ESCROW in Costa Rica

July 16, 2018

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Are you ready to make an offer on your dream home or to purchase a piece of paradise in Costa Rica, and would like the process of transfer and release of funds to follow the same Pura Vida flow as life at the beach in Tamarindo? Surf that wave at ease by trusting your funds to a neutral and reliable third party!

As for any real estate transaction, also in Costa Rica it is highly recommended to use a neutral – Escrow – account to wire the Earnest money deposit as well as the final balance for the purchase of a property. The use of an Escrow account allows for secure transactions and confident buyers and sellers, allowing them both to lay back, relax and keep enjoying as their money will be safe and the release will be secure.

Until Due Diligence has been approved and the legal closing has taken place this neutral third party will maintain custody over the funds, only releasing them under the conditions stated in an Escrow agreement, signed between seller, buyer and Escrow company.

The requirements for opening an Escrow account differ per country and documents to be provided are different for seller versus buyer and for corporations versus individuals.

Funds, including deposits and final balance, can only be wired to the Escrow account once all documents have been received and approved by the appointed Escrow company.

In Costa Rica, it is the purchaser who chooses the Escrow company to work with. Ideally, this choice could already be mentioned in the written offer.

Once an offer has been accepted and fully executed, it is recommended to take action immediately by contacting the Escrow Company, starting the process of opening the Escrow account, and assuring that all parties involved communicate directly with the Escrow Company representative assigned for this transaction.

A real estate offer agreement usually also states the time frame in which an Earnest Money Deposit into Escrow account needs to be executed. As many buyers leave Costa Rica again shortly after putting in the offer on a property, it gives peace of mind to be well informed beforehand on the legal requirements and documents to be provided in Costa Rica to open the Escrow account. Even more so, can one rest assured when these requirements are fulfilled or ideally, when Escrow set up is complete, before leaving.

By providing all documents in a timely manner, all parties involved in the real estate transaction contribute to assuring a smooth closing on the scheduled date and peace of mind for everyone in the course of the process.

Naturally, your local attorney and the Escrow company representative will guide you in the process. Yet, knowledge is power, therefore, and as a guideline only, an overview of the main documents required for opening an Escrow account in Costa Rica, in accordance with Costa Rican law 8204, is offered below. Some of the documents need to be apostilled* and additional information or documents may be required.

Table 1 and Table 2 more specifically show which documents need to be provided by the buyer and which by the seller, and the difference when buyer and/or seller are legal corporations versus individuals.

Overview of main documents required:

Escrow Agreement – Agreement between the ESCROW company and both the buyer and the seller stating the general and detailed terms and conditions for holding, releasing and regulating the payments of the funds and the cost for using Escrow (the “Escrow fee”) , the

Know Your Customer (KYC) form – to be completed by each individual buyer and/or depositor and each individual shareholder of the buying corporation.

Two different proofs of identification – such as a passport, an ID card or a driver’s license – these must be issued by a government entity and valid to date. The passport copy must be notarized or certified.

Proof of current physical address – such as a utility bill less than 3 months old or a driver’s license stating current address.

Proof of income – supporting minimally the amount of the transaction. This can be a Tax Return form, a W2 Form, IRA statement, Audited Financial Statements or an equivalent, all less than one year old.

Bank statements of the last 3 months

Power(s) of Attorney – granting legal authority to the authorized signatory to act as the legal representative for the entity or the individual for the matters related to the Escrow agreement and to sign on behalf of the entity or the individual.

For corporations or legal entities only:

Good Standing Certificate – stating shareholder participation up to physical person or equivalent.

Corporation Resolution – shareholders’ assembly authorizing the sale or purchase.

Articles of Incorporation/Association or Company – the legal documents of the corporation that wires the funds.

Stock Shareholders Certificate

Trust Agreement- If the funds will be wired from a Trust account, the Trust Agreement has to be provided.

Table 1. For individuals

Documents to be provided by Individuals Buyer/Depositor Seller
Escrow agreement Yes Yes
Proof of Identification ( 2) Yes Yes
Know Your Customer Form Yes No
Proof of Physical address Yes No
Proof of Income Yes No
Bank Statements Yes No
Power of Attorney When applicable When applicable

Table 2. For Corporations/ Legal Entities

Documents to be provided by Corporations Buyer/Depositor Seller
Escrow agreement Yes Yes
Proof of Identification ( 2) Yes Yes
Know Your Customer Form Yes No
Proof of Income Yes No
Bank Statements Yes No
Corporate Resolution

( Asamblea de Socios autorisando la venta/compra)

Yes Yes
Good Standing Certificate

( Certificación de Personería Jurdídica)

Yes Yes
Articles of the Corporation, Association or Company

(Pacto Constitutivo de la Sociedad)

Yes No
Stock Shareholders Certificate

(Certificación de Capital Accionario)

Yes Yes
Power of Attorney When applicable When applicable

*An Apostille is simply the name for a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in any of the other countries part of the Hague Apostille Treaty.

Credits: Karen Fabré, Nidia Zuñiga

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