Feb 212018
Buy a property in Costa Rica for a vacation rental

Below is a copy and paste from an e-mail inquiry regarding buying a property for the purpose of investment initially. It needs to be an existing rental property that the buyers intend to move to and live in at a future time. They need for the property to, at the very least, cover its expenses during the time they own it prior to moving to Costa Rica. This is a good example of a rather typical scenario here for a buyer’s criteria.

Thanks for writing. I’ve interspersed my comments below.

Hi Ben, my name is Meltown Bradwinkle (name changed). I found your blog and have really enjoyed the articles I have read so far, thank you!

​Thank you for the encouraging comments.​

The reason for my email is to ask you for your opinion of the purchase of a home in the Dominical to Uvita area, whether or not the right home can show a good enough ROI to carry the debt against it.

Short answer: yes.​

My wife, Melvania, and her family are from Costa Rica. My wife and I currently live in [US State] with our 3 kids, but plan on retiring to Costa Rica in 10-15 years. In the meantime we come down once or twice a year to visit family and vacation in your area. We have visited most parts of the country, but keep coming back to the southern pacific coast, where the jungle/mountains meet the sea! The blog post of yours I just read talks about the “low” season, and I agree completely with the theme of your piece. We were just there this past September and spent a wonderful couple of hours in the middle of the day having lunch, beers, and watching the downpour, beautiful!

Meltown, you sound well suited to your intention. There is a learning curve to investing in Costa Rica. Your comments indicate that you have already traversed a good bit of the curve and have a rational basis for your interest in this area of Costa Rica. 10-15 years allows for a lot of possible movement, up or down, from the conditions that you buy in now. The indicators right now are that we are heading into a time of property values increasing. I know that you’re asking about rental ROI and I’ll get to that in a minute. Initially I’ll address…

Property values:
Having endured the toilet flush of values in 2008 we have seen how dramatically the market can move. We are currently in a time of stasis. There hasn’t been much movement price-wise since the recession, but I would characterize the conditions as follows.

During the recession there was essentially no market for real estate in our area of Costa Rica, and perhaps in the whole country. There were a few anomalous sales that happened, but they stood in stark contrast with the reality of the the sleeping market.

Then, we passed through a time of buyers showing up and us realtors were in a bewildered state of “a buyer???” Our inventory had been languishing for several years and now we had buyers. The sellers were wondering if they would ever be able to sell their Costa Rica property(ies). We passed through the “fire sale” phase where these dejected sellers would take 40 – 60 cents on their dollars to move their property.

The fire sales are now gone. But the asking prices have not gone up. Well, maybe a little now and if so, more so with houses than raw land. Houses in the $300k – $500k range are the bread basket of our market and if they are reasonably designed and have an ocean view, they sell rather quickly. When I say “quickly” I mean by Costa Rican standards.

I just had a couple of clients that came to Costa Rica, bought a small hotel and a riverside residential piece for the future. They put these properties under contract knowing that they had to sell their home in San Francisco prior to closing. The market in SF is such that an immediate sale was expected. When they didn’t get an offer on the first day of the listing going public they panicked. It took 3 days to sell and they were a little disappointed that they only got $100k over asking price.

Costa Rica is not this way. The norm here is that the property will sit on the market for a few months at least, and then there are negotiations of roughly (and this varies) 10%.

As for raw land – lots that have ocean views and services & access in place, there was a glut. This is slowly changing to where we realtors are now having the occasional request that challenges our ability to come up with some options. But overall there are still a good selection of lots available.

The message of all this is that the prices are good for buying but they are firmer than they were as the market establishes it’s equilibrium.

Sorry rambling on a bit. I have equity in assets of my business, and am contemplating using that equity to purchase the “right” home in the area. But it will be borrowed money, so I don’t want to jeopardize my business related assets, hence the need for the property to carry itself. Is this realistic or just a dream? I have researched the property rental business in the area, but it has been impossible for me to come up with good hard numbers, occupancy rates being the most critical, and what is the right price point for a specific property to rent for weekly.

I’m inclined to respond to your inquiry about a financed property’s ability to cover its own costs in the positive – but of course, with caveats.

About Rentals:
Rentals in this area are strong. The area is growing in its prestige as a global vacation destination of choice. There are not a lot of hotels here and just the nature of tourism here leans towards the “destination” accommodation instead of the “bed” accommodation. By this I mean that visitors to the area seem to prefer having a multi-bedroom home, complete with kitchen and amenities that make the rental where they are staying a part of the stay. A pool is important. They may spend a day or days just hanging around the home.

Vacation rentals offer some enticing numbers. You’ve probably done a search on VRBO for the Dominical area. The homes here get a good penny for a weeks stay.

I think that long term rentals are the sleeper rental opportunity here. Most buyers are romanced by the high vacation rental numbers but fail to calculate the end-of-the-year numbers.

Comparison of short and long term renting:
Short term: your per-week price is considerably higher. Your maintenance and marketing costs are also higher, as is the hassle-factor. Your occupancy is lower.

Let’s say that you get $2,000 per week for your vacation rental home. To calculate a monthly on the same property, you’d end up somewhere close to the weekly. Let’s say $2,400 per month. Now calculate the costs associated with having the occupants change every week or 10 days – laundry, cleaning, re-stocking, administrative etc…

Occupancy rates vary depending on the property and the owners ability to market the property. I use the following and won’t argue with anyone that comes along with different numbers. This is just my take.

First year short term, shoot for 35%. The next couple of years your objective is 50%. Some reach 60% and higher with an exceptional property and exceptional marketing and probably years of history.

​Long term, you’re looking at 100% occupancy and the costs are very reduced when compared to the short term.

Take the above scenario as a loose guide only. Look at what your money costs you, your level of investment, and what you need in order to have the property cover itself.

There are times of the year when there aren’t enough beds in the area to accommodate the demand, and there are times of the year when there unoccupied beds.

Any input and guidance would be greatly appreciated!

Meltown Bradwinkle

Thanks for reaching out to me. I appreciate the confidence and I hope this helps.

I may post an edited version of this e-mail to my blog as I think that you address concerns that many others have as well.

Please keep me in the loop as I’d love to know what you decide to do and how it turns out. And of course, if I can be of assistance with your real estate concerns, I’m available.

The above e-mail was written in January of 2016. Many of the statements regarding current property values have proven to be accurate and what I like to call a rational market prevails. Also, my estimates on occupancy percentages remain as stated.

Aug 202014
Expats in Costa Rica

“Myopic” would probably best describe this post. The vantage that I have of the Costa Rica expat scene will be purely autobiographical, what I have seen and some of what I have heard in my 16+ years of living full time in Costa Rica both as a father of a family of 5, an Internet marketer and a realtor.

Expats in Costa Rica

Expats: The Mix in Costa Rica

When we made the move to Costa Rica in January of 1999, we felt like the only US expats in San Isidro de Perez Zeledon. This is a small town by most standards, but San Isidro is a large city in Costa Rica’s southern zone, located about what was then 45 minutes from the coastal town of Dominical. It is now located about 30 minutes from Dominical, not due to a change of location on the part of the town, but caused by the improved roads since them.

At that time, our dress, stature (we are generally taller than Ticos) and overall manner made us stand out. There were times when as a family we would walk the streets of San Isidro and felt that a hush would fall on the street due to the presence of the Gringos. Many with whom we would interact were having their first experience of talking with a foreigner.

My Spanish was the best of the family (at that time -this has changed) but this isn’t saying much. So it usually fell to me to do the talking. It was a truly delightful experience to sense the pleasure that they (the Ticos) would experience from this simple happening. They were nearly always quite gracious and would take whatever time we wanted to pass with them there on the street, in the shops and sodas (Costa Rican typical restaurants).

Since then things have changed. We are no longer unique. A day spent walking the streets of San Isidro is marked by various languages from around the world and there is certainly nothing unique about being Gringo in Costa Rica. They really don’t take much notice anymore.

After 6 years in San Isidro, I moved over to the coast. My kids had grown and my wife & I had separated. I lived in Dominical for a couple of years and then down to Uvita where I now reside. From the lofty perch that working in real estate has afforded me I have been able to observe the influx of expats to the area and to track the transformational changes on this small country that has resulted from what I would call, revolutionary changes to the culture and quality of life for the Ticos.

It is this relationship between expat and Tico that plays prominently on the move to Costa Rica. The Tico culture is, in many ways, complementary to other more developed country’s cultures. I kind of hate using these words because in many ways “more developed” should mean “higher quality of life”, What is this quality?  “Greater happiness”? Hmmm… I’m not so sure that these terms fit. There is the much publicized status of Costa Rica being the “happiest country“, but in the present vernacular of accepted expressions, we deem better roads, electrical services, Internet, apps, stores, restaurants and so on as “progress” and “better developed” and so I use it here to describe the changes that have happened, in these areas, to an extreme degree.

Initially the primary buyers of land were people preparing for retirement or the individualistic, slightly out-of-round ones that were looking for something different from “back home”. At that time life here in The Zone could be described as “adventurous” due to the scarcity of conveniences and challenge of transportation around The Zone. This plus the sheer power of Nature here in this part of Costa Rica.

Both types were of a hardy nature. It was like there was a giant curtain filter hanging over the country separating the southern zone from the northern. To simply get here required this quality of “hardiness” just to get here. Most relocators were looking to the northern province of Guanacaste and its beaches. You never saw people in wheelchairs here and there were very few over 65, but there were a few. The ones that I know of this latter type are still here and doing quite well.

Now we have a few more groups or types of people looking at property.

The Retirees (God love ’em) make up a large share still. It is interesting about this group that they seem to come down to purchase their property 3 – 7 years before they intend to do anything with it.

Investors make up a good segment but this is almost always in the mix for all the “types”. For some however, this is all that they are doing here. They want to take advantage of the recession pricing on properties here, and there are indicators that this strategy is well placed. The crystal ball of what is going to happen in the future indicates that there will be continued, and likely, increasing growth here in the coming years.

Wellness Groups, individuals and families are looking for tracts of land where they can design a self sufficient life in an area of the world where there is reduced dependency on utility companies. The weather here is comfortable 24/7, and you can produce endless varieties of fruits and vegetables. I like to say that you can throw a toothpick at the ground in Costa Rica and it will take root. Granted, a slight exageration, but only slight.

I think that one of the most notable newcomers to the types of people that are moving here are Young Families. Uvita has 2 private schools that are busting at the seams. There are medical services, grocery stores, hardware stores and so on. There are even a bowling alley and a golf course down the coast a ways. These are evidence of this groups presence and is a vibrant and growing community of these young families.

Finally, a group that I call the End of the Worlders. These intrepid folks have done their research and have determined that the “developed” world is on its last legs and that it simply has to end.  They deem the practices there as unsustainable and so must end. They feel that Costa Rica would be a good place to ride out the coming storm. Self sufficiency ranks prominently in the criteria of what they are looking for in a property: water, sun and room around them as a buffer.

I would say that simplification is a common trait amongst the various types, perhaps less so with the Investors, although some in this group have this in mind as well. So many are saying that they have had enough of the large house, large property and large life.

So the constant here in The Zone is change. The result of all this change is a developing hybrid culture that mixes people from all walks of life: countries, languages, and cultures blend here into what we now have and enjoy here.

(I’ve got a link up above to an article about Costa Rica being the Happiest Country on Earth. I wanted to re-mention this. The article goes beyond the topic of “happy” and has some pretty darn good points regarding Costa Rica you might enjoy reading. Here it is again: Click Here)

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 »

Important Immigration News!

 Posted by on September 19, 2012  News in The Zone  No Responses »
Sep 192012

It is a well-known law that limits the amount of time that a non-resident can stay in Costa Rica to no more than 90 days. So, for those that like to visit for longer than that, or for those that migrate and spend say, half the year hear, listen up, er… read up!

I just received a call from my buddy in Immigration.  He told me about a law that was going to be put into effect on the 27th of this month. It goes like this: if you over-stay your time here, you will be fined $100 per month. Now this is getting a bit serious.

Juan went on to explain more by means of an imaginary situation. Let’s say that you are 3 months over your 90 days, and you go to cross the border into Panama in Paso Canoas. You give the gal behind the window at Immigration your passport.  She sees that you are 3 months over. She says, you need to pay the $300 dollars.

Now, you weren’t expecting this, and you may not have the $300 dollars.  So you explain this to her. She says, well then fine, just go on into Panama. You can come back into Costa Rica in 9 months.

That is the gist of what Juan told me. I’ll be getting more details on this and posting them shortly.


Jul 242012
A metaphor for life in Costa Rica

Living here in Costa Rica’s southern pacific zone, or “Costa Ballena” as it is called, has some interesting quirks. Quirks that, when considered as a list can make one wonder why this place is frequently referred to as “paradise” and achieving the “dream”. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • You live on a “public road”, but you pay for your road care with your cooperative neighbors
  • The U. S. Government has worked it so that expat citizens must disclose their Costa Rica bank accounts to the Treasury Department on their tax returns. I hear mixed numbers about this, but I understand that there are only about 2 countries in the world that require annual tax filing from their expat citizens, the US being one of them.
  • Ditto for disclosing your Costa Rica corporations
  • Emergency medical care can take a while to get to you, like when you are lying on the side of the road, waiting for an ambulance
  • You hear prowlers outside of your gorgeous ocean view home – the police have no gas for their vehicle, so you call your neighbors
  • You bring a book with you to the bank so you can pass the time waiting for the next available teller
  • Un-cared for domestic animals
  • Rip tides
  • Sun
A metaphor for life in Costa Rica

A little rough on the outside, but sweet and healthy on the inside.

OK, so I got carried away there with my list of inconveniences that accompany living in Costa Rica. Maybe I’ll do one of those “You know you live in Costa Rica when…” lists.
I suspect that life in Costa Rica is much like life elsewhere and that all of us members of the human species like to gripe about various aspects of life, wherever we are.  The above list is, for the most part, meant to be informative to those that don’t live here. This list could easily have been extrapolated from conversations overheard at the neighborhood soda (Costa Rican restaurant).

However, I contend that…

the lack of such services here in The Zone, may have something to do with Continue reading »

Jul 122012

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s beyond obvious, Mr. Guy In The Zone.” For those who tune into this blog on a regular basis, I agree… BUT, did you know that the search term “Where Is Costa Rica” gets over 13 million global monthly Internet searches? Two things came to mind when I saw this statistic—

  1. The Pura Vida Buzz, a phenomenon I will expand upon below
  2. Rising Interest in Vacation and Retirement

Searching for Costa Rica…?

The Pura Vida Buzz — The last time I asked the question “Where is Costa Rica?” I was waaaaay back in college.  My roommates were surfers, and they mentioned Costa Rica as a possible surf destination.   Search engines weren’t as populated with information in the early-90s, but there were a few travel books in the local bookstore.  The thing I remember jumping out at me was the color green.  Whether it was the frogs, the jungle, or the aerial views… Continue reading »

May 202012
Photo of a stethoscope for the article on health insurance in Costa Rica

I am 53 years old and have just gone through the process of applying for private health insurance. There are two types of health care in Costa Rica. One is socialized medicine. All residents of Costa Rica are required to pay into what is called “caja” (KAH-hah) insurance. This runs me about $25 per month. This is the government subsidized health insurance in Costa Rica.

I have written about my one week stay in one of the caja hospitals. I don’t recommend it. Its not so much that the practitioners aren’t good, its the overall structure. I think that you definitely want your health providers to be mindful of the fact that if they don’t offer a good service, then someone else will and they will get the business.

Photo of a stethoscope for the article on health insurance in Costa Rica

The second type of healthcare here is very similar to what you get in other  countries, and what we refer to as “private” insurance. Up until recently. the Costa Rican government was the exclusive provider of health insurance. This has changed and there are now some international health insurance providers here, and I hear that they are pretty good. I don’t have any experience with them so I can’t detail how they work or their value.

This article is just about the private insurance that is offered through INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros), the Costa Rica government’s health insurance branch.

The Exams

Since I am so old, I had to get a number of health exams to see if I qualify for the insurance.  I still don’t know if I do qualify, but if the response on the part of the examining doctors is any indication, I should get in no problem. It is interesting that this past May 11th marked the second anniversary of a violent criminal event that almost killed me and left me blind in my left eye.

One of the testing doctors used the word “perfecto” about 5 times during the general examination of my overall level of health.  She said that if I didn’t have that one, life threatening bugger on my record, I would have a perfecto health record. So, it will be interesting to see if I get approved.  For you folks out there that are wondering how to be middle aged and have a couple doctors say say “perfecto” when they examine you, I’ll pass my secrets along in a minute.

So, 53 years old, in perfect health with the exception of this small, life threatening incident two years ago – $1,600 per year.  I can pay it monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or once a year. I’m not sure that the coverage is as far as deductibles go, I’ll post that information when I find out. The coverage is for up to $200,000 of insuring per year.  You can get an additional coverage if you like. It’ll set you back another $160 per year and it adds another $200,000 to the coverage and is specifically for cancer and other such catastrophic incidents.

I decided against the additional coverage, despite its low cost.  I spent a month in CIMA hospital and was in a drug induced coma for 2 weeks.  That visit included multiple medical specialists, amazing facial reconstruction surgery that left nine plates in my head, a plethora of x-rays, and a good steady flow of pain meds and antibiotics. My bill came to $110,000.  So, I’m not sure what you’d have to do to run the bill up to over $200,000.

I’ll post another article if and when I get accepted.

Ben’s Health Secrets

As a reader of the Guys in the Zone blog, you get the dubious pleasure of my secrets on how to be in perfecto health.


I have been into fitness all of my adult life.  We have always had a home gym of the Olympic weight variety with vertical leg press machines, and cables for low rows, squat rack, bench, etc. I have been involved and invested in my health. I thought that I was in shape when I went to my first kick boxing boot camp here on Dominical beach – boy was I ever humbled.

Aside from attaining to new levels of exhausting, never before achieved, I also released more endorphins than I previously knew possible. The point here isn’t to discuss how to kick box, but simply to say that I am in the best condition of my life, and I credit this activity with this data point. Oh, but there is one more thing –

Green Drinks

Vitamix is the key here. I brought one down from the States during a visit to my family in Davis.  If you don’t yet have one, or worse yet, don’t know what one is – a Vitamix is a blender on steroids. I mix up a drink every morning that has the following ingredients:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • ginger root
  • turmeric root
  • frozen pieces of pineapple
  • frozen bananas (2 of ’em)
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 cup of ground up oat meal
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of ground up flax

I will also add mango, tamarindo and other fruits when they are available. This drink gets me through every morning of my life with no hunger and is slowly converting me into something of a super hero.  I am almost to the point of flying, almost.

The best way to buy a Vitamix is to go to my website and buy one there.  There are a couple of reasons why this is the best way to buy – one is that it appears to be the best price around.  The other is that I make a commission if you do.  Buy a Vitamix from Ben: Go to www.blenditraw.com.

In conclusion, getting basic health insurance in Costa Rica is easy.  It’s the getting healthy part that takes some doing.

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!

Jan 012012
Consider the cost of living in Costa Rica.

Please see part 1 if you haven’t already.

My e-mail inbox, and Facebook, and LinkedIn messages, repeatedly urged me to go to the Wall Street Journal to read this article. It appears that my friends know my interests.

I spend much of my days talking with people who are interested in making Costa Rica their home. Real estate occupies a fundamental place in this decision hence, the referrals to this article, written by a couple of 60-some gals that relocated to Playa Naranjo on the Gulf of Nicoya, 5 hours north of where I live in Uvita Costa Rica.

Consider the cost of living in Costa Rica.

Does and early retirement to Costa Rica cut expenses in half?

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

In detailing out living expenses here, the author (Vicki) says that she has cut her living expenses in half:

We spend about $50 a week on food (for two people). Native fare is rice and beans (about $2 for about two pounds), potatoes, yucca, onions, red peppers and carrots (about 25 cents each). For $1 you can buy three cantaloupes, or two avocados, or four mangos, or three oranges (in season), a watermelon, or a whole pineapple and enough fish to feed two. Two pounds of ground beef (86% lean) or boneless chicken cost about $4. On occasion, I’ll splurge, paying about $6 for a bag of Cheetos or miniature chocolates.

I am one of those guys that doesn’t pay much attention to what stuff costs at the grocery store. This is not due to vast wealth, although I suspect that the wealthy are among the most vigilant of such things. That is likely one of the reasons why they are wealthy.

What I do pay attention to is when something is outrageously expensive, like walnuts, and cheese. Peanut butter is prohibitive and only the not-good-for-you-hydrogenated-oils-added type is available anyway. This is a bummer for those of us that thrive on peanut butter on bananas. Here we live where bananas grow like weeds, and there isn’t a decent source for quality peanut butter. Give me a break! Such are the ironies of life.

So, I’ll go with Vickie’s report on the costs of various staples.

Housing prices are off their highs of two or three years ago. You can buy a nice two-bedroom home on about an acre of land for between $100,000 and $300,000. My utility bill is $50 to $150 a month, depending on how much I use the air conditioning. My property tax last year was under $100.

You can get a good idea of housing prices in The Zone by looking around this blog. It would seem that houses are a bit less expensive in Playa Naranjo if Vicki has her numbers right. Although, maybe not. I understand that up north there are lots of small, 1/4 acre, piano key style housing developments. Since we don’t have this type of property here, we are not comparing mangoes with mangoes. Most lot sizes here are multi-acres and have ocean views.

Having said that, we do have one house that is actually quite nice starting out our housing options at $150,000.

Uvita Ocean View Cabin

Ocean view mountain cabin in Uvita Costa Rica 2 bedroom, 2 bath, ocean view, wood constructed cabin in Uvita. Price just reduced to $150,000.

This is a bit of an anomaly. I would typify our house options as starting at around the $250,000 – $300,000 range, and go up from there.

Expense: Electricity – Pools and Air Conditioning

So much depends on how you want to live. I don’t have air conditioning, but I find that a pool is nearly indispensable here in Costa Rica.

Electricity is expensive here. As with so many things here in Costa Rica, the powers that be are saddled with the challenge of two extremely different economic strata living together in one country. There is a graduated use scale for billing electricity consumption. They seem to have done a pretty good job of determining how to really nail the primary consumers and leave the simple, non-consuming farmers alone.

Unfortunately, the high cost of “luz” as electricity is called in Costa Rica, affects the price of food. The cost of running all those refrigeration boxes in a grocery store is the primary expense of running such a business and affects the price on the non-refrigerated peanut butter, which is the real tragedy of this story.

There are a number of different strategies for dealing with the high cost of electricity here in Costa Rica. One couple I know feel that there is a time of day, when the demand is low, when you get more kilowatt bang for the buck. So they set up to do their laundry in the wee hours of the morning. Others say that this is simply not true and that there is no timing involved with the billing of electricity.

On properties where there is more than one structure, like a main house with a guest house, you can run two meters, one for each building. This helps economize on the scaled, consumption based billing of ICE (EE-say, not ice) the electric company.

Pools, refrigerators and air conditioning are the primary contenders for causing a shock with the monthly electric bill. One trick that I learned from a veteran expat pool owner, is to ignore the traditional pool care procedures and instead do this.

Run your filter for a couple hours a day only. This will obviously cut down on electrical consumption. However, the thought is that you need to filter all of your water, once a day. So, you calculate the amount of water you’ve got, with the amount of water that your filter filters per hour, and you’ll likely come up with the need to run your filter for 4 hours.

Well, ignore that.

Go with the two hours. Use your tester to make sure that you always have the right amount of chlorine in your pool. I switched from a salt pool over to chlorine for economic reasons, so I’m not talking here about salt. You’ve got to run the filter to get the salt/chlorine conversion, and that requires longer runs of the filter, which makes economizing on electricity difficult if not impossible.

When the 2 hour cycle starts, gradually pour a half cup to a cup of granulated chlorine into your pool’s skimmer. I have gone for months with this program with no problem. We do, on occasion have problems, but not any more than the normal amount for pool owners, and our electricity bills went down.

Disclaimer: I am no pool expert. We have had problems now that have required professional help to clear up, but I think that most people with pools have such concerns, even when they are doing the conventional, electricity-gobbling pool care system. Also, if you decide you want to try this program, really keep an eye on your pool. Learn how to use additives like “Shock” and “PH” powders. If you see any discoloration in your tile or grout, you’ve probably got algae. Get rid of it. I use a steel brush and swim around with a mask and snorkel prowling for any irregularities.

My but I do carry on. There is so much more to say on this topic of retiring to Costa Rica.

Gratuitous use of my primary search term for Google purposes: Costa Rica Real Estate

More Retire Early to Costa Rica coming soon.

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.