COMPETITION is stiff for beachcondominiums by the Pacific, as moreand more holidaymakers decide theywould like their own little slice of paradise.Costa Rica, with its year-roundwarm climate, stunning scenery andaffordable prices, is a very desirable destination.“The market’s gone crazy; I had anample supply of condos less than a yearago, and they’re all gone,” said LarryAlbright of Pacific Coast Realty (654-5050,www.costaricarealtor.com) in PlayaFlamingo, in the northwestern province ofGuanacaste. He added he would be buildingsome more in the near future.Real estate agents agree the highdemand for condominiums has caused ahike in land and construction prices, makingthe condominiums themselves more expensive. According to Albright, condominiumsthat cost $150,000 last year arenow starting at $250,000.“Prices have doubled in the last sevenmonths,” said Ron Douglas, manager ofSurfside Properties (654-5567, www.surfsidepropertiescostarica.com) in PlayaPotrero, near Flamingo. “We used to talkabout monthly price changes, now theyseem to change weekly.”According to Douglas, Potrero is a hotarea.“We’re underdeveloped here, it’s possibleto buy a condominium for half theprice of one somewhere more developed,such as Flamingo or Tamarindo,” he said.“People are realizing that, and we are continuallyselling out of condos.”Douglas is currently involved in a newproject for luxury condominiums startingat $325,000.REALTORS on the Guanacaste coastsay the expansion ofthe Liberia airport hasbeen a godsend.Numerous flightsarriving every dayhave made Costa Ricaa popular destinationfor visitors from theUnited States andCanada, because ofthe ease in gettinghere and the country’sproximity.According to real estateagents, retiringNorth Americansform the largest groupof buyers.“They’re the babyboomers,” said Tim Baker of FlamingoMarina Resort (654-4141, www.flamingomarina.com). “Many of these peoplehave made money and are ready to retire.Costa Rica has made its mark as a beautiful,safe place in which to do so.”He added that not as many Europeansas he had expected were buying houses,but put it down to the smaller volume offlights to Liberia from Europe, comparedto North America.Baker is working on a new projectcalled Residencias Oceánicas, luxury,Spanish-colonial style condominiumsstarting at $275,000 for pre-constructionprices.SO what are people looking for whenthey buy a condominium in Costa Rica?“Air conditioning is the most importantthing!” laughed Melissa Vega of NativaResort (625-8054, www.nativaresort.com),near Jacó, on the central Pacific coast. “Butseriously, the view is very important, andoften a swimming pool.”Nativa Resort is also in the process ofbuilding new condominiums that will sellstarting at $195,000.SECURITY is also an importantissue, according to the realtors. It’s worthremembering that while buying inside aresort could cost you more money, goodsecurity can make it worthwhile, especiallyfor those who only intend to vacationthere. The rest of the time, the resort canmanage the rentals, capitalizing on theirbrand name to fill the units as often aspossible.At the same time, most real-estateagencies offer property management services.The demand for beach condo rentalis high.“We aren’t renting anymore this year,”said Ronald Umaño ofColdwell Banker(670-0805, www.coldwellbankercr.com) inPlayas del Coco. “Weare overbooked withpeople wanting torent and buy condos.”Umaño added theystill have some condominiumsselling at$64,000 for 80 squaremeters, just a shortdistance away fromthe beach.JACÓ has theadvantage of beingthe closest beach toSan José. According to Ron Buchannon,owner of Pacific Rover Real Estate (643-1598, www.rovecostarica.com), priceshave skyrocketed recently, and thechanges get bigger every year.“There are more people now, andthere’s less available. There is such ademand that it’s hard to find adequatebeachfront living these days,” Buchannonsaid. He also pointed out that the retireesare younger, adding that most of hisclients are from California, New York andFlorida.“It’s cheaper for them to come downhere and get a good deal for their money,rather than try to buy something inMiami, where the prices are sky-high,”Buchannon said.He is also planning a new project inJacó called Macaw’s Ocean Club, a complexof 35 new condominiums.