The real estate market in every country in the world took a hit when the global recession began three years ago. Costa Rica was no exception.
But it now appears there is some light at the end of the real estate tunnel, and while a full recovery may still be a couple of years away, those involved in the Costa Rican real estate market say the market is slowly but surely improving.
The market started to show signs of a recovery in the first quarter of 2010 and has since continued to show vigorous signs of life.
"There has been a timid awakening in selling homes and condos on Pacific beaches, while the GAM [greater San José metropolitan area] residential sector has been growing at a steady pace with an excellent range of properties," said Aleyda Bonilla, president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Real Estate Brokers.
In the commercial real estate market, the sector has shown a modest increase in recent months. The eastern sector of San José has shown some of the biggest gains, and banks have again started talks with developers in order to resume stalled projects and begin new ones, Bonilla said.
"Buyers … feel more secure in this economic environment, given the growth in actual employment levels, and the opening of new financing alternatives," she said.
Real estate agents around Costa Rica are also feeling optimistic.
"It's starting to get better, honestly. Things are looking up," said Les Nunez of First Realty in the beach community of Playa Hermosa in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. "I want to be very candid and not just paint a rosy picture as most realtors tend to do. But yes, it certainly is better than it was last year.
"Certainly it's no reflection of 2005, 2006 and 2007 – that type of market, which was a very strong market. In 2009 to 2010, things really fell off. So, what we're seeing now is certainly more people coming in once more."
He added that the market is showing signs of improvement across the board, but in general, high-end homes aren't driving the market as they have in the past.
"The middle- and lower-priced homes, those are the ones that are really starting to move now, as opposed to the top end," Nunez said. "So, if I were to put that in some sort of dollar figure, anything between $300,000 and under, you're getting good inquires and even purchases now."