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I started the post to see if I could locate others people that might have had similar experiences as us when dealing with real estate in Cr. Below is our story of buying property in CR from Cr-home and the nightmare the whole thing has been. Since this story was posted on their site Randy has deleted it twice and then he did away totally with his FORUM on the Cr-Home website to try to cover up this mess. The latest news on top of what you will read below is that they have decided to not pay for any of the lawyer fees, lost time or other expenses we have incurred during this buying process.

 

 

"My wife and I, like many of you, found CR-Home through the internet while looking for “our piece of heaven” in Costa Rica. We were in contact with Randy via email for the following two years and followed their website looking for the perfect property and follow what was going on in Costa Rica. We were very fond of their “two story cabina” and the published price of 35-40K seemed to be in our budget. After making our final decision to make the dream happen and move to Costa Rica, we contacted Randy and set up a few days to visit properties we had seen on the internet and some that were not published. We were invited to stay at their cabina while we were going to be in the Grecia area, and so we did. We traveled with Cr-Home employees for three days and after some debate, made a decision on what we thought would be “our perfect fit”. We went back to the office to discuss details and future plans. We were shown the plans of the property and were told at this time that the property had all utilities on it and it was a buildable lot because it had a “visado” stamp among others official looking stamps. After over two years of talking with Cr-Home we felt comfortable believing what they were saying and trusting that they had done all the checking in to the property that was needed to buy it and build on it. This is what we were told at the time by Randy. After this meeting with Randy, and confirmation that everything was final with the land purchase we began to design our future home with the help of Rhonda and their architect, Gerald. We were sent ideas that we liked and my wife and I altered the plans to match our liking better. We were using their “cabina” template to work with and felt that if we did so, the price would be close to what they advertised on their website. A few months passed and we had become official landowners in Costa rica with blueprints to build. The architect for Cr-Home had our plans and finished them in 6 weeks, we were ready to build…or so we thought. I then planned a five week trip to Costa Rica to oversee the land development and to begin the construction process on the home design we had chosen. First thing that was set up to be done on the land was back hoe grading work, excavation and road gravel delivered and installed where the future driveway would go. Everything was moving forward SLOWLY but surely. It is Costa Rica and this is the way things move, slow. THEN, the bottom dropped out! It was on the third week of my time here when I was approached by a Grecia Municipality worker who had seen us doing work on the land. He advised me that we needed to check for an “uso de suelo” on the land because he felt like it was very close to a “tapped water well”. I then called Randy at CR-Home and told him this news and he once again assured me that with the “visado” we could build there. He also stated once again, “I have done everything prior to you purchasing the lot to ensure you could build on it.” A request was made for a map from the CR-Home topographer to show these “water springs”. Four days passed and we were told and shown a detailed map of our Carbonal property and it was confirmed that there were indeed two active springs that were capped and supplying water to Grecia right next door to our property. I emailed Randy while he was on vacation in the states, and told him of my frustrations and my feeling that we had been let down, misrepresented and lied too. He replied and once again told me that, “he had done everything in his power to ensure we could build and that there are a lot of grey areas in Costa Rica now with the regulations on construction changing over the last few months.”

Have any of you ever read anything on his site or in their newsletters that addresses’ “new regulations and these changes that cause grey areas in construction in Costa Rica.” In fact, when I talked to the Cr-Home attorney, he said that there were no “grey areas” as long as the proper steps are taken, and there had been no recent changed to the regulations.

I was then advised by one homebuilder and a CR-Home sales rep to go to the municipality of Grecia and request the official “uso de suelo” on the property. I did so and was told it would take 8-15 days to hear the outcome. Have any of you heard the term “Uso De Suelo” or of an organization by the name of the MINAE? After living here now in Grecia and meeting people, hearing similar sounding horror stories, knowing how things here work, I know that many of you that have purchased land and don’t have an Uso De Suelo and have never heard of the Minae. So let me do the honors and tell you about the MINAE and the “use de suelo.” The MINAE is an environmental group that does all it can to regulate and control deforestation, protection of the land, locate sensitive environment zones, protect water ways, locate water springs, create water caps on springs so that Costa Rica can have great drinking water, and the list goes on. The MINAE has been around for a long time, you can GOOGLE search MINAE and get more info. The municipality and the MINAE issue the Uso De Suelo, which means the “use of the soil”. This letter from the Municipality is your ticket to know what you can do on your own land. Without this letter the “perfect property” you own might just be farmland and never be able to be built on. Recently we were told that the MINAE was finding up to 10 “water springs” a day on Cajon De Grecia. These water springs stop all construction within 100 meters if it is not being used, or “capped” and no construction allowed within 200 meters if it is being used for supply to the municipality. If I only knew then what I know now, we would not be in this situation. Also, about the “visado” stamp, we were told by Randy this was all you needed to build, this is not the case at all. It is just one of many stamps needed prior to getting the green light to build. Oh and the stamps all expire after THREE years, not NEVER, like we were told. As for the “35-40K cabinas they advertise, I showed the plans to three of their own builders and the bids were not even close to what they advertise. The first bid was over 90K, second one was 65K and the final one was from a guy that would build it but take a lot longer. We never actually got a final bid from the last guy because he would build and get paid weekly until the home is done. Kind of shady HUH?? What you will learn if you plan on building here is that all the good builders you would actually trust your future investment to, will only bid on “contract” like they do traditionally in the states. If you do choose to build without a contract and pay week to week, good luck! I personally want some warranty on the labor and materials of my investment as there is little in terms of home insurance here.

So here we are now 8 months after we closed on the purchase of our land in Carbonal. We have hired an attorney to represent us and our interests in this nightmare. We in fact should be moving in to our dream home in Cost Rica this month but instead are still dealing with this mess and still living in a rental home. One way or another CR-home has an attorney that has supposedly gotten this resolved yet we still don’t have the new “uso del suelo”. This is a direct quote from an email Randy sent to me after his attorney “took care” of this part of the situation. “Thanks to Luis and the connections he has in the municipality, it has been handled. It is unfortunate that things have turned out to be as frustrating as they did. But you are in Costa Rica and much of the time the areas are gray instead of black and white.” There again is this “black and white” term he uses with me but never cares to bring up in his newsletters. Just when you think things couldn’t get worse, they did. This past month we found out that the property “that had all utilities and services” already in place does not. I had a meeting with the water director for Carbonal and he advised me that our property has no water at the road but it is in the works to be put in with in the next year. By this point you probably think this is a joke but it really isn’t. The water director said they have been working on getting the money to supply municipal water to this part of the hill for over 5 years but no funding has been available. Turns out that our neighbors have been there for a long time and have wells for water for their homes. The water director did give us the option to try and “experiment” and bring our own pipe and connections to try to run a line from a lower holding tank some 150 meters away up the hill to our property. He really did not have to allow this “experiment” but after he heard our story he felt bad enough to allow this to be done. This whole time I am of course remembering just how many times I have read the words due diligence, transparency and integrity in Randy’s news letters and articles.

 

This is our experience that we are dealing with now. Please let me know your comments and thoughts if you have them. Good or bad, I want to know what you all think. If you have questions or need additional information that I might know after having to go through this nightmare please email me. Thanks for your attention and opinions.

JDOCOP is correct - possibly, I am being more negative than necessary - but one other avenue of approach; check the national registry first (before any other steps). You may find that you do not in fact own this property.

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Newman, you really do not need to quote the entire message of the person's last post. Just hit the 'Fast Reply' button, and you get an empty box down at the bottom of your screen (you might need to scroll down)....

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Thank you to all of the advice. The good and bad advice is all interesting to read. As for lawyer, yes there was a very highly recommended lawyer used for the transaction.

The Uso De suelo permit has been around for many years but rarely checked for in a real estate transaction. It is a use of soil permit that in the past was only used for commercial building but since the MINNAE has been actively checking for the natural ground springs and trying hard to prevent massive deforestation they are not used in residential areas too. The post was supposed to be educational to those who bought property thinking of building in the future but bought it without the uso de suelo(like many people) that might have problems when the building time comes. I asked four local real estate sales people if they have heard of the uso do suelo and if they sell only properties with a current permit and the answers were no. This is not a common practice here but knowing the culture I feel that over time it will be checked more frequently. As of last week there were 36 other cases of the same problems with land trying to be developed that possibly cant because of the water springs the MINNAE is finding daily. Turn the tables back and we would do this differently: talk to locals, gringos and ticos and "pound the pavement to hear the good bad and ugly, look for actual utilities on the lot like power lines and a water meter, if they say they are there but underground get the permits from the local suppliers prior to moving forward, rent for a while, this will get you the in when dealing with people in the community to weed out the snakes, check for yourself with the local municipality as they are very helpful!!

 

In the end of this ordeal, this is where we are at; we got the uso de suelo after an engineer went to our property and checked the distance with a GPS device, he found our property was 100% out of the 200 meter ban. Originally the muni went to our property and eyeballed it and determined it was in the 200 meter ban. The water experiment worked and they are allowing us to bring it to our property for municipal water, electricity was never an issue, our ownership was never an issue, Randy with CR-home decided they were through with us and will not pay us back for any of the on top expenses we incurred with this ordeal. We have been here for 5 months and loving it here less the dealings with CR-Home. We will pay out of pocket the lawyer fees, water supply issues and continue to rent a home until we can get our new home built, not in the plan but hey, PURA VIDA. As for the people who say the rules here change all the time and this is why problems occur like this, that is not true at all. All of the permits issues here have a lifespan and an expiration date just like they do in the states and so long as you do your homework and use them in the time frame you will have no problems. If any of the readers have bought property in the Grecia area and would like for me to do all of the checking needed for your property just let me know. I met many great people throughout this long deal and am willing to help you in any way possible.

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Note: Another environmental watchdog agency one needs to be concerned about is, SENTENA if one intends to build a home. over 300 sq mts. including porch and attached garage. You will need a special permit.

Edited by costaricafinca

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Thank you to all of the advice.

 

 

I own my home in Sarchi, never went through a real estate person, no problems.. but what I do want to say is that the amount of bad publicity you have given them could have been solved had they just paid you some attention and paid the legal bills..been upfront and honest and honorable... Now I will never reccommend them and how much will that cost them???

 

Its amazing to me that people want to not solve problems and then they want others to recommend them... well consider this... I would never recommend a company that turned its back on one of its customers..No matter who that company was or what they sold...

 

I wish you much luck and happines... Grecia is nice... but not as nice as Sarchi... LOL... Happy Holidays....

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Buyer beware

I know of other properties that Randy has or had listed in my area that never would be able to obtain a uso de suelo for the above mentioned reasons. His low end “tico” houses are unlikely to recoup your initial investment after improvements, and his construction estimates are unrealistic.

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I can assure you that anyone that is involved in Real Estate in Costa Rica is fully aware of MANAE and the potential problems that they pose to any possible construction project. It is the equivalent of a developer in the US not being aware of Environmental Impact Statements.

 

This is just another example why it is better to rent first! Trying to do business in Costa Rica from afar you are just asking for trouble.

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I met Randy and his wife Rhonda about a year ago and can give you my opinion. And it is that, just another opinion.

 

He and his wife both seemed like real nice midwestern people. I didn't get any bad "feelings" or anything like that...I didn't buy from him because I felt that he really didn't have anything for sale...seemed as if every piece of property that he showed me was not yet owned by him. I didn't get the impression that he was a scammer nor a brain surgeon....

He and his son-in-law (tico) showed me several properties in Grecia and San Mateo. He didn't yet own the property in San Mateo which I really liked so I moved on and bought elsewhere....I think he did actually buy the property in San Mateo and is developing it into overpriced lots calling it Venetas or something like that.....

 

He also showed me a bunch of crap in a small beachside community...the name I can't remember....

 

I ended up buying in San Ramon from another gringo who seemed to have it all together and his project was shut down by MINAE (sp)....He was honest and gave me my money back...His name is Ben Cart...I really like Ben.

 

There has been some negative info on Randy on other sites and I just found this one.....Again, I didn't think he was a bad guy, he just didn't have any inventory...

 

Buying property in CR takes alot more effort than in the states..don't rely on a gringo "realtor" who has been in country a year or so longer than you to give you ALL of the answers....I found an attorney I trusted after the San Ramon mistake and he does all of the leg work for me....much cheaper than me taking the time to learn a new system.....

 

Good Luck,

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Motivation: I am sorry to hear about your situation. That is really tough and I can only imagine what you are going through. I feel that if you had a Real estate agent that checked every possible problem you could have had with the 'uso de suelo' or land use, would have spared you years of heartache. It sounds you are on the way to a resoluation, but it stinks that it took so much time, stress and money. I am glad you shared your stories, because often times I have to refer clients to the Grecia area and I now know who NOT to send clients to. My parents live in Grecia, and it's a beautiful place. I hope you are able to build your dream home soon and put this nightmare behind you. Your story has educated many, and you should be given thanks for that.

As an aside, I am a REALTOR. How? I am licensed in Florida as a Real Estate Agent, Member of NAR, and member of CRGAR as well. CRGAR also has a relationship with NAR, so there are some 'REALTORS' in Costa Rica. Just not many of them. There is voluntary licensing in Costa Rica, but not mandatory, and it pays to ask many questions to your Real Estate Agent or Broker. Google their name and see what you come up with. The web provides a wealth of information these days. Also, ask them if they are legally here or have a work Visa. I guarantee over half of the Real Estate agents here in CR are not here legally. Remember, things are unregulated here, so do your research. I just personally get tired of hearing people compare agents to Used Car Salesman. Not all of us are terrible. There are still a few good, ethical types out there. Becky

Edited by mediatica

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San Ramon wrote "In general, you cannot fully trust any realtor in Costa Rica. They're kind of like used car salesmen.

Make them prove what they say, in writing, and get yourself a good attorney to help you make sure everything is in order as it should be."

 

This should apply to developers as well, not only real estate agents.

 

I absolutely agree! Do your due diligence, but most importantly ask for personal references and make sure you have a good highly recommended attorney for your property transaction.

 

By the way, I did not mean that all realtors are crooked or not trustworthy. What I meant - and what I said was if you read it carefully - was that you should not put your full trust in any realtor (or developer) without asking around, keeping your eyes open, learning about buying real estate in Costa Rica, and using your own recommended attorney for any transaction.

 

In other words, I have heard of people going to Costa Rica, having someone show them a few properties and then buy one from him or her just based on the fact that he or she seemed like a nice person! This is what I mean by "fully trusting a realtor" - trusting them so much that you do NO checking on him, NO asking around, NO research, and using HIS attorney for the transaction. This kind of "fully trusting" without checking on the person's reputation and without using your own attorney is a recipe for disaster.

 

So whoever you buy from - Realtor, Developer or Taxi Driver - check them out, and most importantly have a GOOD attorney check out the property itself in the Registry for liens and problems.

 

That last step - having a good attorney research the property fullyin person at the Registro - not just on the Registro internet site - is the MOST important thing because even if the guy selling you the property is a snake, as long as it is registered correctly and you get it into your name correctly, you'll be okay.

 

Where you have to be careful is in "fully trusting" the person if they say "Oh yeah, the road is going to be improved next month" or "Oh yeah, the electricity will be put in here in June", etc. Even if they say "The electricity is here", ask them to SHOW the transformer to you. The water is piped in? Have them SHOW you the pipe! Anything like that, get it in writing!

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You have got yourself a problem!

Can you build on the property at all? In a different location from where you were intending to build?

If so, consider drilling a well. Or can you access the water on it, via 'ground seepage?

Power, how accessible is it? Does it pass by your entryway? How much to get hooked up?

Phone, more of a problem, but with cellular you could live with it.

In regards to the home pricing, if you went on pricing two years earlier, you must have know the prices have risen.

By the way, we used a Tico for a total renovation and we paid him by the week plus we bought construction materials. We were pleased with both the work and the cost., so it really may not be as scary as you think.

Maybe, the builder Randy was taken in by the seller, and 'thought' everything was fine. But in that case, he should at least reimburse you for lawyer fees etc.

 

Everyone should really check when someone subdivides farmland. Wait until all the permits are in place and have them checked by an unaffiliated lawyer before you sign on the dotted line

 

Send a copy of your letter to the Tico Times, and other 'on-line newspapers informing Randy beforehand, but realize you can be jailed for slander in Costa Rica.

 

A good example of being too good to be true, but at your expense.

 

Everyone seems to only want to answer in generalities!

I live in Grecia , there is a fair sized expat community here many of whom have purchased land or homes from CR-Home and Randy Berg. Not many here in town have anything good to say about this man or his "company" . About 70% of the people that I know in this area are bitter and feel as if they have been lied to and taken advantage of by CR-Home.

 

Most people in Grecia are amazed that this person has not cut and run from Costa Rica

 

I purchased a property from this company and I was completely mis-lead about many aspects of the purchase. After the fact, I got a "tell someone who cares" response from CR-Home We resold our property at a loss and have moved on with our lives

I would not recommend this company to anyone.

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Yesterday I emailed Randy to see if he would list our property in the area on his website. He responded quickly as to the asking price.

I furnished that, and he immediately determined that the house was overpriced and as such would not be able to list. He stated that

he only is interested in homes that are discounted and great value for his clients! He knew nothing of the house and advised in a follow

up email that he only considers listing a house based on his Analysis! He did not have any info to make an analysis.

I was aware of many negative comments about cr.home.com but thought I would give him the privilege of offering our home for sale.

 

My first and last experience with Randy Berg and his company was completely unprofessional and will not recommend to buyers or sellers.

Edited by harvcarp

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I have just recently met and started to work with Randy.

 

So far I do not smell a rat (or a thief).

 

Seems to be a rather level headed businessman to me.

 

I also know that there are always two sides to every story and am listening intently to both sides.

 

Those of you who know me know I am guilty of calling a spade a spade and If I find illegal and/or unethical behavior I will be out like the proverbial light.

 

As it stands now I feel that if potential buyers of real estate in Costa Rica don't do their own due diligence and hire their own expert inspectors and lawyers they are asking for trouble no matter who they choose to do business with.

 

As for refusing to list a property that he felt was priced too high, I don't have any ethical problems with that at all.

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