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
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.