It’s no secret that Costa Rica is one of the most popular places in the world to buy a house. The country’s natural beauty, stable government, and thriving economy are just a few reasons people are drawn to it. Furthermore, foreigners in Costa Rica have many rights, including opening bank accounts, earning rental income, and purchasing a property without necessarily becoming residents.
According to the National Association of Realtors, Costa Rica was the fifth most popular country for American home buyers in 2018. In 2022, Forbes ranked Costa Rica as the second-best country in the world to retire to. And it’s not just Americans who are buying properties in Costa Rica – foreigners from all over the world are investing in the country. In fact, according to the Costa Rican Association of Realtors, foreigners bought $2.4 billion worth of property in Costa Rica in 2017, representing a 26% increase from 2016.
These statistics show that buying a house in Costa Rica is a smart investment. Not only will you be able to enjoy all that the country has to offer, but you can also expect your property to appreciate in value over time. Below, we’ve included four steps to keep in mind when purchasing a house in Costa Rica’s market, including checking the title of your potential home and hiring a real estate agent.
The property title
Property ownership follows specific rules in Costa Rica. The property title is an important factor to consider when purchasing land in Costa Rica. However, the legislation made sure that foreigners benefit from almost the same privileges as residents if they want to invest and purchase land in the country.
There are specific areas designated for particular types of development, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with any legal provisions or ask your real estate agent to explain them before making an offer. For example, there are coastal zones where construction is limited to certain heights, and agricultural zones where farming is the primary use. Furthermore, it is essential to make the distinction between titled land (fee simple) and concession land, such as beachfront property.
Titled land (fee simple)
Title land (fee simple) is a type of property ownership that gives the owner full control over the property and all its assets. The owner can sell, lease, or use the property however they please, and can also bequeath it to their heirs. Fee simple ownership is the most common form of property ownership in Costa Rica and is often used for residential and investment properties.
Under Costa Rica’s maritime concession laws, the first 50 meters from the high tide line are deemed public property that cannot be privately owned. Titled land begins at the 50-meter line. This line marks the extent of the purchaser’s ownership and allows for certain rights and privileges, such as constructing buildings and other improvements on the property. The 50-meter line can also be used to establish the boundaries of the property in the event of a dispute.
The 50-meter line in Costa Rica is an important boundary marker for property owners. The line is used to determine the size of a property, and any structures or improvements that are built on the property must stay within 50 meters of the line. If a structure is built closer than 50 meters to the line, the owner may be subject to fines or other penalties. The 50-meter line is also used to determine the boundaries of protected areas, such as national parks or reserves.
Concession land is the right to use a specific land or property, located in the Maritime Zone. This right is granted by the government for a pre-determined period of time. When you purchase property along the coastline in Costa Rica, the government will often impose a 150-meter line of concession land. This means that you are not allowed to build anything beyond this line, and any development or construction within the 150 meters must be approved by the government. This is done to ensure that the public has access to certain areas along the coastline and to protect the environment. Oftentimes, this line will be marked on the property itself so that you are aware of where it is located.
In other words, concession land materializes as a “lease” on a property, which is granted to a “leasee” for the pre-determined amount of time with the ability to renew the concession if all rules and regulations have been complied with. Typically, concession grants are issued for 20 or 25 years and, in some cases, the period can be even longer. They can be renewed easily if the rules have been complied with throughout the term of the contract. Foreigner purchasers can acquire rights to concession land; however, there is a restriction for foreigners owning more than 50% of the shares of a corporation with concession rights.
The owner of a concession land title has full control over the property but is also responsible for following the terms and conditions set by the government. In order to obtain a concession land title, the owner must submit an application to the government and demonstrate that they have the financial and technical ability to carry out the proposed project. If approved, the owner will be granted a land concession contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the project. The contract will also specify the duration of the project, after which the property will be returned to the government.
95% of beachfront property throughout Costa Rica is considered concession land, which is measured by the first 200 meters horizontally from the high tide line. The first 50 meters of that land are considered public and the remaining 150 meters are available as concession/restricted land. Upon obtaining the proper and approved permits from the local municipality, the concession land’s leasee may build, subdivide and/or perform other acts on that property, depending on the zoning rights obtained and established restrictions on the zoning plan.
Property taxes on concession land, known as a Canon in Costa Rica, is determined by the appraised value of the land as well as the type of land zoning and begins at a floor of 25% annually. A concession land title can be an attractive option for those looking to invest in Costa Rica or purchase residential properties, as it provides a high degree of flexibility and control.
The zoning and restrictions
Zoning and restrictions are important aspects to consider when looking to invest in Costa Rican real estate. In particular, the government has a variety of regulations in place that investors must abide by. The restrictions on purchasing beachfront property have been put in place to protect the country’s coastline.
With so many people from all over the world interested in buying beachfront property in Costa Rica, the government is worried the country’s natural beauty will be spoiled. Much of the prime coastal land is zoned for tourism use, meaning that development is restricted to hotels and other similar tourist facilities. This is done in order to protect the country’s natural beauty and preserve its beaches for future generations.
There also are zoning plan laws around several indigenous reserves and national parks, such as Manuel Antonio Natural Park, to protect the natural beauty of Costa Rica. These are mainly near Puerto Viejo, but it is always best to check around to confirm before trying to make a purchase.
Overall, it is important to be aware of the various zoning and restrictions that apply to real estate in Costa Rica. These regulations can have a significant impact on how property is used and developed, so investors need to be sure they are compliant with all the relevant rules and regulations. Working with a real estate agent saves investors from all the trouble of having to deal with the restrictions themselves and allows them to find a way to buy their dream property in Costa Rica while complying with the law.
Now that you know places to avoid when looking for a home, you can make an informed decision regarding the area where you want to move to Costa Rica.
Maybe you want to live near a certain town or beach and enjoy spectacular views. Perhaps being in the heart of Costa Rica, in the Central Valley or San Jose is what you are looking for. Or maybe you just want to live in a gated community with a grocery store or a bank nearby or close by to expat communities. Some foreigners and expats often choose to move away from the hustle and bustles of the big cities and just a stone’s throw away from the jungle. The possibilities are endless.
Put together a list of things you want and will not budge on, not only with your home but your neighborhood. Look at the communities as well, and see if they are accepting of foreigners in their location, although Costa Ricans are known for their open hearts and minds and are very accepting of living in unison with foreigners.
Make sure that one of the things on that list is cost and real estate prices. While Costa Rica might seem like a great option because it is cheaper, it is also can build up costs if you aren’t paying attention. Take into account the cost of groceries, utilities, fees, taxes, and more in your area before choosing your final house.
Locations expats and foreign investors love
Playa Flamingo is one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations. Situated on the country’s Pacific coast, the town is known for its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. It’s also home to a wide variety of high-end real estate properties, from luxurious condos and villas to sprawling beachfront estates.
If you’re looking for a piece of paradise to call your own, Marina Flamingo is the perfect place to start your search. Here’s a closer look at some of the most amazing real estate options in this Costa Rican gem.
For those who want to enjoy all the amenities of a five-star resort while still having their own private retreat, there are plenty of luxury condos and villas to choose from in Playa Flamingo. These properties come complete with top-of-the-line features and finishes, like gourmet kitchens, spacious living areas, and private pools. Prices start at around $600,000 for a villa and $350,000 for a lot and go up from there.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in luxury living, a beachfront estate in Playa Flamingo is sure to fit the bill. These properties offer breathtaking ocean views, direct access to the sand and surf, and all the amenities you could ever want or need. Prices for beachfront estates start at around $4 million.
Playa Tamarindo is a notable exception to the Maritime Zone that we have mentioned before. It allows foreigners to buy beachfront properties without having to split the ownership. This is why it is the perfect location for expats and investors to purchase property at.
This small town on the Pacific coast is known for its breathtaking sunsets, sandy beaches, and lush jungle surroundings. And with prices for real estate starting at just $50,000, it’s an affordable place to buy a vacation home or retirement property.
If you’re interested in purchasing property in Tamarindo, you’ll find a wide variety of options to choose from. There are condos and houses available for sale, as well as land if you’re interested in building your own home. Prices for homes start at around $200,000, while condos can be found for as little as $150,000. Land prices start at around $30,000 per acre.
It’s important to start looking for a real estate agent after you’ve narrowed down your choices and before making real estate purchases. Though Costa Rica is fairly small, many real estate transactions are done locally, meaning that agents only cover a small area. The agents at Christie’s cover the whole country.
Once you’ve narrowed down your top places, you can start looking at real estate agents. The help of an experienced real estate agent is priceless, especially when you look to buy property internationally. This allows you to make sure everything is covered and you don’t overlook any regulations, fees, or anything else.
Only work with a real estate team that has a good reputation. Real estate companies and real estate offices in Costa Rica have no compulsory licensing requirements although licensing does exist. For your peace of mind, try to find a licensed realtor who has great reviews and a solid reputation. Costa Rica Christie’s agents are licensed and cover the entire country.
Your real estate agent will help you draft the offer, figure out the best price to offer, explain closing costs, and sign the agreement when done. A real estate attorney is also something worth looking into, as they can go over your contracts and ensure that your real estate transactions are looking good before you sign for a property purchase.
Advantages of hiring a real estate agent
- They know the local laws. For example, a quick search shows you that any foreigner in Costa Rica pretty much has the same rights as any citizen, and that includes purchasing a house. However, there are two major exceptions surrounding Maritime Zones and INDER properties, which the current property owners might not know about or tell you. Your real estate agent can go over these specifics with you to make sure you won’t purchase a piece of property that leads to legal issues.
- They can check your title. A real estate agent can check property titles easily as you go through the purchasing process. If you want to do it on your own, you will have to search online and know the property’s identification number on the National Registry.
- Find the best place for you. Whether you want a house near your workplace, lower property taxes, a gated community, or a luxury home, a real estate agent can help you find the best place for you faster than any online property search can.
- Keep things going even if you are abroad. If you have to leave due to only having a temporary residency or a 90-day tourist visa, your real estate agent can continue to work on the purchase process on your behalf, while you schedule a new visa.
Buying a house in a foreign country isn’t easy. It can involve a lot of rules and housing guidelines you might not experience in your own home country or other countries. However, Costa Rica is often the exception to this rule. Its zoning laws are clear, and foreigners enjoy almost the same rights as citizens when it comes to property purchases.
Even so, working with a real estate agent can help you throughout the entire process and make things a lot simpler and faster for you. After all, investing in real estate is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make. It helps to have someone else dot the i’s and cross the t’s for a successful real estate transaction.