San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Airport, Schools, Stores Fuel Real-Estate Boom

TAKE one nearby international airport.Add a wave of baby-boomersapproaching retirement age in a few years.Mix in the region’s fabled climate.The results are a real-estate boom thelikes of which this section of the Guanacastecoast has never seen before.“The Liberia airport has made all thedifference in the world,” explains JoanDemyen, owner of ReMax/Gold CoastRealty (654-4919, www.realestatecr. com).THE 2002 launch of scheduled internationalflights from Daniel OduberAirport outside Guanacaste’s provincialcapital put Flamingo and Potrero within afew hours of the United States and pointsbeyond.“Especially for [North] Americans,looking for convenience, the sheer proximityto Atlanta, Miami and Houston is areal plus,” says Tim Baker, who overseesthe Residencias Oceania real-estate developmentfor the Flamingo Marina ResortHotel (654-4141, He refers to the hubs used by Delta,American and Continental Airlines servingthe airport, a 45-minute drive fromFlamingo and Potrero.The increase in tourist numbers hasgenerated an increase in the real-estatemarket, according to Larry Albright ofPacific Coast Realty (654-5050,“People come here, fall in love withthe place, and want to buy,” Albrightexplains.TRADITIONAL North Americanretirement havens, such as Florida andHawaii, have become prohibitively expensive,Baker explains. Baby-boomers arelooking at alternatives to the places wheretheir parents bought property to retire.This section of the Guanacaste coast fitsthat bill.“And it’s not just the retirement market,”explains Demyen. “People are saying it’stime for a lifestyle change at an earlier age.”Everyone agrees that the newfoundattraction of Flamingo and Potrero all stemsfrom improved access to transportation,goods and services. (See separate story.)Improved infrastructure – and areaschools count prominently – have made itpossible for adults in the 40s or 50s whostill might have teenagers at home to movehere, Baker says.BOB Davey of Century 21/Marina Trading Post (654-4004, describes Flamingo andPotrero as “a residential area with tourismamenities.” Everyone cites the unusualtopography, spectacular views, beaches,warm climate (with breezes to temper theheat), and access to tourism facilities suchas sportfishing and golf as pluses.“And there are some of the greatestpeople,” adds Babe Hopkins of EmeraldShores Realty (654-4554, “It’s a wonderfulcommunity.”As the market has matured, the era oframpant speculation is over, according tothe professionals here.“Purchase a lot with retirement in mindand the value will appreciate,” Albrightsays. “But there’s no more buying somethingfor a dollar today and selling it for 10in six months.”It’s more like an investment of $1today will get you $3 in a few years, heexplains.EVERYTHING — lots, condominiums,larges estates, small homes and short termrentals, as well as property-managementservices for those who don’t live herefull-time – is available for purchase inFlamingo and Potrero, according to Davey.And phone, water and electricity havebecome standard features in most newdevelopments here.“More people are moving in with higherexpectations than Costa Ricans,”explains Bob Lent of Lent EckhartProperties (654-4291, likes to delineate three priceranges for the area. She says $80,000 canstill get you a lot and a nice small housethree to four blocks from the beach inPotrero.“You’re not on the beach, but you’re very close,” she enthuses.Then there’s the $200,000 to half-millionrange that buys a nice home on whatDemyen calls “an outrageously fabulouslot” in Flamingo. She says the “sky’s thelimit” range follows.THOUGH differences betweenFlamingo and Potrero have dimmed inrecent years, comparisons are still made,especially for those agencies based on thePotrero side of the bay. The market is alsobooming here, historically the domain ofsmaller lots and more modest dwellingswhen compared to flashier Flamingo.But experts are quick to point out thatthe old pejorative “Poor-trero” monikerdoesn’t apply anymore.“Purchasers previously looking strictlyto Flamingo now have the option of amuch greater area that may suit theirrequirements,” says Ron Douglas ofSurfside Properties (654-5567,,one of the country’s few multiple-listingreal estate services.“Construction is advanced,” explainsCheryl Eckhart of Lent Eckhart Propertiesin the heart of Potrero’s Surfside neighborhood.THERE’S still plenty of room fornewer buildings on this side of the bay, shesays. Potrero’s later entry into the marketmeans homes constructed here can havemarble, granite, tiles and designer sinks –options not available when the originalconcrete-and-block homes were constructedin Flamingo.Her colleague Bob Lent touts the low densitydevelopment, as well as the morelocal feel, on this side of the bay.“This is virgin land,” he proclaims,adding that the agency specializes in largetracts of land, making Potrero ideal forthem.EXPERTS here are also compareFlamingo and Potrero with other sectionsof the Guanacaste coast, and insist that thearea’s expensive reputation no longerapplies.Tamarindo, Playa Grande andLangosta are now more costly, Demyensays, attributing Flamingo’s high-ticketreputation to the early days when high-flyingdeveloper George Howarth walled offthe beach in his dream to turn the area intoa refuge for the rich and famous. Sheexplains that properties here – in Flamingoat least – are traditionally large pieces ofland, but a better value per square meterthan in neighboring Tamarindo.Flamingo was once the prime place inGuanacaste, and Tamarindo, the sleepy littlefishing village, Albright remembers.“That situation has flip-flopped in the lastten years,” he says. “Now Flamingo andPotrero are the quiet bedroom communities.”DOES living in paradise have any pitfalls?The prospect of low property taxesalways dazzles potential buyers, explainsCentury 21’s Pennye Wheeler. A half-million-dollar home, on which $40,000 taxeswould be levied in California, might costonly $300 annually here.“But what you don’t pay in propertytaxes, you pay in other things,” she cautions.Car maintenance can cut into thebudget for the owner of a home at the endof a dirt road.“‘Pavement to your door’ is the bigselling point in real estate here,” Demyenexplains.ONGOING uncertainty over the statusof the Flamingo Marina (see separatestory) probably has had an effect on themarket, Albright says, although his agencyhas noticed no effects.“No question that everyone wants tosee the situation resolved,” he adds.Everyone cites the area’s slower lifestyleas a plus, but adds that it wouldn’tappeal to all.“If you want action, you don’t come toFlamingo,” cautions Davey, who saysmuch more action is to be found inTamarindo.AND most who now call the area homeare perfectly content to keep things thatway.

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