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Building a Home

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2012

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 - Costa Rica

How do you imagine your dream home in Costa Rica? Overlooking a beach and sapphire ocean, within earshot of a roaring waterfall, or perched high atop rolling, green mountains? Costa Rica’s geological diversity caters to everyone’s vision, and building a home here is the attainable dream of many. 

Building a home in Costa Rica is not an easy task. You must find a skilled architect, hire an honest and reliable contractor, expand your Spanish vocabulary to include construction and real estate terminology, and research building codes and real estate law. You will need to exercise patience, make frequent visits to your construction site and adjust to Costa Rican working styles. A good real estate team – realtor, architect, contractor and crew – is indispensible to anyone building a home. Ask friends and trustworthy acquaintances for recommendations. Look for professionals who work up to North American and European standards, which includes meeting deadlines, adhering to budget and taking pride in a high-quality finished product.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and only settle for complete answers. A low per-square-foot cost keeps construction affordable, allowing investors to build a beautiful, budget-friendly home. And it doesn’t stop with aesthetics; green home building is a growing trend in Costa Rica, and several companies work with builders to create eco-friendly homes. 

Costa Rica has its advantages, but it has its own laws and loopholes, like any other country. Follow our tips to avoid common pitfalls; with hard work and patience, your Costa Rica home will become a reality. 

      Building Tips:

      • Contractors get a discount on materials. They may be tempted to purchase materials with the best discounts. Be sure that they're using the materials you paid for and agreed upon.
      • If you have a nice view from your property, play it smart. Purchase the land around it to preserve that view.
      • Get a bilingual Costa Rican friend to talk to sellers about property and prices. Foreign accents can raise prices. Many homes in Costa Rica have only 120-volt service to the home. Often, even the 120-volt service is low capacity, perhaps as low as 15 amps for the whole home. If you plan to use heavy duty appliances or need more amperage, talk with your construction foreman in advance.
      • Costa Rican law does not require electric wires to be grounded. If you plan to use expensive appliances – televisions, computers, etc. – you should arrange for your electrical system to be earth grounded.
      • Water faucets are often reversed here: in Spanish, caliente means hot, so many contractors confuse the C-labeled faucet knob (“cold”) for hot.
      • Insist on higher-quality, wider plumbing. Often, narrow pipes are utilized for their affordability, but this can cause plumbing problems in the future.
      • If you rehire people who worked for the previous owner, make sure s/he paid them properly. You, as the new owner could be liable for a previous owner’s debts.
      • If a telephone line comes with the property, hang on to it. New telephone lines may take months to arrive to a new home.
      • If you are a landlord, you can evict tenants only if you can prove that you need the property for personal use. You cannot evict tenants as long as they pay their rent on time. By law, rent in colones can be increased only by 15% annually, unless stated otherwise in the lease. Rent in dollars may only be increased every three years.
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