We are in high season here in the southern pacific zone. The months of November through April are typically when there are more tourists here than during the rainy months.

There is another type of “high season” happening right now as well. This has more to do with world conditions. I know, those from the States are going to think that Mr. Trump is pushing many to look elsewhere. And I suspect that this is true to some extent. I think that Mr. Trump has been good for my Costa Rica real estate business. I think Mrs. Clinton would have been as well. Such is the world that we live in.

However, our property buyers here are not just from the States. We’ve got buyers from Canada, despite their currently weak currency. These people are buying property and essentially paying 30% – 40% more due to the exchange rate on their currency. One has got to wonder – why?

France, Germany, Great Britain – all are providing us here with buyers. Again: why? There are economic, political and security issues happening in various areas of the world. I suppose that greater analytical minds would come up with the cause and effect links in trying to answer the question. But I find that there is one common thread when I talk with these people.

The Reason:
is pushing, and the promise of less stress, is pulling people to consider a life in Costa Rica. Simpler living is highly attractive. Costa Rica offers this and it (simple living) seems to be the antidote to whatever may be happening in one’s home country.

Uvita, Dominical, Ojochal and the surrounding areas that make up Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone are all seeing an influx of buyers. But there is more. There are some big-money players who are making some moves here that are notable. There are condominium complexes being constructed, and sold at a good clip. There are town homes, urbanization projects and upgrades to some of the antiquated infrastructure in some of these areas.

There is some talk of giving Uvita a facelift. This is much needed. With both Dominical and Ojochal, you turn off the coastal highway and drive into the town. In Uvita, the highway passes right through the town. Up till now its growth has happened with hardly any attention to the aesthetic and it is essentially a strip-mall, Costa Rican style.

This is a pity since Uvita could really have been (or be made to be) one of the most beautiful towns on the planet. So if these well funded entities see the beautifying of the town as in their best interests, great! Although it’s hard to imagine what can be done, short of tearing the whole thing down and starting over again.

The Envision Festival is going on currently. This has become one of the largest events of the year. Kudos to the organizers. I’ve heard that 7,000 people attended last year, but that about half that number are here now.

Uvita Costa Rica's Crunchy Envision Festival

2017 Envision Festival Uvita Costa Rica

Some of the Ticos complain a bit about Envision, claiming that the drugs, nudity and general licentiousness is disrespectful to their culture. I suspect that there is some truth to these allegations, but for me, I’ve never met an Envisioner I didn’t like and the festival provides a time of some fascinating people watching.

I’ve not  personally ever attended. I can hear the music from my home well, the bass notes anyway, and I routinely provide rides to those thumbing to the grocery store and back. There is also the complaint of them being a bit odoriferous, but I can’t speak to this having lost my olfactory sense some years back. So I get along fine with them in my car and always enjoy their upbeat spirit.

So between the time of year and world conditions, sales are good here in the Zone’s real estate market.

About Property Prices:
During the recession, there was not much of a market here. It hit hard and us realtors languished waiting for the anomalous inquiry that might result in a sale. I actually got into brokering hard money loans during this time in an effort to not only make a little commission, but to also help some land owners to not lose their properties.

Prices plummeted during the recession. This was an interesting time. The pre-recession time was a “boom”. The biggest challenge for a buyer then was being able to find an available real estate agent. I felt like I should put a Baskin Robbins “take a number” device at the door. Some of these buyers were our good-old bread and butter retirees, looking to retire to Costa Rica. However, there were lots of folks who refinanced their homes and then found themselves cash-rich and wondering what to do with it. The causes of the recession helped to fuel some of that heady boom and resulted in pushing prices up to a rather silly level.

So the fall of pricing some 40% – 50% during the recession could appropriately be called a correction.

Much of our land here is still at recession pricing. There hasn’t been a big upward push on prices since then. The demand for houses is strong and so we’re starting to see some upward movement there – all very rational though. This is no heady boom. Its simply that the inventory which was glutted post-recession, is finally starting to get mopped up. This was inconceivable in the years following the recession due to the glut.

I still get asked sometimes why it seems that everything is for sale. I find this interesting since I have to really work to find properties for some of the criteria lists I build for my clients.

Yes, I suppose everything is, in fact, for sale, at some price. However, finding what you want, finding that screaming ocean view with good access and amenities nearby, and all this in your budget, can sometimes be a bit daunting.

And then there is that wonderful amenity “simplicity”. I wonder if this could be put at the top of the list. Right up there with “ocean view”. I’m thinking that this one amenity is the primary mover of the current strong market we’re seeing here in The Zone.

The Man Said – There Is No Real Estate Market Here 1

The effect of the statement on me has been: enlightenment.  Interesting, how a single expression out of an entire conversation can have such an effect.  The rest of the conversation simply served to establish the credibility of the man, and that two people, coming from two very different points of view, can arrive at the same answer to the questions:

  1. What’s going on in Costa Rica real estate?
  2. Where are we headed?

“The man”, (for the purpose of this article I’ll call him Mr. Steenburf ) has a property listed with me – quite a nice one actually.

Mr. Steenburf appeared during last weeks Farmer’s Market in Uvita. He migrates between the US and Costa Rica.  So when we bumped into each other at a booth selling car safety kits, we started to converse.

Steenburf: “How are things going”? This is perhaps the number one question on all peoples mind when they first start talking with one of us real estate people.

How are things going”?

Vaughn: “Slow.  We’re not dead, but we’re slow”.

Steenburf: “There is no real estate market” he said.  ZING! He’s talking about my market, and he’s saying that there’s no market.

OK then.

Vaughn: Thinking hmmm, is this man nuts?  Non-verbal – a blank-ish, inquisitive, tell me more sort of look.

Mr Steenburf’s non-verbal communication lets me know that he wasn’t trying to be rude.

As it turns out, his background was in market analysis on Wall Street.  After a long stream of successful analysis and predicting of market trends, he moved on from that position to psychology.  An interesting mix for discussing market trends.

Steenburf: “You’re probably showing property, but not selling.  The people who are looking are not determined to buy, they would just like to see what there is and open themselves to the possibility of finding the piece that they can’t live without, and if they are going to buy, it would have to be a steal. But barring those events, there is no sale”.

Vaughn: Thinking to himself “I’d say that pretty well sums up our market place over the past year.”

As the conversation progressed, I became enraptured with this man’s point of view, his insight into the underbelly of the economy and the workings of the human mind.  I felt like I was talking with one of those super intelligent guys that writes a book and goes on the talk show tour.

I had a question I’ve been carrying around for some time that I wanted to ask such a person.   I was concerned with all the farmers’ market hub-bub that I’d not be able to get to my question but he seemed as comfortable in the setting as I had hoped he would, and so we continued.

Vaughn: “Mr. Steenburf, does there have to be a recovery? Everyone is talking about ‘when the economy recovers’ as though it is impending and inevitable.  I’m no economist, but what little I do know indicates to me that there essentially isn’t a remedy for what ails the US economy.  Is it possible that there won’t be a recovery?”

Steenburf: smiles and nods.

Vaughn: I feel like the post World War II US economy has been a thing of enduring power and wealth, but it’s taken just a few too many knocks over the years.  Maybe it’s someone else’s turn to have the big powerful position on the world scene.”

He nodded and said that I was spot on.  However, having said that, he said that there is also going to be a recovery.

Vaughn: “so we’ve got this house hovering over the ground, no foundation.  All the laws of physics say that without the foundation the house will fall. For it to continue like that is an illusion”.

Mr. Steenburf says “it is that illusion that is going to very likely make a recovery possible.”

Well, I find that fascinating.

Frankly, the old consumer based system served me well as it did so many of us. Even so, I’m not sure that I’m interested in seeing the economy recover if it means that we all have to consume more today than we did yesterday and more tomorrow than we did today. Or if we need to have life be so convenient that we produce plastics that don’t breakdown for hundreds or thousands of years. And then there is the matter of carbon emissions warming the globe… If that is “recovery”, then we’ve really done nothing more than sharpened the saw.  We are the Seussian character sawing off the branch we’re standing on.

However, if the traumatic fall of the U.S. & World economy results in a healthy economy, that works in concert with the earth, humanity, and it’s flora & fauna, and if we call that a “recovery”, I’m all for it.

The enlightening effect of the “no market” statement comes to me on a daily basis, as I am asked by various sellers if they should lower the price of their land to stimulate a sale, or helping to set up a hard money loan and evaluating the security offered by a given piece of land.  In other words, all that we knew before is being reshaped and configured and we need to be flexible to keep up with the changes.

There is a very obvious value to our properties, or “real” estate here in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific zone.  We enjoy the benefit of living in one of planet Earth’s most desirable zones. The value of that property is now no longer fettered by history, but instead is now established by a very “real” event, that of a buyer valueing a property to the point of paying a given price for it.

There was more to the Steenburf conversation that I’d like to write about.  His insights were wonderfully refreshing to me.  His “guesses” for the future very nearly parallel some guesses that I have made as well.  We agreed that the coming U. S. winter might just put us into an active buying market.

Mr. Steenburf’s optimistic prognostications for Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone are largely shaped by some of the vitality of the Baby Boomer demographic.  He feels this phenomenon can only bode well for Costa Rica.  I have invited him to come to the office for further discussion on the matter.

Stay tuned.

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