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.


Getting Health Insurance in Costa Rica 1


I am 53 years old and have just gone through the process of applying for private health insurance. There are two types of health care in Costa Rica. One is socialized medicine. All residents of Costa Rica are required to pay into what is called “caja” (KAH-hah) insurance. This runs me about $25 per month. This is the government subsidized health insurance in Costa Rica.

I have written about my one week stay in one of the caja hospitals. I don’t recommend it. Its not so much that the practitioners aren’t good, its the overall structure. I think that you definitely want your health providers to be mindful of the fact that if they don’t offer a good service, then someone else will and they will get the business.

Photo of a stethoscope for the article on health insurance in Costa Rica

The second type of healthcare here is very similar to what you get in other  countries, and what we refer to as “private” insurance. Up until recently. the Costa Rican government was the exclusive provider of health insurance. This has changed and there are now some international health insurance providers here, and I hear that they are pretty good. I don’t have any experience with them so I can’t detail how they work or their value.

This article is just about the private insurance that is offered through INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros), the Costa Rica government’s health insurance branch.

The Exams

Since I am so old, I had to get a number of health exams to see if I qualify for the insurance.  I still don’t know if I do qualify, but if the response on the part of the examining doctors is any indication, I should get in no problem. It is interesting that this past May 11th marked the second anniversary of a violent criminal event that almost killed me and left me blind in my left eye.

One of the testing doctors used the word “perfecto” about 5 times during the general examination of my overall level of health.  She said that if I didn’t have that one, life threatening bugger on my record, I would have a perfecto health record. So, it will be interesting to see if I get approved.  For you folks out there that are wondering how to be middle aged and have a couple doctors say say “perfecto” when they examine you, I’ll pass my secrets along in a minute.

So, 53 years old, in perfect health with the exception of this small, life threatening incident two years ago – $1,600 per year.  I can pay it monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or once a year. I’m not sure that the coverage is as far as deductibles go, I’ll post that information when I find out. The coverage is for up to $200,000 of insuring per year.  You can get an additional coverage if you like. It’ll set you back another $160 per year and it adds another $200,000 to the coverage and is specifically for cancer and other such catastrophic incidents.

I decided against the additional coverage, despite its low cost.  I spent a month in CIMA hospital and was in a drug induced coma for 2 weeks.  That visit included multiple medical specialists, amazing facial reconstruction surgery that left nine plates in my head, a plethora of x-rays, and a good steady flow of pain meds and antibiotics. My bill came to $110,000.  So, I’m not sure what you’d have to do to run the bill up to over $200,000.

I’ll post another article if and when I get accepted.

Ben’s Health Secrets

As a reader of the Guys in the Zone blog, you get the dubious pleasure of my secrets on how to be in perfecto health.

Kickboxing

I have been into fitness all of my adult life.  We have always had a home gym of the Olympic weight variety with vertical leg press machines, and cables for low rows, squat rack, bench, etc. I have been involved and invested in my health. I thought that I was in shape when I went to my first kick boxing boot camp here on Dominical beach – boy was I ever humbled.

Aside from attaining to new levels of exhausting, never before achieved, I also released more endorphins than I previously knew possible. The point here isn’t to discuss how to kick box, but simply to say that I am in the best condition of my life, and I credit this activity with this data point. Oh, but there is one more thing –

Green Drinks

Vitamix is the key here. I brought one down from the States during a visit to my family in Davis.  If you don’t yet have one, or worse yet, don’t know what one is – a Vitamix is a blender on steroids. I mix up a drink every morning that has the following ingredients:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • ginger root
  • turmeric root
  • frozen pieces of pineapple
  • frozen bananas (2 of ’em)
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 cup of ground up oat meal
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of ground up flax

I will also add mango, tamarindo and other fruits when they are available. This drink gets me through every morning of my life with no hunger and is slowly converting me into something of a super hero.  I am almost to the point of flying, almost.

The best way to buy a Vitamix is to go to my website and buy one there.  There are a couple of reasons why this is the best way to buy – one is that it appears to be the best price around.  The other is that I make a commission if you do.  Buy a Vitamix from Ben: Go to www.blenditraw.com.

In conclusion, getting basic health insurance in Costa Rica is easy.  It’s the getting healthy part that takes some doing.


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