San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guanacaste: Costa Rica’s Real Estate Epicenter

INCREASING tourism traffic for asecond year, Liberia’s Daniel OduberInternational Airport, in Guanacaste’s capitalcity, continues to create fresh real estateinvestors out of visitors with a desireto get their money into land, property ordevelopments for fun or profit.Still not convinced? Last month, theProfessional Association of Engineers andArchitects (CFIA) announced that whileCosta Rica’s entire construction sectorexperienced 25% growth in 2004,Guanacaste weighed in at a whopping 76%growth.So, with the northwestern provincepopping like corn and leading localeTamarindo, on the north Pacific coast,moving toward primetime development,just where should eager financiers focustheir attention? What makes a spot hot?In Guanacaste, the answer is beach.Beach, beach, beach. A home on the beach.A view of the beach. Property near thebeach.Recent interviews with the area’s realtorsreveal that three new Guanacastebeach regions are going “ballistic,” a wordone realtor used repeatedly.SÁMARA, south of Tamarindo, is thenext hot spot, according to Juergen “Jogi”Gerner, owner of ABC Real Estate( About 30 minutesfrom the large municipality of Nicoya,Playa Sámara rests next to calm Pacificwaters with steep cliffs on the far side of ahorseshoe-shaped bay.Since its opening in April 2003, theTempisque Bridge across the Gulf ofNicoya has allowed more people easieraccess to both Sámara and its growingneighbor, Nosara.And there’s more good news: Sámara’sinfrastructure coincides appropriately withits residential expansion. Even without anactual town center, the burg has conveniencessuch as supermarkets, pharmacies,restaurants, stores, bars, nightclubs, hotels,schools and even a small airport withnational flights to and from San José.Gerner reports prices are still quite lowright now, relative to the rapid increasesother Guanacaste areas have experienced.“It’s like Tamarindo five years ago,” hesaid.He and associate Peter Marte, whooperates the Sámara office of ABC RealEstate, currently deal with lots and residentialproperties, and are working “to influencedevelopments and steer them in theright direction.”“It’s important to watch the protectedareas,” he added, “and there are manyclients and investors who care as well, andthey need to be supported.”CENTURY 21 Coastal Estates broker/agent Mark Price came to Guanacastesix years ago, “expressly to buy ocean viewproperty for investment purposes,”and ended up buying a lot in theCañafistula hills, on the road betweenTamarindo and the inland town ofVeintisiete de Abril. The beautiful privatevista was “reminiscent of my formerMalibu residence,” he said.This prophetic buy was based onPrice’s theory that “the future ofTamarindo real estate was all within a 15-minute radius.”Today, he is the administrator for theCentury 21 Coastal Estates Cañafistulaoffice (, in asmall town of about 40 people that is “pureGuanacaste.”This burgeoning neighborhood offeringpremium suburban living and oceanviews is drawing customers like moths tofire. First out the office’s teakwood door isthe company’s exclusive La Concha Verdeproject, but they also have other individualocean-view estate lots from two to 10acres, complete with water and powerready to go. Price says there is already amaster plan of each project, and that all lotsare “first-class,” even without condominiumsand apartments in the picture.“Cañafistula is a terrific place to live.”Price said. “(It’s) for people who wish toremain close, but not too close, to the freneticpace of Tamarindo and its obviousadvantages, such as being a prime center ofbusiness activity.“More and more people are looking forpeace and quiet – for a genuine ‘Guanacasteco’experience and lifestyle, insteadof being in a crowded town… but somepeople prefer Tamarindo; there’s somethingfor every type of client in the area.”TWO years ago, Larry Albright,owner/broker of Pacific Coast Realty( couldn’tgive away his Potrero Surfside beachfrontlots, north of Tamarindo, for $5,000.Since then, “all these lots have sold,and now you can’t buy one for $35,000,” he said from his Flamingo office, which has grown in eightyears to a 12-person staff that accommodates the demandof his mostly U.S. clientele. Albright says these visitorscome to vacation in Costa Rica, “fall in love with the beautyof the beach and the people, and want to get out of therat race… We hear the terrorism threat (in the UnitedStates) is also in the back of their minds.”A couple of projects “on fire” include Surfside Estates’oceanfront lots and north Potrero’s Pacific Heights, adevelopment of eight homes currently under constructionwith “magnificent mountain views.”Then there are the 14 hectares of beachfront PacificCoast Realty has listed for $50 a square meter (10.75 squarefeet) at Playa Prieta, further north. Currently, the propertyhas a complete master plan available for buyers, whichincludes 250 villas and condos in a $40 million project.“Playa Hermosa near Coco is also going berserk,”Albright added. “Homes went from $150,000 to $375,000in the last year, and we are building five spec homes thatare selling before we are even breaking ground. A friend ofmine from Tamarindo bought three properties in Hermosa,and they are now selling very well. This couldn’t happenlast year.”DEVELOPMENT in Tamarindo is still booming, withconstruction under way on three commercial centers. ABCReal Estate is handling the 4,400-square-foot, 52-storePlaza Tamarindo (TT, Feb. 25), whose first floor of retailshops has already sold out, with the second floor of officespace going on sale this month. Numerous condo projects,homes and more are under construction, and not one realtorinterviewed was willing to douse the fire that isTamarindo realty investment potential. Albright went so faras to term it “ballistic” still.“There are surely signs of functional obsolescence inboth Tamarindo and Flamingo,” Price added. “I mean oldand/or badly designed structures whose functionality hasbeen surpassed by newer, more modern ones that makemore sense to today’s buyers.“I anticipate the word ‘teardown’ will become a householdterm in Tamarindo as land prices continue to escalate.They are already trying to convert functionally obsoleteapartments in Flamingo into high-priced condo conversions.”“But,” Albright chimed in emphatically, “when theytell us who is getting the Flamingo Marina concession (seearticle on page S-15) – and I think that will be soon – theplace will go nuts in terms of buying and selling. Flamingowill be the hotspot in Costa Rica. The land prices will riseat an incredible rate.”

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