What You Need to Know About Buying a Home in Costa Rica
Many people who travel to Costa Rica are so enchanted by their visit that they want to buy a home here. Some people want to move here permanently, while others just want to buy a property that they can use a few weeks a year as a vacation home and then rent out the rest of the year as a vacation rental property.
According to one report, 17% of Americans move to another country for love, and some 44% want to stay abroad forever.
While there are many reasons people want to move to Costa Rica, it’s important to think carefully before buying property in Costa Rica, and to be familiar with the laws you’ll need to follow to do so.
Can a U.S. Citizen Buy Property in Costa Rica?
The good news is yes, citizens of the USA can buy property in Costa Rica. In fact, by law all foreigners usually have the same rights to buy, build, sell or rent property as Costa Rican nationals.
One of the few exceptions is acquiring land within the maritime zone — between 50 and 200 meters of the high-tide line on any beach — in which case there are special considerations that require the involvement of a Costa Rican national.
But in most cases, foreigners have the peace of mind that they will be treated no differently from locals when buying property in Costa Rica.
Does that mean it’s easy? Well … Costa Rica’s extensive regulations ensure that it’s pretty complicated for anyone to buy property here. It’s important to investigate and understand the hurdles you have to clear to buy land here.
But even if you were 100% Costa Rican, born and raised in this country to Costa Rican parents, you would still face most of the same hurdles.
Is It Safe to Buy Land in Costa Rica?
Buying land can be risky anywhere, especially if you’re committing a major part of your life savings with no guarantee of a satisfactory return on your investment.
But generally speaking, Costa Rica is a safe country in which to travel, live or buy property — no less so than anywhere else.
Of course, you should be very careful when buying property in Costa Rica to make sure you get what you thought you were getting. Beware of scams and schemes to take advantage of foreigners. If you don’t speak Spanish, find a bilingual and reputable real estate agent who will keep you informed of any issues to prevent you from making an ill-advised decision.
Also, it’s very important to be represented by a good lawyer in any real estate transaction — and it needs to be your own lawyer, not the seller’s lawyer. You need to be sure that anyone giving you legal advice on a property purchase doesn’t have divided loyalties.
Finally, educate yourself on all the taxes you’ll have to pay, including property taxes and other obligations, to be sure there are no unpleasant surprises down the road.
How Much Is a Home in Costa Rica?
It’s often frustrating to hear the answer “It depends” to an important question affecting your financial future, but of course … it depends.
There is probably no reliable estimate for the average cost of a house in Costa Rica, primarily because there are no official home price statistics compiled in this country. But according to a report by https://www.encuentra24.com, homes in San José had an average listing price of $1,110 per square meter in July 2019.
Most foreigners looking into buying a home in Costa Rica are generally (if erroneously) thought to be pretty rich. At the same time, most foreigners are generally looking for a nicer home than the humble casita that the majority of Costa Ricans inhabit.
So sure, you can buy a home for $75,000, $100,000, $200,000, $500,000 or $1 million. A few years ago, Point2 Homes compiled a list of the most expensive homes for sale in Costa Rica, led by actor Mel Gibson’s 500-acre property at Playa Barrigona in the Nicoya Peninsula, for a cool $29.75 million. (No word on whether seller financing was available.)
But can you buy a humble Costa Rican home for $25,000? Absolutely. Or less! But it might not be the manse you dreamed of retiring in.
Long answer short, there’s a huge variety of properties for sale in Costa Rica, depending on location and size. They tend to start in the five-figure range, though the closer you get to a six-figure sale price, the more it will look like a home you might want to own forever.
Where Should You Buy Property in Costa Rica?
Where, how big and how nice are three of the biggest questions you will face if buying a home in Costa Rica. And it goes without saying that another major factor is whether you buy a vacant lot with plans to build your own home or buy a home that’s already built.
If you’re seriously thinking of buying a home in Costa Rica, you should travel far and wide, visiting as many properties in as many regions as you can. Ask yourself what’s most important to you — do you want proximity to the beach, to hospitals or schools, to an established expat community? Or do you want to live in a secluded place where your only neighbors are monkeys and birds?
- Beach: Oceanfront property is highly valued but tends to be more expensive, and if you have a limited tolerance for heat, be aware that it’s always hotter near the beach.
- Central Valley: Most people, national and expats, live in the central highlands, where it’s cooler and access to anything you need is closer. But this choice often means more people, more traffic and more noise.
- Remote areas: Take your pick of your favorite mountaintop, but greater seclusion will mean less convenience and a bigger challenge in establishing a social life.
What Should You Do with Your Property?
It depends on what you purchase and what your intentions are, but there are many ways you can use your property in Costa Rica. If you’re buying a second home, you can always enlist the help of a property manager in Costa Rica and rent it out to other travelers while you aren’t using it.
Many travelers prefer vacation homes for long trips, so renting out your property while you’re away is a legitimate way to regain return on investment in your home.