Our clients have asked us a lot of great questions over the years. Scroll down and find answers to questions you have have not even thought of yet.
1. Where should I look for property in Costa Rica?
It depends on why you are looking:
The central valley is the most populated area and the most commercially oriented. It includes the capital, San Jose, and surrounding communities, comprising ___% of the country’s total population. If you want to invest in large commercial enterprises that aren’t tourism related, or if you want to live in or near a larger metropolitan area, this would be the place.
Northwest C.R. is heavily developed along the coast because of its attractive beaches, international airport and former fame as a hot spot. It is considered hotter and drier than the rest of the country. Away from the beaches the topography and plant life is more akin to the African Savannah than tropical rainforest. Tourism is the main industry and large hotels and condos are common. Over development and some droughts have led to critical water shortages in some areas.
The Caribbean coast of C.R. is less accessible and less developed. Although there is some tourist activity and some development, it is not as popular as the Pacific side of the country, nor Caribbean coastlines in other countries.
Southern C.R. on the Pacific side is less developed and is famed for its beaches, mountains that rise right behind the beaches, higher rainfall and great surfing conditions. Many people come for the scenery, the opportunity to have larger lots or land with gorgeous views, and to escape from over development. Land Assurance Real Estate specializes in this area and will happily give you their reasons why!
2. What is the real estate market like in the southern zone of Costa Rica?
As of this writing, October 2013, we are seeing life coming back into real estate. Since Costa Rica’s economy is directly related to those of North America and Europe, property values here rise and fall with those. There is a cycle of booms and busts, and we are slowly coming out of the long bust that started in 2008 in the U.S.A.
Prior to 2008, property values were undeniably puffed up beyond their intrinsic value. Now that some severe adjustments have been made, values are more appealing to buyers and more realistic as related to their highest and best use in this setting.
3. How hard is it to develop land in the southern zone of Costa Rica?
Developing land here is a matter of a) choosing the right piece to develop, b) learning up front what will be required for a development on the land you have chosen, and c) following with equanimity and patience the steps that are required.
Since it is nearly impossible to clear and develop forested land now, your starting point should be land that already has clear areas for development. Pasture land is an obvious choice, or land that already has some internal roads and building sites in place.
For some developments in rural areas you will only be allowed to develop 10% of the land, and that includes all roads, improved trails, permanent structures/buildings of any size, etc. This does not necessarily allow you to use all 10% since there are conditions you have to meet. For example, you will be required to demonstrate that your project is environmentally sound with regard to waste water management, earth moving, construction style, utilities, etc. and you will be required to get permission to cut down any standing trees, dead or alive.
If your land has water on it in some form (stream, river, spring) extra restrictions apply anywhere within a certain distance of those. On the other hand, even if your land has natural water sources on it, you still need to get approval for the source of your project’s potable water. This is an area that in under increasing scrutiny since C.R. takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that its residents have a pure source of water for drinking and other household needs.
This is not intended to kill your hopes and dreams! It is intended to encourage you to get the big picture before you invest, so that you know your investment will be a good one. There are qualified people to help you determine what will work and what won’t, and there are certainly many people who can help you along the way.
4. How much do daylight hours vary in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica does not go on daylight savings time. Being nearer the equator, daylight only varies throughout the year by about one hour. For example, in 2013, 0n June 21 sunrise is 5:21 and sunset 6:06. On December 21, sunrise is at 5:55 and sunset 5:25. The is a partial explanation for why daytime temperatures are so steady–unlike areas further from the equator, there is less variability in how long the sun heats, or doesn’t heat, our landmass each day.
5. What are the school options for my children in Costa Rica?
You have a choice of public or private schools. The quality and variety of the schools will depend on where you settle down. In the San Jose area, there are many options, whereas in the countryside it is harder to find good schools. Luckily, where we live, in the Dominical-Uvita area, there are several quality private schools to consider up to high school level.
6. Do I have to learn Spanish to live in Costa Rica?
The short answer is ‘no’. Almost anywhere you would choose to live here, there are people who speak English well enough to serve you. What you can’t communicate in a language, you can try to get across with sign language or a talking dictionary.
The longer answer is that if you don’t speak Spanish, you will inevitably limit your circle of friends to those who speak your language, thereby cutting out the whole population of Spanish speakers that you have come to live amongst. You will miss their parties, misunderstand their laughter, feel an “us/them” division, and probably get taken advantage more often.
The Ticos are typically friendly, welcoming people who honor every effort you make to speak Spanish to them. If you can communicate with them, you can become a part of their lives and experience the rich culture they share. Therefore, we encourage you to keep working on learning Spanish. Even if you just learned one word a day for three years, you’d be able to say about half of the sentences you’ll ever need in Spanish! Just keep working on it and watch your experience here enlarge!