Buying a home in Costa Rica: How do I start?

December 26, 2014

 

Costa Rica remains one of the world’s most attractive destinations for tourists and residential investors. A first vacation often plants the mental seed about investing in the future. Subsequent visits can turn early dreams into action plans, and once committed to an exploration, the natural question is, “How do I start?”

‘Vacation first, invest later’

Thanks to the Internet, virtually anyone can look for property anywhere on the planet without ever leaving home. If you have yet to visit Costa Rica, it is important to remember that nothing can compare with physically experiencing a location, and focusing on a few options seen online can keep you from discovering what may truly be the best choice for you. In the case of Costa Rica, where so much of the country is appealing and the different experiences can offer subtle variations, it is important to find the area you like first, and then look for the specific properties that fit your personal tastes. Vacation first and invest later.

Finding your realtor

Trained real estate professionals are ready to help you in Costa Rica. The law does not require them to take training classes, to abide by internationally recognized professional standards of practice, to belong to any associations of their peers, or submit their listings to the rules of professional websites – but reliable realtors do. You wouldn’t risk a real estate purchase with a cab driver, surfing instructor, or a tour guide in your home country, so why would you in Costa Rica? Look first for members of the Costa Rica Global Association of REALTORS (CRGAR) or the Cámara Costariccense de Corredores de Bienes Raices (CCCBR).

Finding your lawyer

Costa Rica has an evolved legal system based on the long Napoleonic tradition of Spain and France. Attorneys are members of a colegio, or bar association, and are legally licensed by the government. As you might expect, the most qualified real estate professionals work with the most qualified attorneys, and can recommend them. They will be the professional who completes the due diligence research on any property and will be your best protection against an improper transaction. Your attorney should be able to converse with you in your own language, offering certified translations of important documents as necessary.

Finding your property manager

The challenges of ownership and occupancy begin before the closing of the purchase. Anticipating your needs for property management, rental marketing, possible association participation, insurance coverage, and income tax preparation are all an important part of the purchase decision process. Unless you plan to handle all of these potential ownership challenges yourself, you will need to engage a professional integrated property management company. Ease of communication is key, and one of the most important selection criteria should be the company’s commitment to technology, Internet services, and the secure, global accessibility of your accounts with them.

Living the dream

The dream that set you off on your quest in Costa Rica should be your reality at the end of your purchase and occupancy processes. It takes a lot of time and effort to manifest a dream in a new country. However, if you have taken the time to find the right location, invested effort in finding the right assistance, and listened to their advice, you will drastically improve your chances of living the dream.

Allen Lungo is an 11-year resident of Costa Rica, founder of the Summerland Group, which includes Costa Rica Real Estate Store, Vacation Rentals of Tamarindo, and Summerland Property Management. He currently serves as president of the Costa Rica Global Association of REALTORS (CRGAR).

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