Changes Affecting Real Estate Transactions in Costa Rica | Chicago Association of REALTORS®

Have you ever thought about expanding your real estate business into Costa Rica? Amazingly, Costa Rica has no real estate licensing requirement. Those who wish to enter the Costa Rican real estate market and establish credibility in the eyes of their clients are encouraged to earn a certification from the Costa Rica Global Association of REALTORS® (CRGAR). The 2-day course covers topics such as:

  • types of property and real estate ownership rights
  • residency and immigration requirements
  • real estate tax law
  • contracts
  • leasing and much more.

Whether you’ve already obtained your CRGAR certification or not, it’s important to know the changes that are taking place in Costa Rica that will ultimately impact its real estate industry:

VALUE-ADDED TAX ON ALL GOODS AND SERVICES

All professional services have been subject to a 13 percent sales tax for years. With new tax laws in effect, this old sales tax has become a value-added tax (VAT) on all goods and services, including real estate commissions. For example, a client who is selling their home with the help of a REALTOR® is now responsible for paying VAT for the REALTOR®’s services. All professionals, across all professions, will now be collecting VAT from their clients.

THE INTRODUCTION OF CAPITAL GAINS TAX

For the first time, Costa Rica has introduced a capital gains tax. The rate is 15 percent of the gain. It has yet to be determined how the “basis” will be established to calculate the gain. Many owners who have kept their properties undervalued on the public records to minimize property taxes may find themselves with very large tax liabilities should they choose to sell.

REGISTERING WITH SUGEF BEFORE HANDLING CLIENT FUNDS

The Costa Rican government’s General Superintendent of Financial Institutions (SUGEF) will soon be requiring anyone who is involved with transactions involving client funds (e.g., earnest money) to be registered with SUGEF. Currently, only citizens or permanent residents can register with SUGEF. How this requirement ends up being defined and implemented could have a profound impact on the industry and potentially eliminate the brokers who have temporary residency status or have not yet applied for residency.

A special thanks to Allen Lungo, President of the CRGAR and Operating Principal of Keller Williams Costa Rica, for providing first-hand knowledge of this information. If you have any questions about traveling to Costa Rica or Costa Rica real estate, please feel free to contact Bob Burger at bobburger@kw.com