I’m sure that no matter where you live, the homes in your neighborhood were a lot cheaper in the 1980s than they are now. $250,000 would buy a heck of a house in 1980 anywhere in the world and would have bought you a mansion in Costa Rica.
Now, $250K buys you a nice condo in Florida and a nice house in Atenas, Costa Rica, but not a mansion. Construction prices have now leveled off because construction standards have adjusted worldwide over the years. You can’t build cardboard houses in Costa Rica because of the seismic codes and land prices in Costa Rica are not what they used to be either.
30 years ago, construction standards and standards for finishings were quite different between Costa Rica and other countries. Now, however, those standards have been adjusted and the finishing products you find in Costa Rica are similar to the finishings you would find in many homes and condos in the United States. Local buyers of Costa Rican real estate have changed and upgraded their expectations and so the local market has evolved to have the same standards as elsewhere in the world (though much still depends on the location and the lifestyle of the habitants). This change in standards has made houses and condos in Costa Rica more expensive.
With that in mind, here are nine amazing facts about how construction standards have increased the cost of housing in Costa Rica:
- The whole house used to be built in concrete block, but now many interior walls are built from drywall. This is very common in condos, but less so in single family homes.
- Kitchens built in the 1980s had Formica countertops, in the 90s they had Corian countertops, but in today’s market, every proud home owner in Costa Rica needs to have granite countertops in the kitchen and marble counter tops in the bathrooms.
- Bathrooms used to be tiled only on the floor and the walls inside the shower stall and now lots of homeowners want their bathrooms tiled from floor to ceiling. Shower rods and curtains have been replaced by glass shower stalls or doors. Now, you can get frame-less shower doors, shower doors in oil rubbed bronze with frame-less clear glass, shower stalls with intimacy glass and showers looking out into an interior courtyard with a Japanese garden.
- Bathrooms didn’t have any hot water in the shower except for maybe a “suicide shower” or instant heating showerhead. Now, you can have a nice rain shower installed, or a double shower so you and your spouse can enjoy the shower together.
- Bathrooms didn’t have hot water in bathroom sinks for shaving, now quite a few have hot water.
- Roofs are generally made of metal roofing panels, some look like tile, others are unpainted and untreated. Many colonial homes now have the zinc panels with barrel tile on top of it which, because of the weight, makes construction much more expensive.
- Standard ceilings were made of cardboard or plywood for interiors and cement board (Ricalit) for exterior ceilings with wood framing and many homes have changed to use of drywall for interiors and Durock for exterior ceilings.
- The standard ceiling height is 8 feet, but more and more homes are now designed with 9, 10, or even 12 foot ceilings, or they have coffered ceilings which make it more expensive.
- Appliances are usually not included in the sale of a house in Costa Rica, but the difference between a standard set of appliances and top of the line appliances can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
If you look at houses for sale in rural Costa Rica and in the cities on the outer edges of the Central Valley, you will still find lots of homes that were built on a lower budget because of a much more conservative mindset of the owners and the lower cost of land. If you are looking to compare prices when buying a home, you need to also compare the construction standards and the finishing materials, as well as the location where you will be buying.
Ivo Henfling is a Dutch national, resident in Costa Rica since 1980 and a Costa Rica real estate broker for over 20 years. He is the founder of GoDutch Realty, with offices in several locations in the Central Valley, including Escazú, Atenas, Cariari and Grecia. Ivo Henfling can be reached at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at email@example.com