We had overwhelming interest in an earlier article about estimating the cost to build a home in the Altos de Antigua development near the town of Santiago de Pursical.

In this follow-up we are sharing some of the many details that must be taken care of if you are to have the home of your dreams. It is vitally important that you have on your team someone who has the experience to guide you through the entire process, from acquiring your land to finally moving in.

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You learnt that using a value of $75 to $95 per square foot will give you a rough estimate of what the house will cost. Using these values a 2,000 square foot house with 65% interior space and 35% exterior space will cost between $150,000 and $180,000 depending upon the grade of finishing you specify.

Land Acquisition

When you have chosen your land and are about to make the purchase, make sure you get the paperwork to completely define the land, the plano catastro, and most importantly an Uso de Suelo (how you can use the land) which will ensure that you can build on the land you are purchasing.

Also do not take for granted that the land will have services even though there are water pipes and power poles in the vicinity; that does not guarantee access. You must confirm that those services can and will be extended to your land. These will be handled for you when you buy an acreage in Altos de Antigua.

In addition to the amount you will invest in the acreage you will also have to pay for some or all of the following. The Offer to Purchase will define whether the Buyer or Seller pays, or if the costs are to be split. Remember, these are ball-park values that Brian has experienced over time. Your results will likely be somewhat different.

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  • Land transfer tax of 1.5% of declared value
  • Legal fees of up to 1.5% of the value of the transaction
  • If you choose to place the land and house in a corporation you need to purchase that corporation. This will cost between $500 and $900. Use $900 to create a conservative estimate. The corporate tax will be about $200 annually, prorated for the number of months remaining in the year.
  • If you use private corporate financing there will be a mortgage registration fee based on the amount of the mortgage.
  • You rather than your lawyer will have to register the land at the municipality as well.

Design, Approvals, Administration and Management

You likely already have a concept of the room layout you would like to live in and will have sought out a building site that can accommodate a house of that size. Once you buy the land you can start the design process in earnest and get all necessary approvals to build it. Your architect will create and submit construction plans to the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos (CFIA).

The CFIA will estimate the construction cost for the house based upon historic data. At this point your detailed budget and material prices can be locked in. All other fees and future taxes will be based on this CFIA estimate. If Brian is your builder the construction plans will cost about 3.5% of the estimated cost of the house.

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You will need approvals from the following agencies.

  • CIFA (Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos) .6% of the estimated cost
  • Workers’ insurance (like the WCB in Canada) 1.7% of the estimated cost
  • AYA stamp and letter (proof of potable water)
  • Municipality permits (Puriscal, other Municipalities may vary) .9% of the estimated cost

Another very useful tool you can get for visualizing your house is 3D images where you can get external views and two rooms for about $1,000.

Site Preparation

Once all approvals have been received you can start preparing the building site for house construction. The site itself will most likely already be levelled to a large extent. There will however be final grading and preparation.

Depending on the steepness of your land and on the anticipated water runoff issues you may need to add drainage control features, both on the surrounding land and under the building itself. These will have been identified during the design process. Controlling water runoff is the MOST IMPORTANT consideration in the design. Ask your architect and builder how runoff will be managed.

In addition to final preparation of the building site you will need to run the services such as water, electricity, and telecommunications from the lot line to the building. The cost will depend on the distance from the lot line to the building. Water will cost about $400 including the water meter for $200.

Experience tells us that aerial electric power within 30 meters will cost about $500 and underground would be about $1800. Brian highly recommends that you install two extra 1 inch conduits from the street to the house for unforeseen future add-ins.

Grey Stage and Finishing

Grey stage is where the walls are up and the roof is installed, but no finishing has been started. It is equivalent to ‘lock up’ in North America, except that the doors and windows are not yet installed.

Once the site has been prepared and the services have been run to the building location you can begin creating the foundation. Unlike in Canada where we have to set footings below the frost line, in Costa Rica the footings are set 60 cm below the organic surface.

After the footings have been completed you can build or install the walls. Other than selecting the method of wall construction you do not have much latitude to reduce costs for this stage. Block and reinforced concrete is the system preferred by Brian’s clients so far. Another method uses preformed concrete panels. This method could shorten your construction timeline and reduce your costs by about $10 per square foot.

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Once the walls are up you will complete the roof. Most homes in Altos de Antigua have insulated roofs finished with clay tiles.

This keeps the homes cooler and reduces the noise of rain.

After the house is at grey stage you can start finishing the inside and outside. Finishing will account for about 50% of your final cost, and is the stage in which you have the most control over your investment. High end tiles, countertops, cupboards, fans, plumbing and lighting fixtures, windows and doors can cost you two or three times as much as base level. Also, the extent of tiling and glass plays a big part in the final cost.

Furnishings and Landscaping Your New Home in Costa Rica

Furnishings and decoration are another area in which you can spend a little or a lot depending on your taste. You may choose to import into Costa Rica a container load of the furnishings from your current home, or you may choose to buy all new. If you choose to buy much of what you need when you get here it will pay you to have Brian’s wife, Mariel, be your guide to the best vendors and suppliers and to help you negotiate prices.

You will have to put in a septic system the size of which is determined by the size of the house and the number of bathrooms. In your estimate allow $2,000 for a septic system.

In addition to finishing the inside of your home you will want to do some landscaping. At the very least you need to ensure that water management features have been designed and built. Allow $1,000 for planting bushes and trees. You can and will add more as time goes by. Flora grows fast in Costa Rica so you don’t need to go overboard at the start.

Contingency Plans “Just in Case!”

No matter how much detail you go into when preparing your conceptual estimate I can almost guarantee that something unforeseen will surface. You may choose to modify the design at grey stage. Severe weather may cause unexpected delays. You may decide to get more expensive furnishings. Always include a reasonable contingency amount on top of your total estimate.

Including the contingency will give you a truer final budget amount. Not including a contingency could cause you to exceed your financial limit if something unexpected happens. The contingency reserve can be reduced as you move along the design and construction process.

When building your dream home in Costa Rica, find someone with experience to handle the details for you.

There were many requests for the estimating spreadsheet that was offered in the earlier article. To give you even more help Brian and his team have extended that spreadsheet with additional details. You can request the upgraded estimating spreadsheet in the Any Special Requirements space on the form below and he will email it to you.

If the idea of having your dream home built for you sounds interesting, whether it’s a vacation home (which they can manage and rent out for if you want) or a full-time retirement home, contact the developer directly, Brian McLane at (506) 2416-4044, or use the simple form below:

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How Do You Feel About This Article?

VIP Member John Orian, P. Eng.

Written by John Orian, P. Eng. “If you want something done give it to John!” Having earned this reputation with a billion dollar company and a major Canadian city, John now offers training and coaching in Project Management.

John’s main focus in Costa Rica is helping to create a vibrant international community at Altos de Antigua where he is an owner and investor.

Article ID Number 4323

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There are 4 comments:

  • Luc Boisseau at 5:54 pm

    Looking further in establishing ourselves in CR

    Is the estimate spreadsheet still available re article 4323.

    We already own a piece of land in the Ojochal community

    • WalkiriaMG at 7:10 pm

      Hello Luc, thank you for your message, For more information about this article please contact to Brian McLane directly at (506) 2416-4044 or email to John Orian. jorian@zalexsystems.com


  • andy bowcott at 9:36 pm

    I am planning to build a home on Costa Rica. I would be grateful to see the spreadsheet referred to in the above article.

  • Mario Zertuche at 6:51 pm

    Building a house in Quepos

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