This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Understanding Costa Rica Real Estate

Early arrivers to Costa Rica buying land.In Part 1 we considered the early foreign investors in real estate here in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific zone.  The idea being that in so doing, we’ll have have a better understanding of the real estate market here. We continue now with Bob (early visionary investor) as he proceeds to segregate and sell his large parcel (finca).

Bob’s vision for what is to come is so clear (to him) that he recognizes that he essentially stole the gorgeous ocean view property that he now possesses. The plan is to sub-divide the large property (finca) into smaller parcels and sell them at a considerable profit.

He takes his 60 hectare (150 acre) finca and segregates off 5 hectares and puts this on the market at $60,000, the price that he paid originally for the entire finca, leaving 55 hectares as a pure profit proposal.

Now granted, I’m fabricating the name and the transaction. But this I do as a composite of various such transactions that I was aware of at that time. What I experienced when I got into the real estate business here in 2004 were the ripple effects of not just one deal like Bob’s, but the after-effects of many such deals.

There is some historical precedent to the investor phenomenon that transpired at that time. Well known examples are: the dissension regarding Alexander Graham Bell being the actual originator of the telephone. Elisha Gray applied for the patent on similar voice technology, essentially on the same day as Bell. Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin both – independent from each other – came up with the theory of evolution at the same time. It was essentially the luck of the draw that Darwin is credited as the author. And to look at the advent of American Contemporary art in the New York art scene with Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and on, is to see one of the strangest examples of unrelated, converging visionaries.

I wonder at this “phenomenon”. It is recurring in human history. Unrelated individuals and groups, all at roughly the same time, turn their attention to something. It’s almost like some cosmic force directing select ones to go and do a thing. Ok, not to belabor this point, but I find it fascinating. I mean, I could understand one guy. And then maybe that guy talks to someone else about what he’s doing and they think it sounds good and so they do it also. But unrelated, concurrent action??  Por favor! 

Well, barring an un-quantifiable cosmic event from our understanding, I can only suggest that this is simply the way of the world. “Progress” of civilizations. The time had come for this gorgeous country to be discovered and exploited for what it had to offer – its riches. And, as it turns out, there were plenty of buyers.

There were several Bob-like visionary investors who converged at roughly the same time in the early days of real estate here in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific zone. These all went on to see enormous returns (turning $1.00 USD into $120.00+-) on their relatively paltry investments. A couple of the best known Dominical-centric examples of these investments are the areas of Lagunas and Escaleras and to a lesser degree, Hatillo. 

We are now getting to the time when I began work in Costa Rica real estate. These were the conditions of the market at that time. The majority of real estate sales at that time were of raw land, and this was despite the majority of buyer’s initial request was for an existing home. There simply weren’t many to pick from. The inventory was primarily raw land. After looking at the available options for existing houses they would go to the default position of buying land and either building, or holding the land for a future purpose. 

The houses at that time were difficult to sell, despite the common preference of the buyers to purchase a house. Those early arrivers to the area were somewhat unique. I like to say that we were all a bit “out of round”. We had decided to move from our homeland to an area of the earth that was certainly not the most accommodating of environs. What houses there were, were frequently expressions of that individuality that brought them here in the first place. These were not homes for the general market. Some were lovely in their uniqueness while other were, quite frankly, atrocious. 

What I came to call the “Costa Rica Formula” for buying land had a couple of iterations. The visionaries were the big winners of the formula, but those that bought from them were also beneficiaries of having been early arrivers on the scene. The formula was to buy one of the available segregations from a Visionary. Despite having been segregated from the mother farm, these properties were generally still quite large by today’s standards, commonly consisting of multiple hectares (1 ha = 2.48 acres). To then cut off a marketable piece of that parcel and sell it, effectively reducing or eliminating the initial investment principle. Buyers at that time could almost all count on this being an option.

In 2004, some of the Visionary’s pieces  were available, as well as the lots being made available from those that they had sold to.  And there was quite a lot of work being done to bring more to market. These were the days prior to the big crash of 2007/8. The reason for the crash fed the formula, and the market spiked. We were in a boom.  The sub-prime market made for an unreal and absolutely illogical availability of money to homeowners in the U.S. This was the market I started working in at that time.

My thought is that the spike in demand, and the subsequent prices, is one of the many ripple effects from the sub-prime lending mortgages thing that resulted in the demise of the global economy in 2007.  Not to belabor the point, but I think that it’s important to understand this as, here we are some 10 years later, and the effects of the “spike / crash” on the market are still very present. I’ll get to this more in a following article on present day conditions.

 


Why Baby Boomers Are Buying Real Estate And Retiring In Costa Rica 2


The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Baby Boomers as those born between January 1st, 1946 and December 31st, 1964. As of January 1st, 2011 more than 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 per day, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years. The question isn’t if there will be a lot of people retiring. The question is… where are they going to go? With escalating government debt and rising taxes, many retirees are looking outside of the U.S. for a retirement location.

What is a Pensionado?

Retiring In Costa Rica

A morning walk and talk.

Retired or semi-retired people from the United States, Canada and Europe have always been a strong contingent in Costa Rica. I have read that there are approximately 100,000 foreign residents in Costa Rica. I would bet that number is much higher given there are still many expats living a perpetual tourists (e.g., leaving the country every 90 days) or their residency is “in process” which allows them to forgo the inconvenience of leaving.

With good and experienced legal help, it is not difficult to get permanent residence in Costa Rica. In order to qualify for retired (pensionado) status, the applicant must show proof of $1,000 in monthly income from a qualified pension plan. A married couple needs to show proof of only one pension of $1,000 per month. Pensionados agree to live in Costa Rica for a minimum of 121 days (approx. 4 months) per year and there is no maximum. Since most people looking to retire qualify for pensionado status and want to live in Costa Rica more than 4 months out of the year, the requirements for being a resident are more than manageable.

It’s An Adventure Every Day

Over the past 10 years, Costa Rica has risen to the top of retirement destinations. Warm weather, spectacular property, abundant wildlife, nice people, less stress… these are just a few reasons why millions of people visit Costa Rica every year, and why many fall in love with the country. One expat who retired to Uvita in 2008 summed it up recently by saying, “It’s an adventure every day.” It may sound cliché, but it is indeed true.

As I write this, my son is taking video of the white-faced monkeys in the trees by our house. Yesterday, we admired the howler monkeys while planting banana trees in the yard. I just returned from surfing with three dolphins. It is indeed “an adventure every day.”

Finding Your Costa Rican Property

Ok, so you are interested in retiring in Costa Rica, specifically the area in and around Uvita. Now you will want to find a place that resonates with you. Here are two key factors we have identified over the years—

Climate. Take advantage of the consistent ocean breeze by finding a property in the mountains. You won’t need air conditioning, thus you’ll save significantly on your monthly electricity bill. You’ll also be able to spend more time outside, which is what Costa Rica is all about. For those who don’t like the bumpy dirt roads, there are nice ocean view options offering quick 2WD access from the main highway.

House or Land. Most people come looking to buy a house, yet many end up buying a piece of land and building. This is because we are still early in the building cycle, especially in and around Uvita. Clearly, it is easier buying an existing house, but I do not discourage people from building in Costa Rica. We know many retired folks who have had good experiences with their builders. They also end up with a house that fits a longheld dream, and it’s tough to put a price on that.

My uncle, a baby boomer, lives down here in a lovely area above the small town of San Buenaventura. He likes the solitude, the wildlife, and his neighbors. Retiring in Costa Rica made sense for him, especially considering he purchased the land his current villa sits on at pre-boom prices. The good news for anyone looking to relocate or invest in land now is the real estate market has declined back to pre-boom prices. In fact, our inventory is loaded with ocean view lots under $100,000.

How To Navigate Our Non-MLS Market

There is no MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. All of the real estate companies have their own database of listings that they have built up. The big misconception is that you need to work with all of them in order to find your property. Like Ben and I said in our last Talk Show #20, we have many of the same listings. Let us save you time and money, by contacting them on your behalf. That way, when you come down, we have already previewed the property that fits your criteria and narrowed down the list for you. The savings in time means you will have more time to enjoy the warm ocean, take a nature tour, meet new people, and relax into the pura vida.

So, please browse our listings and contact us if you would like to get more details on real estate and retiring in Costa Rica. Saludos!


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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