Heredia, Costa Rica’s smallest province, is a mix of Costa Rican tradition and modernity and is quickly becoming the hot spot for real estate in the Central Valley.
Founded in 1705,Heredia is known as one of the country’s more traditional and historic provinces. La InmaculadaConcepciónChurch, in the center of the province’s capital, also called Heredia, was built in 1796.
The church bells were imported from Cuzco, Peru, and the building boasts some of the oldest stained-glass paintings in the country.
The city of Heredia, north of San José, is the seat of the nature-themed National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) and Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional (UNA), so it has a healthy student population. Farther northwest, Barva Volcano rises above the lush BraulioCarrilloNational Park, which teems with plant and animal life. Beyond Heredia’s mountains, the province stretches out through the rural plains of Sarapiquí until reaching Costa Rica’s northern border with Nicaragua.
According to Bret Butler of Emerald Forest Properties (267-6360, www.emeraldforestproperties.com), Heredia is the fastest-growing real estate market in the country, after coastal properties.
“The most popular investing spot (in Costa Rica) is Jacó down to Manuel Antonio,” Butler said, referring to the central Pacific coast. “The hottest retirement spot is Heredia.”
Butler attributes Heredia’s popularity first and foremost to its moderate climate, which varies depending on altitude.
“The climate here is excellent.We back up the Tres Marías mountain range, so we constantly have a fresh breeze and clean air,” he said. “Barva, to start off with, offers more of a country-mountain feel for those looking for a cooler climate. San Rafael de Heredia (at the foot of Barva Volcano) offers an alpine feeling. The temperature doesn’t get much lower than 68 degrees or above 78.”
Lower in the valley, in the cantons of Santo Domingo,Heredia and San Joaquín de Flores, the temperature warms up, but maintains a pleasant climate, neither hot nor cold.
“We always have a nice, cool, mountain breeze. You don’t need air conditioning or heating,” Butler said. The real estate agent also said he believes people are attracted to the area because of its cleanliness and safety.
“We have sold probably 45 homes in the last 18 months, and half of them don’t even have bars on the windows or security at their homes,” he said.
In terms of what types of properties are available, Butler said the average two-bathroom, three-bedroom home on 2,200 square feet or more runs between $200,000-500,000.
“We also have estate homes that exceed a million dollars,” he added, but noted that “in the mountains, we have very few farms left.” For land that has yet to be built upon, Butler said the price ranges from $19-100 per square meter, depending on the level of development there, such as the availability of water and electricity and proximity to roads.
Heredia also has gated communities for buyers wanting something more private.
“We have incredible condos going in up here,”Butler said, referring to a project called El Castillo. “That area houses go for $500,000 to $3 million.”
For cheaper options, he said there are private gated communities with six to eight
estate homes at $400,000 and up, and another community called Aves de Paraíso where homes start at $350,000.
Real estate agent Xinia Vargas, of Golden Key Realty (267-6046), compared Heredia to the Central Valley’s historically most poppin’ real estate market, Escazú, the western suburb known for its rapid development, expensive homes and U.S. restaurant franchises.
“Heredia has a very nice climate and good views like Escazú, mountains like Escazú, but at very different prices,” Vargas said. “It has tranquility. Escazú, in some ways, has modernized a lot. Heredia is very countryside.”
Despite Heredia’s rural qualities, she pointed out, Heredia still has all the modern conveniences, such as a bustling downtown, supermarkets, high-speed Internet connection and reliable water and electricity service.
“We have all the same conveniences as San José, and pay less,” she said.
Vargas, quoting lower prices, told The Tico Times of several different housing options available in the province.
“A house to rent, furnished, on 300 square meters with three bedrooms, a dining room, a large kitchen, a rancho, garage, half an acre of gardens, a laborer and a housekeeper that comes five days a week is $1,200 a month,” Vargas said, adding that it comes with “American standards,” such as hot water throughout house and telephone and highspeed Internet lines. “That’s a high price for Heredia, but it’s very cheap for Costa Rica.”
When buying condominiums, Vargas recommended buying directly from the owner for a lower price.
“Two hundred fifty square meters (of property) with 170 square meters of construction goes for $125,000. These are houses that when the bank comes to evaluate, they are passed as luxury houses, valued at $135,000,” Vargas said. “Small condominiums (in neighborhoods) of 50 or so – small ones with swimming pools – can be $70,000-80,000.”
Stepping it up a little, Vargas quoted a 42,000-square-meter property in Barva that encompassed a forest, a river and a waterfall for $235,000.
“There, you could build five houses, each one out of sight of the others. It’s very good for someone who wants to live on an estate and have horses,”Vargas said.
In addition to being cheaper than Escazú, Vargas says Heredia is more accessible and convenient.
“From San Isidro, it’s 15 minutes to the center of San José,”Vargas said. “You can’t do that living in Escazú, even though it’s less distance. Why? Because Heredia has many entries and has improved its exits a lot. But during rush hour, it will always be uncomfortable getting out.”
In Butler’s words, Heredia is “only two hours from Jacó, 30 minutes to downtown San José and 20 minutes from the (Juan Santamaría) InternationalAirport.”
“With all the new roads and new pavement, it’s very easy to maneuver around Heredia,” Butler continued. “It’s got great roads. Drive up here on a Saturday or Sunday. The roads are like glass.”
Both real estate agents rattled off a list of various conveniences that make living in Heredia even more attractive: a variety of microclimates that change in a matter of miles; fine dining; shopping that ranges from the traditional central market to the new Paseo de Flores mall; supermarkets; bilingual schools; and high schools offering the International Baccalaureate program (an internationally accredited, internationally focused high-school education program).
Add to that the “warm and friendly people” of the area, Butler said.
“It seems to be – and I don’t know how long this will last – people are still of the old school of ‘assist thy neighbor,’ and they reach out and are willing to help North Americans and Europeans settle here.”