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.

State of the Market – October 2012 3

What is the current market like in Costa Rica real estate?

I get asked this question quite a lot these days. Well, actually that is probably the question that characterizes the life of a real estate agent anywhere – and probably at any time, except when it is clearly known that there is a recession or a boom, neither of which describes the time we’re in right now.

Houses at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

We are currently in the depths of the rainiest time of the year here in The Zone (read: Costa Ballena), the area of the towns around Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal. For some reason this is the “low season” for tourism here. For those of us that live here, it is a delightful time of year. Sure, there are lots of days filled with rain, and at times unbelievable rains. But this is part of the appeal that brought us here in the first place. These rains are also what make the rest of the year so appealing. The southern pacific zone of Costa Rica is one of the lushest areas of Costa Rica, largely due to the fact that it truly is rain forest.

If I were to shop for property here in The Zone, I think that I would consider looking in October. You’d have no problem finding an available realtor, and you’d get to see what life is really like here, as well as be able to see how a potential property handles the rain.

Current Market:
The months leading up to October saw a surge in house sales. There was considerable activity in real estate, almost all of it in the house sector. Lots, on the other hand, not so much.

My crystal ball says that the coming season is going to be quite active and that we are going to see a reduction of house inventory due to sales. I see the coming season as a great time to buy an undeveloped lot. There are lots of lots, and many of them have been on the market for a long time, and many of these are high quality. Some of these sellers are needing to sell, and so are very flexible on their price.

A Little History:
I have written about this a number of times, so if you are a regular reader of The Guys blog, please pardon, but it bears repeating. To understand the real estate market here in Costa Ballena, all one has to do is look back in history wherever you may live. Go back a hundred, or a couple hundred years. Back to the time when all land was large, and probably farmland. Then, as people were drawn to the area, the large parcels got cut into smaller parcels. And then again, and again. Along the way in this cycle the occasional house is built, and so there is the occasional sale of a house.

Take the cycle out to the extreme.  The extreme of this can be seen in the picture of some houses at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco at the start of this article. Houses built out to their property line.  The properties are miniscule and valued in the stratosphere with just inches between the homes.

So for a while in the cycle, the majority of land is in its “raw” state, and this type of property makes up the majority of what is available on the market. A house buyer has limited choices and so, despite their desire to buy a house, they end up opting for a lot and building.

This is where The Zone has been up until just recently. Most of the real estate business done in The Zone were sales done of raw land.  Now things have changed. For the first time in history there is now a selection of houses in all price ranges here.

I started in real estate here in 2004, which was clearly towards the beginning of a boom in the real estate market of Costa Ballena. The market was so ripe that buyers were, at times, hard pressed to find an available real estate agent. We used to joke about the (at that time) Baskin Robbins take-a-number approach. We would say that we needed one of those little devices that dispenses   with the sequential numbers so that we could manage the prospective buyers in order.

I would say, without any hard empirical data, that four out of five buyers would state their desire to buy an existing house, but that essentially all of them who bought, bought a piece of raw land. There simply wasn’t enough inventory to allow for finding a suitable house for their needs and taste.

The early arrivals to The Zone were a unique bunch. I think that all of them/us would agree that there was an out-of-round quality to them/us. And the houses they built were frequently expressions of their individualism. This makes for a difficult-to-sell house. Bright colors, turreted towers, inexplicable designs – the having to walk through a bedroom to get to the kitchen sort of thing.

Now things are different. The cycle is moving on. There aren’t many of the old Costa-Rica-formula of buying a larger piece, cutting it up and selling off part of it to make your resulting lot free. But the upside is that there is now a relatively nice selection of houses to choose from.

Its still a bit of work to find a house that suits your taste. But there are certainly middle of the market house designs, nicely situated, most with ocean views to pick from.

My suggestion for the investor (buy and hold to re-sell later), potential re-locator (planning to live here in their retirement, or some other, in several years), migrator (planning to spend part of the year here and part elsewhere,) is to consider an undeveloped lot. I suggest that the coming season will be a limited time to take advantage of truly low priced lots.
The Fear of Building

There has been, and for good reason, a fear of building a house in a foreign land. Early on in the cycle, it was, for obvious reasons, difficult to know much about the fellow that was going to build your house. Not to mention the difficulty in communicating with him. His English was likely not so good.

Now this too has changed, for the definite better (is that good English?). There are now builders here who have a track record of happy clients whom they can refer you to, and examples of their work that you can see. These all speak English well and have plans where you can even build in absentia with a reasonable amount of control over the progress of your building project.

OK, so I’ve exceeded my 1,000 word objective with this article. If you are coming down to Costa Ballena this season, and would like to know a reputable realtor with whom you can confidently work, you can consult me here, or you can go direct to my partner Rod who is happily working with United Country here in Uvita. Rod is the prevailing authority on available properties in Uvita, and is well versed in the areas all throughout Costa Ballena. Either of us can speak knowledgeably about construction options as well.

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