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Ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, Costa Rica

Real Estate in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 10, 2024

Summary: An expat looking to buy a home in Costa Rica should start by researching the different areas of the country and deciding which one best suits their needs. They should also research the local real estate market and look for reputable real estate agents who can help them find the right property. Foreigners are allowed to own property in Costa Rica, but there are some restrictions. For example, foreigners are not allowed to own property within 50 kilometers of the coast or within 10 kilometers of the border. Homes in Costa Rica typically include amenities such as air conditioning, a pool, and a terrace. Many homes also have views of the ocean or the mountains.

William Russell
William Russell
William Russell
William Russell

How do I find a place to live in Costa Rica?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"I was basically told in what area to live. Most expats live in Escazu, Santa Ana or Rohrmoser. Then I went with several agents to look at possible apartments. After that you start haggling!!! (Hagglig is essential. I have seen houses come down from 4500 USD a month to 2500.)," said one expat in San Jose.

"On one visit, we took a side trip to Costa Rica to explore the beaches of Guanacaste. When we drove into Tamarindo, it felt a California beach town with a nice vibe. Over the next couple of years, we took a few trips to Playa Flamingo and Tamarindo to further explore the area and to look at condos for sale. We bought an ocean view condo in Tamarindo a couple of years before we retired, and then moved there full time after retiring in May 2013 (age 61-62). We liked the beach and the availability of a variety of restaurants and stores in Tamarindo, and easy walking access in town," remarked one member in Tamarindo.

"We spent 4 years staying for short time in a number of areas. We recognize CA prices are not reflective of Florida or Texas prices. Adjust accordingly. 3 choices: The beach areas: Ridiculously hot & damp; humid so A/C runs non-stop, Where as in Escazu we rarely need it as the temperatures in the Central Valley at 4,000 feet rarely go above 80 or below 63. Rarely use A/C but if we do electricity is crazy cheap in CR unlike CA. The water is great here too, No need anywhere in CR for bottled water like CA. We still love to visit the beach which is only 2 hours away (Pacific side) but just not live there. Central Valley: 3 choices Heredia (nice but a little too rural), Santa Anna (a little too hot & too small, (Although the golf course is amazing there!), and the best in our mind Escazu. The perfect location in Escazu is anywhere close to the Costa Rica Country Club (no we could never afford to belong). Five years ago, we stayed in La Sabana (loved it) first as our home base and after many stays all around CR returned and bought a beautiful condo with high security in Escazu. The cost was 20% of what our condo was in San Diego and 4 times the size! We can walk (or a truly short drive) to so many restaurants, large supermarkets, shops and even two great movie theatres showing films in English! Food was a big worry, yet in Escazu we can buy the same foods we enjoy in the states (and lots of great Italian restaurants!). And virtually no mosquitoes at this elevation unlike the beaches! Also, best hospital in central America only 2 miles away (CIMA, JCHO accredited, many English-speaking docs). Ditto for dentistry. All much cheaper than the states. If you do not know any Spanish (like us) and now retired in your late 60’s, learning a new language can be stressful, Hence Escazu. Our culture shock has been minimal which has been a big relief, but we like the challenges of learning Spanish, & have learned the patience it takes (Tico Time) like spending 3 hours in a bank just to get a new debit card, which stopped working for some unknown reason after a month, needing an attorney to buy a car, etc. But some things are very fast like walking 3 blocks to our internet/TV provider (by the way great hi-speed) and getting service sent to our condo, multiple times, within the hour! And everyone is soooo happy and helpful! The politest most respectful drivers we have ever seen. We have traveled all over the world and have never experienced such absolute courtesy on such a grand scale. Certainly not in the states. And we have made a number of Tico professional friends here, been to their homes (very welcoming) and they have been nothing but helpful, sincere and trustworthy. They truly are the happiest people in the world! By the way we have spent a lot of time in Mexico (my brother lives there) and that is a dangerous unpredictable place compared to CR, but certainly cheaper as is Belize (truly scary)," explained one expat living in Escazu, Costa Rica.

"Yes, finding the right location to live in, can be more important that finding the right home. Many expats want to live at the beach...especially from the snowy north...until they find that the heat just doesn't work for them. So, if they have purchased a home there, they could be stuck with it. So, suggest you rent for an extended time period so that you truly check out the different neighbourhoods, learn where the bus routes are, where the roosters start the earliest and the karaoke bars are located... It is said by many, that it is very easy to buy, but often very hard to sell. Many say that between 50-60% of the expats, return home within 3-4 years. Often broke. Costa Rica is no longer a cheap place to live. However, it can be a great place to live, if you can afford it," said one person in Costa Rica.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Costa Rica?

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, Costa Rica

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