Costa Rica History in knife metaphorI’d say that about 1/10th of my time spent with people looking to buy property in Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific zone is spent in the actual buying/selling of property. The other 9/10ths is a mix of conversations regarding what’s involved with living here, as well as discussing the business of real estate in Costa Rica.

At its core, the lack of an actual MLS (Multiple Listing Service) colors all aspects of the business here, and I’ll go into that later on in this series. To really understand the business of real estate here, I have found it helpful to go back in time and see the progression of events up to the present. This helps to not only understand the current market but also, to project what is to come.

Early days:
I got into real estate in Dominical in 2004. It felt like the day I got into real estate was the day that someone threw the on-off switch on the market. Since then I’ve heard some tales indicating that the market was already simmering and poised to boil.

I made a sale on my first day in the business. A $60,000 gorgeous ocean view property sized at around 2 acres.  The property featured Uvita’s Whales Tail front and center. That property has gone on to have a lovely home, guest house and pool built on it. It has been re-sold and enjoys a stellar vacation rental history (link to rental page on HomeAway)

Quick overview of The Zone:
The Zone is made up of a string of 3 towns with Dominical at its northern end. The northern boundary is not a hard line but is decidedly fuzzy, easily extending up to Hatillo and at times, up to Portalon. (link to Hills of Portalon Development).

From Dominical heading south on the coastal highway you get to Uvita and then further south, to Ojochal. The area between Dominical and Uvita has a nicely laid out mountain range that runs very parallel to the ocean. Hence the handle “coastal mountain range” This means that you can travel inland from the beach just a short way and get to elevation where it is breezy and cool and offers expansive views of the ocean and coastline, attributes which make this area extremely desirable to investors, relocators and migrators (part-of-the-year residents).

More History:
Before the incoming press of foreign interest in The Zone, the Ticos (Costa Ricans) owned all the land, and their land holdings were always in the multi-hectares (1 hectare = 2.48 acres. Think 2.5 to make it easy).

There was a time in the not too distant past when land in Costa Rica was nearly value-less. There were land-grant programs whereby a man simply had to be willing to take responsibility for a property and the government would “grant” him the land, with conditions.

At that time it was not known that “nature” had a lucrative aspect to it. Instead nature was largely viewed as “in the way” and needed to be tamed, subdued or eliminated. So, one of the conditions to receiving a land grant was to cut the trees down and raise cattle.

I suspect that this era may have coincided with the “McDonalds” explosion. This is an arguable point, so let’s just say it coincided with an extreme demand in the U. S. (and world) for beef.

After some time of cutting down enormous canopy trees and attempting to raise cattle in former rain-forest environs, there was a shift in our world’s appetites; nature became an important commodity. Granted, beef has continued to be an active commodity, but it was also learned that former rain forest land doesn’t necessarily make for the best pasture land.

Raising cattle in Costa Rica was a daunting struggle. The farmers found themselves up against nature. Having to maintain former rain forest jungle land in “pasture” condition presented its trials, as well as the fact that the beef business (exporting meat, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and 3rd world infrastructure or lack thereof) made a guy scratch his head and wonder if having all this land was such a good idea.

The Tico culture was/is multi-generational. These large, granted tracts of land, would end up being populated by the man who acquired the land, his now grown sons & daughters and their families, and the grand kids (soon to also have families.)

So despite having lots of land, a condition that in first-world countries equates to being wealthy, these farmers were subsistence. They lived off of what their land produced. As a child would grow to adulthood, Abuelo (abuelo = grandfather) would simply build them a house and apportion off some land (or not) and they would continue on contributing to the sustenance of the family. The land itself was not thought of in lucrative terms.

Abuelo just happened to acquire a land grant on, let’s say, 60 hectares of land that reaches from the inland side of the maritime zone on the coast up to the highest point of the coastal mountain ridge. He’s not thinking “oh boy! I’ve got some ocean view land here.” No, he’s thinking: “man I hope this land is fertile.”

Enter foreigner:
One day Bob, a tourist, is exploring the area and decides that he’d like to buy Abuelo’s property. Bob offers Abuelo $60,000 for the land. Abuelo has never even considered the remote possibility of maybe someday having such a sum. In fact, he’s never even seen that much money. He talks it over with his family and they (very understandably) feel that this would be a wonderful thing for them to do. So, they sell their land.

Bos is a visionary. He sees what is likely coming and so he stakes his early claim. Now, keep in mind that there is no electricity to this property, the access is horseback and the water is from a nearby spring that is bubbling out of the ground. Abuelo has run a pipe from the spring to an elevated storage tank near the family homes. Bob’s a visionary in that – what foreigner in their right mind would possibly want such a remote and forbidding piece of land?

To understand this is to understand the element that is credited with making the world go round. We all have different likes and dislikes. I wonder at the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s level of focus on the personal home computing idea at the time that they had that focus. I’m not of this ilk and so my hat is off to such ones. I view the early investors here in The Zone as being made of the same stuff.

In looking back over the history of the first wave of investors here, I marvel at their foresight. My then wife and I looked at some Whales Tail view property in Uvita around 2002 and, despite its being gorgeous and nicely priced, I felt that it was simply too remote. This was in the same area where 2 years later I sold my first property.

Ok, so I said that to understand the real estate market here in Costa Rica, it helps one to know a bit of the history. Granted, we’ve gone back to what I call the first-wave of intrepid and visionary investors – the Mavericks. We’ll continue on in the next article with Bob’s next steps and incredible gains on his visionary act.


New Theory Explains Why We Find Costa Rica So Darn Pleasant 7


or – How Media Saturation Robs Us Of Our Joy
or – an Original Thought is a good thing

We humans find ourselves intriguing, in fact – fascinating. Theories explaining the experience of being human abound .

One theory that I heard as a young man has stuck with me through the years. This theory now finds a rather interesting application in my life of living as an expat here in Costa Rica. I see the possible truth to this theory as I observe what I have come to know as “4th Day Original Thought Syndrome” or “4DOTS” in Costa Rica. Based on this thing that happens on day #4, many decide that they would like to either make Costa Rica Home, or to at least make it a big part of their life.

Observation:

4DOTS is simple – it’s really nothing more than relaxation. But I need to do a footnote definition here of what I mean by relaxation. It’s more than just having our neck muscles relax and our shoulders lower down by a couple inches, (which they do on day 4). 4 DOTS relaxation has to do with the mind.

The Theory:

It is thought that when we first have an experience as a baby, we fire off a unique circuit in our brain. The experience is profound and frequently pleasurable. We are drawn to the subject experience again and again to get better acquainted. We call this learning.

Let’s say that at the age of 1 year our Mother puts us on the warm, sunny lawn in our back yard to crawl around. A new circuit is fired through our brain and we are fascinated by the greenness of the experience and the warmth of the green. The texture is slightly prickly but not unpleasantly so. There is a humid component and a wonderful smell that we will later on associate with the word “earthy”.

From this point on in our lives this same circuit fires every time we experience warm green grass, causing a familiarity with the experience, and this we call memory. So the theory goes.

(As an aside, i t is thought that the psychoactive drug LSD causes variations in our established and familiar brain circuitry. This can be profoundly pleasurable (or disturbing) and cause fascination with what we adults would consider to be mundane things. This would explain why people on LSD can be seen studying their hand, or marveling at the grass they are standing on. )

But here is the significance of this in relation to Costa Rica. It is usually right about day 4 of a person’s vacation that the liberating effect of being away from the media circus back home sets in. In this setting we have what is known as an “Original Thought” (“OT” in scientific circles). Because it has been so long since we have had one of these OT experiences, the experience is, to say the least, agreeable.

OT Unmasked:
When we visit Costa Rica, we pull ourselves out of our lives of running as fast as we can to stay in one place. Or we may be moving slowly backwards, but whatever.

Right along with the luggage we pack to bring our clothes on vacation to Costa Rica, we are bringing all the mind and thought stuff that is ingrained from our day to day lives back home. In the US this involves a huge amount of a controlled media smorgasbord. At any given time in the US there are 6 hot areas of media coverage:

  • Political
  • Celebrity
  • Economical
  • Technological
  • Sportalogical
  • Oprah

Running in our heads are the latest tapes of what is going on in these 6 areas. All of this information does not originate inside of our own heads but from without (opposite of within). Of course, we are all intelligent and creative people in our own right. So, we take this information and color it and make commentary on it with our own unique spin, but really, someone else has pretty much suggested to us what we’ll be thinking about as we go through our days.

On day 4 that constant and ever- present chatter has subsided enough to where we may experience an errant thought of something unrelated to the big 6. This experience originates entirely from the source of one‘s very own, personal and private psyche – and this feels wonderful.

The media guys are smart and really good at what they do. However, the power of Original Thought is not to be under-estimated. Media programming does not hold up well in the antidotal face of these common Costa Rican pastimes:

  • quiet time in a hammock
  • quiet time not in a hammock
  • conversation
  • reading
  • writing
  • drawing
  • meditation
  • sitting by a waterfall
  • sitting on the beach
  • a board game
  • marveling at the strangeness and beauty of a toucan and/or a sloth
  • marveling at the sunset
  • marveling at why an Imperial tastes so good in Costa Rica

The Original Thought is likely something creative, or philosophical, or loving, or problem solving. The thought has a slight intoxicating effect. It is under the influence of 4th Day Original Though Syndrome that many have decided to do something outrageous like, say, move to Costa Rica.

I did. And I haven’t looked back.


7 thoughts on “New Theory Explains Why We Find Costa Rica So Darn Pleasant