Mar 102017
 

We are in high season here in the southern pacific zone. The months of November through April are typically when there are more tourists here than during the rainy months.

There is another type of “high season” happening right now as well. This has more to do with world conditions. I know, those from the States are going to think that Mr. Trump is pushing many to look elsewhere. And I suspect that this is true to some extent. I think that Mr. Trump has been good for my Costa Rica real estate business. I think Mrs. Clinton would have been as well. Such is the world that we live in.

However, our property buyers here are not just from the States. We’ve got buyers from Canada, despite their currently weak currency. These people are buying property and essentially paying 30% – 40% more due to the exchange rate on their currency. One has got to wonder – why?

France, Germany, Great Britain – all are providing us here with buyers. Again: why? There are economic, political and security issues happening in various areas of the world. I suppose that greater analytical minds would come up with the cause and effect links in trying to answer the question. But I find that there is one common thread when I talk with these people.

The Reason:
Stress
is pushing, and the promise of less stress, is pulling people to consider a life in Costa Rica. Simpler living is highly attractive. Costa Rica offers this and it (simple living) seems to be the antidote to whatever may be happening in one’s home country.

Uvita, Dominical, Ojochal and the surrounding areas that make up Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone are all seeing an influx of buyers. But there is more. There are some big-money players who are making some moves here that are notable. There are condominium complexes being constructed, and sold at a good clip. There are town homes, urbanization projects and upgrades to some of the antiquated infrastructure in some of these areas.

There is some talk of giving Uvita a facelift. This is much needed. With both Dominical and Ojochal, you turn off the coastal highway and drive into the town. In Uvita, the highway passes right through the town. Up till now its growth has happened with hardly any attention to the aesthetic and it is essentially a strip-mall, Costa Rican style.

This is a pity since Uvita could really have been (or be made to be) one of the most beautiful towns on the planet. So if these well funded entities see the beautifying of the town as in their best interests, great! Although it’s hard to imagine what can be done, short of tearing the whole thing down and starting over again.

The Envision Festival is going on currently. This has become one of the largest events of the year. Kudos to the organizers. I’ve heard that 7,000 people attended last year, but that about half that number are here now.

Uvita Costa Rica's Crunchy Envision Festival

2017 Envision Festival Uvita Costa Rica

Some of the Ticos complain a bit about Envision, claiming that the drugs, nudity and general licentiousness is disrespectful to their culture. I suspect that there is some truth to these allegations, but for me, I’ve never met an Envisioner I didn’t like and the festival provides a time of some fascinating people watching.

I’ve not  personally ever attended. I can hear the music from my home well, the bass notes anyway, and I routinely provide rides to those thumbing to the grocery store and back. There is also the complaint of them being a bit odoriferous, but I can’t speak to this having lost my olfactory sense some years back. So I get along fine with them in my car and always enjoy their upbeat spirit.

So between the time of year and world conditions, sales are good here in the Zone’s real estate market.

About Property Prices:
During the recession, there was not much of a market here. It hit hard and us realtors languished waiting for the anomalous inquiry that might result in a sale. I actually got into brokering hard money loans during this time in an effort to not only make a little commission, but to also help some land owners to not lose their properties.

Prices plummeted during the recession. This was an interesting time. The pre-recession time was a “boom”. The biggest challenge for a buyer then was being able to find an available real estate agent. I felt like I should put a Baskin Robbins “take a number” device at the door. Some of these buyers were our good-old bread and butter retirees, looking to retire to Costa Rica. However, there were lots of folks who refinanced their homes and then found themselves cash-rich and wondering what to do with it. The causes of the recession helped to fuel some of that heady boom and resulted in pushing prices up to a rather silly level.

So the fall of pricing some 40% – 50% during the recession could appropriately be called a correction.

Much of our land here is still at recession pricing. There hasn’t been a big upward push on prices since then. The demand for houses is strong and so we’re starting to see some upward movement there – all very rational though. This is no heady boom. Its simply that the inventory which was glutted post-recession, is finally starting to get mopped up. This was inconceivable in the years following the recession due to the glut.

I still get asked sometimes why it seems that everything is for sale. I find this interesting since I have to really work to find properties for some of the criteria lists I build for my clients.

Yes, I suppose everything is, in fact, for sale, at some price. However, finding what you want, finding that screaming ocean view with good access and amenities nearby, and all this in your budget, can sometimes be a bit daunting.

And then there is that wonderful amenity “simplicity”. I wonder if this could be put at the top of the list. Right up there with “ocean view”. I’m thinking that this one amenity is the primary mover of the current strong market we’re seeing here in The Zone.

February News

 Posted by on February 20, 2013  News in The Zone  2 Responses »
Feb 202013
 

Property Tax Assessments – There is an interesting article in amcostarica about maritime zone property tax assessments being made by Aguirre.  Not mentioned in the article is the amount of the assessments being made either by inspection by the canton or when an individual goes in for the five year value declaration.  If the property is on the beach side of the road the valuation is made at 50,000 Colones per square meter, 30,000 for the mountain side of the road. A meter is 3.2 feet.  The tax rate is either 4% of that amount for residential property and 5% for commercial.

Speaking of property tax assessments.  Karen and I just went through the five year declaration.  Relatively painless.  Carlos, the individual we dealt with at the municipalidad, was very helpful.  Everything is computerized but Carlos had to access, adjust information on, and then print six separate forms.  The assessment rate, Continue reading »

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Jan 232013
 

I have invited a new guest author to my blog. Frank Walker puts out a newsletter once a month that I have subscribed to now for some time. I always find his depiction of the news enlightening and fun to boot. Plus I wonder just how the heck he finds all this stuff out.
~ Ben

Matapalo police station.

The new police station in Matapalo Costa Rica, just north of Dominical.

Matapalo

Police Station – The police station was dedicated earlier this month in typical Tico fashion with speech after speech from various officials.  There was really a nice turn out from the local community.  As promised the station is manned.  The other day I actually saw two police at the beach. They were chatting up two young Ticas whose shorts and tops were so tight it looked like they used spray on spandex.  Guess the two young officers were engaging in a community outreach program.

Loss of Businesses – Word has it that this will be Susanna’s last season to be open.  Under the new liquor law the municipalidad is hitting her up for something like US$250.00 per month for her liquor license.  Word also has it that Phillipe will be closing down.  Whether or not he is going to sell his pulperia or close it down is unknown. Continue reading »

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Jan 212013
 
This question just in from a client.
 
Question: As you probably know Tarminda (name changed) and I are perpetual tourists.
 
There is a driver’s license article in the new Ballena Tales. I think it basically says that you can’t get a CR license w/o a Cedula (residency card). And, that if you are pulled over w/o a valid Costa Rica license, your vehicle can be impounded and your insurance is null and void, even if it is paid for.
Police will check your drivers license for validity.
 
Do you know if this is accurate?  If so, it does not appear that there is a way to stay in CR past 90 days and drive legally.  Thoughts?
 
We can talk about this when we get together too.  It is just a little disconcerting to think I may be driving w/o insurance even though I have a policy that was just paid for this month.
 
My response:Hello Dingmeister (name changed),

Your foreign driver’s license is valid here for 3 months at a time.  Continue reading »

May 152012
 

The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Baby Boomers as those born between January 1st, 1946 and December 31st, 1964. As of January 1st, 2011 more than 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 per day, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years. The question isn’t if there will be a lot of people retiring. The question is… where are they going to go? With escalating government debt and rising taxes, many retirees are looking outside of the U.S. for a retirement location.

What is a Pensionado?

Retiring In Costa Rica

A morning walk and talk.

Retired or semi-retired people from the United States, Canada and Europe have always been a strong contingent in Costa Rica. I have read that there are approximately 100,000 foreign residents in Costa Rica. I would bet that number is much higher given there are still many expats living a perpetual tourists (e.g., leaving the country every 90 days) or their residency is “in process” which allows them to forgo the inconvenience of leaving.

With good and experienced legal help, it is not difficult to get permanent residence in Costa Rica. In order to qualify for retired (pensionado) status, the applicant must show proof of $1,000 in monthly income from a qualified pension plan. A married couple needs to show proof of only one pension of $1,000 per month. Pensionados agree to live in Costa Rica for a minimum of 121 days (approx. 4 months) per year and there is no maximum. Since most people looking to retire qualify for pensionado status and want to live in Costa Rica more than 4 months out of the year, the requirements for being a resident are more than manageable.

It’s An Adventure Every Day

Over the past 10 years, Costa Rica has risen to the top of retirement destinations. Warm weather, spectacular property, abundant wildlife, nice people, less stress… these are just a few reasons why millions of people visit Costa Rica every year, and why many fall in love with the country. One expat who retired to Uvita in 2008 summed it up recently by saying, “It’s an adventure every day.” It may sound cliché, but it is indeed true.

As I write this, my son is taking video of the white-faced monkeys in the trees by our house. Yesterday, we admired the howler monkeys while planting banana trees in the yard. I just returned from surfing with three dolphins. It is indeed “an adventure every day.”

Finding Your Costa Rican Property

Ok, so you are interested in retiring in Costa Rica, specifically the area in and around Uvita. Now you will want to find a place that resonates with you. Here are two key factors we have identified over the years—

Climate. Take advantage of the consistent ocean breeze by finding a property in the mountains. You won’t need air conditioning, thus you’ll save significantly on your monthly electricity bill. You’ll also be able to spend more time outside, which is what Costa Rica is all about. For those who don’t like the bumpy dirt roads, there are nice ocean view options offering quick 2WD access from the main highway.

House or Land. Most people come looking to buy a house, yet many end up buying a piece of land and building. This is because we are still early in the building cycle, especially in and around Uvita. Clearly, it is easier buying an existing house, but I do not discourage people from building in Costa Rica. We know many retired folks who have had good experiences with their builders. They also end up with a house that fits a longheld dream, and it’s tough to put a price on that.

My uncle, a baby boomer, lives down here in a lovely area above the small town of San Buenaventura. He likes the solitude, the wildlife, and his neighbors. Retiring in Costa Rica made sense for him, especially considering he purchased the land his current villa sits on at pre-boom prices. The good news for anyone looking to relocate or invest in land now is the real estate market has declined back to pre-boom prices. In fact, our inventory is loaded with ocean view lots under $100,000.

How To Navigate Our Non-MLS Market

There is no MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica. All of the real estate companies have their own database of listings that they have built up. The big misconception is that you need to work with all of them in order to find your property. Like Ben and I said in our last Talk Show #20, we have many of the same listings. Let us save you time and money, by contacting them on your behalf. That way, when you come down, we have already previewed the property that fits your criteria and narrowed down the list for you. The savings in time means you will have more time to enjoy the warm ocean, take a nature tour, meet new people, and relax into the pura vida.

So, please browse our listings and contact us if you would like to get more details on real estate and retiring in Costa Rica. Saludos!

Mar 122012
 

In 1838, Costa Ricans obtained “the right to own private property” or as it’s listed in their Constitution under Artículo 21, Derecho a la Propiedad Privada. One of the things I enjoy about being the parent of a 13-year old is discovering new things. It’s like being in the 7th grade all over again except now I find subjects like history and government much more compelling. I asked my son, “I wonder if Juan Mora Fernandez (Costa Rica’s 1st President) knew how much his land reform act (think-private property) would affect the lives of Costa Ricans and eventually dudes from Costa Rica?” His response was succinct, “Probably not. California wasn’t even a state yet.” He’s a smart kid.

REPUBLICA DE COSTA RICA

Shield of Costa Rica

Did you know that Costa Rica has been a democratic country since 1889? It’s true, and it is one of 22 countries to remain democratic throughout its inception. Oscar Arias Sanchez, the former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Prize winner in 1987, was one of the most influential and progressive leaders in Latin America over the past 20+ years. His retirement paved the way for Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’s first female president. By this point in the article, you’re probably wondering, “What does that preamble have to do with the current state of Costa Rica real estate?” Well, the answer is not much, but… it does relate to the quality of life in Costa Rica.

Last year, the Costa Rican government imposed Article 131, also known as, The (Ridiculous) Traffic Revenue Bill. Why “ridiculous,” you ask? Here are a couple of examples of how basic fines increased to an absurd degree—
• Speeding tickets went from 5,000 ($10) colones to 275,000 colones ($550).
• Driving without your seat belt fastened went from 15,000 colones ($30) to 237,000 colones ($474).
• Driving with an expired RTV (technical revision) increase from 10,000 colones to 205,000 colones ($410).

“CHiPs” of Costa Rica

I am personally familiar with the last one, because I had to pay that fine a couple of months ago when I misunderstood that the “10” on the sticker in the corner of my windshield meant 2010 not the month of October. It was an honest mistake that, and thanks to the repeal of Article 131 it only cost me $20.

Clearly, the dramatic increases were a money-grab by the government, and clearly the Costa Rican people were not having it. The flood of appeals from motorists locked up the court system.  Shortly thereafter, the Sala IV Constitutional Court declared Article 131 “unconstitutional and disproportionate” and made the government agencies reduce the fines to their original amounts.

Although Ben and I are focused on building our real estate business in the southern zone of Costa Rica, as residents, we also know that life here is more than great real estate deals in Dominical and ocean view property in Uvita. In fact, I doubt we would even be here if this country didn’t have a functioning democracy. So, now that justice has been served… back to the pura vida.

Jan 162012
 
Community effort against crime

CAP Meeting in Uvita

The bad guys, the criminals, are getting caught and thrown in jail here in The Zone, and the quality of life is in an upwards trajectory.

This morning was our monthly community meeting of CAP (Crime Awareness and Prevention). I can say that I am truly proud of this little group of giving individuals. The amount of good that they have done for us here in The Zone is impressive.

Community effort against crime

The Zone's Effective Anti-Crime Effort

The Zone is defined as running from Ojochal up to the Baru river. We are hoping that this expands up to Matapalo, but for the moment, the northern edge is the Baru river in Dominical. The most tangible effect of CAP is that they have put a number of criminals in jail.

There is something about the Costa Rican justice system that is extremely sensitive to making sure they’ve got the right guy before putting him in jail. With the video cameras placed strategically around The Zone, the bad guys are getting caught on camera doing their dastardly deeds. The evidence is incontrovertible. There is no doubt that that was them, following the tourist couple, and then grabbing their backpack when they turned their backs. Or that the guy that is reaching in through the apartment window and coming out with the camera and other goods is the guilty party.  These folks are in jail, and they are no doubt talking about The Zone and how it probably isn’t the best place to ply their trade.

The cameras are a direct result of private funding.  The start of the new year is an opportunity for all of us residents to renew our $100 annual membership and get the new 2012 CAP sticker. Others are becoming believers and are quietly contributing substantially to the effort. One such contributor place $20,000 in the CAP account.

A truly momentous event, capping off the 2011 year for CAP, was the diligent efforts of one of the Team members, (of which there are about 10.) This member, let’s call him Jackie, helped to get CAP into an official “non-profit” status. Now our contributions can be deducted, among the many other benefits. This is a huge achievement here in Costa Rica.  The effort was greatly enhanced by the generosity of local attorney Eduardo Vargas, who donated a good amount of his time for the project. Jackie has had a good final quarter in that his efforts were also directly involved in securing the $20,000 contribution.

Jackie is just one of the many talents that make up this multi-faceted group. The prime organizer of the movement is referred to as Mom by many of the CAP members. She just has a way of making you want to participate.

It’s a bit awkward to start down the road of mentioning the individuals in this Crime Awareness and Prevention movement since many of them don’t want to be known as the shakers and movers of the highly effective anti-crime effort –  for obvious reasons. But also, there really isn’t any one contributor who deserves mention more than the others. They are all giving of their time, and whatever gift they possess in this life, they bring to the table in a way that contributes directly to the quality of life, not only for those of us who live here in The Zone, but also for the many many visitors who pass through The Zone each year.

CAP DONATION INFORMATION

Contributions can be made:

1.   a)   Transfers from BCR Accounts: Account name: GUARDING THE PEOPLE S.A. ID Number: 3-101-310897 Account Number: 001- 0285359-0 (Checking account in dollars)   b)   Transfers from non BCR Accounts: Account name: GUARDING THE PEOPLE S.A. ID Number: 3-101-310897 Account number (17 Digits):15 20 10 01 02 85 35 90 0

2. Wire transfers: Banco de Costa Rica, SWIFT (BCRICRSJ), 2nd Ave 4-6 St., San Jose, 010101, Costa Rica Account #: 001- 0285359-0 Account name: GUARDING THE PEOPLE S.A. ID Number: 3-101-310897 Account address: San Clemente, Playa Dominical, Osa, Costa Rica

3. Mail checks to an US address (payable to GUARDING THE PEOPLE): CAP SB 07   12355 SW, 129 Court suite # 10   Miami, FL 33186 – 6406

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Feb 042011
 

So, the Guys have moved, once again.  We are now located in the commercial center across from

La Corona and Banco de Costa Rica. We’re right next to Sonia’s Uvita Information Center. If you are checking out at La Corona, and you look to your right across the street, you’ll see this image –>

So, why’d we move? Well I’ll tell you, and in the process you’ll not only get an idea of what rents are going for in Uvita Costa Rica, you’ll gain some insight into the basic differences between men & women, so read on!

Uvita Costa Rica real estate - new office

Guys In The Zone New Real Estate Office in Uvita Costa Rica

We moved from the second floor spot we had because we found that prospective clients simply didn’t want to go upstairs.

The capper was when I noticed that my gal Natalie would come to the parking area and call me on my cell phone.  I asked her why she did this.  Why didn’t she just come on in and talk vis a vis?  She said because she had a sun dress on and so Continue reading »

Sep 172010
 

A longtime associate in Costa Rica real estate stopped by our office after being out of the country for an extended period.  One of his first questions was, “So, what’s going on with the international airport?”  My response was, “What airport?”  He found that amusing considering the broker he just spoke to was talking it up like the asphalt trucks were lined up and ready to pour the tarmac.  We both had a good laugh.

I’m not saying major infrastructure projects aren’t being completed here in Costa Rica.  There have been many projects completed in the past two years—

  • San Jose-Caldera Highway
  • Quepos-Dominical Highway (affectionately known as, “The Dirt Road”)
  • Re-paving of the Dominical-San Isidro Highway
  • The Bridge at San Buenaventura
  • The Bridge at La Cusinga (almost)

From that list it is easy to see the progress and the progression.  What I mean by “progression” is the land routes need to be completed first before an international airport is built in The Zone.

Rumors to Reality

The list of rumors regarding the southern zone Airport is long and varied— operational for international flights by 2010, moving to a new site in Sierpe, moving south closer to the border in a joint venture with the Panamanian Government… to name a few.  The reason I am sharing this news story released by La Nacion a few days ago and forwarded by a reputable broker in the area is it actually sounds like the government has a (more) realistic plan.

In summary, Costa Rica’s third international airport will be located in the same exact spot currently occupied by the Palmar Regional Airport.  To comply with Aviación Civil (the FAA of Costa Rica) standards, the runway will be extended 400 meters and facilities for immigration, customs, and security will be constructed.  The “facilities” will include extra hangers, buildings, and even a terminal that will provide hangers and services for commercial shipments.  The price tag on this project is quoted at $25 million dollars, half the proposed cost of the mega-terminal in a new location.  They did not release a projected completion date, but I would be shocked if it was ready in two years.

One of the most interesting points in the announcement is the Minister of Tourism’s call for more hotels to be built in the area.  It is a similar point echoed by the longtime mayor of the Osa Canton, Alberto Cole.  It’s safe to say, major hotel projects are going to get the green light, moving forward.  One of the more interesting things to me is exactly how they are going to accomplish this with no Plan Regulador (e.g., zoning plan) for the area?  Where are these new hotel-resorts going to be located?

What Does It All Mean?

It means that at some point in the future there will be international flights landing in Palmar.  It means there will be more hotels, and the beaches will be alive with activity.  It also means there will be many, many more investors buying in the area.  People look at me funny when I say this area is poised for another b-o-o-m, but all of the regional signs—improved access from every direction and significantly lower property prices— point that way.

It means property in areas like Tres Rios and San Buenaventura, once thought of as “too far south of Dominical” will be a 15-minute taxi ride from the terminal.  Check out Tres Rios Estate and Tres Sandalo 17 as examples.  We only have a few listings in Palmar (see photo left), but I guarantee that number will double before the high season.

Most of the expats in The Zone have adopted the “I’ll believe it when I see it” philosophy.  We have also been surprised by the recent completion rate of infrastructure projects.  Safe to say, the completion of the 3rd International Airport in Palmar will be the crown jewel for the region.  If you are interested in buying Costa Rica real estate, this recent news bodes well for smart investors.

 

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.