Local Real Estate Market
Do your Research
Every town and neighborhood in Costa Rica has its own flavor, and it's important to determine if the area fits your lifestyle. Speak with fellow expats and homeowners. Talk with your real estate agent about the neighborhood, and address issues important to you. Are there a lot of foreigners in the area? Is it a buyer's or seller's market? What is the average home selling price? Does the home in question have high resale potential?
Costa Rica's real estate inventory is much smaller than that of the U.S. or Canada. In each neighborhood, there may be only a few homes on the market that meet your criteria or budget, so your search may take several months.
Real Estate Measurements
Home and lot sizes in Costa Rica are often given in square meters or hectares. 1 square meter = 10.76 square feet. One hectare = 10,000 square meters = 2.47 acres = 107,600 square feet.
Land Equals Security
Historically, land has been a very solid investment in Costa Rica and is therefore highly valued. In general, suburban homes sit on small lots – usually 1,600-3,300 square feet. Expect to pay $50+ per square meter plus the value of the home on lots less than 2,000 square meters, or $35+ per square meter for larger lots. Land in more rural areas is often a great deal.
Work with a Real Estate Agent
There is no central multiple listing service (MLS) in Costa Rica, so it can be difficult to conduct a thorough home search on your own. Your real estate agent will be an excellent resource for statistics like average time on market, recent selling prices, asking price negotiability, and more. Ask for agent recommendations from friends or fellow homebuyers in your budget range, and always choose an agent who is bilingual in Spanish and your native language.
Buyer vs. Sellers Agents
Currently, there is no licensing for real estate agents in Costa Rica, and agents are free to represent both the buyer and seller in a transaction. In fact, this is standard practice. If you're concerned about a conflict of interest – if your agent were to represent both you and the home seller – then find an agent who is willing to work purely as a buyer's agent. Even if he or she lists a property that interests you, there is no listing exclusivity in Costa Rica, so sellers list with multiple agents.
Costa Rican vs. American Homes
As you browse property listings, you may see references to American or Costa Rican homes. These labels usually refer to basic construction principles, though it's always best to clarify any details with the listing agent.
- Costa Rican (Tico) Construction: Typically, Costa Rican-style homes have no central hot water; faucets supply cold water, and showers are on-demand only. Bathtubs are uncommon. These homes also have narrow piping and small septic tanks, so you may not be able to flush toilet paper. Few or no electrical outlets are grounded. Costa Rican homes have no dishwasher, and semi-automatic washing machines are standard. Most have bars on the windows and ceramic tile throughout. In some cases, houses may share a common wall, or there may be very little space between neighboring houses.
- American Construction: American-style homes have hot water tanks or on-demand heaters to supply the entire home with hot water. They're built with wider pipes and larger septic tanks. Some or all outlets are grounded, and the electrical system is capable of supporting household appliances such as dishwashers, automatic washing machines and dryers. Air-conditioning is common in coastal areas, and American homes will have upscale finishes like granite countertops and hardwood built-ins. You'll find more precise details, like perfectly smooth drywall, and may find a combination of ceramic tiles and hardwood flooring throughout the home.