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.

Moving to Costa Rica Part II 1

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Moving to Costa Rica


Keeping a property “back home” and having a property in Costa Rica is a common device used by many here in The Zone (Costa Ballena). This is especially evident this time of year as we transition into the dry season and familiar faces that have not been seen for some months start to reappear.

Retirees: once again a mainstay of expat residents in Costa Rica. These have the financial wherewithal to keep a home here in Costa Rica, as well as “back home”. This is a rather common scenario for migrators.

Geese metaphore for seaonal residents in Costa Rica

Moving with the seasons.

Canadians: This group of migrators is in an almost enforced pattern of migration. Canada has a socialized medical system that seems to work pretty well. However, in order to qualify for this health care, they must spend (and this varies by province), roughly half of the year in their home in Canada.

Most provinces and territories also require residents to be physically present 183 days annually, and provide evidence of their intent to return to the province. (Click for reference)

I have some Canadian clients who had intended to fully relocate to Costa Rica. Upon discovering this fact about qualifying for health care, their plans changed and they became migrators.

Life-stylers: this flavor of migrators have the enviable status of being able to maintain a home here as well as “back home”. They come for the season of their choice, and then spend the rest of their time in whatever pursuits they have elsewhere.

Upside / Downside:

With a single visit, it becomes apparent that Costa Rica is popular for a reason. One can actually relax here.

Quieting down the internal dialogue, when once experienced, becomes important. Rather abrupt, and in some cases, extreme, changes can take place at this point (read about my soon-to-be famous theory). In real estate, I’ve actually cautioned some to not make a hasty decision (like buy a property) when this phenomenon occurs.

As stated, some of our migrators keep a home here and one there. They have arranged their affairs such that they can return to work for part of the year, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of getting out of the rat race for part of the year.  It is interesting to note that for some of these, when the time comes to leave, they are ready to.  And when they come back, they can’t believe how lucky they are to be able to count this area as “home”. Kind of a nice blend.

The rigors of back-home are such that they seem to accumulate and by the end of their tenure there, the migrators are so very ready to get back to Costa Rica. Upon arriving, and having the stresses of advanced-societal-living (read: life in the United States) dissipate, they truly value this lifestyle that they have crafted.

However, towards the end of their – let’s say 6 month – stay here, they are chomping at the bit to get back to the grind and stress it up a bit. Sounds weird, right? But such are we human species.

I experience this itch to get away from tranquility on a much smaller scale than the migrators, but it is enough to where I can relate.  I have a loosely held pattern of leaving every 6 months or so.  This has largely been facilitated by my mother who continues to live in Davis California USA, in the house that I was raised in. I like to go up and visit her a couple times a year.

I really enjoy the whole thing: the airport, getting on the plane, the layover, arriving to hugs and catch-up on doings, see what is hot in the States trend-wise (read article on how to know what is hot in the US). But after a stay of around 2 weeks, I am ready to get home to Costa Rica. Flying into Costa Rica and being able to call this place home is something that I never seem to lack appreciation for, and almost without exception, others that live here will say the same thing.

Some migrators have a caretaker that lives on-site that cares-for (hence the name) and protects the property.  Others look for a trusted career house-sitter for their time away.  Still others manage to rent their place out, in many cases covering the costs of owning the home and in a few cases, actually making money on the arrangement.

The migrators are, generally speaking, not legal residents in Costa Rica. This means that every 90 days or so, they must exit the country and then re-enter so that their passport shows the exit and entry stamps. This has been a common practice for many years.  For many, myself included back in the day, the requirement to leave the country every 90 days was usually a welcome change-of-scene.  Obviously, there are times when a required departure from the country comes at an inconvenient time, but there have been work-arounds to this.

Some laws are changing that are making it more difficult for these “perpetual tourists” to live here. No deal-breakers, but it seems that the Costa Rican government is trying to get everyone to either get their residency, or limit your stay. Areas that have recently been affected by this are:

  • banking
  • health insurance
  • drivers licenses

Banking: the limitation on banking is that it is difficult, if not impossible to open a bank account here in a non-resident’s personal name. You must use the name of your corporation. Also, to do cross-bank transfers, you must be a resident. Meaning: to do a transfer from Banco Nacional to Banco de Costa Rica, you have to have a resident ID called a DIMEX number, which is the number on your resident ID card.

Health Insurance: prior to getting my residency here in Costa Rica, I had both Caja insurance (Costa Rica’s socialized medicine insurance: cheap.) and INS insurance, with is like a private medicine option for those willing to pay for it. The price on this is cheap by U. S. standards. I pay $1,600 per year for full coverage at the age of 53.

I understand that this is now not possible and you must have residency to get insurance here. I don’t think that there is a corporation work-around for this, but I could be wrong.

Drivers licenses: this is just word-on-the-street at this point.  But I have heard several people mention it, and I’ve spoken with one person so far who was denied the ability to renew his Costa Rican drivers license because of not being a resident.  I have not found any information on this yet despite looking and asking, but will keep you apprised of this as I get more info. Your foreign drivers license works in Costa Rica much the same as your passport does.  It is valid for 3 months. So, when you leave the country to get your passport stamped, your drivers license gets to start a new 3 months of validity.

Next up in the Moving to Costa Rica Series: End of the Worlders (off the grid-ers)

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