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.


Costa Rica Property Buyer’s Checklist


This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Costa Rica Property Buyer's Checklist

To the right you can see what is the net result of my e-mail thread with Adrian. Due to the sheer volume of the data points, I’ll be working through this list episodically, probably in a series.

What I appreciate about Adrian’s approach is that he set out to identify the questions. This can be a tricky thing. You know how it is when you finally got the guy on the line – he’s all ears – and you’ve got your principle questions clearly in mind but the other ones, the ones that you had as you lay in bed mulling this thing over, are not coming to mind. The conversation hits that loaded pause as you try and recall those oh-so-important questions. The guy says: “Ok then. Great talking with you.”

I’ve recently been working with a fellow, a prospective buyer from the US. He is a great model of what I receive from so Costa Rica property buyer's checklist imagemany of my prospective buyers when they start to get serious about the big move to Costa Rica and buying a property here.

So, here you have it. All those questions (well, most of them anyway) that you would like to have answered as you set about on the path of buying a property in Costa Rica. Let’s start with the first one:

Water Supply

This one has become the hot button for a lot of our properties. This is a recent turn in the maturing process of Costa Rica real estate. The powers that be have decided to start enforcing laws that have been on the books forever, as well as adding some new ones. It used to be that if there was a spigot that produced water when you turned the handle on or near the property, you were good to go. You had water.

Not any more.

You now need to have “legal” water. This can be from one of two sources (or both): a community water system that is known as an ASADA, or a private source that you then get concessioned to have the legal right to it.

The ASADA option requires first off that there be an ASADA system available to the property. Supposing there is, you will pay a tap fee and have a meter installed. There will be a monthly base payment of somewhere around 3,500 colones ($7.00’ish USD). High usage will cost more.

The concession option can be for surface water such as a stream, river or pond. Or it can be a well that can be hand-dug or deep drilled. Or a spring.

The cost of a concession is $1,000 – $1,500 (single family properties). I concessioned a spring that is about 100 meters away from the house for $1,000. I paid $500 about 18 months ago (at this writing) for the initial payment and will pay the balance when it is registered. Due to the newness of these changes in the law, and the ensuing press of applications, I’m hearing time estimates of up to 3 years to finish the process.

I’d venture to say that the majority of water systems in Costa Rica were rogue (read: illegal) previously. If not in Costa Rica in general, then certainly here in The Zone. It used to be that a neighbor would run a tube from his well, stream or what have you, across the road and down the hill to your property, and now you’ve got water.

Again, not any more.

  1. water supply
  2. access road maintenance costs
  3. height above sea level – temperature / misty / view spoiling clouds / mold
  4. steepness of terrain for building
  5. solar power
  6. hot water
  7. distance from amenities
  8. 2 wheel drive access throughout the year
  9. wi-fi / Internet connection / TV (uninterrupted UK soccer on weekends?)
  10. views: ocean / jungle / sunset
  11. flooding
  12. erosion
  13. Fees: HOA / water service / road / annual taxes
  14. future neighbors – build out of area

Legal:

  1. corporation
  2. death of owner
  3. soil tests
  4. survey (plano)
  5. security
  6. squatters
  7. For Sale by Owner vss Real Estate Agency
  8. title

Building:

  1. getting materials to the property
  2. wood / cement / other
  3. building in absentia vss being there
  4. fencing
  5. sewage
 

So, the topic of water is a hot one. This is because without legal water, the municipality will not grant you a building permit. There are workarounds and ways to manage the situation on most properties.

What to do if there is no legal water available. I’ve yet to see a property that has no access to water. I suppose it can happen, but I’ve not seen nor heard of it. There is usually at least one option for water.

So, if there is a short answer, here it is, water is an important topic for the land buyer, but your real estate guy will be able to help you navigate through the rocky waters. Also, a good number of properties here in The Zone already have legal water, so it might just be a moot point in your case.

Road Fees and Maintenance:
The Zone is characterized by a coastal highway that has got to be one of the finest roads in Costa Rica. It wasn’t so in the not too distant past. But it is great now. Almost all roads that come off of this coastal highway are dirt & gravel. I recommend to anyone that is interested in this part of Costa Rica to buy a four wheel drive vehicle. Pretty much everyone that lives here has one. I personally use compound low to get home.
 
OK so, the road that leads to a property is most likely “public”. This is the legal handle for the road as opposed to “private” or “easement”. As a resident of a different country than Costa Rica, you are going to think: “well then, the government will maintain the road” – NOPE!
 
The community that benefits from the road, maintains it. So, one of the questions that you want to ask, dear prospective owner of a property in Costa Rica is: what does it cost to maintain the road? This will obviously vary from one area to another. I would say that generally speaking, around $150 – $1,000 per year will cover most cases. There are many that don’t have an annual fee, but where the community just takes a collection as the need dictates.
 
There will be varying degrees of road maintenance. Sometimes all the road will need will be a new cap of material that gets compressed into the underlying material. Or, the road may need some tractor work done on it so that it is crowned for water drainage and/or perhaps there are deep ruts caused by water running down the wheel tracks in the road. So generally you keep an eye on your road and take responsibility for it. If you notice that there is some water damage starting, get your pick and shovel and divert the water over to the drainage ditch alongside. This type of individual responsibility in road maintenance can reduce the costs.
 
As you can see this is going to take some doing to get through the list.  If there are any questions pertaining to the 2 points here, or to any of the points in the list above, please feel free to use the comment thingy below so that others can benefit from the Q & A as well. I will episodically add more explanations to the points in the list with subsequent articles.