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Chinatown in San Jose, Costa Rica

Real Estate in San Jose, Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jan 06, 2023

Summary: The most desirable neighborhoods in San Jose, Costa Rica are Escazu, Santa Ana, Rohrmoser, and Sabana. The average cost to buy a nice 2 bedroom home in San Jose is around $200,000 USD and a nice 3 bedroom home is around $250,000 USD. These properties typically include modern amenities such as air conditioning, stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops. Foreigners are allowed to own property in San Jose, however, there are certain restrictions. For example, foreigners are not allowed to own property within 50 kilometers of the coast or within 100 kilometers of the border. The best way for an expat to search for a home to buy in San Jose is to use a real estate agent or a property search website. It is also important to research the area and the neighborhood before making a purchase.

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How do I find a place to live in San Jose?

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

"If you are looking for a place to live in San Jose, there are a variety of options available. You may choose to find a rental property, such as an apartment or house, through a real estate agency. You can also find accommodations in hotels, hostels, and other hospitality services such as Airbnb. Additionally, there are a variety of residential communities and gated neighborhoods that offer homes for rent or for purchase. No matter what your needs are, you are sure to find a suitable place to live in San Jose," added another expat who made the move to San Jose, Costa Rica.

"I just wanted to clear up some of the bad reviews of the other guy who posted before me about San Jose, Costa Rica. First of all, if you are planning on moving to Costa Rica for whatever ex-pat experience, if possible, avoid San Jose. It is a very crowded, dense little city that is not all that interesting. Also, foreigners are more susceptible to theft here. That being said, get out of San Jose and live in any of the other great towns all throughout this beautiful country. True, transportation can be mediocre (if insisting on travelling budget), but it definately suffices. It's a small country and travelling from the Pacific to the Carribean can be done in one long day even on the slowest, cheapest bussed routes available," explained one foreigner living in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in San Jose?

"Expat homes and apartments in San Jose typically have modern and contemporary designs. Many apartments have balconies with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape that often include mountains and volcanos. Many expat homes and apartments in San Jose come with high-end stainless steel appliances and luxury furnishings. Commonly, the homes are equipped with state-of-the-art security systems to ensure the safety of their occupants. Expat homes and apartments often boast spacious rooms and large windows that let in plenty of natural light. Air conditioning, a laundry area and maid services are often standard in many expat homes and apartments," added another expat who made the move to San Jose, Costa Rica.

"Housing can be very cheap, especially if you rent out a room from a Costa Rican family. While the family's home (bathroom especially) may not be of the same type that a middle-class American is used to, it is the best way to get to know your new home country's people. If you want, you could even rent out a room at a backpackers' type of hotel or hostel for cheap rates, too. I've stayed in simple beach-front hotels for US $9 a night," explained one foreigner living in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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What is the average cost of housing in San Jose?

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

"The cost of housing in San Jose can vary significantly depending on the area and size of the property. Generally, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment is around $500 per month, while the average cost for a three-bedroom apartment is around $1,000 per month. Rentals in luxury apartment complexes or neighborhoods can range up to $2,000 or more per month," explained one person living in San Jose, Costa Rica, Costa Rica.

"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," said another expat in San Jose.

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Should I buy or rent a home in San Jose?

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

"Buying a home in San Jose can be a great investment as the city is expected to have an economic boom in the coming years. However, renting might be preferable for someone who isn't sure how long they will be in San Jose or who is looking to save up for a longer-term purchase. Renting can give you more flexibility to relocate if needed and to explore various areas of the city before committing to buying," said another person in San Jose, Costa Rica.

"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," added another expat who made the move to San Jose.

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What do I need to know when buying property in San Jose?

When we asked expats what advice they would give a foreigner before buying a property in San Jose, 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," said another person in San Jose.

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Are foreigners allowed to own property in San Jose?

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

"No, foreigners can own property with the same rights as locals. However, I personally wouldn't buy until I had legal residency. Many nonresidents do buy and don't have any problems, but I'd personally want the right to live in the country before I invested money in it. Related is that absentee-ownership is asking for problems. Unless it's a condo at the beach with a rental program, I wouldn't recommend buying without living here, and I wouldn't count on living here without legal residency," added another expat who made the move to San Jose.

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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.

Chinatown in San Jose, Costa Rica

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