Rent Before You Buy
When planning a move to Costa Rica, try and budget at least six months to rent in various locations. You’re already familiar with many considerations – ambiance, cost of living, and proximity to town – but Costa Rica is a world unto itself in many ways, some of which may not occur to a recent arrival. Renting will allow you to test-drive one or more areas, improving your chances of residential bliss.
The country is dotted with microclimates – small, regional weather pockets that can vary from mile to mile. While a town may have a reputation for being ideally temperate, certain sections may experience heavier rainfall or fluctuating temperatures. If possible, stay at least a week or two during the dry (December-April) and green seasons (May-November) to get a feel for a region’s weather fluctuations.
Services & Amenities
Depending on your location, it can be difficult to contract certain amenities. For example, if the home in question does not have a land line, be aware that it could more than a year to obtain one. If there is no high-speed Internet or cable TV connected, it may not be available at all. Make sure to ask questions regarding services important to you, and when in doubt, call the utility company.
Many Costa Rican homes are situated just a few feet back from narrow streets, so neighborhood hustle and bustle may be more noticeable. Furthermore, Costa Rican culture is not the same as your own, and your neighbors may not observe the same customs as back home. It’s not uncommon for motorcycles to fly by at 1 a.m. or the next-door neighbor’s dogs to howl all night.
By default, Costa Rican rental contracts last three years. Luckily, the law favors the tenant, so you can leave at any time; the only penalty for an early departure may be forfeiting your security deposit, and that depends on the landlord. If you pay rent in U.S. dollars, it's illegal for your landlord to raise the rent during those three years. If you pay in Costa Rican colones, your landlord is permitted to raise the rent by as much as 15% per year.
Short-term and furnished rentals are your best bet if you’d like to travel the country and sample several possible relocation destinations. Scour classified ads for rentals termed “amueblado” (furnished), as these affordable homes usually come equipped with basic furnishings and inexpensive appliances.