THE fall began more than two yearsago with the collapse of several high-interest-paying investment companies, includingthe famous – or infamous, to some –Villalobos Brothers, realtors say.As the companies closed down or wereshut down by authorities, many foreignersfound themselves without the savings thathad allowed them to live in 3,000-squarefoothomes with swimming pools, overlookinggolf courses in gated communities.They were forced to move out of their$3,000-a-month digs into more affordablehousing.And when the bottom dropped, rentswere not far behind. Prices fell 30-50%,according to Eddie Fridovich of Aliter Corporation(289-4200, www.alitercorp.com).Several years later, prices have stabilizedbut remain 25-33% lower than theywere three years ago, he said.PRICES began to stabilize lastSeptember, agreed Les Nunez of RE/MAXFirst Realty (290-3183, www.remax-firstcr.com). And because construction of luxurycondominiums continues, there is littlesign of them rising again, he added.A 3,000-square-foot home or condominiumin the western suburb of Escazú orSanta Ana, southwest of the capital, in agated community such as Valle del Sol orVilla Real, can be had for $2,000 a month,according to Nunez. Homes that rented for$2,500 when the rental boom was going onnow rent for $1,500, he added.THE rest of the rental market has notseen such a shift.A 2,000-square-foot home in Escazúrents for approximately $1,200, Nunezsaid. Fridovich agrees that a fully furnished,two-bedroom townhouse in Escazúcan be found for $900-1,100.Meanwhile, rental prices for “entry-levelhousing,” which Nunez classifies astwo to three bedrooms for $700-800 amonth, are steadily increasing.More people are looking for lessexpensive rentals, while developers havebeen more focused on building luxuryhousing; therefore supply is limited, heexplained.However, he added, deals can befound, particularly in Heredia, north of SanJosé. For example, in Lagunilla deHeredia, Nunez was offering clients 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom condos, in asecure complex, for $550. Prices in thisrange and up can be found in Rohrmoser,west of San José, and La Sabana, he said.Fridovich pointed to the areas of Alajuela, northwest of San José,Heredia and Orotina, west of the capital,for more affordable, older homes. Athree- to five-bedroom house of approximately3,000 square feet will rent for$600-700, he said, whereas in Escazú ahome of similar size would cost closerto $3,000.A glance through the classified sectionof The Tico Times or the daily LaNación reveals homes at all price ranges,starting at $300 a month.DEVELOPERS may start buildingmore housing in the lower range, Nunezsaid, instead of the high-end condominiumsthat have come to characterizeEscazú.However, many developers havealready made land acquisitions at highprices, and must follow through withtheir high-end plans.“Those who have had land for awhilecan now build a more acceptable product,”Nunez said. “In Lomas San Rafael(in Escazú), there is a developer thatacquired the land a while ago, and now ison phase three and four of the development,so he can scale things back a bitand offer some excellent pricing.”GENERALLY speaking, furnishedunits run $200-300 a month more thanunfurnished ones.“Furnished is a very subjective wordhere. It could mean it has light fixtures orit has appliances or it has appliances plusfurniture,” Nunez said.Beyond clarifying what is meant byfurnished, Fridovich suggests renters aska lot of questions.“Make sure it has Internet, cable,find out who pays the water bills, andmake sure they can actually deliver thebill,” he said.BEACH rentals have not seen thesame fluctuation in rental prices, accordingto Tomas Ghormley, owner ofCentury 21 in Jacó, on the central Pacificcoast (654-3356, www.c21jaco.com).Properties are rented primarily toNorth Americans who come to CostaRica for the three to six months of thenorthern winter.A nice one- to two- bedroom condoon the beach in a complex with a poolstarts at $1,500 a month, Ghormley said.Moving a few blocks from the beachmeans a one-bedroom apartment can befound for $500 a month.Almost all beach rental propertiescome completely furnished, and somecome with maid service. Higher-endmonthly rentals can also be found inhotel or condominium resorts, whichoffer all the comforts of a home alongwith the restaurants, bars and amenitiesof a hotel, Ghormley said.Beach rentals in Guanacaste rangefrom $1,000-10,000, he said.