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.


Is the Property Survey Accurate?


I’ve encountered an interesting and potentially troublesome snag in our profession here. It has to do with the accuracy of the survey (plano in the local vernacular), or more accurately, the real estate agent’s knowledge of said plano.

When we (sellers of real estate) take a listing from a seller, we review the property with the seller. She shows us the property and we review the plano. We ask where the boundary lines to the property are and the seller will generally indicate the line in a diverse number of ways. Sometimes there are convenient line definitions: a road, a creek, a natural drainage ditch, ridge-line etc… But frequently the line is “over there”, stated with a wave of the hand, and gesturing towards a mass of overgrown jungle.

When a prospective buyer enters into contract with a seller, there is typically a 1 month term of due-diligence. It is during this time that the buyer’s agent and attorney will oversee any concerns about the property. These “concerns” are to make sure that the property has legal water, electric, access and, that the seller has the right to sell the property, that the property is indeed what was represented to the buyer AND, that the survey is accurate to within 5% of the size represented to the buyer.

It is this latter point this article addresses. In the due-diligence period, it is recommended that the buyer, at their expense and arranged by the agent, hire a topographer to re-measure the property. This is called “re-planteo” here in Costa Rica.

Some property owners maintain their property lines and so they are easily found. This is the exception and not the rule. When the original survey work is done, most topographers will place steel or cement posts at critical points along the boundary line that correspond to points indicated on the plano.

As stated, maintained property lines are not common. These lines frequently have become inaccessible due to jungle encroachment and the posts, if they are still there, are covered by vines, moss and lord-knows what manner of life, resulting in an appearance very much like their surrounding environs. In a word, they become invisible or certainly, difficult to locate.

Over the years, I have worked primarily in the mountains above Uvita. I have been shown the properties there by various sellers and followed procedure regarding where the property lines are/were. Again, this is a matter of asking the seller, and the seller indicating in one of the aforementioned manners where the lines are.

Bear with me, we are now getting to the “deficiency” mentioned.

I have a deal in process, actually 2 deals in process. These 2 properties sandwich a 3rd property where there is house and pool construction in progress. I have been involved in the sale of all 3 properties. Both deals are in their due-diligence period. In the re-planteo (topographer re-measuring the lines) it was discovered that the upper line of the selling property went through the middle of the pool of the middle (under construction) property. As chance would have it,

Costa Rica survey map inconsistency.

My conception of the 3 properties and their overlap.

the pool is in construction, being made with cinder block and lots of digging. That property owner is committed to it being there both in monetary investment as well as overall quality of the property. The error of where I had represented the line, years ago, and where it is being suggested by the topographer’s re-planteo to actually be, could cost the middle property owners a lot. In fact, it would seriously de-value his property and result in having to re-design things at a tremendous expense. The area that he would lose is the view area and also, is where his pool is.

How did this happen? I had represented to the various property owners, as well as the current buyer, where the lines were. In this case, the line was at a ridge. In my presentation of the properties I indicated the ridge line and stated “that is the property line”. This was based on the loose procedure that is used when we (us realtors and our sellers) discuss where the property lines are. Now that the topographer is doing the legal defining of the lines, we find out that it is not the ridge line but instead, is several meters beyond the ridge line.

The solution to this particular problem is currently in progress. We are getting a second opinion and may find that the topographer was simply wrong. The solution to the deficiency in our industry is another story.

When us real estate agents take a listing, we are not in the practice of hiring a topographer to verify where the lines are. This procedure runs in the hundreds of dollars per property. This would make working in the profession of real estate in Costa Rica cost prohibitive in many cases.

At first I thought that there had been an inaccuracy of the plano. One such glitch and the entire jug-saw puzzle of neighboring properties gets thrown into chaos. I imagined having to go around to the various property owners and explain how they will need to do a re-measuring of their property to see find how it effects them.

Then, when I realized that the plano was accurate and that the problem was in the presentation of the property – by me – based on what I was told by the seller(s), I started to think about the procedure we use in taking listings and found the deficiency. We simply don’t verify with a topographer that what the seller tells us is accurate.

So, what do we do? I’ve decided for my part that when I take a listing, I’m not going to go through the expense of hiring a topographer, but instead, am going to ask the seller to clearly define the property lines. Find and uncover the posts that were used. If they aren’t there, get them put there, and then keep the lines maintained.

This isn’t the end-all solution. They seller may be mistaken or there could be an inaccuracy in the existing plano. But it will clearly establish that all representations of the property have been done in good faith.