Closing Deals 'a lo Tico' can be .... Interesting

Mark Jackson, President, Isthmus Real Estate

Reproduced from a Tico Times Supplement with the authors permission.

"Sometimes, as I am driving down Paseo Colón, trying to dodge the buses and taxi drivers death wish, I sometimes reminisce about the relatively simple deals I used to do back in Toronto in the booming mid-80's.

Those were the days!  Get an offer (with a deposit!) , get it accepted, and then we could forget about the deal until we had to show up to pick up a rather large commission check on closing. Picking up those checks was a damn nuisance sometimes, as it almost always interfered with my golfing schedule.

Ah yes, those simple days! We all drove new Cadillac's, commission checks NEVER bounced, and everything was just peachy (until the bottom fell out of the market and we all fled to Costa Rica to sell real estate here instead!)

Down here in sunny Costa Rica, a place I love dearly, closing deals is sometimes just a little more (how can I put this?), ah yes, interesting.

Contrary to popular public opinion, we poor real estate brokers really do have to earn our fees down here. I have personally been witness to occasions where closings have fallen apart at the last moment. It really is very difficult to plan my investment finances with this sort of thing! I wish people would be a little more considerate about us Realtors. I mean really!!!

Of course, most transactions proceed relatively simple and without incident, and any casual reader of this article should not be alarmed.  Costa Rica does, however, have its fair share of flakes and sellers who insist on thinking that every foreign buyer has a suitcase full of dollars to dispose of for buying their property, no matter what last-minute terms they may dream up.

There situations can often produce amusing and sometimes, rather dodgy situations.  Recently I had a client who was looking for a farm in the Grecia area--a charming gentleman who made the mistake (against my advise) of immediately agreeing to an asking price on one of the Quinta's I showed him.

Normally this would not cause a great problem, and we signed a deal for a relatively quick closing within seven days.  The buyer found exactly what he wanted and was prepared to pay the asking price, and everyone was happy, right?

Wrong. On the morning of closing (one hour before), I get a phone call from the seller.

"Listen, Mr. Jackson, I have been talking to my brothers, and we think we are going to have to raise the price.  After all, he had agreed to pay our asking price, we MUST be selling the property too cheaply. You are trying to rob us."

"But Mr. Lopez ( name changed)," I said trying to keep calm, "Our Client agreed to YOUR asking price and you have signed a contract! You cannot do this!  We are due to close the deal within an hour!" (By now I see my commission, and my new Cadillac, slipping away fast!)

"I don't care! If your client will not pay another $10,000, then we will not go ahead, and another thing, I am not paying any of the stinking legal fees or your sticking commission!!"

"But Mr. Lopez, you agreed to split the legal fees 50-50 and you have signed a commission agreement with me! Hello!...Hello!..."

Mr. Lopez had hung up the phone and could not be reached anywhere.

After speaking to his wife, I managed to ascertain that yesterday happened to be one of his brothers birthdays, and it seemed that copious amounts of guaro had been consumed in the Lopez household the previous night and that morning to celebrate both the birthday and upcoming sale, which was now looking questionable.

My next task was to inform the buyer that there was a hiccup in the transaction, and it would probable be better if we put off the closing for a few days, as Mr. Lopez had gone AWOL with his brothers on a prolonged celebration somewhere in the darkest depths of San Jose. Thankfully, my client agreed, although he was far from happy.

The next few days I felt like one of the characters from "Mission Impossible" trying to track down Mr. Lopez and arrange a new closing. All this while receiving cellular phone calls every 20 minutes from an irate buyer.

Finally Mr. Lopez showed up at my office as if nothing had happened and apologized for his (as he put it) illness over the past few days.  We managed to close the deal that afternoon at the original price, and yes, the legal fees were shared, and of course (you will be happy to hear ), my commission was paid in full--in cash!

So remember, have some sympathy on us poor real-estate brokers.  Many of us have ulcers, shaky marriages, and are highly stressed individuals, all because our sole purpose in life is to keep you, the client happy!"


Mr. Mark Jackson can be reached at

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