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HomeAdvice10 things to think about when buying a starter home

10 things to think about when buying a starter home

With the arrival of large international companies in Costa Rica and better paid jobs, developers have adjusted their market to smaller homes and apartments in condominium, also called a starter home. A starter home is usually heavily financed with only 10% down payment and 90% financed by a bank over a period of 30 to 40 years.

You will have noticed there are a number of developments in the Central Valley on offer and it is hard to find out which starter home will adjust best to your needs and budget. If this is the first time you are buying a home, you may have no idea how to make an educated decision.

First of all, you will need to know a few things before looking at properties for sale, so sit down and make a list of the following items:

  • First, talk to a loan officer at the bank of your preference.
  • Find out if you will be able to get financing (most banks only finance residents).
  • Determine if you need financing and how much of a down payment you can make.
  • Ask the loan officer what your budget would be, but to take into account closing costs, a home inspection, loan fees, etc.
  • Determine where are you looking to live (beach, city, rural, distance in relation to work, amenities, medical needs etc.).
  • Are you looking for a house or a condo – apartment?
  • How many bedrooms and what kind of floor plan do you want? Do you want a garden? A terrace?
  • What size property do you want?
  • What amenities are important for the community to have, like: playgrounds, gym, pool, tennis court or anything else.
  • Any other requirements you might have.

Once you have the list, your next job is to find out what properties are available in the market that meet your requirements. You could call a real estate agent, but you will find that very few real estate developers pay real estate commissions because they don’t want you to be represented by someone who takes your side and they want the commissions to go to their own sales people.

Ivo Banner American-European

If you would like to be represented by a professional real estate agent who can guide you through the process, you can sign a buyer’s representation agreement with a real estate agent and pay that agent half (2.5%) commission yourself, which you will easily recover by being represented by a knowledgeable agent who is on your side and can negotiate with the developers for you.

How do you know which developers offer the starter home you are looking for? If you Google for Costa Rican real estate, you will find many real estate websites with a variety of starter homes for sale. Another great option is to surf the Tico Times real estate section. In addition, you will be able to find free real estate magazines as Inmobilia, Property Magazine, Property Hunters, Casa Galería and 4SalebyOwner in most large grocery stores.

Unfortunately, developers do not advertise their prices or most of the details about the properties they sell, so you need to take the time and make the effort to call all the developers advertising starter homes in the magazines or involve your real estate agent in the process from the beginning.

Ivo Henfling, a Dutch expat who has lived in Costa Rica since 1980, founded the American-European Real Estate Group back in 1999 which was the first functioning MLS with affiliate agents from coast to coast.

Ivo Henfling can be reached at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at

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