Costa Rica is a place of stunning scenery, sunshine and smiles with spring-like weather all year round, no income taxes on foreign earned income, no capital gains taxes, excellent world-class medical facilities, affordable medical plans and populated by the ‘Ticos’ who are an amiable and very attractive people.
Who Is Moving to Costa Rica?
There are estimated to be 77 million ‘baby boomers’ in the USA who began retiring in 2008 and it seems there’s quite a few thinking about a Costa Rica retirement. So too are Canadians and numerous Europeans who are looking for that perfect climate and a more affordable place to live.
Wealthier people from all over Central and Latin America are also visiting Costa Rica because of political and financial instability in their own countries.
When you fear for the lives of your own children because they may be kidnapped in Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras or, you have just witnessed the value of your home slashed in half as some of our Venezuelan friends have recently, your future can look downright terrifying.
Costa Rica is a Politically Stable Country
Unlike most nations in Central and Latin America, Costa Rica has been a stable and democratic country since it’s independence in 1821. It has no army, and its citizens enjoy one of the highest life expectancy levels in the Western hemisphere and higher living standards than their war-torn neighbors.
Costa Rica’s perfect climate, laid back lifestyle, financial and political stability makes this ‘rich coast’ look like paradise on earth to many people.
It’s not just people seeking retirement that are visiting Costa Rica. We are seeing young entrepreneurs coming to Costa Rica with dreams of establishing their own businesses here.
This is an admirable goal however; we should remember that having a working knowledge of Spanish will only take you half way. We must remember that we are guests in their country, doing business here can be challenging because inefficient bureaucracies, redundancies and duplications are part of everyday business.
Affordable Costa Rica Real Estate
In comparison with Europe and some metropolitan areas in the USA, real estate in Costa Rica is affordable. Foreigners can easily buy their own homes and a few people have decided to build their own homes.
According to the Global Property Guide, the cheapest city in Europe is Bucharest where you would pay US$3,085 per square meter for a 120M2 apartment (1,291.2 square feet). So most Costa Rica real estate is 25-50% less than the cheapest city in Europe.
You can certainly find luxury condos in Costa Rica for $2,500 per square meter but you can also easily buy a modern, brand new, very comfortable home anywhere near the business, cultural and entertainment centre of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica for US$1,500 – $1,750 per square meter. I know this because I have bought a few homes here.
As an example, in 2007 I bought a new, two story 300M2 (3,228 square feet) luxury home (350M lot – 3,766 square feet) in a secure gated condo community in a great location in Santa Ana, built by one of the best builders we have come across priced at US$1,033 per square meter.
When buying a home in Costa Rica, property taxes must be considered but thankfully there is little to worry about because basic property taxes are only 0.25% and even if your home is ultra-luxurious and the luxury property tax also applies, it all adds up to very little..
According to the Miami Dade County website, on a US$275K property in Miami, you would pay about US$6,875 per year in property taxes. With a luxury apartment in Costa Rica, the property taxes for a home of the same value would be less than $1,000 per year so you would save about US$490 per month just in property taxes.
And for my 3,228 square feet luxury home in Costa Rica? I paid about $230 per month for both monthly maintenance (swimming pool, landscaping, security etc) as well as property taxes.
Building Your Own Home in Costa Rica
In late July 2009 we finished building our 1,797 square feet retirement or vacation home (plus 462.68 square feet for the garage area, pila and bodega) on 5,000M2 of land in the mountains and fully furnished it for less than US$140,000
Building your own home is not for the faint of heart anywhere in the world but if you are comfortable with the idea then you’ll be delighted to know that your labor costs in Costa Rica are low.
Affordable Cost of Living
Only 1% of US households headed by folks aged 62-72 have $1 million or more in assets other than their home. Now that might sound like a lot of money but $1M today lasts less than 20 years assuming a rate of return of 7%, inflation of 3% and inflation-adjusted annual withdrawals of $75K. People understand that their money will last a lot longer with a Costa Rica retirement.
Having said that, demographically speaking, forty-six percent of the baby boomers are still in their 40s so there are plenty of baby-boomers that haven’t really started to think about their retirement. The more negative the political and economic environment becomes in the USA, the more receptive they will be to the idea of living and retiring abroad.
How Much Is The Food
The cost of living in Costa Rica has certainly increased, as it has everywhere else however, to give you a real idea about food costs, in one of Jo Stuart’s recent newspaper columns, she compared the exact cost of a basket of fruits and vegetables purchased here in Costa Rica to the exact items purchased in a California farmer’s market. She spent US$8.75 here and the same items in California cost US$29.47
The bottom line is if you eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, a little fish, chicken or beef, you and your family will be healthier and you’ll enjoy significant savings on food living in Costa Rica.
But, if you prefer to eat highly-processed, imported food, you are going to pay through the nose for it and you are not going to be healthy.
Who needs heating? Unless you are living at fairly high altitudes, you would not even think about heating… In over seven years of living here, I have only ever been in one home that had an in-floor heating system installed.
Thankfully Costa Rica gets plenty of water. In some of the Northern Guanacaste areas there is certainly a water management problem primarily due to over development and a lack of infrastructure but we do have plenty of water.
A significant amount of Costa Rica’s electrical energy needs are renewable, met by geothermal (volcanic) and hydro-electric power. Thus, Costa Rica is fairly well insulated against oil price fluctuations although electricity prices are comparatively high. Telephone costs are low.
Obviously if you live at the beach where it is much hotter then air conditioning is essential for many people. This would increase your basic costs however, in and around the Central Valley area, you do not need heating and hardly anybody ever uses air conditioning.
Cars in Costa Rica Are Expensive
If you don’t purchase a house (at least immediately), buying a vehicle will be your biggest outlay – with high import taxes, new cars can be much more expensive compared to prices in the U.S., but about the same as the car prices in the U.K.
Life Enriching Experience
Learning a new language is a rewarding and enriching experience and helps keep you and your brain alive. Becoming familiar with the culture and customs of a new people can be exhilarating and we’ve come across dozens of people who came here single and are now very happily married.
I personally believe Costa Rica has the most perfect climate for the human body and I love the people – the ‘Ticos.’ They are still people with the same hopes and fears as you and I and there are good ones and bad ones….
For me to enjoy the same kind of extremely comfortable lifestyle that I love in Costa Rica in any major US or European city, I would (and I am NOT exaggerating) need to earn at least five times more than I am earning today…
Living in Costa Rica is not for everyone, the people may be a little too ‘laid back’ for you but after living in ten countries and traveling to many others, I honestly believe they are amongst the nicest people I’ve come across and certainly amongst the most physically attractive people in the world…
Written by Scott Oliver, author of 1: How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa, 2: Costa Rica Real Estate Scams & How To Avoid Them, 3. Costa Rica’s Guide To Making Money Offshore and 4. ¿Cómo Comprar Bienes Raices en Costa Rica, Sin Perder Su Camisa?
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