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.


Living Off The Grid In Costa Rica


My business partner Ben likes to call them the “End of the World-ers”. People who have reason to believe there will be major global changes in the near future. They are interested in buying land and living off the grid in Costa Rica. By off the grid I’m referring to not being connected to the government-run electrical system. They are looking at Costa Rica as a relocation option, because of favorable factors like- weather, low taxes, friendly culture, good health care, etc. Recent “End of the World” clients include– a couple from France interested in le Costa Rica, a large family from California tired of the rat race, an eco-hotel group from Switzerland… clearly, living off the grid in Costa Rica is on the global radar.

solar powered cabin in costa rica

Off the grid… in the jungle.

If you’re anything like the aforementioned relocators wanting to buy land here, you’re in luck!  There are many big fincas (Spanish for farms) in this renewable energy Eden.  We use the term farm, but only a very small subset are actual working farms with barns, cows, and roosters.  Drive 15 minutes into the mountains above Uvita or Ojochal and you can find stunning property with flowing water; some even have ocean views!  The best news is you can grow many different types of food in the mountains of Costa Rica.

Most big fincas range from a short walk to town (and close to electricity lines) to 25-minute 4wd dirt road drive to town and no electricity for kilometers.  The beauty, privacy and value of farms way up in the mountains are exemplary, but what to do about power?

Solar

Installing a solar power system is smart, especially in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica.  This region sits at around nine degrees North of the Equator which offers 12 hours of Sun/day, and there is relatively little variation throughout the year. Solar panel energy production is calculated at half that number (6 hours) in rainy season and/or at higher elevations that often have more clouds cover.

Reportedly, Costa Rica has agreed to lift the tariff on imported solar panels and accessories, so the price to install a solar system shouldn’t be as cost prohibitive, moving forward.  Solar systems with batteries for storage are completely self-sufficient.  In addition to solar panels and an inverter, this type of system requires batteries to store the energy created for use at a later time.

If you’re going to be off the grid, experts recommend an alternative energy source to compliment the primary system.  This is especially true during months with heavy rainfall/cloud cover (September-November).  Gas-powered generators are nice to have, but for truly sustainable off-grid power, you’ll want to consider hydro or wind turbine options.

Wind and Hydro

If you think about it, wind… is actually a form of solar energy. The earth’s atmosphere is heated unevenly by the sun and this phenomena (modified by different terrain—bodies of water, vegetative cover, etc.) creates wind.   We see a version of this here in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica.

Every day around 10am, an ocean breeze blows on-shore.  This breeze lasts for five or six hours and tops out at around between 8-10 knots.  Most (affordable) wind turbines need more than 10 knots (11.5 km) to generate substantial kilowatts/hour number.

Hydro power, on the other hand, is viable option if your property has a river on it with a significant drop in elevation.  According to Paul at Osa Water Works, these small-scale hydro systems can produce over 2kw/hour (that’s 48kw/day!).  Paul bases energy consumption at around 30 kw/day as an average.  Obviously, that average will be higher if you have a swimming pool on your sustainable farm, but something tells me that’s probably not high up on your list.

Rio River In Uvita Costa Rica

Rivers = hydroelectric potential in Costa Rica.

What is high up on the list is water.  Fresh water, usually in the form of natural springs and rivers, or a year-round creek at the very least, is a must.  If you are going to buy land and live “off the grid”, you would be smart to buy a property with a river running through it or along one of its borders.  This is one of the few continuous (as in 24 hours per day continuous) renewable power resources on the planet.

There are a couple of details specific to Costa Rica, namely obtaining a concession (i.e., legal right to extract water from a given source).  In the interest of providing legit information, I asked hydro-expert Paul Collar at Osa Water Works about concessions as they relate to hydro-systems,

“Technically, you are not mandated by law to have a concession for any water extraction.  However, you are expected to apply.”

I asked him if the river had to run through the property or simply run along one of the borders.

”You do not have to own the land adjacent to where the water is being extracted to secure a concession, BUT, you must bound the river at some point, preferably continuous to the property where the water is to be extracted.  As part of the concession application, you ARE REQUIRED to make the bounding property owner aware of your intentions and he must either sign off and agree to your request… or alternately you must sign (and have a witness sign) to the effect that the bounding property owner was made aware of your intentions but refused to sign the form in question… however, having an agreement between the parties is infinitely preferable as a hostile relationship poisons the well.

I found Paul’s comments (and pun) insightful, and many others seem to agree given his business activity has remained strong during the downturn.  Although not specific to “off the grid” clients, his final thoughts on Costa Rican governments move to allow small scale, alternative energy systems (solar, wind, hydro) tying into the grid.

“ICE is presently in negotiations with Setena and MINAE to ELIMINATE the requirement of a concession (for grid-tie systems).  At present, the wording is that a concession must be in hand for a completed grid-tie hydro authorization, but since concessions take up to two years and ICE is fully behind their grid-tie initiative, this agreement is expected to smooth the path to hydro permitting for most. 

For an overview of Water in Costa Rica, I wrote a two part article a couple of years ago.  Costa Rica is considered one of the more “green” or environmentally conscious countries in the world.  The government has repeatedly stated its intention to be carbon-neutral by 2021.  That’s only 9 years off, and it’s one of the reasons Costa Rica real estate is on the radar of many people who want to relocate and live a more independent and sustainable lifestyle.

For more information on Costa Rica real estate, browse our listings at: www.propertiesincostarica.com  or contact us on our contact page here.

For more information on alternative energy systems in Costa Rica, contact Paul Collar at Osa Power and Water 011-506-8704-0027 or visit his website:  www.osapower.com .


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.