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.

Education In Rural Costa Rica, Part 1 5

Education… it elicits warm images of smiling children, colorful classrooms and fundamental ideas like opportunity and a brighter future.  I am happy to say I see all of those elements unfolding here in Costa Rica, albeit sloooowly.

Did you know that the Costa Rican government is constitutionally required to budget at least 6% of the country’s GDP on educational programs?  In fact, the only countries that spend more on education (as a percentage of GDP) are Saudi Arabia and Norway at 9.5% and 6.8%, respectively.[1] Costa Rica also sports the highest literacy rate in Central America at 95.8%[2].  That said, there are a couple of gaps this learning curve, and I’m specifically referring to the parents and educators in this rural region, not the kids.

Elementary school classroom.

Ben and I often receive school-related questions from potential clients.  So, here’s a quick synopsis of public and private education in our region of Costa Rica.  Public school is free and for children between the ages of 6 and 13 (e.g., 1st through 6th grade).  Unlike most of the public schools in the United States, Canada and Europe, students are required to wear a uniform, typically dark blue pants with a white or light blue shirt.  The curriculum includes the usual core subjects of Spanish, Math, History, and Science.  Since 1998, English and Computer Sciences are also standard.  After kids pass their final elementary school testing, they have the option of a five-year stretch in colegio (i.e., high school in North America and Europe).

Judging from the local tico parents I have spoken with, their public school system offers a decent education for their children.  Judging from the growing number of expats living in the area, the school system is far from acceptable.  Leveraging my sources, namely my girlfriend (who has an 11 year old son) and a variety of local parents with school-age children, I embarked to uncover the real education story.

Frustration In An Emerging Country

“They don’t have school today… again!”  My girlfriend was beside herself.  Apparently, the parents of her son’s public school (he was in 5th grade) chained the front doors of the school demanding the removal of an (allegedly) drunk principal.  This comical Latin American story quickly turned ridiculous, as the protest went on for almost a week?!   Then, there was the teacher’s constant infirmity with no substitute.  Then, there was the partial flooding of the campus for a few days during the rainy season causing… yep, no school.  In reality, her son probably only attended half the number of days scheduled.

On top of that… the school didn’t have any books.  The teacher cited the importance of learning dictation and penmanship, but at what expense?  Early in the first parent-faculty meeting of the year, my girlfriend asked for an explanation?  The answer was they didn’t have any money.  Then, education in rural Costa Rica came into focus when each of the parents decided to budget money ($2.75/month for 10 months) for a “Christmas Party” for the kids.  The party turned out to be a success; the kids sang a few songs, played a few games, and ate what amounted to $20 worth of candy and cake.

This year, her son is attending a new “better” public school in Uvita.  The only problem is they don’t have any text books either.  But, hold on… before prospective mothers and fathers cross Costa Rica off the list, please allow me to share another option available.

Multi-Cultural, Global Citizens

“By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” – Latin Proverb

I remember when I first met Ben, and he told me the main reason he moved his family of five from Colorado to Costa Rica was because he wanted his kids to be bilingual and have an enriching life experience.  In fact, those are two of the main reasons most families move down here.  The third being… it’s a tropical paradise.  They lived in San Isidro, and they homeschooled their children who turned out happy, healthy, and yes… fluent in Spanish.

All that being said, we understand home schooling is not a viable option for some parents.  In Part 2 of this article, I will share arguably the best educational option in Costa Rica— private school.  It will also include continuing education for adults specifically, learning Spanish!  Until then, please feel free to share your questions and comments in the space below.  Saludos.

[1] http://www.oclc.org/reports/escan/images/edpercent.swf

[2] United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008 (Unfortunately, in some countries literacy is defined as being able write your name.)

About Tigre

My first visit to Costa Rica was in 2002. I immediately fell in love with the warmth of the climate and people. After spending two weeks in San Jose, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, and Tamarindo in Guanacaste, I knew there was a good chance I would return sooner than later. Sooner came just 6 months later when my uncle mentioned he was flying down to Costa Rica to close on a piece of property in the Southern Pacific Zone. On that trip I found my own piece of paradise above the small town of San Buenaventura, home to the San Buenas Golf Resort. Two years and 8 trips later, I decided to move to Costa Rica full time. Every day I am thankful for that decision.

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