Feb 252014

How do I buy property in Costa Rica?Reasons we hear for why people buy property in Costa Rica:

  • “There are big changes in (home country) afoot”
  • “We’d like to simplify”
  • “Gotta get out of this cold!”
  • “We’d like a second home”
  • “We’d like a second home that generates income while we are not there”.
  • Getting more self-sufficient, going off the grid or at least, partially so.
  • Start a yoga (health or other special interest) retreat.
  • Live more in touch with nature
  • etc…

So, how does one go about it? If you don’t already live here, Costa Rica is a foreign land. So the initial steps can be a bit daunting.

  1. They speak Spanish there, don’t they?
  2. What does it cost to buy land? A house?
  3. What are the laws?
  4. Do I need to have a Costa Rican (Tico) partner buy it with me?
  5. Can I own a property in my personal name or should I use a corporation?
  6. Who are the realtors in Costa Rica?
  7. Can I trust them?
  8. What does it cost to build?
  9. What about security?
  10. (add your own)

Costa Rica is a gorgeous land that addresses many of the issues in list 1 above. The 2nd list is taken from everyday conversations in a real estate office in Costa Rica, although the part about who you can trust isn’t so often heard as much as felt.

  1. Yes, the national language is Spanish and it is common. Your time spent in Costa Rica will be enhanced by any effort you make to learn Spanish. However, the coasts, for the most part, and some inland areas are owned by foreigners. In The Zone (Dominical, Uvita & Ojochal area) you can get by very well with English. All of the real estate offices in these areas speak English, Spanish & French.
  2. As with anywhere on this planet, the property is valued at what someone is willing to pay for it. The market is like water, it seeks its own level. Within this global evaluation construct, there is some diversity. This diversity is due to the desirability of a given property and the motivation of the seller. Within the diversity is an almost uncanny commonality of evaluation criteria among the available properties.
  3. I include this question because it  is a common question. The answer is beyond the scope of this article. It is obviously essential that the laws be discussed and understood, and this is best handled in conversation with your real estate agent and your lawyer. Some specifics will be addressed here, such as…
  4. No, you don’t need to have a Tico partner on the title of the property.
  5. Yes, you can buy a property in Costa Rica and put it in your own name. Over the years the most common construct of ownership has been to put the property in a Costa Rica corporation. The cost of a corporation here is around $600. This practice is changing due to some new corporation laws. More on this in Part 2 (coming soon)
  6. Here in The Zone there are no real estate offices run by Ticos. They are all foreign owned. The agents that work within these agencies are a mix of nationalities, including Ticos, Canadians, Colombians, Europeans and  United Statesians.
  7. Despite being at #7, I suspect that this question reigns supreme over all other issues when looking to buy a piece of land in Costa Rica. As stated, this unspoken question is almost palpable in initial conversations with prospective buyers. “Am I hearing the straight skinny from this guy/gal?”
    I’ve lived in Costa Rica a long time, and so I know many property-owners here, some of whom bought through me, and some of whom have decided to sell. One of these recently confided the concern to me: “I don’t trust them all”. They were selectively listing their property with the ones they “trusted”. I suspect, that all the real estate agents hear this concern as well.
  8. Rough rule of thumb for evaluation construction costs in Costa Rica – $100 per foot. This can go up or down by roughly $25, depending on your finishes, topography, etc… Please keep in mind these numbers are guides.
  9. Security concerns affect the property buying decision of many land purchases – anywhere. Some start off by requesting a gated community – or not. The location landscaping, topography and general setting of a home can affect the security of a home.
    In Latin America, bars are commonly seen on windows. Back off the beaten path, not so much. Electric gates are a help. Alarms and private security companies are available as well. Discuss this with your realtor – but here again, the matter of trust comes in. Should you believe your commissioned realtor when he/she says “no problem there!”? Talk with the neighbors and members of the community.

Feel free to send a question you may have regarding real estate in Costa Rica and/or specifically in The Zone.

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Feb 042014

Once pleasantries are exchanged, we get to the core issue: “We’d like to sell our property and we’d like for you to give it a look”. If I don’t know the property, here are points I’d like to know:

Where is the house?
Is there a view?
What size is the house?
What size is the property?
When was it [...]

Jan 102014
The Costa Rica Real Estate Cycle

There are LOTs of folks considering making the move to Costa Rica and the southern Pacific zone in particular. It reminds me in some ways of the booming days of 2004 when I first got into real estate. I think that we are at the beginning of something.
There is always the tendency to feel like we’ve [...]


You Call This Tourism?

 Posted by on December 3, 2013  Culture  No Responses »
Dec 032013

Playa Hermosa is a beach just north of Uvita, towards Dominical. There are several “Playa Hermosa” beaches in Costa Rica. We used to go out to this one and marvel at the beauty of the 2 mile-long stretch of beach that extends down to Uvita’s Whales Tail reef, and how there was absolutely nobody there. We used to joke about trying to find a place to put our towel, like what you find on so many such beaches in various parts of the world.

We’re not there yet, and frankly,

Nov 162013
Big Interest in Moving to Costa Rica

Traveling around the US, the interest in Costa Rica that I encounter is universal. While talking with visitors to Costa Rica, we frequently hear: “everybody is talking about Costa Rica. It’s a real buzz-word in (wherever they are from”. This they say to a guy while there in Costa Rica – to a guy that lives in Costa Rica – while they are discussing the possibility of moving to Costa Rica. Hmmmm, are these statements truly unbiased and objective? My recent travels around parts of the States answers these questions.


Understanding Costa Rica Real Estate

 Posted by on September 22, 2013  MLS  No Responses »
Sep 222013
Understanding Costa Rica Real Estate

Back in 2004 I found myself running a small real estate company in Dominical called Horizon Properties. At that time, the concept of a property listing having a value within the agency, and amongst the various agencies, was non-existent.
As the chief cook and bottle washer of the company, I pretty much expected to procure the [...]

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Jul 182013
State of the Market - Midway 2013

I don’t know the exact percentage but I’d guess at around 90% of the visitors to our offices here start the conversation stating that they would like to buy a house. They are not interested in building. Until recently, this desire went unfulfilled. After looking at the meager house options, the actual base-line interest of the buyer would be exposed: they wanted to own property in The Zone. A house would be the first pick, but barring that, a raw piece of land that they could then build on would be an acceptable fall-back position to fulfill the fundamental interest that they had in owning something here in The Zone.

Most prospective buyers wanted to buy a house. Most prospective buyers bought raw land.

Now things have changed.

Jun 112013
A Positive Experience With a Costa Rica Government Agency
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Costa Rica: What Are We Doing Here?

For many of us here in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone, we marvel at the hub-bub made in Costa Rica information books and websites about the high level of education in Costa Rica. We simply don’t see it.

A course I just took at the good graces of the governmental education agency INA stands in stark contrast with that observation.

The course was being offered free, totally government sponsored, but you had to be a resident. I had to provide a copy of my residency cedula, as well as fill out a form with all my information in it, all of which intrigued me that this course was something authentic. I jumped through the various hoops thinking that I would probably pull out at some point.

Long story short, I didn’t – I did the course – and I’m a better Guy because of it.

May 182013
How to Live in Costa Rica Transcript

I was curious about all the talk I hear. “Costa Rica is a hot topic” is what I am told by visitors to Costa Rica. I wonder if this is really true outside of conversations held within the borders of Costa Rica, while standing on a property or a beach here. So I decided to run my own study on the matter. I got myself set up to offer a free evening of a presentation followed by questions and answers at a book store in Davis California. I’d say the night proved, quite clearly actually, that Costa Rica is indeed, a hot topic.

This is the outline that I used for my presentation.