San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beachfront Property Up, National Market Down

REAL-estate insiders agree coastalproperties are in and should continue tosell well this year, but other trends in thebusiness are not so easily defined or necessarilypromising.“The last six months have beenextremely positive in terms of the inflow ofinvestment, especially U.S. investment inthe coastal market. It has grown immensely,and I foresee it growing like that for atleast the rest of 2005,” said AlejandroAntillón, general manager of StewartTitle’s Costa Rica branch (258-5600, Antillón lists location; accessibilityby air with frequent flights, whichmakes investment easier and more affordable;Costa Rican friendliness toward NorthAmericans, which is “not something youfind easily in the rest of the world,” he said;and “Americanized” services with qualitycomparable to that in the United States.IN terms of prices, “it is still veryaffordable when you compare it to theCaribbean or Mexico. Also, it is a beautifulcountry and the beaches are just gorgeous.”“Now, Costa Rica is ‘in.’” he added.“There’s a lot of talk about the country. Iwould say that this year will be extremelyprofitable for the market. It’s amazing thenumber of new projects being developed,especially on the northern Pacific coast.“It’s also important to point out that inMexico, for example, foreigners can’t buysome beach properties, but in Costa Rica,the Constitution gives foreigners the samerights to own private property (not landconcessions) as locals.”Foreigners look for a land title guarantee,Antillón said, which gives them peaceof mind and is a factor that won’t changethis year. On the contrary, the local markethas taken a page from the foreigninvestors’ book and started to pay attentionto the value of titles.BUT, he warns, “everything goodbrings something bad,” and all this investmenthas pushed up the prices. So, forCosta Ricans, it is difficult to buy propertyin the areas on foreigners’ investmentradars unless they are wealthy.“For the rest of the real-estate market,including the (national) portion of it, Iwould say the forecast is not that promising,”he said.The San José market is “reacting veryslowly,” he said. “Interest rates are goingup, locals are a little bit nervous about whatis going to happen with the economy ofthis country and the world, oil prices aregoing up, and there is uncertainty aboutfinancial markets. I would say this yearwill be hard for local developers and thelocal market.”He stressed that without increasedattention on improving roads and otherinfrastructure, the country could see adecline in the next 5-10 years.“BUT coastal projects are blooming,”Antillón said.For example, Hacienda Pinilla, 300hectares of lots, homes and condominiumson the northern Pacific coast, has seen ajump in sales since last year, especially inthe last four to five months, he said. Also,Los Sueños condominiums and homes,near Jacó on the central Pacific coast, is the“single most successful project in thecountry,” he said, and should continue tobe so. The Four Seasons in Guanacaste hasattracted a lot of attention as well. Thesethree make up some of the biggest projectsin the market. In San José, most of the offers are inthe west.“The prices are very high at themoment, but I predict they will start comingdown because the market is really notthat good right now, and as interest rates goup, prices will have to come down to keepup with demand,” he said.OTHER insiders say business hasnever been rosier and gets better everyyear. Tom Roucek is one of those. Ownerof the Costa Rican Realty Group (291-4437,,Roucek said he expects a “banner year”after years of “tremendous increases” insales. The group sells a variety of properties,including commercial and residential,beachfront, mountain and farms,among others.Seventy to 80% of the group’s beachproperty sales are to foreigners, Rouceksaid. Other sales include grazing land andplantations, in which the company has hadsuccess in dealing.“If you drive around Costa Rica withyour eyes open, wherever you go you’ll seeconstruction. The country’s in a phase oftremendous growth. It’s the Hawaii of themillennium. So you can have the best ofboth worlds, a wonderful place to retire andat the same time a tremendous investmentfor your children’s future,” Roucek said.IN the Central Valley, Brad Butler, coownerof Emerald Forest Properties (267-6360,,sees a migration toward Heredia, northwestof San José. His company has one ofits central offices there and sells propertiesaround the country.“We have clients in Escazú (west ofSan José) selling their homes and movinghere. Why? Less traffic, less pollution andthey feel safer,” he said.Homes in walled and gated communitiesare hot now, he said, many starting at$350,000.BOTH Butler and Roucek shared twoopinions about buyer confidence and arecent influx of North Americans.The wave of arrests of public officials,including two ex-Presidents, for corruptionallegations last year has boosted confidencein foreign buyers. Roucek andButler have both heard clients mentionthey feel good about the government cleaninghouse, and feel like the government istaking a stand and will protect investorsand tourists alike.And both have heard comments fromthe glut of U.S. citizens looking for propertyhere that they are either escaping asecond U.S. President George W. Bushterm, or the threat of terrorism makes themfeel insecure in their country.Roucek echoed Antillón’s reasons forCosta Rica’s popularity among NorthAmericans, saying, “The climate is wonderful,the government is relatively stable,and the people are friendly, and visitorsare taken aback by that friendlinessbecause that’s not always the case in therest of the world.”

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