Sep 062014
 
Uvita Costa Rica Walk-to-the-Beach development Villa Del Sol

Video done by Chuck Chastain of Aerial Media

Typically the type of property that I have sold over my years in Costa Rica real estate have been multi-acre, ocean view properties. These have been sold to hardy individuals that have deemed themselves up to the task of taming these jungle laden acres to their will – and then keep them that way.

There is a new trend popping up in various areas around The Zone that the term “urbanization” aptly describes. These are boulevards & lanes lined with single family home lots. The developer provides the services: water, electric and the road. The lots are 200 to 1,000 meters in size (1 acre = 4,000 mtrs). These bring to mind a common suburban residential area in other areas of the world.

These new developments to the area have made the thought of, and the ability to, buy a property in Costa Rica and in particular The Zone, a reality for a new breed of property buyer, not to mention the investors whose left eyebrow goes up when the concept is presented.

I was approached a couple of years ago by an investor who had a question. He was looking to pick my all-knowing Costa Rica realtor brain (OK, he was going around talking with various realtors.) He had purchased a large property just south of Uvita. Uvita was growing faster than any other growth that I have seen in my one-half-century-plus life. At that time we had 3 banks, 3 pharmacies, 2 Internet cafes, doctors, a dentist and numerous auto mechanics in Uvita. This was all just a few short years from a time when just getting to Uvita was a dubious bet. The growth was truly explosive.

When he bought, it seemed that there was no end in site. Uvita was a robust real estate market and the concept was blue-chip through and through. There would be a residential community behind a commercial center that fronted the coastal highway and – here’s the biggie – you can walk to the beach. It is located on the ocean side of the highway which made the blue of the blue-chip concept quite royal.

Then, 2008 happened. Someone turned off the lights on the world economy. The recession shut down the market so completely here that sellers who had repeatedly lowered their pricing were told: “you can lower your price to $5.00. It won’t matter. There simply are no buyers”.

This resourceful developer asked me what I thought about an urbanization idea. A walk to the beach neighborhood, complete with sidewalks and nice landscaping. The utilities are all underground and the lots themselves will be in the 500ish meter size range.

My response to him was “Michael, this has never been done here before, so we have to guess. My guess is that it will work, but it is just a guess.” To me the concept was akin to the early investors that bought land here in the area – I like to refer to them as The Mavericks – they bought land here in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific zone at a time when there was no rational reason to do so. It was so rustic and jungly that it required genuine “visionary” status to make a buying decision.

The Mavericks saw some insane returns on their decision. Turn a dollar into $120 and you’ll get an idea of the early days in the Costa Rica real estate market around these parts.

The spread for this 2nd tier investor is nothing like that. He is setting out to get his initial investment back and so with the bar set low, he has set out with an untried concept and voila! We have a neighborhood project just on the south side of Uvita where you can buy a lot for $40,000 and by the time all is said and done, you’ve got $200,000 into a beautiful home in a nice area with that oh-so-desirable walk to the beach component that so many are looking for.

Villa del Sol: 5 have sold so far. There is a lovely model home done and 1 house broke ground yesterday. I understand that one of the other sold lots is going to start construction soon.

Funny thing about this concept – others have had it as well. I am currently aware of at least 3 other such projects in the Uvita area. Two of which are being developed by Ticos (Costa Ricans) and one other by a US developer who has previously had some success with luxury homes. It appears that it is an idea whose time has come.

I can’t speak much about the other projects yet. I ran into one of the Tico developers the other day and asked him how his project is going. He has sold 15 lots in the $12,500 range. They are half the size of Villa Del Sol lots and the electrical wires are above ground, which is an important point. The net result, to my way of thinking, is that these won’t appeal to foreign tastes and will mostly sell to locals but… we’ll see. I assume that the US developer will go underground with his. I’ll post more as I get the data.

 

Oct 252012
 
Houses at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

What is the current market like in Costa Rica real estate?

I get asked this question quite a lot these days. Well, actually that is probably the question that characterizes the life of a real estate agent anywhere – and probably at any time, except when it is clearly known that there is a recession or a boom, neither of which describes the time we’re in right now.

Houses at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

We are currently in the depths of the rainiest time of the year here in The Zone (read: Costa Ballena), the area of the towns around Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal. For some reason this is the “low season” for tourism here. For those of us that live here, it is a delightful time of year. Sure, there are lots of days filled with rain, and at times unbelievable rains. But this is part of the appeal that brought us here in the first place. These rains are also what make the rest of the year so appealing. The southern pacific zone of Costa Rica is one of the lushest areas of Costa Rica, largely due to the fact that it truly is rain forest.

If I were to shop for property here in The Zone, I think that I would consider looking in October. You’d have no problem finding an available realtor, and you’d get to see what life is really like here, as well as be able to see how a potential property handles the rain.

Current Market:
The months leading up to October saw a surge in house sales. There was considerable activity in real estate, almost all of it in the house sector. Lots, on the other hand, not so much.

My crystal ball says Continue reading »

Aug 012012
 
dollar+airplane+scarlet+macaw

The strongest principle of growth lies in the human choice.   – George Eliot

Now that the Costanera Sur (Coastal Highway) has been completed, the new international airport for the southern Pacific zone is the single, most popular, regional question we receive. Most investors want it. Most environmentalists are alarmed by the thought of it. But, everybody wants to know how it is progressing and when/if it will be built.

dollar+airplane+scarlet+macaw

Can money and a safe environment co-exist?

As per a recent report in the July edition of Enlace, a small local newspaper here in the southern Pacific zone, the Costa Rican government just concluded a meeting to determine the future of the International Airport in the area.  They also discussed how this airport would also be the 1st “green” airport in Latin America.

Another Airport Article?

I’m skeptical when I see news articles for the new International Airport in the Sierpe/Palmar area.  There has been talk of building this airport since I moved here in 2006.  Although Costa Rica has developed by leaps and bounds over the last 10-15 years, slow progress is the custom here.  The difference with this recent announcement is Continue reading »

Dec 072011
 
2012 promises to be an interesting year.

November 28th, 2011 marks the start of the high season, speaking from the perspective of the Guys In The Zone here. However, in the few inquiries that I have made, it is apparent that there was a definite up-tick in sheer numbers of people in The Zone starting on that day, just a little over a week ago. Here’s what we’re seeing around the Guys office.

Costa Rica Real Estate

We'll see what the year 2012 brings to Costa Rica's southern pacific zone.

Lots of Sellers

We were focused on getting our property data based fleshed out over the last couple months of the rainy season.  Rod & I thought we were doing pretty well, taking advantage of the rains, and the quiet time in Uvita and Dominical to get all of our properties in order.  We have come to discover that there is no room for being smug on this front. We are nowhere near caught up with our sellers. We have quite a number of sellers that come down to Costa Rica every six months or so to visit, play, unwind and take care of property matters. This influx of sellers coming by our office, and working with them in various matters pertaining to selling their property has clearly indicated to us that we are in a Buyer’s Market here in Costa Rica. We have LOTS of excellent properties for sale at great prices.

Lots of buyers

The problem with all of these sellers coming in, is that we also are experiencing lots of buying activity. This is great for the coffers of the Guys In The Zone, but it makes for the need for Rod & I to get ourselves cloned, which we are not inclined to do, so we are simply running as fast as we can to be able to accommodate.

Buyers Profiles

Profile 1The global economic crisis seems to have inured to our benefit.  People are saying “I’ve had it” with wherever they may live (lots of Europeans in the mix, as well as Canadians and US’ians) and making the move to Costa Rica. A rather new buyer’s profile for us are the younger families that are not in the financial condition to move to Costa Rica, at least in the old “retiree” manner. These younger folks are coming here as a direct result of unpleasant conditions “back home”. So, they are looking for income generating properties.  Over the last month or so, Rod & I have dealt with about 3 of the following type requests.  These buyers are looking for:

  • An income generating property
  • Room to build several cabinas
  • Room for a small restaurant
  • Room for a main living abode for the buyers
  • Budget of $200,000

The Esquinas property sold, removing from the front window what was clearly the most talked about property in our office.  We now have another couple of options for these requests, but this is a VERY tall order. We are expecting what properties there are that can satisfy these criteria to be gone by season’s end. Here is the new HOT relocators, income generating property: Pequena Luna

Water at the End of the World

Profile 2 End of The Worlders Last week I worked with prospects that want 100 hecs, lots of water, land to farm, and big view. Their budget is 1,000,000 Euros ($1,350,000 USD). They are looking to being self-sufficient, to the point of providing their own food, water and electricity.  We may have hit pay dirt with some amazing ocean view property up in the mountains around Uvita.

Profile 2b This next one doesn’t fit in the End of The Worlder’s category, but they are certainly an interesting indication of market conditions. There aren’t enough of them to credit them with their own profile, so they are abbreviated. An investor’s group from Europe, looking towards doing an interesting, very green hotel with some activity attached to the hotel, like a golf course, or some other. The budget on this one is multi-millions.

Old Standard Property Buyer Profile In addition to these rather impressive profiles, the old standard is still there – the retirees looking to move to Costa Rica and enjoy a lifestyle with less of the frenetic pace and media saturation of the “developed world”.  It seems that the economic downturn has had an effect on this seemingly bullet-proof group of prospects.  Whatever plans they made in their lives for retiring: 401K, IRA, market portfolios etc… things have simply changed, and now the thought of generating a bit of income with what they do here in Costa Rica is of interest.

Rod is currently working a deal in progress on an amazing listing that we just got here in Uvita that is just a short ways up the hill behind Uvita. The property measures just under an acre and has a gorgeous and expansive ocean view. $90,000 on this one.  Even if this first round of negotiations doesn’t go through to close, I have little doubt that it will go quickly.

Rod is also working a gorgeous ocean view lot down in La Perla Ballena, which is south of Uvita about 5 – 10 minutes. The asking price on this one is $165,000 (back to business as usual). The buyers offered $115,000, the sellers have countered at $150,000. The buyers are cogitating on this.

We’ll see where it all goes. I include these rather mundane details of our lives here because I think that these points help you, dear reader, to know how it is here now. What the feel is here in U-town and in the southern zone. There is more, and it would seem, serious, talk about the international airport having its funding. This may actually be a reality about to happen. Heaven knows why people need to fly into the southern zone of Costa Rica, but it would seem that this is what “they” want to do. The implications of this to land values is interesting.

I’m getting close to my self-imposed blog-limit of 1,000 words so I’ll leave you with this. I went out to the San Buenas Golf Resort today, and I’m blown away.  More to come on that front.

Oct 032011
 

I was excited to find the Poll functionality on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago. The question I came up with “What is the top reason to buy land in Costa Rica’s southern Pacific zone?” seemed like a good jumping off point for this regular feature on the blog. Although the sample size was small, the responses were revealing.

Low Property Tax
Costa Rica’s property tax rate is .25% on registered value. That means if you buy a $400,000 house in Uvita, you will pay $1,000 in property tax, plus another $1,000 (or .25%) for the new Luxury Tax passed in 2010. Your total annual property tax bill will be $2,000 which is a third of what you will pay in Houston, Texas.

Investment Value
If we can agree that people want safe, beautiful, and affordable environments to live in, then the southern Pacific zone of Costa Rica has to make that list. Clearly, “affordable” is a relative term. Some clients have $50,000 for a house, some have $1.5 million; however, this market has dipped according to the simple dynamics of Supply and Demand. An ocean view property (only 8 minutes from Uvita) listed for $30,000 was unheard of five years ago, yet now we have it (Sunny Josecito). In fact, we have access to just about every type of investment in every property category.

Growth Potential
I can’t tell you how many times per week people ask me when the International Airport will be completed in Palmar. Given the fact that construction has not started, it is a difficult question to answer. Eventually, it will be constructed (for better or for worse), and the area and property values will grow as a result. I state this with a fair degree of conviction because I’ve seen what paving the Costanera (Coastal Highway) and re-paving the road between San Isidro and Dominical has done for the area. I believe if it weren’t for those two improvements, the downturn would have hit our area much harder.

Walk-Dog-Beach

Walking the dog on your favorite beach.

Weather and Beaches
Today (Sept. 29th, 2011) marks the middle of the rainy season, yet we had sun with its accompanying ocean breeze all day long. The evenings are typically cool, especially if your house is strategically located facing the Pacific Ocean and its beaches. Speaking of beaches, The Zone has something for every sun lover. You want to surf or watch surfing, go to Dominical. You want a good dog-walking beach, go to Playa Hermosa. You want to do some cave exploring, go to Playa Ventanas. I’ve spent more time on the ocean the past 4 years than in my entire life in California, because the water is warm, dare I say perfect, year round.

Relaxing Lifestyle
According to our voters, this is the top reason to buy land in Costa Rica. You don’t realize how stressful life is in the progressive Western world, until you move here. Both Ben and I came from Santa Cruz and Aspen, gorgeous towns in California and Colorado, respectively. We lived the typical cycle of working hard and playing hard, and then right back to working hard again. We were surrounded by friends, family and neighbors who were stressed by this same cycle and material pressures. It all added up to a simple yet consistent desire for change. Without question, Costa Rica presents an opportunity to slooooow down and simplify. Sometimes I surf in the morning, sometimes I walk a big farm. There’s no rushing to Starbucks on the way to pick up the dry cleaning. Here, we sit down and enjoy our coffee. We wear shorts and flip flops. If anything, life in The Zone is indeed relaxing.

So, yes there are many reasons to buy land in Costa Rica. Whether as an investment, as a relocation destination, or simply as a place to visit and unplug for a couple of weeks in the winter… The Zone will not disappoint.

Jun 282011
 

A typical conversation in a-day-in-the-life of a Costa Rica real estate agent.
Visitor – Hey Ben, howzit going?
Ben – Good man. How’r you?
Visitor – Good. How are things in The Zone?
Ben thinking to himself – (Translation: Are properties selling? Are prices going up? What is this season like? What is the coming season going to be like? How much is my property worth? What is the effect of the global economic crisis on Costa Rica? I’m thinking of selling my property, is now a good time to sell? I’m thinking about buying a property, is now a good time to buy? Etc etc…)
Ben talking – Going fine. We’re not in a boom by any means, but by contrast with the last couple years, we feel encouraged.
Visitor – Sounds good. What’s selling?
Ben thinking – (or – Are prices going up? What is this season like? What is the coming season going to be like? How much is my property worth? What is…)

It is like having a super-power. Perhaps a bit overstated, but essentially true. The nature of the business of real estate does give one an ear to the ground on how things are going with the economy, social trends and by extension, the quality of life In The Zone. We all are curious to some degree about “what’s going to happen” and so we are on the watch for data, for information that’ll give us a clue as to what the future will be like.

To illustrate: Pre-Super Bowl talk shows. These popular shows are really about nothing more than guessing what is about to happen in the next few minutes. Player’s strengths and weaknesses are analyzed, their past injuries are discussed, and notable personal traumas might even play a bit into the picture. And this is all around what is about to happen with something that really isn’t going to impact the quality of anyone’s life to any appreciable degree! We humans love to speculate on what is going to happen in the future.

So, I’ll give you my read. I’ll tell you what my crystal ball says regarding what the future might look like here in The Zone. To do so however, Continue reading »

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 212010
 
Hitting the Costa Rica real estate market bottom

In the movie “Back to the Future” we saw an example of how beneficial it would be if we could tell the future. The character Biff Tannen gets his hands on printed results from some race track and other sporting events, before they happened, and went on to achieve phenomenal wealth.

In real world economics, the trick seems to be the ability to identify trends and accurately guess what is going to happen prior to it happening. Here in Costa Rica, the real estate market is no different. Discussion and speculation about the future run rampant. Hints & clues are analyzed in a constant effort to make wise buying (and selling) decisions.

Hitting the Costa Rica real estate market bottom

It caught my attention this morning when I received the following in an e-mail from an agent in one of the local real estate agencies. He was writing to update us on a client of ours that we had asked him to help with. Without trying, our associate provides a clue as to what the current state of the market is, and perhaps, where it is going.

*Hello [Guys],

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to assist you with the property interests of the Schmegerworgs (names changed to protect the innocent).

I feel it is of the utmost importance to give your potential buyers the Tico Times of today, Friday, Sept. 10 newspaper that explains in detail the past and current real estate market place that will back up exactly what I mentioned to them about the market picking up right now and that 2009 was a slower year (article no longer avialble). I feel it is important that the wife understands if we show them a property at a price point that makes sense and feels good in their heart, they need to move forward with a purchase as good deals are selling and we cannot always replace a fire sale or “perfect property” that one lets go by.

I truly feel our BOTTOM market has passed us and current activity with all us of can only prove that.

Whether we sell them something together or if you sell direct, that is all fine with me as I feel there is much business for all of us survivors right now.

Please take care and have a great weekend.

(Its noteworthy that this e-mail is from a “competitor”.  One of the really promising aspects of the real estate industry here in Costa Rica’s southern zone is the amount of cooperation between all the agencies.)

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?

Indicators:

One of the more prominent factors are that there are less Fire Sale properties on the market now than there were before.  All the reports that we are getting from the other real estate agencies in the area are that they are busy.  This is not just under $100,000 ocean view lots.  It seems that the $300,000 home is a hot item now that won’t last long on the market.  There are also a number of larger, more removed parcels, selling.   Some of these have topped the $1,000,000 (USD) mark.  There is a growing interest in “off the grid” and “community-style” living.

We had one of our favorite developers approach us some months ago and indicate that the recession was finally affecting him, and that he really needed to sell some property.  Long story short, since that time he has sold a house and two lots, making him well.

All of the above activity was stimulated by the market ebb & flow.  The market was and is down.  The inherent quality of the properties that are available in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone is compelling.  The low prices on these properties has caused enough action here to cause us to wonder what all this talk is about a recession – (well, not really, but almost :0)  Savvy buyers are here snapping up the deals.

No one knows what the future holds.  Things are changing on the global scale, some of which is unprecedented, causing insecurity.  We really have no idea what to expect in the future.  There is the unmanageable deficit in the U. S. There is China.  There is talk about the “double dip” recession.  There is global warming and other environmental concerns.

So have we seen the bottom?

Hard to say.  However, if you were a fly on the wall of the Guys In The Zone office (or any other real estate office in the zone), you’d hear conversations that would make it seem so.  We’ve had a number of folks come through during the down time that have found what they were looking for, but then felt that they had time to decide, to “think about it”. Or perhaps they think that prices will even come down a bit more.  Our feeling is that the time to buy has been here now for some time, and may well be passing.

What we do know is that we haven’t seen prices this low and on such a great selection for some years.  So, whether “bottom” is behind us, or lies yet ahead, we’re pretty confident that now is a decent time to buy a piece of property in Costa Rica.

* Keith Schenkel of Costa Rica Real Estate Services

Mar 232010
 

If you ask the World Bank or one of the mega-water corporations (e.g., Coke, Nestle, Vivendi), fresh drinking water is a commodity. If you ask virtually everyone else in the world (including the United Nations), fresh drinking water is a basic human right. Whether it is the encroachment of privatization or Nicaragua’s plan to divert the San Juan River[1], water in Costa Rica is an increasingly lively topic.

Water is a necessity.

One of the most popular questions for potential property owners is, “What is the water situation for this property?” Most of these new investors come from North America and Europe, areas that have hundreds of years of infrastructure development.  However, this southern Pacific region of Costa Rica is still early in the cycle of development.  We continue to see rapid growth in communications (cell phones and high speed internet), power (high tension power lines), and roads (the newly paved Costanera between Quepos and Dominical).  That being said, cell phones are a luxury, but water… is a necessity.

Property In A Development

Most quality developments have a water system that has been installed by the developer.  The most common sources for these systems are high flowing springs, and in some cases surface water (e.g., creeks and rivers).  Some developments, like Osa Estates in Uvita, even have back-up systems and extensive water storage capabilities.  The interesting thing is very few developments actually have a concession (permission to extract water from the ground).  The good news is the majority of them are “in process”.  Either way, the developer usually provides the property owner a prevista (water right document) which guarantees use of water into the future (assuming the property owner is in compliance with established CC&Rs and other laws).  Proof of a water document, like a prevista, is also required by the local Municipality before they will approve any construction project on a property. Continue reading »

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.