San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beach, West San José Hot Property Picks

WANNA buy a beach house? Now isthe time as prices, at least those along thePacific coast, are only going to go up.That’s the advice offered by several realestate agents with experience in Costa Ricawho have seen prices on houses and condosrising, especially along the Pacific beaches.“We are so busy we can’t keep up,”affirmed Yolanda Goulet, the manager ofContinental Americas Realty Group inPlaya Esterillos on the central Pacificcoast. “We are going through a boom andhave more qualified buyers now than wehad during the last tourist season.”Goulet explained that generally tourists“fantasize” about owning property here,but often don’t follow through. Buyerswho are currently living in Costa Rica,however, are more serious about purchasinga condominium or beach property.The northern Pacific coast has developedsufficient infrastructure to support thedevelopment of housing and retirementcommunities, condos and luxurious resortprojects.“Ten years ago there was no infrastructure,it took me seven years to get a phoneand the roads were terrible,” Goulet said.“Now, the phone lines go all the way to thebeaches and the government is buildingroads and putting in modern bridges.”ECONOMIC conditions are also helpingthe area’s boom.“The world markets, with low interestrates and more fluid money, are helpingpeople to buy property here,” explainedKevin Olson of Century 21 Real Estate inJacó, on the central Pacific coast. “A realestate friend in California told me that hethinks North Americans will continue tolook to Costa Rica to buy property.”Olson estimates that 60-70% of buyersof upscale properties are from the UnitedStates and Canada.Real estate agent Danny Hendersonsaid he can’t keep an inventory of propertybecause it sells so fast. Henderson, who isan agent with Carico Real Estate Companyin San José, said that real estate sales areexperiencing a “snowball” effect that startedalong the northern beaches and now isspreading into property along the NicoyaPeninsula.“It started in Flamingo and Tamarindo,where property is now pretty expensive,and has spread to Nosara (in the northwesternprovince of Guanacaste) in Nicoyawhere construction costs have risen from$10 per square meter to $60 or $70 persquare meter,” he said. “Costs along thenorthern beaches have now bypassed thosein Escazú.”PRICES can range into several milliondollars for some homes, but the agentsagreed that most homes will likely sellbetween $250,000-450,000. Gouletwarned that prices have risen more quicklyin the past three years.“Some people have paid $200,000 for atwo- or three-bedroom home on an acre inmountain developments when you can getthe same price for property along or nearthe beach,” she said.Those kinds of prices are rare farthersouth along the Pacific coast where, Gouletsaid, the area is more desolate and there isno phone service or infrastructure to supportmajor developments yet. However,she said that she expects that area of thecountry to continue developing over thenext few years.Commercial property sales are also strong along the Pacific zone. Not only are big companiesdeveloping massive complexes, but small hotelsranging from four to 12 rooms are in demand.“People are buying older hotels and upgrading them,”Olson said. “Whatever we market does very well.”IMPROVED clarity regarding Maritime Zone constructionhas helped investors who want to buy propertyclose to the water. Costa Rican law prevents constructionof private homes with 250 meters or two city blocksof the water line at high tide. However, Goulet, whosecompany specializes in the sale of Maritime Zone properties,said that the law is clearer and enforcement betterorganized so purchasers are not in as serious a danger oflosing their property as they might have been in the past.However, Goulet warns potential investors to be cautiouswhen looking for property.“It’s pretty secure now, but a lot depends on the peopleyou deal with,” she warned. “I try to warn peoplethat buying property here is not like buying in the UnitedStates. People need to keep an eye on their property andhave a lawyer check the registry at least twice a year.”Squatters are seldom a problem along the coastline,however some communities can try to take private landto establish an ecological corridor, she said.“You need to get legal advice that you can trust,”Goulet added.IN San José, realtors say the market is also veryactive and increasing in value.“Among the upscale properties there is a big-timetrend,” said Les Nunez, president of Remax First Realtyin the Sabana area. “Any time an economy starts to pickup, the commercial real estate market leads the way.Then, that market pulls up the residential market.”Currently, Nunez reports a lot of construction ofcommercial property, such as small to medium sizedshopping malls.“This is happening especially in the area that we callthe golden triangle, Santa Ana, Escazú, Rohrmoser andCariari.”Nunez described real estate activity on the west sideof San José as very hot while that on the east side in areassuch as San Francisco de Dos Ríos as “chugging along.”“The west side is on fire while the east side is coolingdown,” he said.NUNEZ attributes some of the growth to the influx ofinvestors from Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina whoare building commercial centers and buying houses.“That’s not all drug money either,” he said. “Most ofit is legitimate investment. There has been an influx ofLatin Americans buying property.”Nunez and Henderson have seen a shift in buyingand renting patterns among landlords and clients.“There isn’t an oversupply,” Nunez said. “But thelines have shifted.”He described many buyers as downsizing theirdesires and moving when their lease is up from $2,000 amonth apartments to those costing as low as $800-900per month.In addition, landlords are lowering their expectations.“A three bedroom condo that cost $1,500 a month ina gated community a few years ago is going for $1,200now,” he said.HENDERSON has seen the slide in condo prices inthe San José area as well, some dropping as low as$150,000 from a previous selling price of $500,000.“It’s a strong buyer’s market right now,” Nunez said.“There is a lot of inventory and the supply is bigger thanthe demand.”But, Nunez cautioned, there are some pockets wheresellers are getting their asking price.Starting with a reputable real estate agent is a key tothe successful purchase of a property.“Every taxi driver here is a real estate broker,”Henderson warned. “Make sure your agent is a memberof the Costa Rican Board of Realtors and that he or shehas been here for a while and is reputable.”Goulet agreed.“There isn’t a lot of licensing here and some peoplewill say anything.”

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