I just received some questions from a connection that I made in the Social Media site LinkedIn. I am reprinting these here due to the increase in these types of questions lately. I’m sure that these questions, and their answers, will be of help to a number of our readers.
Location In The Zone:
- We don’t want to feel like we’re living in the middle of nowhere, but we’re not looking to live in a large city like Seattle! What is The Zone like?
As a starting point, you picked a good one. The Zone, as we like to call it down here in the southern pacific zone of Costa Rica, is definitely a bit removed from things. The developments are typically more spread out than North American developments, so in most cases your neighbor will not be right on top of you. Access to The Zone is possible via two regional airports (both approx.40 minutes from Uvita) and the Costanera Highway. Thanks to the new San Jose-Caldera Highway, the trip to San Jose is now 3 hours. That said, it is difficult to say if this area would appeal to you with this point, and I would recommend a visit before making that determination.
Buy or Build:
- We are also trying to decide between building a home or buying existing… Do you have any suggestions?
This is one of the more common questions that we deal with. Here is an interesting data point: the majority of people that walk into our office want to buy an existing house. Yet, the majority of people that buy from us buy raw land & build. Why is that? Here in The Zone, we have been outside the main flow of tourism. This was due to the bumpy, dirt road between Dominical and Quepos. It is now paved, and we are more in the flow. Historically, those visitors and relocators who found their way down here were a bit… well, let’s call it eccentric… might be the way to put it. These are truly individualistic individuals who built their house as an expression of that individuality. These houses are not easy to sell. Now, I should clarify that this building approach is ancient history. There are very nice homes available in The Zone; however, there just aren’t that many of them. The inventory continues to evolve, and home sales are up. That said, I suspect that it’ll be a while before we hit the 50/50 mark of house/lots sales. Our recommendation is to take your time and look at everything. After you go through this process, you can compare those houses with what it would cost to buy & build on a similar piece of land, keeping in mind raw land is plentiful. You might find that $450,000 house can be built for $350,000, and you’ll have it the way you want it. Conversely, you might find a great house for less than what it would cost to buy and build. In today’s market place, and with the economic crisis, you never know what you might find. Building in Costa Rica can be a daunting and frustrating task. For this reason alone, some people simply refuse to go through the process. This question really is best served in a face to face consultation.
Groups and Associations:
- I have heard to be very wary of some places being over priced for foreigners who don’t know any better. Any good groups or services to retain?
Hmmmm, well I am inclined to think that you’ve found all you need right here with me. 🙂 A not so self-serving answer would be, “yes.” There are actually PLENTY of options for information, so many in fact that I wonder at how one can really know what the straight story is. Residency, taxes, zoning, business and so on, in a foreign land, requires that one be on his toes. I like the Costa Rica Living news group at Yahoo groups. Also, the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) have been a helpful residency and insurance resource for some of my clients. Ultimately, I think that what you are doing is a good idea. Talk with individuals who have done what you want to do. When I get new clients in the Dominical and Uvita area, I set up lunches with my previous clients who have moved here, built, learned Spanish etc. It seems that everyone is more than happy to share their experience, and from these tidbits you’ll get a very good idea of what to do and, often more importantly, not do.
Starting A Company:
- Did you find it difficult to start a company there? I will be looking to work, but understand I will need to start my own business to get paid. At least until we were able to become residents.
Starting a business, or buying an income generating property, or both, used to be oh-so-easy in Costa Rica. Business owners would only complete the necessary steps to get a business license if someone from the Municipality came and bugged them about it. And, income generated by businesses or rental properties was reported even less. In today’s Costa Rica it has become a bit more difficult, or maybe I should say involved, to operate without them. For better or worse, Costa Rica is growing up and finding ways to enforce laws that they have had on the books for years, in some cases, decades. The simple fact is, to do any kind of work in Costa Rica, you need to be a resident. Otherwise, you run the risk of being deported. We know people who can help with residency and setting up a business, among other services.
I hope these thoughts help to answer your questions, although it is my experience that they usually bring up new questions. Safe to say, The Guys here to help.
Living in The Zone, Costa Rica’s south pacific, since 1999. Working in real estate here since 2004. Loves to share the experience and help others with an interest in doing same.