Pura Vida Poll, August 2011

August begins a new Guys In The Zone tradition, the poll question. As some of you know, we have been increasingly active with the social marketing and networking lately. LinkedIn, in particular, has inspired many new connections and ideas. The Poll will be a regular addition to our Talk Show and articles, and who knows? … Read more

Talk Show, Episode 13

This is our mid-year review of real estate in the Southern Pacific Zone of Costa Rica. With tourism numbers up 11% in Central America, Ben and Rod discuss how this trend points to a brighter future for The Zone. Costa Rica Real Estate – Talk Show 13 by GuysInTheZone

What People Are Buying In Costa Rica

Who needs a pool when you have a river?

It’s one of the most popular questions we, the Guys In The Zone, field— “What’s been selling? We get this question from both buyers and sellers. Generally speaking, the answer is— great deals.

PRICE

Price is the #1 determining factor for a great deal, but there is another factor that is equally important— the living experience. Ben, my business partner in Costa Rica real estate, phrases it this way, “do any unique features of the property significantly affect the quality of the living experience?”

Who needs a pool when you have a river?
This gorgeous natural swimming hole sits below one of the nicer homes in Uvita.

There are very few remaining places on the planet where things are (1) inexpensive and (2) incredible.  During the boom years of 2004-2008, Costa Rica real estate was inexpensive and incredible.  Large farms were purchased $1.00/meter squared and nice ocean view lots were under $100,000.

Three years after the peak of 2008, property values across the border came down between 40-50%.  Many houses are now selling for replacement cost or less.  Once again, we have large farms for $1.00/m2.  The obvious reason was the global economic downturn and continual 10:1 ratio of sellers to buyers.  Basic economics tells us that price, or in this case property value, had to come down.  Our listing database is now filled with good properties in every category—houses, land, large parcels and commercial.

THE LIVING EXPERIENCE

For most people, buying real estate in Costa Rica isn’t just about getting a great deal.  You can move to Orlando, Florida if that is your only goal.  It is about the unique features that significantly enrich the living experience.  When Ben and I get a new land or house listing that has an ocean view and a trail to a nearby river…

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Million Dollar Homes in Costa Rica, Part 2

“Few people actually stumble into wealth.”
– Smith Barney (although I couldn’t determine if it was Mr. Smith or Mr. Barney?)

I outlined how million dollar houses fit into the Costa Rica real estate landscape, specifically in the southern Pacific zone (The Zone). There are a few obvious reasons to buy a luxury home in Costa Rica—

* It’s A Buyer’s Market (Prices are down approx. 50% from the peak in 2008.)
* Desirable Area (International Living Magazine rated The Zone as, “one of the top three real estate destinations in 2010.”)
* Stable Prices For Construction Materials And Labor

In Part One of this article,

The three-year Costa Rica real estate trend has reflected a significant drop in value, including property in the luxury home category.  Although there are some very nice million dollar homes in the area, this young market enables another popular strategy— Buy-And-Build.

 

Buy and Build

The majority of buyers who come down to the greater Dominical area with a plan to purchase a house, often end up purchasing raw land instead.  The reason is the area has a relatively small inventory of quality homes with floor plans and finishes that appeal to most North American and European home buyers.  So, they end up buy raw land or a lot in an established development, design their home with the help of a Costa Rican architect, select a builder, and then start the building process.

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“El Diquis” Hydroelectric Dam in Costa Rica

The Costanera Highway, The Caldera-San Jose Highway, The Cortez Hospital, The International Airport and The Diquis Hydroelectric Dam… it is easy to see that Costa Rica is serious about improving its infrastructure and securing a bright future.

Over the past decade, the dramatic increase in tourism and investment has sparked a bit of a power-struggle between proponents of economic growth and socio-environmental protection groups. In this case, the “power” is the proposed billion dollar hydroelectric project called “El Diquis” near Palmar in the Osa Peninsula. This isn’t recent news, but I believe it is worth mentioning as it will affect life in various ways in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica.

Hydroelectric power is BIG in Costa Rica.

The Zone Is HOT

This large-scale project, facilitated by I.C.E. (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad), is calling for the construction of a dam on the Térraba River in the greater Boruca Canyon. The dam will create a lake equaling approximately 25,000 surface hectares (over 6 million acres), the largest of its kind in Central America.  By comparison, Lake Arenal is roughly 8,500 hectares.

This station will generate up to 630 megawatt units capable of providing over one million families with electricity!  This project is about Power, both electric and economic.  According to a Continuum report commissioned by the Costa Rican government,

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Costa Rica, A Hurricane-Free Zone

While browsing the storefronts of Quepos the other day, I saw this Hurricane History Map in an office window.  What caught my attention was how Costa Rica was completely free of any direct hurricane/tropical storm trajectories.  People ask us if we get hit by hurricanes, and now it’s nice to have a chart showing just how ideally located Costa Rica is, especially on the Pacific side.  Clearly, the vast majority of tropical storms and hurricanes are born in the oceans to the west and especially the east of Costa Rica, and then almost always track north.  In recent years, only Hurricane Cesar and Hurricane Mitch (1996 and 1998, respectively) traveled all the way across the Central America landmass.


Even though Costa Rica is Hurricane-free Zone, it still feels the effects of heavy rainfall from time to time.

During the hurricane season, June 1st – Nov. 30th, Costa Rica will occasionally feel the effects of these major hydro-meteorological events.  Tropical storms are more common than hurricanes in Costa Rica, and it is important to note that heavy rain isn’t the same as heavy rain AND 100+ mph winds!

According to this NASA webpage, “Tropical cyclones are like giant engines that use warm, moist air as fuel. That is why they form only over warm ocean waters near the equator.” The small towns in our area (e.g., Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal) are located at approximately nine degrees north of the equator.  The benefit of being at this latitude, and on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, is the wind is significantly lighter than along the Caribbean storm corridor where hurricane winds can rip off your roof.  I suppose that’s why the famous Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan called the Pacific Ocean, Tepre Pacificum or “Peaceful Sea”.

What Does This Mean For Pacific Zone Residents and Investors?

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Seller Financing Opens Door for Home Buyers in Costa Rica

The Downturn… (cue ominous music)

It would be easy to label the decline of the Costa Rica real estate market (since the peak in 2007) in a negative light. In truth, there is no such thing as “negative light” only the opportunity for change, and if our market has seen anything over the past three years, it is change. The shift from bank loans to seller financing is one of the primary changes that has (pardon the pun) opened the door to prospective home buyers, as well as, land and commercial buyers.

Seller Financing Open The Door in Costa Rica

Before defining the effects, basic models, and legal structure of seller financing, let me back up just a bit to clarify why we now find it present in about half of the Costa Rica real estate deals we facilitate.  Like most lending institutions around the world, Costa Rican banks are better described as “institutional holders”.  Banks are not lending for a few reasons— falling real property values, the recession, and they are not lending to each other (e.g., no credit to leverage).  In Costa Rica, the debt-to-income ratio required to obtain a loan is as ridiculous as the double-digit interest rates being charged (often twice the rates in the United States).  The banks’ parsimonious response has opened the door to seller financing, and Costa Rican property owners have embraced the new paradigm.

Sellers Get Creative

“What do I need to do to sell my property?”  We received this common question too many times to count over the past few years.  Our answer typically included these answers—

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Costa Rica Real Estate – Have We Hit Bottom?

Hitting the Costa Rica real estate market bottom

The ability to identify “bottom” is the hallmark of a successful investor. It is extremely difficult to do, which explains why so many of us speak in terms of “would’a, should’a ,could’a” when talking about our investment history.

So how can we identify the bottom in the market now?

Interested in Costa Rica real estate as an investment. They primarily live somewhere else, but they own property in Costa Rica for the asset appreciation potential as well as possible rental income. Some just buy and hold (land-bank). For developed properties, the investor has a vacation home to visit as desired.

Migrators spend a regular amount of time in Costa Rica during each year.

Re-locators are those that are looking to move to Costa Rica from wherever they are. They will live full-time in Costa Rica.