Moving to Costa Rica Part I


I have dedicated much of the past 7 years of my life to working in real estate in The Zone, now commonly known as the Costa Ballena. Despite having closed our office, I would like for the accumulated experience of those years to continue to be of service to those looking to move, live or simply invest here in Costa Rica. It turns out that my toe is indeed staying in the industry, and interestingly, in a rather passive way.

Globe with arrows showing relocation paths from different areas.
People move to Costa Rica from various areas of the globe.

I have not yet announced my new consultation service, but it has begun, simply due to e-mails and phone and Skype calls from people who read this blog, or word of mouth publicity.

The sub-text to this article comes from a phone call that I received 2 days ago from a young couple in Oregon. I had worked with the man’s parents, showing them property a couple of years back. They make up an interesting and growing demographic for The Zone: people moving to Costa Rica that want to simplify, and lessen their dependence on utility companies, grocery stores, and even the government. In other words: off the grid-ers.

I love the way he put this. I think that this one line “not looking to reform the system, but instead create a parallel” to the existing one, typifies what so many feel in today’s world. His call resulted in an initial Skype consultation that lasted more than an hour between his wife, himself and me and dealt with topics ranging from finding a re-location property, getting residency, cost of living, bringing a family-member-dog, buying versus bringing a car, home-schooling, health care and so on.

In my recent visits to the States, and also in discussions here in The Zone with visitors and expats, I observe a trend away from reforming the existing system.In one statement, he effectively voiced a sentiment that seems to be gaining ground these days. The feeling that the current system is in a state of decay. What I appreciate about this statement is that this is not a defeatist position. Instead, he wishes to create a parallel way of living. Well put man! And I think that living in Costa Rica offers a viable option for this strategy.

Now granted, this couple would be on one of the ends of the spectrum of those interested in moving to, and living in Costa Rica. From my real estate experience, I have glumped those interested in buying land here into 3 groups:

  1. re-locators and retirees
  2. migrators (those that spend part of the year here, and part somewhere else.)
  3. investors

Of these 3, there are sub-groups.


This term applies to those that sell-out and move here. They create a new life in a foreign land. Retirees have always made up a large percentage of this group, but we are now seeing an interesting diversification of re-locators.

Young Families: The number of young families moving to Costa Rica is extraordinary. My barometer for this is 2-fold. One is the success of the local, multi-lingual private school, Escuela Verde who is currently running at, or close to capacity. Also, the fact that when I attend a local function, like a 4th of July auction supporting the Dominical Beach Lifeguards, or even just the weekly farmers market in Uvita, I look around and marvel at how many people I don’t know.  I mean, come on! This is small-town living and I’ve been here for a long time. I used to know everyone.  They are moving in faster than I can get to know them. So young families is a new and growing sub-set of the re-locators.

End-of-the-Worlders: (tongue in cheek) these are the ones that see the world in a decay mode. This may be for various reasons: economic collapse, absolute devaluation of world currencies, environmental, global warming, solar activity, societal disarray and others I don’t know about.  Since there isn’t a planetary option, (meaning: not another planet that they can move to) they look around this one for a place to ride out the coming storm. Costa Rica is a loud blip on this radar.

Generally, these look for a large piece of arable land where they can put various structures for living, education, food storage and so on. The land should also have a river on or near it that can be used for hydro-electric generation, and then of course, solar, which Costa Rica offers in spades.

Retirees: these have historically made up the lion’s share of re-locators and, I suspect, still do. This sub-group is commonly seen coming to Costa Rica with the intent to purchase some land roughly 3 – 7 years prior to their planned time to relocate.  They are approaching their year of retirement, or some other of life’s benchmarks: an adult child getting out of school, the expected passing of a dependent and aging parent, the sale of a property back home (the various scenarios are diverse).

In the past, many of these intend to build just prior to when they move here, or they plan to move here, rent and build.  This scenario has changed in recent times due to a growing inventory of houses for sale in The Zone, and so some are now able to find an existing home that will suit their needs. In the meantime they can rent it out, helping to either off-set, or outright cover the cost of owning the property until they are able to make the move.

Part 2 will deal with the migrators and investors. Part 3 will go into more detail with the off-the-grid-ers.

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