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Escazu, Costa Rica

Real Estate in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 21, 2023

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.

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:

"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," remarked one member in Costa Rica.

"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.

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

"Most expats live in condos or houses with small gardens and enormous fences with barbered wire," said one expat in San Jose.

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What is the average cost of housing in Costa Rica?

If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Cheaper, undoubtedly. Unless you want to live in the most expensive/foreign-overrun areas of the country or unless you insist on staying in the same level of housing that you stay in back in the states. Costa Rica is not the USA. It's Costa Rica. Learn to live more simply, you probably won't miss it in the long run," remarked one foreigner who made the move to San Jose.

"Are you kidding, a small apartment in Portland, Oregon was more than $500.00 per month. This is where I lived before moving to Costa Rica. An average unfurnished rental can be had easily for between two to three hundred American dollars per month," explained one person living in City of Guapiles, County of Pococi, Province of Limon, Costa Rica.

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Should I buy or rent a home in Costa Rica?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Costa Rica, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"We purchased our own home. This was an easy process as you do not need to be a resident to own property in Costa Rica. However, I would advise anyone whether renting or purchasing property to hire a reputable attorney to assist with the process," said one expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"I rent because I do not want to be tied down to a piece of property. Also property is expensive. My rental agreement was easy to understand, only about 4 pages (2 of them inventory of furnishings). I negotiated the terms from 12 months to 6 and the rent amount. It was not difficult at all," remarked one member in San Jose.

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What do I need to know when buying property in Costa Rica?

When we asked expats what advice they would give a foreigner before buying a property in Costa Rica, they said:

"Don't buy. For some reason that I suspect is emotional expats almost always want to buy property, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. It's much easier and cheaper to rent. There's also the widely reported statistic that some half of the expats leave the country within the first year of arriving--and stories abound of those who bought homes taking a huge loss when they sell. There are also a fair number of problems with property theft--your house is sold out from under you without your awareness. Give yourself a few years in the country to become acquainted with the customs and the neighborhoods before you plunk down money you may regret," explained one expat in San Jose.

"Travel around and find the area you want first. Use tools like www.vrbo.com to see what the rental rates are in the area you are interested in -- and be sure to look at the calendars of availability to see how well they are booking. Visit the forums like Expat Exchange or Costa Rica Living and ask plenty of questions. Compare listings from a variety of sources and use tools like Google Translate to look at listings in Spanish as well. Seek the advice of folks like me -- make sure they have bought and sold for themselves and don't just have a good imagination," explained one person living in Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, Costa Rica.

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Are foreigners allowed to own property in Costa Rica?

When we asked expats what advice they would give a foreigner before buying a property in Costa Rica, they said...

"No I don't think so. If any, I may presume it is if you haven't yet applied for Temporary Residency (Rentista) though I don't know if that's necessary; check with a reputable Attorney," wrote one expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Absolutely not. Foreigners can purchase property in Costa Rica. You do not need to be a citizen or resident. If you have the money, look and purchase to your content," explained one foreigner living in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica.

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What appliances are typically included in a rental?

We asked foreigners in Costa Rica what appliances are typically included in a rental, and, if there is anything else included or not included that a newcomer would not expect. Replies included:

"In Costa Rica, the typical appliances found in a rental property include a fridge, stove, washing machine, and air conditioning. In some cases, additional items such as a dishwasher, clothes dryer, and microwave may also be provided. Utilities such as electricity and water will also generally be included in the cost of rent," said one foreigner living in Costa Rica.

"Generally rental properties are fully applianced. Lower scale rental units will have the basics, no dishwasher, possibly only a stove top and not an oven. A washer may be included but generally not a dryer. On the higher end scale, these will be fully appliances with American style refrigerator, stove/oven, dishwasher, microwave and washer/dryer. Be especially observant if the condo complex has a community área with tables, chairs, sink/wáter availability, bathrooms and BBQ grill. This is especially attractive for entertaining friends and family," explained one expat living in Playa Jaco (Jaco Beach), Costa Rica.

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Additional Information about Searching for a Home in Costa Rica:

We asked foreigners in Costa Rica what appliances are typically included in a rental, and, if there is anything else included or not included that a newcomer would not expect. Replies included...

"There are many realtors in Jaco so finding a real estate agency is easy! I recommend Keller Williams. All realtors have listing pages on their business window so simply walking thru the city and looking at listings in this manner gives a buyer a good education on what your money will purchase. Another very attractive way to find property is thru real estate listings on Facebook. There are multiple sites offering seasonal and full time rentals along with homes for sale. Don't discount "Word of Mouth" either! Frequent any restaurant/bar that the expats gather and let it be known that you are looking! You will get many responses and in a city of 12,000 people the word travels quickly," explained one expat in Playa Jaco.

"Many would advise going through a realtor and that's probably wisest if you don't know your way around. The native way to look though is to just walk the neighborhoods you're interested in and look for "for sale" signs. Related is to check grocery store bulletin boards. A lot of housing is still found in these traditional ways. Now the online site encuentra 24 is probably the best classified ad system and you're certain to see dozens if not 100s of listings that meet your search parameters by using it. It's like Craigslist but without the scams and a lot more people use it," explained one person living in San Jose, 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.

Escazu, Costa Rica

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