa Rica. Our Osa Tropical Properties agents have all opted into the chamber in Costa Rica and we practice real estate with integrity because it is what we believe is right, not because we are mandated to act as such. Our dozens of client testimonials are posted on our website and attest to our abilities as agent and our trustworthiness in this role. Because we live in such small communities, we know that word gets around and we do our very best to make sure that message is glowingly positive.

Market analysis tools like Zillow in Costa Rica

Sales prices in the U.S. are recorded in various databases like Zillow that users can reference for free. This makes the real market value of a property transparent. Zillow has a wide range of market data with their market analysis tool “Zestimate” which has average sales prices, price ranges, price forecasts, and average market rent.

There is no formal organization or company that records sales prices in Costa Rica. At the closing of a property in Costa Rica, the current tax value of the property is recorded with the national registry. This value is typically much below the actual sales price. But a good realtor in Costa Rica will have a record of this information in a private database that we are happy to share with clients. We do this because properties are very unique in Costa Rica and to understand cost differences can often require a more detailed explanation than figures can represent on their own. 

Our office also puts out a quarterly market report where we offer salient data and descriptions of what is happening in our local real estate market that our clients find helpful. 

If you find a good realtor in Costa Rica, they will act as your personal Zillow app, providing you with personalized information that helps you find the right property for you. Contact our team to get your free market report for mid year 2021.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter