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HomeAdviceBuying property in Costa Rica: Quieting the internal dialogue

Buying property in Costa Rica: Quieting the internal dialogue

When I am first contacted by people interested in buying property in Costa Rica, we talk about what it is they want. What are they looking for in a property? Do they want an ocean view? Easy access? Would they like to be set back in a remote jungle setting? Or would they prefer being in a neighborhood setting with convenient access to a town’s services? And the list goes on.

Let’s take all the possible reasons that one might have for buying a property in Costa Rica and throw them in a pot, boil them down and see what we get as one of the most basic, fundamental reasons for making such an acquisition. I contend that the title of this article is frequently what we find at the bottom of the pot.

What is it about life in the more developed countries that compels people to look elsewhere for a change? These so-called “advanced” societies have achieved unprecedented conveniences to make life easier: transportation, communications, production and availability of goods and services. Why, despite these advances, are people looking to a less developed country as a place of retreat?

Over the years of working with such prospects, I have conducted a private experiment. I find an appropriate moment to suggest that right along with their desire to invest, have a vacation home, own an income-producing property, relocate and so on, essentially everyone is looking for peace of the internal kind. In my experiment, I say, “Quiet the internal dialogue,” and I watch for the response. It is consistent: nods and a quiet moment of “Yes, that is what we are looking for.”

I know this is a bit philosophical when one considers that we are talking about real estate in Costa Rica. However, to be effective in helping others to find the property that is right for them, in whatever part of this little country they choose, the topic of “what is your purpose” in looking to buy a property in Costa Rica is core to the endeavor, and the answer is surprisingly universal.

Granted, there are various pragmatic concerns. You’ve got to know that the property you are looking at has a free and clear title — that the seller is indeed the one who has the legal right to sell the property. You need to know that there is legal water and that there is an electrical hookup. You may want to do a soil analysis, confirm the survey is accurate and so on. But the mechanics of buying a property will all ultimately take a back seat to the basic incentive that you have in making your purchase.

I have lived in Costa Rica since January of 1999. I moved here at the age of 39 with my family and have lived here full-time since then. During that time I’ve had to manage the various issues involved with making such a move with a family — education for my kids, learning the language, understanding how it seems that there is an attorney involved in almost every move you make here. At the time, just finding an attorney who spoke English was a challenge (not so much anymore). I used to take a book with me when I went to the bank because there was always a 45-minute wait (at least) to get to the teller.

One day I had the opportunity to walk through town with my now grown son. He said, “Dad, I am so glad that we got to experience it.” He was referring to our early years and the sense of having stepped back in time to a quieter and simpler life. We used to say that it was like living in the States in the ’30s.

With all the emphasis on faster, more advanced communications and access to boundless information in our modern world, it would appear that there is a deep yearning in the human spirit for something else. Something not quite so “connected” that can be summed up with the words “quiet the internal dialogue” — a desire to get back to a quieter time or place.

Does Costa Rica offer this? Yes – perhaps not as much as it did 17 years ago, but still, yes. There is an irresistible pull in human society toward what we call “advancement” or “progress” – faster chips, faster communications, access to whatever services one might want. But the net result is in what I see here on a day-to-day basis, at least among those with whom I work — a movement towards the simple. Time to spend in reading paper and ink (remember that?). Time spent in conversation with no interruptions. Time to absorb the catharsis of nature. A walk on the beach? A visit to a waterfall? A mind-blowing sunset?

So, as we take our steps toward this move, perhaps culminating in the purchase of a property, take a minute and consider: What is the purpose you hope to achieve with such a purchase? Keep this question in the mix as you sort through the mechanics of the process. You’ll likely benefit by finding the property that is right for you.

As with all things human, this is not a black and white, hard-edged consideration. The message is not: “Move to Costa Rica and you’ll have peace and be happy.” There are many factors involved in building the life we want. There is the risk of looking to a geographical change as the solution to whatever may ail us wherever we are. Escaping to Costa Rica is not something I would encourage. I was told before moving here that “whatever demons you’ve got back home will follow you here, and they will flourish here.” Truer words were never spoken.

So, take this as a guide to the process. Consider the various aspects of your life in evaluating such a move. If you still find it to be right for you, come on down! And then let’s get together and compare notes about the beautiful effects that result from quieting the internal dialogue.

Ben Vaughn moved to Costa Rica in 1999 with his family and started working in real estate in Dominical in 2004. He keeps what may be the longest-running Costa Rica real estate blog. His blog deals with the nuts and bolts of real estate and its changes over the years, as well as what it’s like to relocate and live in Costa Rica. Ben is available for real estate services in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. Contact him by email at or by phone at 8816-9444.  

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