Paradise calls us. We are called once or twice a year, or every month. Some of us dream and daydream about Paradise. Some of us answer the call and decide to spend lots more time in Paradise, buy a property and “come down” every chance that presents itself. That is when you should take the first step in the quest for property, which is to choose a real estate agency.

While most people have good experiences buying property in Paradise, a few have excellent experiences, a few have awful experiences – some buyers even part with their money and never receive title to their property – and most are just relieved when the transaction is complete. Your choice of real estate agency and/or real estate agent heavily influences your experience. A very good idea is to select your agency, then ask the broker to recommend his/her best agent for your needs.

AMPI, the Mexican association of real estate professionals, should be part of your real estate search from the beginning. AMPI is a “sister” organization to the National Association of Realtors in the USA. AMPI requires that every member agent adhere to a code of ethics, provides real estate education to the real estate community and to the general public, and can serve as a first line of assistance for both real estate agents and their clients if assistance outside the real estate brokerage is needed. The website PuertoPenascoAMPI lists every member agent along with the agency for whom each works, as well as the contact information for the officers of the local chapter.

Puerto Peñasco has a number of locally owned agencies with brokers who have, in many cases, worked as agents for years to earn the right to qualify as brokers in Sonora, Mexico by taking a broker preparation course, and passing a comprehensive exam. You will also see brokerages whose names and logos you recognize from the USA. They look American, but they are Mexican companies that follow Mexican customs and laws. Interview the agencies – talk to the broker if possible. How long has the agency been in Puerto Peñasco? Is the broker a CPB (Certified Professional Broker) who has been educated and certified by AMPI? What days and hours are the office open? Is there a receptionist to answer the phone if your agent is not available? Are the brokers and agents members of AMPI? As with agents, there are many variables to evaluate – in the case of two agencies with the same American name and logo, one is a respected agency with many years’ experience in Puerto Peñasco, and an extremely talented and experienced broker who is not the company owner, while the other is a start-up with an often-absent owner/broker who must sell property as well as run the company. Another highly visible company with an American name and logo does not have a certified broker and does not require that its members belong to AMPI.

The choice of a real estate agent is a business decision. It is good to get referrals if you can, but often friends refer friends, with little or no knowledge of the actual qualifications of the agent they are referring! Remember, you are hiring an agent to help you to spend a very large sum of money, and while having a “nice” agent is nice, more important qualifications include such things as experience, ethics, talent, knowledge of the market and current market trends, licensure, and real estate community activity. Whether or not your agent is part of a company, or is independent, may make a difference in your purchase experience. When interviewing a potential agent to represent you, ask if s/he is affiliated with a real estate company, ask if the company’s broker and all agents belong to AMPI. Ask how many properties the agent you are considering has sold in the past 12 months, and in which communities the sold properties were located. Ask if the agent can give you the names of two previous buyers he has helped, and their telephone numbers, then call them. There is lots to consider, and you have not even started actually looking for property! Or maybe you have – and you are in love with a certain property and want to figure out how to buy that property…you can call the listing agent, who is a seller agent. You are the buyer – finding a buyer agent to represent you might be a good idea. Again, remember that nice is nice, but agent ethics, talent and experience are ever so important.

Interview the agent you are considering – ask if s/he is licensed. If no, move on – real estate licenses are required in the State of Sonora. If yes, ask to see the license. When you see it, ask if it is current, and when the agent must renew it. Ask the agent you are interviewing if s/he is a member of AMPI; if not, why not? Ask the agent if s/he has or has had any legal or ethical challenges related to real estate, or if s/he has any legal issues that would, hypothetically, keep him or her from working in the USA. One agent currently working in Puerto Peñasco is wanted in the USA by the FBI, and another has been suspended from AMPI for misappropriation of buyer funds.

What does all this mean? It means do not rush into a real estate purchase here in Paradise! It means do some homework before you select the agent whom you will hire to help you to spend a very large sum of money! It means that you may have to test a friendship; possibly the girl or guy you have known forever is not the best choice of agent for you. It means that if you love the agent, but not the agency, move on – there are LOTS of great agencies large and small in Puerto Peñasco with many very talented agents from whom to choose. It means be careful, take your time, and do your homework before shopping for property WITH the assistance of your agent. It means that if you read and heed this article, you have an above-average chance of having an excellent experience buying property in Puerto Peñasco.