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Why the perfect Costa Rica house does not exist

Hundreds of people have unnecessarily wasted a lot of time and effort looking for the perfect house, but they were not for them because they really didn’t know what they were looking for or they weren’t able to keep an open mind and use their imagination.

When house shopping for the perfect house in Costa Rica, you need to keep an open mind. Houses are normally built to certain standards that have been dictated by traditions and customs of which you might not be aware. In addition, you might have totally different priorities than the builder or architect had.

The perfect house does not exist, not even when you build it yourself, so you will need to use all the imagination possible while you are searching.

What does the perfect house in Costa Rica look like?

Before you start running around like crazy and looking at all the houses in Costa Rica for sale, let’s first try to find out what to you and your spouse’s expectations are of the perfect house. You will probably realize right away that you won’t agree with each other on a lot of details.

I suggest you each make a list, independently from each other, of your dream house. If your children have any part in the decision making, include them in the project. Start with the name of the gated communities or neighborhoods you’d like to live in.

Then follow up with how large the lot must be if you want landscaped gardens, views, a pool, a pond, a bench, ceramic ducks, or a gazebo. Do you want only the main house or do you also want a guesthouse?

The details

When you get to the details of the house, write down if you want one or two stories, the architectural style of the house, how many bedrooms and how many bathrooms, how you want your social areas arranged, if you want an open floor plan or an enclosed kitchen, a TV room or a study, a terrace or balconies, and any other details that occur to you.

Last but not least, make a list of the details you’d like to have such as high ceilings, a barrel tile roof or wrought iron details throughout plus the type of finishing materials like tile, marble, bathroom accessories, wall colors and others. This part of the list is the one that you really have to keep an open mind on as it is the part that can be changed easily through remodel or renovation.

Next, you are going to synchronize your lists. Discuss what you both think are important features and what you could live without. Surf as many Costa Rica real estate websites as you can and make a list of possible options.

Contact your Costa Rica real estate agent

Now that you have the perfect house list, contact your real estate agent who you’d like to be your buyer’s agent and invite him/her to come over to discuss your findings. You could ask your agent if it is possible to get all that’s on those lists within your budget.

Is the cost of the lot you want and the cost of the construction you’d like affordable and within your budget? Your agent can bring you back down to earth and explain what you can afford and cannot, so you can make a separate list of things you cannot afford but might get if you get lucky for some reason.

By making this list, you will have narrowed down your options for the perfect house to a small range of options. Ask your agent to show you houses with those options first if they are within your budget.

When looking at those homes, keep a very open mind and ask your agent to help you do so. Sometimes it is easier to remodel a few things here and there to make it “almost” perfect. You can widen your search as you find out that you need to change your requirements or are able to adapt to other options.

Building your house or not?

Still trying to go for the perfect house and build it yourself? I promise you that it won’t happen. Even the house that you will build will have all kinds of flaws, especially if you’re going to be an absentee owner while under construction.

You can explain to your contractor how you want everything done, but your contractor doesn’t have the same lifestyle or income as you have, so unless you are willing to be on the construction site every day and every hour, be ready to be surprised by something you don’t like.
Ivo Banner American-European

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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