In October 2011 we featured an article by Terry and Vivian Smith titled Canadian Couple To Build Their Retirement Home in Puriscal, Costa Rica. Now, we revisit them to see what progress they have made in fulfilling their dream.

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Terry and Vivian spent years searching for the ideal location in which to build their home. After first looking at Mexico and Belize they finally settled on Costa Rica. They then spent weeks looking at different areas in Costa Rica and toured eleven different developments and numerous single property parcels.

The regions they visited included: the Southern Pacific Coastal areas, Lake Arenal, Orotina, the Central Valley, and Monteverde. They chose to build in Altos de Antigua near Puriscal because it was the only development that met all their requirements.

Having acquired their lot they then began the process of designing their home. Over several months they worked with architect Gustavo Quesada who has designed almost all the homes built in Altos de Antigua. Although the houses are all unique they blend together extremely well. The feeling of community begins with a consistent Spanish/Mediterranean style of homes. Here’s how their design process went.

Terry and Vivian gave Brian and Gustavo a verbal description of what they wanted; the number of bedrooms, capitalize on the view, components they liked and did not like, etc. Gustavo came up with a preliminary design which Terry and Vivian reviewed. They refined the design by requesting several changes and giving more specific direction. This process was repeated a second and third time.

For each review the design was also outlined in chalk on the building site to demonstrate how the house footprint would use the land available. In addition to modifying the house design they could also change the orientation of the house.

After Terry and Vivian approved the final draft of the room layout creation of the house elevations started. These also were reviewed until they were satisfied with the appearance of their home.

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Lessons Learned While Building Your Home in Costa Rica

In Terry’s own words, some of the lessons he and Vivian learned during the process are:

  1. Don’t start out by using a “friend of a friend”.  Do your own homework, ask to see other houses designed and built by the people you are going to choose.  You can check the final product yourself but be diligent and talk to the owners of the other houses, ask for their opinion and experiences dealing with the builder and architect. 

    Check that the builder and architect are willing to work with you and provide input and accept changes along the journey until you have what you want before committing to the final blueprints.

  2. Don’t get tunnel vision and lose track of the big picture; sure your house is important to you but if you get bogged down by making the house your only priority you will be buried by the myriad of other necessities in making the big move. Other issues and needs along your journey include legal representation, financial planning, banking, residency, choosing a shipper/mover, a vehicle, a driver’s license, and not the least is learning Spanish. 

    These are only a few of the issues facing you but if you look after them during the whole process they will not overwhelm you.

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  4. Don’t take the saying “patience is a virtue” lightly!  We purchased our property early in January, 2011.  Since then we have been patiently planning, getting ready to commence construction in November of 2013.  We have visited our property four times, meeting with Brian and Gustavo each time. 

    More soil has been moved, house angles adjusted, and layouts changed until we are pleased with what we have.  Many fruit trees and ornamental trees were planted in early 2011 and will be well along before we move. 

    There was a lot of dozer work done to ensure we have a suitable area to build and the moved earth has had two years to settle.  Brian and his landscaping crew have been excellent in preparing the area above and below our building site to ensure there will be little erosion during the rainy season. 

  5. Day to day activities take five times as long in Costa Rica compared to what one is used to — Be patient!
  6. Set goals, both financial and time related.

Gustavo made the point that it is very important for the architect to have an initial face-to-face discussion with the client so that he can get to know them.

Designing and building a home is a complicated process. No matter where you choose to build your home, remember that you need to have an excellent working relationship with your architect and with your developer and builder. Unless you can be onsite as your home is being built you must have people you can rely on, people who have demonstrated successful completion of several homes.

This is the kind of assurance Terry and Vivian get from working with Brian, the developer and home builder, and Gustavo their architect. Now that their home has been designed Brian and his team are creating the detailed construction plans. Terry and Vivian look forward to construction beginning in November of this year.

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When the original article was posted we received many comments from people who were excited about this Canadian couple’s dream, people who were a couple of years away from doing the same thing. You can see progress being made to achieve that dream. Stay tuned for future updates once construction begins.




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