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Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

Real Estate in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: Expats and retirees talk about real estate in Costa Rica? How do you find a home in Costa Rica? Should you buy or rent? What is the cost of housing?

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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:

"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," said another expat in Tamarindo.

"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 another member in Costa Rica.

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

"Condo with high security. However we never feel fearful walking at night to our favorite restaurants or store as their are guards everywhere. This is true pretty much everywhere we have been in CR. We have always felt very safe (unlike dealing we the herds of homeless drug addicts in CA)," remarked another foreigner who made the move to Escazu.

"I live in a luxury home minutes from the beach, ferry, and a multitude of activities and shopping and dining. This is a typical expat home and lifestyle on an upper scale," explained one person living in Paquera, Costa Rica.

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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:

"Condo's in Escazu, especially close to either Avenida Escazu or the San Jose Country Club also start at $ 500,000 and many head into the millions now. An older studio (70 sq. meters/800 sq. feet) just sold for $270,000 in Avenida Escazu...," remarked another member in Costa Rica.

"Totally depends on many factors. Are you looking to rent or buy? How many bedrooms? City or country? Altitude, I.e., beach or mountains? Seasonal only, or long term? Hot water or not? Window screens or not? With Ticos or Gringoes? AC or not? Furnished or not? Close to hospitals and good medical or remote? Want views? What kind? Utilities included or not? Finished or under construction? Will you have a vehicle, and will it have 4WD? Are you ok with public transport (it’s excellent). Pets? You can see there are many possible answers to your question! We chose mountains with Nicoya Peninsula views, good infrastructure, home built to American specs with quality materials by reputable builder, hot water, screens, electric gate, and all in a Tico community of great diversity. City is only 3 kms away over the mountain. Pulperia up the street where we all hang out to watch futball! And we drive a 21 yr old SUV. Love Costa Rica," explained one expat living in 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:

"I am renting an apartment for now. $800/month not including utilities. I would like to buy eventually. The process was done via a friend so that was helpful, but, to pay in cash to avoid taxes is a challenge. I have no idea how I am to pay the bills for electricity, water, cable, etc," said another person in Grecia.

"I'm renting. It's not difficult once you are in country. I rented an Airbnb first and went from there. All you need to do is find local contacts. Facebook has a page for each area. It's easiest to find a rental there. And make sure you have a contract checked by an attorney," added another expat who made the move to San Isidro de Heredia.

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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:

"ONLY hire a commonly recommended Attorney Notary who has been recommended by a few Expats. DON'T take risks with any Attorney. DON'T take risks or trust ANYONE! Ensure the Attorney fully checks the property has ZERO issues with it (unless it has 1 or 2 that are negligible). Don't trust anyone with your money. Do your Due Diligence on the Realtor," added another expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Know the neighborhoods and price ranges is key! Spend as much time as possible in your desired area or neighborhood. Go at night especially. Is the neighborhood safe, noisy, close to a nightclub? If you want to live in a condominium complex, observe the type of clientele it attracts in their rental pool. And in this case, find out how much turnover there is (daily, weekly, monthly) As Jaco is a tourist town, make sure your visit your desired neighborhood during "high season" and especially Easter and Christmas holidays as the busiest two weeks of the year," explained one foreigner living in Playa Jaco, 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," remarked another foreigner 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 person 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:

"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 person living in Playa Jaco (Jaco Beach), 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.

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