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Living Abroad in Costa Rica
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Room with a view

Excerpted from Living Abroad in Costa Rica

What about buying a house or land in Costa Rica? How about renting?

The great thing about Costa Rica is that regardless of your nationality or immigration status, you have most of the same property rights as native Costa Ricans. This is not true in all Latin American countries. Costa Rica's solid and egalitarian property rights are a big incentive to investing here.

Coastal properties are one exception, being governed by the Maritime Zone Law, which says no one (neither foreigner nor national) can actually own (much less build) on land 50 meters up from the high tide mark. The next 150 meters (from 50 – 200 meters from the high tide mark) is known as concession property, which is available for long-term lease from the local municipal government.

Non-resident foreigners in Costa Rica can own up to 49% of leased beach property; the remaining 51% must be owned by a Costa Rican citizen, resident, or corporation.

No shortage of real estate agents

In Costa Rica, anyone can be a realtor. There’s no exam, no license, and pretty much no legal redress if an agent cheats you. A good start is to check in with the two national professional real estate organizations—the Costa Rican Realtors’ Chamber and the North American-Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce—though dealing with a realtor associated with either organization doesn’t guarantee you a trouble-free experience, and non-membership doesn’t mean that the agent is a crook. The best bet (as with most things in Costa Rica) is a personal recommendation from a satisfied customer. Even then, don’t let your guard down. And remember, the more people involved in the deal, the higher the price (everyone wants their cut).

Pool under construction near Lake Arenal

Renters have more fun

The best way to know if you want to live in a place is to live there, but without investing in property. North Americans are conditioned to want to own, own, own, but renting has a lot going for it. No upkeep expenses, not much commitment. Renting month to month, you could live for a few months in the expat-heavy Central Valley suburb of Escazú, then live for a while in the shadow of a highland volcano, then retreat for a season to a beachside haven on either the Caribbean or Pacific coast. A recent look at rents shows rates anywhere from $200 for a small apartment in a modest neighborhood to thousands a month for a sprawling beachside retreat.

Tip: Try to strike a short-term rental deal outside of the December - April high season (especially in the more touristed beach towns). September and October are good times to negotiate.





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