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.


Property Buyer’s Checklist Part 2 1


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

I find “temperature” an interesting consideration. I moved to Costa Rica from the high-country of Colorado USA. I think that I spent the first 2 years here thawing out. I still find myself looking at a steep driveway entrance to a house and wonder at what the people do during winter. Hah! The climate in Costa Rica is exceptional – for the most part.

The Zone’s topography is loosely as follows: mountains coming down to the sea. So there are some elevated options, as well as some sea level options available here for the property searcher.

Costa Rica property buyer's checklist imageElevation, temperature, misty, humidity, view spoiling clouds and mold. These are the next points on the checklist about buying a property at altitude in Costa Rica.

I live just a little north of Uvita in a pueblo called Playa Hermosa. My house is located at the highest point in this community, roughly 600 feet. There are times during dry season (read: summer) when I go to Uvita (just above sea level) to do my errands, and then get back home, where the air is fresh and breezy, thanks to the Pacific ocean.

So, we are here talking about a subjective concern. What kind of climate are you looking for? I have talked with some people who thrive on the “hot” of Uvita during the summer. I have also spoken with those who, like me, flee the heat.

Altitude: The official designation of the cloud ceiling within 10 degrees of the equator (Costa Rica is at 9 degrees) is 2,400 feet above sea level*. This is where you start to see the cloud forests. You know you’re in a cloud forest when you see trees that have moss hanging from the branches (among other indicators, but this one is easy).

Here in The Zone, there is the potential for clouds, mist and humidity at elevation. As a guide to making a buying decision on a piece of property, this is a matter of personal taste. My taste is, the higher the better. But, it (altitude) does present some of it’s unique conditions that are good to know about.

If your clothes, bedding and furniture are getting ruined & smelly by incessant dampness and mold, now you’ve got a problem. I’ve not had this problem in any of the areas I’ve lived in here (San Isidro, Dominical and Uvita), but I have certainly seen it, and it’s a problem to contend with.

Part of the answer lies in the design of your house. The treatment of light and air motion, as well as the intelligent use of fans, A/C and de-humidifiers all factor into the equation. The design of the house is the main thing. Design with the climate in mind. If you are at one of the higher elevations, visit the property at different times of the day. Talk with others who live nearby and see what they have to say. These people are generally all-too-happy to share their experiences with you about what worked, and what didn’t. Ask about soffit overhangs, direction of windows, keeping in mind the evening sun, types of paint, wood and so on.

I’ve been up at elevation when the clouds have come in. The homeowner goes around closing their windows to keep them out. I sat there enjoying the spectacle – no, not of him closing windows, but of the clouds coming up the coastal mountain range and buffeting the house. Man I could live like that! Others have expressed a distaste for the experience. Again: subjective.

I spoke with a friend here that lives at 2,000 feet and asked him if he has a problem with humidity and mold. He said “no” with a caveat. When he had first moved into his house, he had left it for an extended period of time. When he came home there were some dark mold spots in a few areas of the house. He had closed his house up tight. Now when he leaves, he leaves his windows open and fans on low. He now comes home to no mold.

As for the question of humidity, it may be the opposite of what one would think. It seems that there is a higher humidity down at sea level than at altitude. I can attest to this from years of driving down from San Isidro to Dominical. There was a point along the way that my family felt when we would hit what we called “the wall”. There was an uptick in what felt like the temperature and humidity. Hey, its not called the tropics for nothing. It is slightly cooler (3.5 degrees F. per 1,000 ft.)  and drier at elevation.

Topography & Terrain Steepness

If you are a lover of the ocean view, you will end up buying a property at elevation, at least a little bit. The coastal mountain range in The Zone is as diverse as can be.

Costa Rica is a “young” country in geologic terms. North and South America existed for some time as distinct and separate countries that were eventually joined by the land bridge that is Central America. It would seem that there were a number of forces at work, determined to make this bridge.

I had never thought of this, but I had it brought to my attention recently by Jack Ewing of Hacienda Baru fame, that despite being known for its volcanoes, all of Costa Rica’s active volcanos are in the northern part of the country. The southern part, where The Zone is situated, appears to have been formed by tectonic plate activity. Interesting. Volcanic to the north, tectonic to the south. Sounds like a nicely coordinated effort.

I say all that to get to this point. The geology of The Zone is diverse. There are areas where the soil is as stable as can be. We get what are almost routine tremors throughout the year here. The Ticos start getting a little nervous when there haven’t been any for a while. The thought is that if there hasn’t be a pressure release on what is underfoot, there could be a big one storing up.

I’ve been through some rather exciting shakes here, but nothing that knocked a TV off it’s place, nor anything like that. But seismic activity is good to be aware of. Also, intense rains. We are, after all, in the rain forest.

So, as you look at your properties, and wonder how the property you are enamored with will handle the shakes, there is something that you can do that will take the guess work out of it.

A soil analysis is a feature of roughly half of the raw-land sales that I’m involved with. The geologist will take a number of samples from different areas of your building area, and give you a detailed report on what it can bear. If you were thinking of building a 3 story, cement block house, he may just come back to you and say that you’ll need to keep it to 2 stories, or build with lighter materials and so on. The results are quite impressive and can make for a successful land purchase of a mountain property.

Up next: Solar Power, Hot Water, and Distance from Amenities

Info thanks to a friend who lives in Costa Verde

Steepness of terrain for building


One thought on “Property Buyer’s Checklist Part 2