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:
Stress
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.


Easements… Made Easy! 2


The fact that you are reading this article means you are interested in purchasing or selling a piece of Costa Rica real estate.

For buyers, let me first lead you through a visualization to help attract the perfect property… You drive up a well-maintained gravel road and turn onto a large, flat building area… A cool ocean breeze is blowing as you step out of the car… the 180 degree view stretches from emerald mountains to a wide and tranquil blue horizon. After days (dare I say years) of searching, you’ve finally found it!

Servidumbre de paso in Costa Rica real estate

Servidumbre de Paso in Costa Rica.

The next step is getting into the details.  The property boundaries are clearly defined for you using the registered survey (el plano catastrado).  Upon closer inspection, you see a squiggly line labeled servidumbre is running inside the boundary.  What is that squiggly line, and is it even important?

In Costa Rica, a servidumbre refers to an easement.  It provides a legal right for the owner or owners of a property touched by the easement.  Without getting too technical, the “dominant” property is encumbered and the “servant” property is improved by the easement.  Even if the dominant property is subdivided and sold to new owners, the new properties created will carry the legal title of the servidumbre.

There are instances when an easement is not labeled on the plano, but (if done correctly) they are registered as a “lien” on the title.

Types of Servidumbres

Servidumbres provide value for property in the ever-growing and changing landscape of Costa Rican real estate. They come in a variety of distinctions and protect a variety of interests—

  • Access to a property, often through another property  (Servidumbre de Paso)
  • Water, the right to use a water source and/or maintain water lines (Servidumbre del Acueducto)
  • Environmental, like extracting road material like rock/stone (Servidumbres de extracción de materials)
  • The View, often important with ocean view property (Servidumbre de Vista)

Protecting “The View”

View easements have played a part in a few deals in the past.  Our friend Eduardo Abarca Vargas, who happens to be an excellent lawyer in Uvita, helped me understand the details of this important property detail.

There are a couple of ways to legally describe view easements.  The first is a description based on the numbered boundary points on the plano . (see illustration)  The description (always in Spanish) could read ¨the easement will affect the area of the property within the boundary point 1 and 3 of the property.¨

The second method is when a certified survey crew uses GPS coordinates (lat./long. and elevation).  Based on that data, the maximum height of buildings, trees, towers, etc. on the property below are stated in meters.  Eduardo explains, “One of the most important items is to state the direction the view will be protected, for instance, the easement will protect the view towards the ocean.”

Costa Rica real estate sample plano with easements

What is a Servidumbre de Agricola?

These Legal Teeth Are Sharp

That’s one of the best things about servidumbres; they have legal significance that cannot be separated from the estate or piece of land to which they are registered.  We know of a few cases where a property owner has tried to prevent access along a servidumbre de paso by putting up a gate.  Thanks to the easement, a judge ordered him to take it down under the supervision of the police.  Legal costs aside, there is no cost to having a servidumbre other than paying for any work associated with enjoying the easement (e.g., road or water system maintenance).

Normally, easements are granted into perpetuity and remain unchanged when the property is transferred to new buyers.  There are only a few ways an easement can be dissolved:

  • The owner of the dominant estate acquires ownership of the servant estate or vice versa.
  • Waiver from the dominant estate holder, although such waivers have to be reviewed by a judge.
  • No use. Typically, it takes between 10 and 20 consecutive years of non-use to dissolve an easement.

New servidumbres can be registered, but they require the written agreement of all of the owners of a property.   This can be challenging when dealing with a large family farm, but not impossible.

Due Diligence

As I mentioned, easements can be found on the registered property survey and in the title, recorded as a “lien”.  They are discovered during the due diligence phase of buying your property.  Click here to read more on the stages of buying Costa Rica real estate.

I may sound like a broken record, but I can’t stress the importance of a good lawyer enough.  If you want to ensure your dream property doesn’t have any “surprises” get a good one with years of experience with property transactions.  Our legal associate Eduardo has uncovered many interesting easement issues for our clients over the past four+ years.  Feel free to contact him directly at: edabarca@racsa.co.cr or (011) 506-2743-8345.

It wasn’t the most entertaining subject to write about, but it’s an important one to consider before buying a piece of Costa Rica real estate.


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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