Perhaps the question I get asked the most is, “Is Costa Rica a good place to retire?” Or maybe it’s, “Will I be able to afford to retire in Costa Rica?”, “How much money do I need to spend my golden years in Costa Rica?”
No matter the angle you take on spending your best days close to the equator, Costa Rica Property Listing will give you the straight, no strings attached answer.
Making a huge move from a home you’ve filled since 1984 or a condo you downsized to a few years ago takes a lot of energy. A lot of people dream of doing it, but because you don’t think you’d be able to get all the answers, you never follow through.
That’s why we created Costa Rica Property Listing.
Costa Rica Property Listing is comprised of local expert Bolivar Rodriguez and Canadian Rob Keough. Bolivar not only knows the area better than anyone having grown up here, he’s also an online Entrepreneur who has more than 12 years of experience working in tourism.
Rob has lived in Costa Rica for 6 years and has experienced both the beach and city lives. Between us both, we will get you the answers to your questions, and won’t feed you false news to try to lure your business.
Having said that, did you know that the Happy Planet Index has named Costa Rica the “Happiest Country in the World” on three different occasions? Referred to as the HPI, since 2006, the Happy Planet Index has been published four times, with Costa Rica topping the list three out of four times.
Taking into account overall wellbeing and longevity of a population, the HPI than takes that number and combines it with the country’s ecological footprint.
Retire in Costa Rica
Here is the Top 10 in the last Happy Planet Index release, along with their score:
- Costa Rica – 44.7
- Mexico – 40.7
- Colombia – 40.7
- Vanuata – 40.6
- Vietnam – 40.3
- Panama – 39.5
- Nicaragua – 38.7
- Bangladesh – 38.4
- Thailand – 37.3
- Ecuador – 37.0
When looking at straight facts, with a life expectancy of 78.5 years, Costa Rica is home to some of the oldest people in the world. There’s talk of CR being the greenest when considering energy generation, however their electricity rates can be high.
Known for it’s educated population and stable democracy, Costa Rica should be recognized for another major achievement. In 1948, they did away with the Armed Forces. Allotting no military money in the budget, 8% of the GDP is invested in education, which is 3% greater than the world’s average of 4.8%.
The Pura Vida lifestyle isn’t for everybody, but locals and ex-pats in most Costa Rican communities don’t welcome those that do not experience life that way. If you don’t have ten extra minutes to spend in a line at the grocery store or bank, you may want to consider another tropical paradise to call home.
With recent major crime in Mexico, Dominican Republic and Cuba, Costa Rica has become the top destination for North American and European travelers. Affordable flights and great accommodation prices are directing more and more savvy travelers towards this tropical paradise.
Here are some fly times from major North American cities:
Miami: 2.5 hours
Atlanta: 3 hours
Houston: 3 hours
Chicago: 4 hours
New York City: 5 hours
Toronto: 5.5 hours
London: 11 hours
Amsterdam: 13.5 hours
Whether you want to wade in the warm Pacific waters or feel the Caribbean vibe, both can be accomplished in Costa Rica in one day, if that’s what you desire. (But we wouldn’t recommend it – you need time to “smell the roses”)
Although it represents only one-third of one percent of the Earth’s landmass, Costa Rica contains 4% of the estimated species known to exist. It is considered to possess the highest density of biodiversity in the world.
Costa Rica is a birdwatchers dream, home to 850 different species of birds. That’s 10% of the world’s total avian population. It is not uncommon to see macaws, toucans, tanagers, and countless other birds on a daily basis.
Home to 12 different climate regions, Costa Rica and its weather deserves its own article. In short, Costa Rica is located in Central America between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean). It is close to halfway between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer, putting it deep in the tropics.
The Central Mountains virtually cut the country in half, reaching to heights of almost 4000 meters (13,100 feet). These elevations create drastic changes in climate, trapping clouds and heat, in combination with major altitude ranges, producing microclimates.
There are too many variations of local microclimates to list right now, but in general, the Costa Rican coastal climate consists of the dry season (between December and April) and the wet season (between May and November).
Don’t let the term rainy season alarm you. Temperature is rarely affected, with highs ranging between 30-40°C (86-104°F) all year long. Along the coast, the temperature never drops below 22°C (72°F), no matter the time of day.
Expect sunny skies and scorching temps throughout the dry season, with no rain. During the rainy season, most mornings will be sunny, with increasing cloud throughout the day. You can expect a downpour on any day, lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours.
Now that we have the basics covered, it’s time to get into what you came here for, retirement information. We will try to cover the most commonly asked questions, but please feel free to contact us directly if you require more information on any topic.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Retiring in Costa Rica:
- Where in Costa Rica should I live?
- What are the Pros and Cons of retiring in Costa Rica?
- Can I make money while in Costa Rica?
- Can I buy property in Costa Rica?
- What monthly budget do I need to retire in Costa Rica?
- How is medical treatment? Can I use my medical insurance?
Q: Where in Costa Rica should I live?
A: There is truly only one way to know where is best for you to live when you make the move to Costa Rica. You need to take the time to experience many different places.
No two places are created equal.
Maybe some like it a little cooler, others love the heat. Some need the amenities of home, while some want to be in the mountains, living the simple life.
We will always do what we can to get you the information you need if you don’t have the time or patience to do your own homework. However, we really recommend spending some time in a few areas where you are considering making your new home.
* Our recommendation is to take a year to move around the country. Travel, rent and see which area is right for you.
Q: What are the Pros and Cons of retiring in Costa Rica?
A: The Pros include low cost of living, quality healthcare, easily accessible, the warm climate, amazing nature and wildlife, and speaking Spanish is not a must.
On average, expats can retire in Costa Rica for $1500 USD per month. Of course, lifestyle will have a lot to do with how much you spend. If you plan on eating out on a regular basis or will need air conditioning all-day, every-day, that number will rise.
You will need the appropriate paperwork to live and stay in Costa Rica. A 90-day visa is granted upon entry, and a return ticket is commonly asked for by immigration. Without residency or citizenship, it will be necessary to leave the country every 90 days.
The government does have numerous emigration programs, including the Pensionado Program, the Rentista Program and Inversionista program. We have more information on these programs if required, and will have a more in-depth look at them in a coming article.
Some of the Cons have been touched on earlier. Of course the rain can be a nuisance if you are not able to adjust to it. For me, I love the rainy season. It keeps the temperatures down a little, and the beaches are quite often empty. However, if you don’t like the rain, living year-round in CR may not be for you.
As well, life doesn’t move nearly as fast in Costa Rica as it does in North America. Trips to the bank, grocery store, or any public place can take twice the time that you are used to. When you leave your house, expect a few delays, be ready for it, smile and be polite. Being calm will improve your way of life here ten-fold.
If you don’t temper your spending, you can very easily blow your budget quickly. You will need to remember you are not on vacation and you are not a tourist. Consuming local goods will help your budget, and is a must for anyone pinching pennies (or colones).
Some may talk about the crime rate, and how it is higher in Costa Rica than the USA or Canada. While that may be true, it’s not that black and white. In my 6 years here, I have witnessed a couple fights on the street. 100% of them were at a bar, later in the night. Everything was always solved without incident.
I would love to see the stats for major crime, because I am willing to bet 90% of the crime is committed in specific areas and between 1 and 4 o’clock in the morning. Scores of people come to Costa Rica to party and enjoy the tropical life, but as a retiree, I’ve stated acting like a tourist rarely works, and this is another case in point.
Q: Can I make money while in Costa Rica?
A: The easy answer is no, however, many do. If you obtain your government papers, and become a citizen, then you will be allowed to work. It’s important to know that the average monthly income of a household in Costa Rica middle fifth is about $1250 USD. The bottom 20% average income is about $350/month, with nearly 1.1 million Costa Ricans living below the poverty line. Coming to Costa Rica with visions of taking a good job from a local is just not morally correct.
Most expats will find an external income source, whether it’s a pension or an online job.
Q: Can I buy property in Costa Rica?
A: YES! And that’s where we come in. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from buying property in Costa Rica. Foreigners have the same rights as locals when purchasing land or property.
Like any big endeavor, doing your due diligence is a must and we STRONGLY recommend working with a trusted professional. The large majority of listings on our site are exclusively listed by handpicked realtors, and are top professionals in their field. Other properties listed are being privately sold and we are working directly with owners.
Making sure property is titled is something that can be overlooked, but is an extremely important first step. Luckily, Costa Rica has a central land registry that allows lawyers to confirm there is a clean title to the property you are considering purchasing.
There are some specific cases, such as purchasing beachfront concession property, but this is why using us is recommended so we will insure all the necessary information is at hand.
Low property taxes is another plus, usually running 0.25% annually. In other words, a property assessed at $100,000 will have only $250 in taxes per year.
Q: What monthly budget do I need to retire in Costa Rica?
A: This question was answered in “What are the Pros and Cons of retiring in Costa Rica”. On average, expats can retire in Costa Rica for $1500 USD per month, and a couple could easily live on $2500/month. This includes housing, utilities, food and healthcare.
As mentioned, it is just as easy to spend $5000 per month if that’s your budget, but the average local family lives on $1000 USD per month.
Q: How is medical treatment? Can I use my medical insurance?
A: The medical treatment is very good. I once read a stat that there are more doctors per capita in Costa Rica than any other country in North America.
There are private hospitals that have high costs, but you will also find great public hospitals that provide great care for acute medical problems.
As well, many people travel here for dental work, as you can find great dentists that do the same work as you will find in the United States and Canada for half the price. I have met people here at the beach that travels here multiple times a year just to have dental work completed.
Most top-flight medical care is found in San Jose, but local hospitals and clinics have trained personnel and the proper equipment to get you sorted and on your way to further treatment, if required.
Many medical insurance packages include international travel, but be sure to contact your company before you make the move to be sure your needs are taken care of. As well, packages can be purchased locally by highly rated insurance companies to ensure you are well taken care of when you are in need.
By no means do I think these 6 questions will have all the answers. Everyone will have their own questions and concerns, but this is a great introduction if retiring in Costa Rica has ever crossed your mind.
We currently only have Costa Rica Property Listings, but we are working towards developing Costa Rica Property Rental Listings, both short and long term. This will help those that are serious about moving to get a “real feel” for what to expect when you make the move for good.
We will always put safety #1, offering a full concierge service that starts with an airport pickup. We will open your door for you (if you want us to), getting you set up with everything you require. We will show you the best places to buy groceries, shop, eat and fill you in on all the local secret spots.
You can find the “CONTACT US” form on the right, or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear from you, even if it is to tell us how much you enjoyed this article, or how it was a complete waste of your time. Improvement is the base of all good businesses, so please let us know how we are doing.
As well, if you do have any questions for us, please send them our way and we will be sure to get back to you with all the answers as soon as possible.
Article by Rob Keough
Costa Rica Real Estate – ¨The Market Situation¨
It is an exciting time for Costa Rica Real Estate. As the new millennium swings into full force, recent global market changes have created incredible opportunities in this emerging Latin market.
The desire for quality, upscale real estate, modern conveniences and a better quality of life is available now; Mediterranean style villas perched on the hillsides overlooking spectacular city, beach and golf course views; master-planned golf courses, stunning properties with views of the Pacific or the Atlantic Caribbean, luxury communities with more amenities than those in the top three markets; real upscale village-style shopping experiences with major designer boutiques to trendy café’s and first-class health clubs are getting the attention of many ‘baby boomers’.
The global markets have tightened and investors are looking for new real estate markets to invest in with a list of ‘must-haves’ such as accessibility via direct flights, stable economy, desirable climate, experienced and educated labor market and excellent quality of life.
Costa Rica has it all, direct flights from most major markets including Toronto and Detroit by several of the top airlines, a proven stable economy with all of the financial conveniences of the western marketplace.
The Technological Accelerator: Major technology, consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies such as Intel, Procter, and Gamble, Abbot Laboratories have located here because of the technical infrastructure and the emerging educated workforce.
Solutions Realty would like to be your partner in all of your residential and commercial real estate needs. Full service, highly trained, experienced professionals at your service.
Real Estate Laws & Costs in Costa Rica
OWNERSHIP OF LAND
Costa Rican laws and constitution protect private ownership of land and foreigners enjoy the same rights as citizens. There are almost no restrictions to ownership of private land, except that property that has been given or sold to Costa Rican citizens as part of government programs. These properties can be freely traded or acquired by foreigners but only after the original owner has held it for a certain period of time. Neither citizenship, residence, nor even presence in the country is required for land ownership.
Costa Rica boasts a safe form of title registration to protect buyers from hidden claims. It is centered in the ¨registro de la propiedad¨ (property registry), where both title documents and surveys for every property are recorded. Any change in the status of a title or any claim that might affect it must also be noted on the title registry page, thus making a property easy to verify.
Those who want to buy land in Costa Rica should get professional advice, which includes a search of the title in the registry, so as to confirm that there are no liens registered against it, and also to establish the property’s proper ownership. Once the deal is completed, you should also secure documents from a lawyer to prove that the sale was registered, for your own safety and to present to somebody else should you wish to later finance or sell your property.
Stewart Title opened its doors in Costa Rica 2 years ago, offering title insurance. It is the biggest title company in North America. Stewart title is commonly used by many buyers to secure and ensure clean title on all types of purchases in Costa Rica.
With most properties, owner financing is available at between 10–12% per annum. Financing can also be arranged with local banks at between 8.5 – 12%.
Knowledgeable lawyers agree that zoning regulations in Costa Rica are reasonable and logical, although far less stringent than in other countries such as the United States or Canada. A registered local engineer must sign all building and subdivision plans and they also require approval by the local municipality, the ministry of health, and the government housing department.
The taxes paid on properties in Costa Rica are very low. Yearly property taxes vary from 0.5% to 1.5% of the declared value of the property. This declared value is a common law practice. Thus a property’s value is generally very low and almost always lower than the market value.
Closing costs for a sale include a transfer land tax, a stamp tax, and legal fees. Closing costs typically run 5 – 6% of the sales price and are usually split 50/50 between buyer and seller. The transfer and land taxes are assessed based on the declared value, while legal fees are charged based on the sales price of the property.
REGULATIONS FOR BEACHFRONT PROPERTY
When buying beachfront properties, one must be aware of the Costa Rican regulation that ensures that the coastline is held for the benefit of the public. By law, the first 50 meters above the mean high tide line are inalienable public property. This is known as the 50-meter line. No one can restrict access or have a totally private beach. There are, however, some exceptions but they include port areas, old land grants, and some title prior to 1973.
On 80 – 85% of the coast, the next 150 meters are leased government land and this parcel is known as the maritime-terrestrial zone (or just maritime zone). Restrictions on maritime zone land for foreigners are that one must establish five years of residency to own more than 49% of the rights to such a lease. There are two loopholes that exist: 1) holding such a lease in the name of a corporation that is wholly owned by a foreigner and b) by having a Costa Rican resident hold 51% of the lease but in name only. Development of the maritime zone does not discriminate against foreigners. A regulation plan must exist for areas where the land is or just for the parcel itself.
The other 15 – 20% of the coastal land has title to the 50-meter line. That is to say that no maritime zone exists and the landowner may develop without the inconvenience of filing a regulation plan.
Building cost generally ranges from $40 to $120 dollars an sq. foot. Average time for building permits generally ranges from 2 to 3 months time but can take longer. Building materials and techniques are similar to those in the U.S.