When I started my relocation tours during the early 1990s they were more  ‘tourist-oriented’ in that they included a visit to the Irazú Volcano and a trip by catamaran to Isla Tortuga among other things. At the request of my clients, I began included a sampling of different kinds of homes to give them an idea of how expats lived here and what was available to rent or buy.

I did my due diligence and found a couple of reliable and trustworthy realtors who would not pressure my guests and who had their interest at  heart. Most of the people who took my tours and ended up moving here, chose rent first.  A handful of them purchased property or a home only after deciding if the country was right for them.

The companies I currently work with cover the Central Valley and Central and South Pacific areas of the country. My clients who did end up working with the realtors were satisfied with the service and care they received and had no regrets.

I must point out that my tours are primarily for those who want to live or retire here with an emphasis on the culture, infrastructure, lifestyle, healthcare, the most suitable areas for living, shopping and other services for expats. A whole slew of valuable contacts are provided on the tour. In addition, a two-day seminar is included that covers: residency, healthcare options, all types of insurance, Costa Rican culture, communications, legal matters, a fast track to learning Spanish, expats experiences and more.

Presently, there is a handful of real estate salesman offering their own version of a relocation/retirement tours with the goal of selling property to their clients. Some of these tours even include a visit to neighboring countries with the same goal in mind. Most of the principals have no experience working as relocation guides, but are good salespeople. They have a select number of projects they work with and will not let their tour participants view any other living situations while on the tour.

So,  make sure your tour guide has lived in the country for at least 10 years, really speaks the language, understands the Costa Rican culture and is primarily not a real estate salesperson.  Check his or her credentials, and look over the proposed itinerary to be sure that the tour covers a lot more than just real estate.

Most expats who move here have to work. They either get involved in tourism or real estate, so there is a lot of competition between them with many being eager to make money, especially those who do not have pensions yet. Also, look to see if properties are advertised on their webpages.  Don’t get me wrong! The vast majority of expats working here are honest people. Just be careful.

The bottom line is to do your diligence before signing up for any retirement/relocation tour to save time, your hard earned money and headaches down the road.

Christopher Howard has been conducting monthly relocation/retirement tours and writing retirement guidebooks for more than 30 years. See www.liveincostarica.com

He has a relocation/retirement blog at: http://www.liveincostarica.com/blog and is also the author of the one-of-a-kind bestselling e-book, “Guide to Costa Rican Spanish,” that can be purchased through Amazon.