... Buying a house in Costa Rica ...
by Infocostarica Staff
Some people that decide to move down to Costa Rica picture their perfect house as an exotic bungalow surrounded by lush palm trees and facing a beautiful beach. Others see themselves living in a cattle-ranch hacienda. Still, others would prefer a more "civilized" option, and would settle for a home in or near a major city. Whatever your need is, whether it sounds familiar tojm the examples mentioned, or whether it's completely different, you'll find it for sure in Costa Rica.
Because of a short recession, in the early 90's, the prices of land and housing went down considerably. However, they've gone up again because of the rise in tourism (in 1997 it grew by a 3.5 %). Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces: San Jose, Heredia, Cartago, Alajuela, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon. The first four are highly populated, since two-thirds of all Ticos live in this central area of the country. San Jose offers various types of housing, but some of the favorite neighborhoods are Escazu, Santa Ana and Rohrmoser in the west, and San Ramon de Tres Rios in the east. Alajuela boasts a warmer yet pleasant climate, and many foreigners have bought homes in the La Garita area. Cartago, which is cooler than San Jose, offers rural areas that are ideal for farming or just a regular home. Heredia contains quaint towns and mountains that have become favorite spots for homes.
The last three provinces, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon, all have one great asset in common- the beach. However, they also differ immensely from each other. Guanacaste is located in the Northwest and is characterized by great expanses of cattle ranches; Puntarenas is the longest province, and it includes one of the main port cities of the country; Limon seems to be in a different country because of its Caribbean, African flavor. Housing in these three last provinces varies greatly, since the property that's located in the beachfront is logically a lot more expensive than others.
In Costa Rica, ownership of land is protected by the Constitution and several laws, since it's considered to be a right of any person, whether they're citizens or not. Even though land or home ownership is a right in this country, there are several institutions that foreigners should contact before buying a home. First of all, there is the Costa Rican Chamber of Realtors, or AMCHA, which is an extremely honest and reputable institution. You should also contact the Association of Residents in San Jose, as well as a trust-worthy lawyer, who can guide you through all of the steps. A lawyer can check to see if the land has any liens as well as to obtain the proper documents that record the sale of land or a house. Your attorney will be in charge of going to the National Property Registry (Registro Nacional) in order to check the legality of the property and to record its sale.
Prices for housing vary depending on the area and type of house. Lower middle-class Tico neighborhoods have small houses (100-125 square meters/ 300-400 square feet) that sell for $24,000 to $50,000. Upper middle-class homes cost anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000, and luxury homes, like everywhere else, don't really have a price limit.
There are some good pieces of advice that you should apply when thinking about buying a home in Costa Rica. First of all, learn to ask around the neighborhood or area that you're interested in; some of the best buys aren't advertised in newspapers or other means. Secondly, you should send a Tico to ask about a house or property, since the owner might raise the price if he/she knows that you're a foreigner; Ticos are also more experienced bargainers. If possible, try setting the price in colones, not dollars, since because of the devaluation, dollars go a longer way than the national currency.
Many foreigners have chosen to settle down in Costa Rica because of its political and economic stability and because of its natural beauty. Buying a house here isn't a difficult affair if you seek help from the institutions and people that were mentioned previously. Whether you're looking for a hut or a mansion, you might find it in Costa Rica. If I were you, though, I would hurry, since the word has already gotten out!