Before You Buy
Last Updated: Apr 26, 2012
Purchasing real estate is a major financial decision, so be sure to check these items off your to-do list before you buy.
Define your Preferences
Costa Rica's property market is diverse. You can choose between rural and city living, gated communities, single-family homes, townhouses, condo buildings and luxury villas. Narrow down your search based on your lifestyle preferences and remember that real estate in Costa Rica may differ from back home, so your list of priorities may change as you explore what's available.
Research the Neighborhood
Talk with your real estate agent about comparable properties in the neighborhood, including recent selling prices and time on the market. Homes in Costa Rica, especially those listed for $200,000+, typically stay on the market for long periods – a year or more is not uncommon – so many areas are a buyer's market. However, properties in certain real estate hotspots are often to the seller's advantage, and it's important to craft your offer accordingly.
Revisit the Home
Visit the property throughout the day, at least once in the early morning, around midday, the early afternoon and at night. In downtown areas, where homes sit close together, revisits are essential in determining whether neighborhood sounds, sights and scents are to your liking. Also take note of how much light enters the home; during the rainy season, you'll appreciate bright spaces.
Rent Before you Buy
Spending a full year in your preferred area will give you time to adjust to local life, experience both the dry and rainy seasons, and determine whether you've found your ideal neighborhood. You can easily find a 3-bedroom home for under $500 per month, and a higher budget promises luxury finishes, ample green areas and other amenities.
Renting – Pros and Cons
Renting offers many advantages, including minimal home maintenance costs, inexpensive rent, and a short-term commitment. However, when you rent, you're building your landlord's equity, not your own, and are subject to pet restrictions and the owner's decisions. You may not be able to make cosmetic changes, and the landlord has the legal right to raise your rent every 1-3 years.
Buying – Pros and Cons
When you purchase a home, you're investing in your future and helping build equity. You'll find a wider selection of homes for sale than for rent, making it easier to find your ideal, and you'll be able to customize an almost-perfect house into your dream home. Home ownership is more expensive than renting, and you'll be responsible for maintenance, home insurance, and other expenses. Furthermore, buying also entails a long-term and large investment, so you must be sure that the neighborhood and home suit your lifestyle.
Do a Title Search
Once you've identified a property that you like, it's very important that you request its registration number from the seller or realtor, so that your attorney can run a title check in the Public Registry. By doing so, they can inform you about all the details regarding the property, such as liens, annotations, limitations, legal reserves, segregations, plot maps and administrative proceedings. This ensures that your investment is done in a secure and legal way. Generally speaking, the seller's lawyer does not provide such information that is crucial to obtain before purchasing a home.