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.

Costa Rica Real Estate Closing Costs 3

“Four percent of the sale price on top of your commission?!” exclaimed our client, a long time resident in The Zone. (In keeping with an old Guys’ tradition, I’ll refer to him as Mr. Zellbren throughout this article.) Ben and I first explained that we are currently dealing with a severely down market (approximately 50% off the peak value of three years ago) and an excellent time to wait for the market to rebound. Mr. Zellbren wasn’t interested in waiting, so we continued to explain the standard closing costs of a Costa Rica real estate deal. Some of the data he was familiar with; some of the finer points had to be clarified.

Traditional Closing Costs

Closing costs, when you add up the transfer tax, stamps, and legal fees, usually equate to approximately 4% of the sale price. Mr. Zellbren told us he would accept a $550,000 offer for his house equaling $22,000 in closing costs. In 99% of the deals we are part of, Buyers and Sellers split closing costs 50-50. It’s what we do here in Costa Rica. Additional costs—re-surveys, title insurance, new corporations—are typically paid by the Buyer.

Interestingly, there are a variety of stamps required to transfer a property in Costa Rica. They are– the Legal Bar Association Stamp (Timbre del Colegio de Abogados), the Municipal Stamp (Timbre Municipal), the Fiscal Stamp (Especie Fiscal), the National Archives Stamp (Timbe del Archivo Nacional) and the Agriculture Stamp (Timbre Agrario). Like everything else, your lawyer will take care of the licking and sticking of these stamps, which equate to roughly .05% of the sale price.

Legal fees, also known as notary fees here in Costa Rica, are calculated at 1.5% of the sale price. This is what is paid to the lawyer/notary for setting up the Sales and Purchase Agreement, as well as, researching and filing all of the necessary documents in the sale. These standard legal fees do not include any additional legal work (e.g., a new corporations, establishing an easement, etc.). One last point regarding lawyers that I would like to add is… you often get what you pay for.

In the past it was possible for sellers like Mr. Zellbren to calculate the transfer tax on the declared value of the land, often resulting in big savings for both buyer and seller. This is no longer possible, because of SUGEF (soo-hef), Costa Rica’s SEC. I’ll be writing more about banking in Costa Rica since they have just recently gone through some changes, but the bottom line is the transfer tax is 1.5% of the sale price.

The New/Old 13% Tax

There is a new (well actually an old) cost to hiring a real estate broker in Costa Rica, the 13% sales tax. According to Camara Costaricense de Bienes Raices (CCBR), the agency that oversees real estate brokers in Costa Rica, “The real estate broker is responsible for collecting the sales tax by law and must charge the owner 13% on the commission for the sale of the property.” This tax is in observance of Ley General del Impuesto Sobre las Ventas (Sales Tax Law), Article 1, subparagraph ‘n’.

“Why haven’t I heard about that tax before?” asked Mr. Zellbren. The answer is most brokers (The Guys In The Zone included) are just now starting to collect the 13%.

In summary, the commission charged by real estate brokers ranges between 8-10% on raw land and 6-8% on houses. Then, add the Costa Rican sales tax of 13% of the commission and 2% for legal and transfer fees, and a Seller is looking at between 9-13% off of whatever price is negotiated. Some Sellers fall into the need to sell category. Others, like Mr. Zellbren, in the want to sell category decide to wait for the market to bounce back… and, as in all things monetary, we come full circle.

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.

3 thoughts on “Costa Rica Real Estate Closing Costs

  • Danny Welsh

    That is an excellent post. What you said “In 99% of the deals we are part of, Buyers and Sellers split closing costs 50-50. It’s what we do here in Costa Rica. ”  stand our for me. 

  • Danny Welsh

    A very interesting process closing a real estate deal. I am curious as ot how long it take to close, considering all the fee and stamps needed? 

    • Ben

      The fees and stamps don’t affect the timing of the closing. The due
      diligence period is what takes the time. Typical timing of a deal in
      Costa Rica is 1 month.  3 weeks for due diligence – checking title on
      the property, verifying the survey, soil analysis etc… then 1 more
      week to allow the buyer to transfer funds down for the closing.