The grass may always seem greener on the other side, but when it comes to real estate, Costa Rica might just be the “other side” the rest of the world is looking at.
Last year, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book ranked Costa Rica as one of five countries that stand “head and shoulders above all other nations worldwide in terms of the potential their real estate markets present property investors.” (The other four countries listed in the top five were Ghana, Malaysia, Qatar and Turkey.) The book also listed Costa Rica as a “Central American success story,” because the Costa Rican government has successfully established an “economically and politically stable country in which more overseas investors are focusing their financial interests.”
Industry professionals say Costa Rica is competing internationally as prime real estate and is in for a boom with overseas investors for approximately the next 10 to 15 years. The boom is already well under way, according to Les Nunez of First Realty Pacific Beach Properties, based in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
“Without a doubt, it’s already happening,” Nunez told The Tico Times.
Within the world market for beachfront property, Costa Rica is still relatively inexpensive, according to Nunez.He says beachfront property on the southeast coast of Florida, in the United States, costs double and sometimes triple its Costa Rican equivalent, and that Costa Rican beach real estate is far less expensive than in other popular tropical destinations such as areas of Thailand.
“Prices in tourist areas such as Phuket (Thailand) are far higher per square meter,” Nunez said, adding that Asia in general is more expensive than Costa Rica.
“Costa Rica is also less expensive than many places in Europe, such as the Greek Isles, Spain and France,” he added.
Closer to home, however, Costa Rica remains the most expensive Central American nation for real estate, when it comes to properties such as those on the PacificCoast, according to Nunez.
Karen Ebanks of Karen Real Estate said that Costa Rica is booming, flights are full and that she is flooded with phone calls and e-mails.
“I wish I had a twin me to do the work,” Ebanks said. “The Florida market has been sinking; I understand other areas in the United States and Canada have been slowing down, so in my opinion, we are on a strong upswing. Life is good.”
She added that many developers from North America are investing here in beach areas and predicts prosperous times ahead for Costa Rica.
“The Central Pacific, especially Jacó, is growing quickly … I do believe we should have a good year in the office, and business has increased the last few years.”
Longtime Costa Rican resident and author Chris Howard claims that what draws people to Costa Rica is the political stability.
“The country never experienced the ravages and exploitation visited upon other countries in Latin America by the Spanish conquistadors,” he said, adding that a stable infrastructure attracts would-be expatriates from around the world.
Russell Martin of American-European Real Estate said one of the reasons Costa Rica has become such a popular destination is that the baby boomers’ retirement years are coming up, and many of them, especially North Americans, are eyeing a slice of heaven on the coast.
“There has been an increase in the last few years, and it’s coming up to a good time,” he said. “Many people are looking at retiring, and beachfronts in the United States, for example in Florida, have become too expensive.”
Martin says the attraction to Costa Rica, rather than Nicaragua, Panama or other Central American locations, is the pre-established infrastructure.
“Costa Rica has been an attraction for foreigners since the 1980s; it has established clubs, support groups, things like the Little Theatre Group. All that is very attractive when you are moving to a new place,” he said.
Martin also says that time-zone comparability with the United States,with a difference of only an hour or two, helps draw a crowd.
“Call centers that need to ring the United States love it here, and the connections are good too,” he noted.