Real estate nightmares in Costa Rica?

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    I’ve seem to have missed the whole point of your message. How much SHOULD it cost to build a house to gringo standards? I didn’t just hire some guy off the street — he is a certified contractor; I used a well-known architect; I have building permits and there were inspections. Now how is that different than the US? And how is my septic tank not up to regulations? I saw the plans; I know how it was constructed. You assume I haven’t been there — I’ve been there 5 times this year and watched what they were building. I get regular updates from the contractor and now that the house is 90% completed, I am going down for a month to do the finish work. Rather than telling me how I was told what I want to hear about building costs, why don’t you share how you were ripped off? I’ll never feel ripped off building the house I did with the people I used for the money it cost me. You couldn’t buy an outhouse in my neighborhood for what I paid for a luxury home in Costa Rica. And no, I don’t believe that a Tico could’ve built my house for $10,000. When I hear about people paying $100 a sq foot to build in other parts of CR, I think THOSE people are getting ripped off, but I don’t think I was ripped off. And I am not the typical gringo — I’ve lived in other Third World countries. I know the customs. I’ll take my Tico-built home anyday over the schlock they slapping up here inthe States, the luxury homes where the dry wall is coming apart, the foundations that were done with second-rate cement, the sink holes that are appearing in driveways. So much for our laws! LOL


    And for which 85% does it not work for — the people who didn’t do their homework and paid $60 – $100 a sq foot to build? Trust me, you ain’t raining on MY parade, and I’m sorry if yours got soaked. Your statement about the prices jumping for Costa Ricans is completely contradictory to everything else you’ve said — basically, you’d said there is one price for Ticos and one price for Gringos, so how does ripping a gringo off raise the prices for a Tico? Makes no sense to me.


    “That is the problem we compare it to places in the US. Let me just say this, in Costa Rica the septic laws could not pass in the US, the electric laws would not pass the construction laws would not pass. You do not have streets nor sidewalks. No city council to govern or regulate communities.”

    I can’t help but disagree with your statements here. I have a state of the art electrical system and a house that is built to withstand an earthquake. As for the septic system, mine in Costa Rica is every bit as safe and to code as the one I have right now. YOu make it sound like they are just digging a big hole in the ground. I don’t have sidewalks where I live now and I live in the 6th richest county in America. And the “road” to my house isn’t paved once you’re off the main road, just like in Costa Rica. Most new suburbs in America have no sidewalks, and certainly given the expansive sprawl that is happening in this country, nobody’s regulating that here. I don’t mean to be rude, but I still haven’t figured out what you are trying to say — you make it seem that Tico builders are slapping up over-priced, non-regulated houses that will blow over in a windstorm. I’ve not found this to be the case at all. Do you have any construction background?


    No, you did not miss it but you still are taking it very personal. We were speaking and are speaking in general and not questioning your ability. Sure they get permits here, sure they have rules about stopping at stop signs but they do not do it. There is a difference because in the States you have some recourse.

    I can not speak for anyone else but my comments were not in saying that you did something silly or stupid. I believe I started with people that get off the airplane purchase property without checking all the resources. That apparently did not and does not apply to you.

    Why personalize, I think we are trying to help others from going wrong. By passing on information. Today in my home I had 5 people that are building a home in Costa Rica and each one has and is having a different experience.


    I have live here for 4 years and have seen many homes built and have had a lot of remodeling work done on my home. Since I run a business, there is hardly a day that goes by that we are not negotiating something in regards to supplies or repairs. My exposure to how businesses operate in Costa Rica is extensive. No one is trying to discourage you and as I said why take it personal.


    I didn’t take your comments personally at all. But I do think that some of what you say is a tad inaccurate.Frankly, I don’t know anyone who’s gotten ripped off and if people do get ripped off in Costa Rica, I’m inclined to think it’s their own stupidity that led them to that result. You should talk to some of the people in a community not far from me in the States whose $700,000 houses literally fell apart — they have NO recourse as the builder is out of state. To paint Costa Rica as this renegade construction operation and to extoll the virtues of building in the US is simply not accurate. There are rotten contractors here by the hundreds. And it is standard procedure for contractors here to make 20% off every nail, screw, board, etc. that goes into a house. THAT’S how they make their money, so if my contractor in CR gets a discount of 10% for paying cash and puts that 10% in his pocket, I say good on him!! To make some of the sweeping comments you have such as nothing built in Costa Rica would pass US regulations is simply, in a word, inaccurate. I would not want to frighten someone away from the experience of building in Costa Rica by having them think that it’s a disaster looking for a place to happen. Maybe my experience is out of the ordinary, but I don’t think so, as it is the same experience of many people I know who did their homework and who had good contractors and are perfectly happy with the results and would do it all over again exactly the same way if they could.


    You are right people have purchased land they have not even seen. It is very important to really check our beach property. Just recently we had a client that purchased beach property and she saw it but then was told that nothing could be built on it for several years because of some law they have governing development on that property.

    It is hard to explain some of the pitfalls in purchasing property unseen over here and sending money to people you only got in contact with on the internet. It is a setup for failure.

    I am almost believing that they must be telling people in the US that their is gold or oil on some of this land. People are acting like if they do not buy it they will lose out on a real investment opportunity. I live in Costa Rica and there is no way I would purchase land without seeing it and checking on the history of the land.

    There is a 5 year clause, most people that move here will want to go home within 5 years. So 5 years from now there will be a lot of homes for sale and a limited amount of buyers.

    My husband and I came during a boom time in Costa Rica during the investment 4% interest time. Everyone was getting 4% interest on their money. Then shortly after we were in Costa Rica for 4 months that high interest paying investment company went out of business and there were houses and land for sale at half price. Many of those homes were on the market for 4 years. They have recently been selling because of the new boom. In fact we purchased our home during that time. Sure glad we did.


    I’ve met some of the people to whom you are referring — the ones who fork over a sizeable chunk of cash for property they’ve never seen in a country they’ve never been to. When I asked one couple what would make them do something so foolish they told me they were afraid of losing out and that in 5 years they would never be able to afford CR. They’re being told it’s like Malibu in the 50’s. Nobody in their right mind would do such a think in the States, but as you said earlier, people go to Costa Rica and completely forget their common sense.


    I know an older couple who did that as well (and convinced 2 other couples to do the same–they wanted to all still be neighbors)…they looked up some companies on the web with flashy websites, lovely pics, and unfounded promises, with salesmen that make car salesmen look timid, who create that sense of urgency and ‘guarantee’ you can’t go wrong, and can get all your money back, buy now, worry about it later..blah blah blah….and believe that there is no way they can lose….easy for some people to really get sucked in unfortunately and in this case, the enthusiasm was infectious…couple one trusted couple 2’s judgment, and all three are trying to get their money back as promised!…if the sharks attack at the right time…they’re in! It’s really sad for everyone, especially for elderly people with a fixed income.


    We have to do our own homework, we have to make our own decisions and we have to live with those decisions.

    One can only imagine what sort of relationship those friends have now after going through that ordeal and yes! It’s always the most vulnerable that suffer the most.

    The scam artists here are not targetting the wealthy real estate investors are they? They are targetting Mr. & Mrs. Smith who have saved all their lives and now dream of having a little piece of paradise.

    Many of them are selling their homes in the USA and re-investing that money in what they think is their dream here and these scumbages are right there to offer ‘easy financing’ on ‘beach front properties’ with no title, roads or infrastructure but yes! Nice fluffy websites….

    And again, I would like to stress that 95% of the Costa Rica real estate scams I hear about are Americans ripping off other Americans so we can’t blame this on the Ticos….

    Scott – Founder


    Scott you are so right. Every day for the last year I have seen prices go up every time a new group gets off the plane. The property in my area has gone from 3,000 colones per sq meter to 20,000 in just a few months.

    It is sort of reflective of what happened to us in the US when we lived in Washington State. We moved to Olympia, Washingto right after the California earthquake. The people from California were moving into Washington, they had sold homes at record prices and came to Washington with cash in there hands. This drove the prices up, but after the flow of money subsided the prices dropped. We purchased our home during the upswing, we had no clue. We had been living in Europe for 10 years and did not know what was going on. We purchased the home and one year later the prices dropped. They just begin to recover 10 years later. Plus the area we moved in was rural and they incorporated it under the Urbanzation ruling. This meant apartment housing were built in our community.

    We know now that in the US you should go to the planning office before purchasing a home in an area you know nothing about and check on the plans for your community.

    Most people I have talked to that are building homes here are persuaded that they will be able to sale right away if they want to move. You and I have seen homes on the market here for many years not months. The buyers are limited, ghe general public here can not afford them. I have talked to many people that think they are going to invest $100,000. in a home and turn it around and make $50,000 dollars.

    That is a possiblity, one person we know did that but that was after he spent about $10, advertise his house on line and in the news papers.

    It is so surprising because most of these people that are going to make this turn around money are not in the real estate business and know very little about the market here.

    We who have come into the knowledge have seen many sad stories. Our goal is only to inform to alert and give some thought. Not to decide for a person nor to point a critical finger.

    Just trying to plant a word of wisdom.


    Scott, thanks for correcting me in a way. It is Americans ripping off Americans. We place so much confidence in people that look like us and talk like us. For some reason we believe if they got off the plane and have been here that they have your best interest a heart.

    I know a lot of people that just sign their bank account over to these people and allow them to spend their money having the power of attorney over their money. Not a little money but thousands of dollars.

    That is unbelievable, maybe we just do not have that kind of money to take a chance with that I am so cautious.


    Does anyone have any opinions on the big development projects in and around Jaco such as Nativa, Del Pacifico, Monterey, punta Leona, hermosa Paradise etc…Town homes are around $250,000 to $350,000 and single family homes are starting at about $400,000 thousand. These are in completed developments with nice ameneties all in the central pacific. What do you think?


    Crazy when right outside of your development are houses worth about $10,000. You have to pass them to get to yours unless you are having a helicopter pad built. Location, Location, I am begining to think North Americans are crazy.

    If you are about 40 years old then it is great. If you are sixty, you are crazy. The older you get the less house you need because no one visits you much . All of your friends are in the senior home or kicking the bucket.

    Your kids are to busy most of the time to come visit. Your grandchildren have a social life at home and enjoy a vacation here once in a while but not much. If you have it to spend go ahead because you can not take it with you.

    Does it make sense to spend that kind of money here. Sure if that is what you want to do.

    Plus you have to count on fees of at least $200.00 a month for security and development maintenance fees.


    Once in a while, very rarely, I become annoyed with the ‘intended’ good advice of knowing, young people to we elderly persons of limited intelligence and experience. Jenny, I, an older, ignorant woman from outside of Costa Rica, love the flora and fauna, including human, of this country and have also chosen to live outside the gated communities mentioned above, but not for the reasons that you mentioned. Experience will teach you that many older and even elderly people travel to visit friends and experience new activities, and that many children and grandchildren are exceding loyal to their living ancestors especially when they have an exotic location for them to visit and the ability to help with the payment of the cost of transportation.

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