TICO BULL – Anyone who has spent some time in Costa Rica can tell you that it’s easy to buy a house, but not so to sell. Giving up using realtors, many owners resort to doing it themselves.
The first thing is to up a sign. Then comes the ads.
But classified ads in the print media can be expensive given that it can take months or years to find a buyer. A real buyer.
In desperation many turn to free online media like Craiglist. This is where it can turn ugly. Real fast.
This is not to say that Craigslist is at fault, it’s just that the online service brings the buyer and seller into personal contact and if one is not careful, it can quickly become a nightmare, just as a friend recently lived through.
In today’s digital age, especially as a frustrated vendor, we make ourselves vulnerable to the dark web – those lurking for the unsuspecting.
Wanting to sell and nothing for almost a year, my friend turned off his “malicia” (a Spanish word that best described being wary, being on guard) and opened his door to his “hot buyer”.
[/su_pullquote]Following is the story – edited to protect the guilty, before I myself become a victim of this guy, get slapped with a lawsuit or worse become the centre of a police investigation. Police in Costa Rica seem to give the bad guys all the rights, while, we the innocent, get grilled.
Basically my friend receives a call from a potential buyer from the online ad. After agreeing on meeting the next day, the buyer was making his way from Golfito (the southern zone) to San Jose to see the house, with all the intention to buy.
They met up near the house. The man, we will call him Frank, said he was from Norway and an engineer that working on offshore oil rigs. He said was previously married to a woman in Venezuela, and had a 10 year old daughter with her. He continued that his mother had passed away recently, that his father was elderly and for this reason he was looking to buy a house in Costa Rica where he could bring his father, and be close enough to visit his daughter.
“He said that he would fly up to SJO (the San Jose airport) from Golfito the next day to see the house. I told him to call me from the airport and I would pick him up. The next day, about 8 am I’m walking with my dog Duke around Ciudad Cariari and I get a call from this guy “Frank”. He said “didn’t you get my email with the flight information?”
The two met at a nearby fast food restaurant. “There was a big f***g Norweigan Viking kind of a guy, 6′ 3, 235 lbs, Harley Davidson type in jeans and a t-shirt. no luggage. Spoke excellent english, and I quickly noticed that he speaks fluent Spanish.” says my friend.
The head back to the house, the object of the encounter, where Frank tells his story about being an engineer, attended the University in Boston and knew lots of details of the Cambridge area, around Harvard.
“He said he was interested in buying the house,” says my friend, who after almost a year of trying to sell, thought he finally had a real buyer.
But as you will learn later, the Viking had his sights on the things inside the house.
It was during the trip to my friend’s office, to work of the details of the sale, when the story took a turn, on the ride to is when Frank discovers he misplaced his wallet. Back to the house, nothing. Maybe at the restaurant. No, nothing there either. Gone was an alleged US$3.800 in cash, plastic and ID, including a copy of the passport.
Back to the house, Frank makes a call to his friends in Golfito who agree to come to San Jose the next day with Frank’s passport.
Having a potential buyer on the hook, my friend decides to put up Frank, that included dinner at a friend’s house. “J” and his friend thought the world of Frank: smart, articulate and could converse fluently in three languages, perfect English, Spanish and French.
Back to the house, my friend, having this Viking type guy in the house was somewhat nervous, he decides to sleep with his Smith & Wesson .40 under the pillow, and a Glock .40 on the night table drawer.
The morning came, my friend was relieved. His concerns were unfounded.
Frank gets a call from his friends, they will be in town by the afternoon, they are going to meet up in downtown San José.
On the way to downtown Frank seemed nervous. Although his concerns had subsided, “I had my Smith & Wesson .40 in my pants,” says my friend.
Questions about his nervousness, Frank said it was of the possibility of getting pulled over and he without any documents.
My friend offers to let him off to get a taxi for the rest of the way downtown. Ok, before you ask, what’s the difference, the guy is still without documents, my friend was just happy to get him on his way, to meet up later to work out the deal of the sale. He even gave Frank ¢10.000 for the taxi ride, more than triple the cost.
My friend heads for home, anxious for the afternoon meeting and possibly, finally, sell the house.
Surprise. At home, he noticed his Glock was gone. So was some pieces of jewellery and some cash in the desk. All items that the Viking could stuff in his pockets.
But the nightmare doesn’t end there, now comes the police report phase, which for many foreigners is a nightmare in itself.
At the local police station, my friend files a report. From there he had to head over to the OIJ office Heredia (since the act occurred in that province), where he was told that it wasn’t a “robo” (robbery), rather a “hurto” (theft) and a lesson in the difference.
“Robo” is a crime of theft against a person withouth violence, different from “hurto”, that is a theft of property, like taking something from someone’s night drawer.
Who cares of the difference, the end result is the same. No? Well, for the judicial system it is important to be specific on the type of crime committed. For my friend, two lessons learned.
The reason I publish it here is to stress the dangers lurking on the internet and letting down of one’s guard. As foreigners we are naturally suspicious of locals, but drop our “malicia” when we hear our language, be it English, Italian, French, etc…
This can happen anywhere, but more so in Costa Rica.