Real Estate Shopping In Costa Rica

Lighthouse Animal Shelter - our first Costa Rica "Home."

We could not have made our move to Costa Rica as quickly as we did, without the innernets.

God Bless ARPANET and packet switching.

When shopping for real estate in Costa Rica, remember everybody and anybody can be a “real estate agent.”

OK, same is true in the United States, but in the U.S. at least there is something resembling sound business practices and ethics. Usually.

The National Association of Realtors in the U.S. is a real estate cartel – but members of the NAR and real estate agents at least pretend like they the best interest of one of the parties involved in a sale in mind. They have a published code of ethics.

In Costa Rica, you can be sure the agent has only one interest in mind — their own.

With that firmly implanted in our brains by everyone, the advice to anybody considering a move to Costa Rica is:

  • Rent.
  • Rent.
  • Rent.

So we bought a house.

We are still rebels. 🙂

Here’s our rationale. Every time we have moved, we have had a very short notice. Usually 30-45 days. Even though we were moving within the United States, looking for a home hundreds of miles from where we were living, it might as well have been an international move. Since most of our moving was before the innernets, this meant Nancy would trek to the “new town,” hook up with a real estate agent and visit 25 homes within five days.

When the internet first came on the scene, I told somebody I thought it would make it possible to purchase a home without ever having visited it. I still believe it.

The smart real estate agents post their listing with dozens of pictures. The really smart ones even  upload a video.

However, what no real estate agent shows you – Costa Rica or not – is the neighborhood. And that’s so silly. No matter what the “curb appeal” is for a home. If it’s next to a muffler shop or in a crappy neighborhood, we aren’t going to spend 4 minutes at the place. It will be a Stop-and-Next visit, wasting everybody’s time.

Costa Rica has plenty of lovely low priced homes. But as with every home purchase, buyers must be prepared to

  • compromise OR
  • spend a lot of time money and energy looking.

If you Google (TM) search Costa Rica MLS, there are just a tad over six million pages to look at. Google (TM) search Costa Rica real estate and there are 70 million pages. I’m just guessing, but I think since January, we have looked at all of them.

Once you have visited Costa Rica, it becomes so very obvious, why nearly everyone wants to locate in the Central Valley. It is just so darn convenient to everything. And scenic, and affordable, and did I mention the mountains?

The houses we looked at ranged from a cabin just a few hundred meters from a volcano to a beautiful home in the middle of a slum, to homes where we would be the only Gringos for many kilometers.

We had criteria for the kind of home we wanted.

Without the innernets, our time would have been spent blasting around the mountain sides of Costa Rica looking for real estate to buy without a clue as to what was around the next bend. Something that one of the experts actually recommends!

Farm Road in Costa Rica

While renting for months and spending days and days wandering around new towns looking  for  a place to buy, would make it adventure, it would be very frustrating, not to mention expensive,  Paying for a place to stay, renting car, phone, GPS, eating, and did I mention that gas is $5.35 a gallon, would get old quickly.

Oh, one more thing… nobody has an address in Costa Rica.

They name the streets (kinda), but they don’t number the dwellings or offices.

Our attorney’s office address is: Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica, 75 Mts Este de los Tribunales de Justicia. Atenas is the town, Alajuela is the province (like a county), 75 meters east of the Justice Center. And that’s a pretty straightforward address.

Google Maps is worthless.  At best, it gets you in the neighborhood, but of course, there is no Google Street View for a specific address, because there is no specific address.

Never mind the fact that there a dozen towns, wide spots, and provinces with the same names…

Shopping for real estate in Costa Rica is not for the faint-hearted. But it does prepare one for the culture shock that awaits living in a whole ‘nother world.


Part of a series of posts about retiring and moving to Costa Rica.

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