Have you heard, read, or been told that there’s no MLS in Costa Rica? From time immemorial straight through September 2022, that was a true statement. Key word: was

Because, in September 2022, there will be a centralized system. There will be Costa Rica MLS listings. There will be higher professional and ethical standards. There will be agent collaboration and cooperation. And there will be a fully-fledged, well developed, incredibly robust MLS in Costa Rica. 

You heard it here first!

Why Has There Never Been an MLS in Costa Rica? (Or, A Lesson in Cultural Differences)

aerial view Guanacaste Costa Rica

Before we get into the why not, let’s back it up to the basics. An MLS, or multiple listing service, is essentially a centralized real estate listing database. That said, there’s nothing basic about it. 

In practice, an MLS is an incredible feat of collaboration and shared cost (money, time, effort, and a lot more!). Because an MLS only exists when real estate brokers in a region or country agree, en masse, to collectively cooperate, work together, and share all these many-tiered costs. They also have to agree to share information and commissions (another cost), as well as to list properties exclusively.

So, why has there never been an MLS in Costa Rica? We’re so glad you asked because, truly, this is an excellent example of a seemingly simple “problem” with very complex, underlying cultural roots:

It’s Political

why no MLS in Costa Rica

When there’s no system in place (as was the case), then before there can be a system, there must be agreement on which system. 

Think about the ramp-up to your country’s elections: Everyone has a different opinion and a lot of people are really passionate about those opinions! Deciding to implement an MLS, let alone choose the parameters, details, and database software behind said suggested MLS, is a task of gargantuan effort. 

It’s even harder when you’re trying to get multiple parties – many independent and franchised brokerages, plus associations and organizations – to agree on a single solution. Hence, time immemorial through to right now. 

There’s No Mandatory Real Estate Licensing (Yet)

real estate licensing Costa Rica

You may have heard someone call Costa Rica real estate the “Wild West.” This is why: There is no official, required licensing process here. (There is voluntary licensing, though, which has robust requirements. Our advice: Work only with agents who have completed the voluntary licensing process.)

That said, there IS such a thing as verifiable, trustworthy real estate credentials in Costa Rica. (See below, What is CRGAR?) Also, licensing is another something we’re actively working on. Stay tuned! 

Long story short, as with the chicken and the egg, Costa Rica’s real estate professionals couldn’t quite agree: Should mandatory licensing or an MLS come first? Some people thought that you couldn’t implement an MLS in Costa Rica system without establishing licensing first but, as we’ve now found out, it’s not just possible; it’s done.

And It’s Deeply Cultural

cultural differences Costa Rica

A functional MLS system has a few basic requirements. One of the most important: exclusive listings

In layman’s terms, this means that only one real estate agent represents one seller’s property and only one agent represents one prospective buyer. Easy, right? Except, no, not when culturally, things work differently! (Learning to accept cultural differences is a big part of adapting to life in Costa Rica, by the way! Check out a few more Costa Rica lessons that will enrich your life.)

Because for as long as real estate has been bought and sold in Costa Rica, properties have been represented by multiple real estate professionals. In other words, if you had a property for sale, you could list it with 10 agents who would all market it to their networks. Sounds good in theory, except… well, those 10 networks are still vastly smaller than a possible centralized, easily accessible MLS in Costa Rica.

Even so, it’s not easy to simply convince someone that there’s a better alternative to “the way it’s always been done!” That takes time, effort, and lots of education and outreach. Which is exactly what we at CRGAR have been doing. And that brings me to…

What is CRGAR? 

CRGAR Costa Rica Association Realtors

CRGAR is the Costa Rica Global Association of REALTORS® ­– a name you at least partly already recognize! (A Realtor®, with the registered trademark, is a select sub-section of real estate agents and brokers who adhere to higher ethical standards and a specific Code of Ethics. In other words, all Realtors® are real estate agents but not all real estate agents are Realtors®.) 

Back to CRGAR: The Costa Rica Global Association of REALTORS® was founded 18 years ago as an association committed to supporting Costa Rican real estate laws, mandatory licensing, and related efforts. 

CRGAR REALTORS® undergo an application process, must complete a required 12-month series of professional education, and are also required to operate under specific ethical and professional standards. They reside and work legally (not always a given in Costa Rica), pay their due taxes, and contribute in other ways to Costa Rican society.

One of the biggest ways they do this? They promote and practice cooperation. And that’s where the brand-new MLS in Costa Rica comes into play. 

The Brand-New MLS in Costa Rica (September 2022)

You may not know that
our very own Rebecca Clower, BWP founder and owner/broker, is also the [edit: now former] President of CRGAR. And that’s why we (and now, you) are privy to this news: The MLS in Costa Rica system is coming in September 2022! 

We won’t get into the nitty-gritty details but, suffice it to say, 18 years of networking, education, and copious research have all collaborated to reach this outstanding achievement: The CRGAR is launching the country’s first centralized, honest-to-goodness MLS system 

The new system is powerful enough to database the entire country, putting equal emphasis on functionality and speed. It’ll have all the features you already love, including filters that allow you to dial in on price, bedrooms/bathrooms, specific locations, and a lot more. If we can database it, you can search it. 

BWP real estate team

But it’s more than a centralized MLS in Costa Rica; this system is helping revolutionize the Costa Rican real estate market. Here’s how: 

  • Qualified Professionals Only: In an effort to improve quality of service and selection, the new MLS system is accessible only by CRGAR members (and through them, their real estate clients). This is a critical step in standardizing Costa Rican real estate and leveling-up our quality of service
  •  Only Agents & Developers: One of the biggest barriers to Costa Rican real estate standards is still a lack of mandatory licensing. (Again, we’re actively working on it!) That said, to guarantee quality to the extent possible, only qualified real estate brokers, agents, and developers will be able to list their properties on the new MLS in Costa Rica.
  • Exclusive Listings Only: Open listings are not allowed. Why not? Because, as anyone who has home-shopped here before knows, once a listing propagates over dozens of real estate “agencies” (many of which haven’t even visited the property or met the owner), they live online long after they’ve been sold. By accepting only exclusive listings, this new MLS system guarantees that a property listed as “active” is, indeed, available to potential buyers

CRGAR is currently in the database-building and training process. They expect their system to be fully functional by mid-September 2022 and to go live by September 30, 2022. Buyers and sellers around the country are waiting with baited breath!

What Does the New MLS in Costa Rica Mean for Buyers/Sellers?

Costa Rica Exclusive Listings

In a nutshell, the new MLS in Costa Rica equates to a higher standard of service, better quality of listings, and a smoother buy/sell process for you. 

To summarize what we’ve already said above, the new system: 

  • Guarantees a Standard of Professionalism & Ethics: As the system is only available to CRGAR REALTORS® and developers, as a buyer and/or seller, you are assured to work with only those agents who meet the association’s professional standards and code of ethics. 
  • Easy Searching: Forget having to visit a dozen websites to peruse properties! Now, your agent will have access to every listed home that meets your requirements.
  • Centralizes Listings: No more worrying whether a listed property is off the market! The first MLS in Costa Rica eliminates guesswork. If you fall in love with a property online, it’s available for you to fall in love in person, too. 
  • Improved Real Estate Culture: In the medium to long term, the MLS in Costa Rica (and everything it entails, behind the scenes) will serve to create a culture of higher standards, better client service, and greater agent oversight

If a rising tide raises all ships, then an MLS is the tide and Costa Rica’s real estate industry and culture are the ships. Welcome to the next wave of real estate in Costa Rica! We’re so glad to be here with you. 

Want to List on the MLS in Costa Rica

MLS in Costa Rica

Yes, you can be one of the first sellers to list on the MLS – or one of the first buyers to find your home on the Costa Rica MLS! 

At Blue Water Properties, we’re CRGAR REALTORS®. We meet those high standards. We follow a strong code of ethics. And we not only have access to the new MLS, but we led the charge. (Thanks, Becky!) And now, we’re happy to help you in any way we can.

As a company and as people, we thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry. And that begins with lots of information. We are happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, even if you’re only in the beginning phases of planning your future move. 

We’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate, from condos and homes to land and businesses for sale. So, go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.