On buying land in Costa Rica… Our story.

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    First I would like to say I think Scott wrote a very balanced and informative article on buying land in CR. And along with Martins the buyer gets some common sense guidance in purchasing land in a development. I thought I would ad some of my particular views as a person who purchased land from more or less this type of operation.

    I am not sure if the company we bought from blasts out millions of e mails as I never received one, I found them through an ad in the Tico Times in late 2004. I was staying in Play Hermosa de Jaco at the time and was looking for property, I know a lot of people in the area. The owner of our hotel( a friend) introduced me a few Ticos who were helping us out I also new and surfed with the guys who did the project Martin mentions but prices were to expensive at the time $100k for 5000mk ocean view with a building pad, concrete roads and electric/water to property.

    Other lots of around 300 to 500 m2 were far and few between and the ones a Tico were selling were approx. $50k, these were off of Calle Hermosa a small dirt road just off the Costanera with a bunch of Gringo owned homes. There is also a developed neighborhood of small lots, dirt roads and a variety of homes called Opera Salvaje where resales homes start at about $250k. There are also a number of homes in the hills overlooking Hermosa but again they start at approx. $250k and we worried about security in such an isolated area.

    It was tricky finding an affordable piece of land and there was know “boom” happening yet, just a healthy appetite for land around Hermosa. We came close to signing in a new project call Hills of Esterillo where we could get a 400-500m2 lot and they have to build the home starting at approx. $100k all in. The builder had completed a project in Bejuco, although some problems existed he followed through.

    Problem was the houses are really close together we wanted more privacy but would have bought if we did not see the ad for the Heights. They advertised 5000m2 at US $6 perM2 we thought it was a misprint at first and figured they were selling 500m2 lots for $30k. We called up and an agent met us the next day at our hotel in Hermosa, let me say if there was a stereo type for a slick salesman this guy was it! I just wanted the facts and show us the property!

    We drove up a dirt road approx. 3km’s south of Hermosa proper then approx.1.5km’s up a dirt road to the entrance of a “finca” with a few hundred cattle roaming around. He had a plot map and we drove in a little but nothing was really marked out yet. So we had to just approximate where the lot we wanted was. So there we are in a cattle pasture in CR with a salesman who looks like a dead ringer for Wayne Newton and without putting any money down I signed a contract Knee deep in cow shi* as it were.

    Now I get back to NYC and I was told I should wire half the price to hold the property I must say all I got was one follow up call and by this time I really did like our sales person. The money was going to Stewart and a portion of it would be released to Wellington when they exercised there option to buy the land and then more as they fulfilled there end of the bargain.

    They were promising paved roads,gatehouse water and electric to each lot. Now for a little reality check, a friend who was also considering buying came across an article on the company on WLCR.com (since removed) and sent it to me…lets just say I panicked! But what that article did was give me a wake up call and I then did as much research as I could I spoke with there attorney(and checked into there reputation), spoke with the builder who was going to do the infrastructure(checked him out too) and spoke with Stewart title and was assured by them if I wanted my money back I could call them, I did not have to go through the company.

    Ok still this could be perceived as being risky, but my funds were limited and this property really fit the bill so I continued with the deal. The company was great all through the process so were there attorneys who were always willing to speak to me and on the next trip down two months later I met with there attorney as well as went to the company’s office and I must say there were all very very nice, helpful etc…

    Set up a taxi for a friend to get her from San Jose to Hermosa, then our sales guy and his wife and two kids all hung out in Jaco socially, I also got to meet the principle of the company I really felt beyond all the checking I did these guys wanted to do this project right.

    Well like many of these projects in CR they ran into some problems with permits etc..but through weekly e mails we were kept informed. Finally they started to build the gate then about 5 months later they started on the roads and infrastructure and again we were sent weekly progress repors as well they kept everyone up to date on there web site. I believe because of WLCR.com they really dotted there i’s and crossed there t’s and have posted copies of permits as well as pictures of construction and even the title information to each lot on there web site! Well they were about 10 months over schedule but I am happy to say the project is complete and looks great!!

    Now to address the issue of the merit of buying land, we bought to own long term with no idea if this would be a good/great investment. But with the way things are here in the US we thought it was a good plan “b” and a place to live in the future. Regardless we love the country and have been spending 6-8 weeks there a year for about 5 years.

    I don’t know how many people are going to build homes or in what time frame but time will tell. We have a great builder whom is a friend and we have seen many of his projects so we do have someone to handle this for us that we trust. I know there is a Condo project being built near the entrance and based on conversations with a few architects associated with the project there are a number of people set to build.

    I think in the next 5-10 years there probably will be more of a market for land but I don’t have a crystal ball. I agree with Scott and Martin that you would have to be nuts to buy land anywhere from an email spam, trade show etc without any real knowledge of the country or at least having been there!

    In hindsight maybe we should have bought ocean view since according to Martin 5000M2 in Hermosa with the ocean view is going for $345K!!!!!!! We could have bought for $70k…oh well.

    But our decision was practical as we wanted to build, don’t want any loans and knew the cost to build on a ocean view lot with out the road up to the pad would be at least 25-35% more expensive. So if you are buying to flip a lot you may be out of luck in the short term and besides just buying ocean view I think you should carefully choose a top location!! You know the saying!! Anyway you slice it WE LOVE COSTA RICA!!


    A recent article at this site pointed out that is better to spend more of a budget on the land than on the house when looking at beach properties. That has to be because the ocean view and ocean frontage lots are pretty highly priced to begin with. I am wondering, though, if this principal of CR real estate investment applies to land in the Central Valley well outside of the San Jose area, The land there is so much cheaper that a good piece of property can be had for well under the cost of a North American style house. I paid under $5 a sq mt over a year ago for 12000 sq mtrs with a large flat area for building, a river and a stream and three waterfalls, electricity and city water within 70 meters of the build site. I intend to build a house there for quite a bit more than the land cost but I did not go into this with a flip in mind, It is not an investment.


    Where is your property located? How far outside San Jose?


    It is located between Palmares and Naranjo, (Canton Naranjo) to the east of San Ramon with a boundry on the Rio Grande. It takes me about 35 minutes to get to Juan Santamaria airport and another 30 minutes on top of that to San Jose.
    I originally contemplated buying on the Pacific coast. I currently live in Miami so am familair with heat and humidity. But after visiting Quepos, I decided that I much preferred the cooler mountains of the Central Valley. I wonder how many north americans really consider the negatives of living at sea level in the tropics. It is OK for the occasional vacation at the beach, but living with heat, humidity and bugs 24/7 for years is another matter.

    Edited on Sep 03, 2007 14:28


    While it is true that some people do not consider the negatives to living on the coast,in my experience for the majority though it comes down to “different strokes for different folks”. The majority of the people we know have the attitude “the positives outweigh the negatives”. We love living at the beach and accept the negatives. We like being able to walk out our front door and walk a 100 meters to the beach and take morning walks along a jungle lined coast line. We don’t want to be anywhere else. The people that make an impulse decision on moving to Costa Rica after spending a couple of weeks vacation at the beach in a house or hotel where they are not concerned with the maintenance required when living on the coast full time are part of the statistics of people that go back to their home country within the first two years because they can not make the adjustments to a climate or culture they are not used to..


    The short walk to the ocean would be the biggest plus of course. I am an avid sea kayaker and enjoy the benefit of being within a 20 minute drive from my Miami home to the ocean. From my Central Valley home site, however, I estimate an hour and a half to a suitable spot for ocean kayaking. That is a time consumer and I envy you your ability to take the heat and humidity in stride as well as the additional energy costs to air condition your home. The rewards to living so close the the sea are tremendous, I am sure.
    So many real estate sites tout the joys of living near the sea and it seems that most of the real estate boom has happened or is still happening along the coast. Prices reflect that. I suspect most north americans who have lived in frigid climates look at the heat as a welcome change. I also suspect most of them would be unable to stand it all the time. Staying indoors with the air conditioner running is not what they may have dreamed about.


    The climate is a huge factor for a lot of people. When we remodeled our house we had budget in mind and had no intention of putting AC in the entire house. We have smaller room ac units in the two bedrooms and rarely use them. A lot may be attitude, but your body does adjust to a certain extent. I agree though that many people end up staying cooped up in their air conditioned condo or home and perhaps that adds to the frustration that causes a lot of people to pack up and head back home. I grew up in Ohio where the humidity can be pretty intense during the summer months, but my wife grew up in California where there is basically no humidity. That was my big concern if she would adjust. She will tell you though, she has adjusted as much as you can and still agrees she would not want to live anywhere else.


    I also grew up in Ohio, (Columbus-Westerville) and what I remember most about THAT place was the intense cold and gray skies. We would have a few months of summer heat but that was it. Florida’s climate, even with the heat and humidity is superior to that of Ohio. I would choose Costa Rica coastal heat over Ohio’s frigid weather any day. But after being exposed to the perfect climate of the Central Valley, I was duly impressed. Eternal spring
    is good especially when it is just a short drive to the coast and eternal summer.

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