Hi Bob –
Can you tell me who regulates real estate brokers on Bonaire?
Hi Peter, that’s a great question and one I get asked a lot. Unlike the rules in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands, on Bonaire there is no licensing requirements for real estate brokers and agents, nor is there much – if any – government regulation of the industry or selling/buying process for real estate. So the short answer to your question is – nobody.
Lacking any sort of regulation, anyone on Bonaire can call themselves a real estate agent and claim to be able to help you buy or sell your property. These people may or may not have an office, and – incredibly – may not have any experience selling real estate at all.
Since selling real estate is NOT regulated here, there are some things to think about when you decide to engage the services of an agent/broker to buy or sell property on the island:
- The most important question to ask is one you should ask yourself. “Do I trust this agent to tell me the truth?” If you work with an agent and feel they are not being honest with you or that they just want to sell you something, trust your instinct and look for another agent. Buying real estate is one of the largest purchases you will make in your life, so you want to make sure you are working with a good advisor who you trust.
- Does your agent/broker have a well-established office and support staff to help you through the entire process of buying or selling your home? Buying and selling property on Bonaire is unlike what you may be used to elsewhere. It is critical you have an agent/broker that knows these procedures inside-out and has experienced staff available to manage the processes and the inherent language barriers that come with real estate transactions on a Dutch island.
- How long has this agent/broker been in business? How many properties have they sold this year on Bonaire? Last year? Since it is so easy to call yourself a real estate agent/broker here, it is an unfortunate reality that many “fly by night” individuals try their hand at selling real estate here and then disappear when things don’t go as planned. Reputation matters anywhere, but especially on Bonaire.
- If you are buying property, ask your agent who they are really working for. Most brokers on Bonaire believe they work ONLY for the seller, meaning they are only concerned about getting the highest selling price for the property, with no consideration as to whether the buyer is paying too much. (It is often to your advantage to hire your own agent when you buy property here to avoid this conflict.)
- If you are buying new construction, ask who the developer is. Once you know that information about the development company, you can go to the Bonaire Chamber of Commerce and see who the managers of the development company are. This is important since some of the real estate agents/brokers on Bonaire are silent partners in new developments and then list and sell their own developments via their role as agent/broker. If a broker is selling you their own project, whose interest do you think they are looking out for? Brokers/agents here aren’t required to disclose that they are selling their own property in situations like this. The potential conflict of interest is obvious. It pays to do your research.
- If you decide to buy a house, ask your agent/broker what comparable houses in the area are listed for and, in the case of recently sold homes, what the sale price was. Be careful if your agent won’t tell you selling prices because they are “confidential.” The selling price of every home sold on Bonaire is public record and can be researched for a small fee at the Kadaster’s office (the land registry and mapping office).
- Before you finalize any purchase agreement, be sure to ask for a technical inspection. The disclosure of “known defects” in a house is loosely enforced on Bonaire, so it is to your advantage to discover defects before the sale is finalized.
As you can see, Bonaire is a bit like the wild west in terms of buying and selling real estate. No regulation on agents/brokers and little regulation on the rules that are in place make it a bonanza for anyone hoping to make money selling real estate here. It pays to do your homework before choosing an agent.