MLS Costa Rica - Interview between Scott Oliver of WeLoveCostaRica.com and Johannes Mayr of Propertyshelf
Scott Oliver: Buenos dias to everyone. I'm here speaking with Johannes Mayr, founder of Propertyshelf, an MLS platform for real estate professionals in Costa Rica. Johannes and his company Propertyshelf have developed an MLS for Costa Rica that features some truly cutting edge technology. Having built their system from the ground up has allowed them to employ dozens of features that go well beyond the MLS functionality that many Realtors have worked with in the past. They are gaining a great deal of attention within the international open source software community, boasting some of the top software developers in the world on their staff.
Interview by Scott Oliver from WeLoveCostaRica.com
Scott Oliver: Buenos dias to everyone. I'm here speaking with Johannes Mayr, founder of Propertyshelf, an MLS platform for real estate professionals in Costa Rica.
Johannes and his company Propertyshelf have developed an MLS for Costa Rica that features some truly cutting edge technology.
Having built their system from the ground up has allowed them to employ dozens of features that go well beyond the MLS functionality that many Realtors have worked with in the past.
They are gaining a great deal of attention within the international open source software community, boasting some of the top software developers in the world on their staff.
You can view their system at PropertyShelf.com and agents can try out their system free of charge.
Scott Oliver: How are you doing today Johannes?
Johannes Mayr: I'm great Scott. Thank you for having me.
Scott Oliver: For years Costa Rican real estate professionals have been calling for a professional, reliable multiple listing service (MLS) for Costa Rica. What makes your system unique from the other platforms?
Johannes Mayr: We think we've built the most user-friendly system on the market. And we've built it for Costa Rica. Our system is populated with only Costa Rican properties, the entry fields are set according to the needs of the Costa Rican market, and our verification system is based on the Costa Rican Registry. We also provide exposure in sales and Costa Rican information portals. We've nearly completed our multilingual description generator, which allows agents to generate a simplified - but grammatically correct - property descriptions, which reflects the details of their particular listing. This allows our listings to be truly multilingual, even when the listing agent is not. So agents and buyers aren't getting an international cookie-cutter system, but a system designed for their specific needs.
Scott Oliver: Are you happy with how you've been received thus far?
Johannes Mayr: Absolutely! We had our test launch in early September. Since then we've received a great deal of positive feedback. Our records show that of the 9 agents who have tested all systems, 8 have expressed a preference for PropertyShelf. One agent even stated "This is easier than managing my Facebook account." And in terms of usability, that's really what we're striving for.
Scott Oliver: You guys take listing verification very seriously, and this is certainly something that I endorse. Tell us more about that?
Johannes Mayr: Costa Rica's National Registry provides the public with a great deal of information on properties within the country, from liens, to lot sizes and ownership status. We cross-check the information supplied to us by agents and sellers and make sure that it matches the information in the National Registry. And in about 1/5 cases it doesn't. This should be of real concern to buyers and agents, since these can represent material changes from the underlying property. We send these listings back to the agents and have them review their info again. Obviously this lowers the number of listings we have on our MLS, but buyers and agents can rest assured that what they see on Propertyshelf is accurate. As far as we know, we are the only MLS who takes this process seriously. We want to eliminate the real estate scams that have happened in Costa Rica in the past and increase buyer confidence.
Scott Oliver: Propertyshelf received a great deal of exposure amongst Costa Rica's real estate professionals through what I would call an overly publicized CRGAR selection process. Talk to me about what that experience was like.
Johannes Mayr: We liked the publicity of the process. We believe that the choice was too important to be decided by two or three board members. We encouraged both the CRGAR and their members to sign on and test our system for free. Many of the members did so and have been extremely satisfied with what we are providing. Unfortunately, no one on the board tested the system for themselves or sought out feedback from their member agents before making the decision. And we think it led to a poor decision.
Scott Oliver: I haven't had a chance to take a look at the association's MLS, but I've heard it is a sophisticated system.
Johannes Mayr: They've got a good system, but that doesn't mean that it is positioned to provide the necessary, on-the-ground support services for Costa Rica. Their system is flooded with listings from around the world, and will probably do a pretty good job giving exposure for properties within the United States. But that's not where the market is. We've spoken to Costa Rican Realtors who currently are very successful at selling properties to a growing Costa Rican middle class. On the flip side, we've spoken to expat realtors who have focused exclusively on the U.S. market who haven't made a sale in months. The same investors who used to be buying up Costa Rican properties on the cheap are now turning their attention to those places in the U.S. that were hit hardest by the U.S. real estate bust... Florida, Arizona and California... The U.S. big money purchasers who bought for investment purposes are not as interested in Costa Rica at the moment. On the other hand Canada, Venezuela, Italy and Germany are all strong markets where we are increasing our exposure. Agents especially need more diversity in types of marketing channels than what we see in the market today.
Scott Oliver: For those of you all that are unfamiliar with the associations in Costa Rica, there are two associations which try to set professional standards for Realtors in the country: CRGAR and CCCBR. What has your experience been with CCCBR?
Johannes Mayr: We've found that CCCBR has conducted themselves with the highest level of professionalism. We understand the reasons behind their decision to follow CRGAR, but we are also confident that we provide a better alternative. We allow agents to upload more pictures, which has been proven to hold buyers attention. We enable agents to embed their listings directly into their own websites, saving them time that would otherwise be spent entering listings twice. We have more Costa Rican real estate sales and information sites to promote listings on the ground here and abroad. And we continue to offer our system free of charge to verified agents, so there is zero risk for Realtors.
Scott Oliver: You've said before that your system will never be complete. What do you mean by that?
Johannes: We are a technology and marketing company, and we will always continue to develop new features. There are so many tools that are currently in development that can help serve real estate professionals, whether they are brokers, property management, developer, referral agencies, or individual owners looking to rent or sell their property. From a search engine which agents can embed into their own websites allowing travelers to book properties online at low rates, client management tools, comparative market analysis, telecommunication integration, sharing technologies, social media integration, the list goes on and on. We recently redesigned the layout of the MLS which we believe greatly improves the look and feel of the system and are eager to hear agent and buyer feedback on this. Over the next few weeks we will be finalizing our embedding standards so agents can embed both their properties and the MLS search within their websites. So we stay busy.
Scott Oliver: Thanks for coming by and talking to me today Johannes. It's been a pleasure.
Johannes Mayr: Thanks for having me Scott.
Written by Scott Oliver, author of 1. Costa Rica Real Estate Scams & How To Avoid Them, 2. How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa, and 3. Costa Rica's Guide To Making Money Offshore.