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In 2007 CNBC dubbed Costa Rica the “the hottest real estate market on the planet,” which came as little surprise to developers, builders, and real estate agents in Costa Rica. They have seen business boom over the last several years. Expatriates who come here to buy property, however, are attracted by significantly more than the possibility of financial gain. The country is physically beautiful and it is free of the strife that formerly characterized much of Latin America—and Costa Ricans generally treat foreigners with a friendly and welcoming attitude. On top of all that, Costa Rica’s legal system makes it relatively easy for expatriates to live, work, and do business in their adopted home.

Naturally, then, people are arriving on a daily basis to join the tens of thousands of expatriates who already live here. This new set of expatriates, interestingly, represents a second wave of arrivals to the country—during the late 1980s Costa Rica began to garner world attention as an eco-tourist, surfing, and sport fishing destination. Everyone seems to have visited the country or to know someone who has done so.

What kind of people are coming to Costa Rica to buy real estate and to establish new lives here? Simply put, people of all kinds. And not just retirees: young people who want to both live and do business in Costa Rica make up a noticeable percentage of home buyers. In addition to well-heeled purchasers of luxury beach-front properties, the country also attracts retirees living on fairly modest pensions. Prices, for both homes and many other items, are considerably lower than those found in most parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe. While the majority of expatriates are North Americans—Canadians and Americans can fly to Costa Rica in less than a day—Europeans also make up an important component: Italian, Spanish, German, British, French, Swiss, and Dutch expatriates populate beach towns throughout the country. More recently, you will find an increasing number of South Americans expatriates, including Argentineans, Colombians, and Venezuelans. There is even a small community of Israelis living in the vicinity of Nosara, a beautiful beach town in the province of Guanacaste.

Costa Rica’s popularity—both for those who want to buy property and those who want to live here—is set to continue, especially considering that we are now in the early years of baby-boomer retirement. There are 78.2 million baby boomers in the U.S. alone, and many retirees from all over the world are interested in living overseas for at least part of the year.

With these trends very much in mind, we wanted to produce a thorough, detailed, and intelligently written guide to buying real estate in Costa Rica. The information it contains is as relevant for people planning to live here year round as it is for those who only plan to spend part of the year in the country. Whether you are buying a home as a principal residence, part-time residence, or solely as an investment, you will find information in this book that should help you make a smart, well-informed purchase. While this book does not purport to offer advice to professional real-estate developers, it does contain information on legal and other issues unique to Costa Rica that they will find extremely valuable.

This guide will walk you through all you need to know about buying real estate in Costa Rica. Included in the information it contains is:

  • A summary description of the country to help you decide if Costa Rica is the country for you.
  • Information on buying, renting, leasing, and selling homes and commercial properties.
  • Checklists that summarize key points on important topics such as due diligence. Use these for quick reference.
  • A point-by-point discussion of the legal process.
  • A thorough geographical overview of the country to help you decide where to buy.
  • An overview of construction, permitting, and sustainable development key topics.
  • A valuable overview of the insurance industry in Costa Rica.
  • A guide to doing business in Costa Rica, including a discussion of cultural issues.

Our guiding motive in writing this book is to provide you with incisive, unbiased information so that you can make informed, smart, and secure real estate decisions. One of the authors, a journalist who worked five years for Bloomberg, a global financial news agency, visited Costa Rica a number of times before deciding to permanently relocate here. To prepare this book, she traveled throughout the country and conducted over one hundred interviews with industry professionals. The other writer has lived here for years and works as a professional journalist. Neither writer is involved, either directly or indirectly, in the real estate industry in Costa Rica and they received no hand-outs in exchange for positive comments in this book. Our purpose is to help the reader, it is not to promote any specific investments nor to promote any specific real estate developer.

The authors and the publisher must admit, however, to one important bias. Costa Rica is justly famous for the beauty and diversity of its beaches and national parks. Indeed, the country has set aside a higher percentage of its lands for inclusion within its national park system than any other country in the Americas. The tourists and the expatriates who come to Costa Rica do so in large part because they want to enjoy the natural beauty of the country. Construction projects that do not heed the environmental and building restrictions as defined by Costa Rican law threaten to destroy the very beauty that attracted all of us here in the first place, and, consequently, also threaten to diminish property values in the near future. Finally, we foreigners are all guests here of a gracious, friendly people. Let’s make sure that we are equally gracious guests and treat the country with the respect it deserves.

Like all countries, Costa Rica is a dynamic, constantly changing place. It is therefore important to keep in mind that property prices, laws, zoning, and other factors in real estate in this country are subject to change. While we intend to publish new editions of this book whenever changes in the country merit a new edition, we cannot be held legally responsible for the information contained in this guide. As always, you should consult the services of professionals as you go about the process of finding and buying real estate.

We hope you will find this guide useful and wish you every success in buying property in Costa Rica.