Buying a property in Costa Rica — 5 things you may not have thought of
There are a thousand reasons expats love Costa Rica: from the miles of glorious coastline to the laid-back locals and everything in between. There are mountains, jungles, rivers and lakes, and of course, it’s all sandwiched between the calm Caribbean Sea to the east and the wild Pacific Ocean to the west. There are also plenty of opportunities for expats to land their dream property in Costa Rica, and thanks to the vibrant expat communities that already exist, there’s plenty of information available to help you navigate the process with ease.
Just like buying a property in your homeland, there’s still lots to think about before you dive in. Naturally, you’ll want to arm yourself with as much information as possible before you start your journey, and consulting both a lawyer and an accountant is highly advised. However, once you’ve got the basics down and you are well on your way, it’s time to start identifying all those little details that probably haven’t crossed your mind yet. Here, we take a look at five important points that might have slipped your mind during your search for properties in Costa Rica.
The weather is going to be very different
Sure, everyone comes for the weather. With promises of year-long tropical temperatures and glorious sunshine during the dry season, who wouldn’t? Generally, the climate is split into two distinct seasons — dry and rainy. However, you should also look into Costa Rica’s microclimates, as weather patterns can vary quite significantly from place to place. For example, higher elevations in the mountains will experience much colder temperatures, particularly after sunset. On the flip side, humidity rises the closer you are to rivers and lakes, and there may be the chance of flooding during the rainy season. Make sure you research the area thoroughly and double check the microclimate for any properties you are interested in.
Access to your property might not be as expected
Costa Rica is a land of mountains and jungles, and while many of the roads and the general infrastructure are good, there are still exceptions to the rule. Again, for properties that are off the beaten path or that are relatively old, it’s worth double checking the conditions of access before you buy. Muddy jungle tracks or crumbling mountain roads may need to be repaired before you can even think about driving your SUV to your new home, and if the property requires work, then access may also be an issue for tradesmen and building professionally. Finally, if the access path is on your land, you may be liable for repairs yourself and this can often be an expensive undertaking.
Costa Rica is very safe, but it’s still possible to get burned
Costa Rica is among the safest countries in Latin America. Theft is probably the biggest issue, but much of this is petty theft confined to the larger cities. Having said this, when it comes to buying property in Costa Rica, there are still plenty of sharks out there willing to take money from naïve expats looking to buy into their dream. When searching for property, make sure you use a trustworthy real estate agent who will help you navigate the process and find your dream property. You can also benefit from the advice of expats who already call Costa Rica home, helping you to avoid known scammers or dodgy lawyers and accountants.
Your property is not guaranteed to have services
Services that you take for granted back home may not always be available — particularly for older properties, anyone looking to live away from the hustle and bustle of the busier areas, and people looking to build from scratch. You should always check that electricity, water and other services exist in the area and can be connected without too much hassle. Anything too far away from the property is likely to become very expensive when you come to connect. Of course, there’s always the option of renewable energy such as solar power, and Costa Rica’s climate is ideal for such setups.
You can get a mortgage in Costa Rica, but it’s not easy and it’s probably expensive
Most expats generally already have financing in place when it comes to purchasing property in Costa Rica, be it in the form of cash savings or mortgages from home. That being said, it is now possible for foreigners to get a mortgage within Costa Rica. However, it’s fair to say that it’s probably more hassle than it’s worth. Costa Rican banks are extremely conservative when it comes to lending and interest rates are usually very high. It is generally advised to explore your financing options in your home country before looking at mortgages in Costa Rica, but if all else fails, there is still a possibility to get financing in your new home!
Richard is a licensed Realtor and is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Richard founded Coldwell Banker Tamarindo in 2011. In a few short years, it has grown to become the most successful Coldwell Banker office in Costa Rica, and Richard is one of the highest grossing sales agents in the country. He comes from a corporate background, having spent many years with blue chip corporations including KPMG, Time Warner and Sony Corp. He has run businesses in Costa Rica for 20 years and is a fluent Spanish speaker. His focus is on hotel sales and high-end beach residential properties.