U.S. Bank Offering Mortgages in Costa Rica

February 1, 2008
Home loans just got easier for U.S. citizens. An FDIC-insured U.S. bank is offering 30-year mortgages to U.S. citizens and residents who want to buy a house or refinance existing mortgages.
Ernesto Garuolis, one of the 12 brokers in Costa Rica authorized to offer the loans, said pre-approval can be obtained within 48 hours, with the formal approval process taking about 30 days.
“We make it much faster” than national banks, Garuolis said. The full terms of the loans have yet to be determined, but Garuolis said they will likely be almost identical to the mortgages he currently brokers to borrowers in Panama through his company Mortgage International Brokers.
The minimum loan is $150,000, and loans come with one, three, five and seven years of fixed rates. Interest rates can vary no more than 2.5% annually, with a maximum upward variation at 6% over the life of the loan.
Customers can borrow up to 75% of the property value, or up to 70% if the property is worth more than $500,000. The mortgages can apply to the purchase of a single-family home, a condo, or a two- to four- family property, as well as to a townhouse or condo hotel.
Since it is illegal for foreign banks operating in Costa Rica (so-called “suitcase banks”) to advertise, the bank did not want its name revealed, though The Tico Times has confirmed that it is a U.S. bank offering the loans.
As with any mortgage, the bank places a lien on the property as collateral and takes possession of it upon default, even though it’s in a foreign country.
Garuolis said the mortgages come with the additional perk that, once set up, borrowers deal directly with customer service departments in the United States.
The mortgages are available only to U.S. citizens and legal residents with Social Security numbers.
 
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