Last Updated: Apr 26, 2012
The Building Permit
If your future home exceeds 70 square meters (753 square feet), you must obtain a building permit from the Construction Permit Reception Office (Oficina Receptora de Permisos de Construccion). Plans are sent for study to MOPT (Roads and Transportation Department), INVU (Housing and Urban Development Department), ICE (Electricity Department), AyA (Water Department), SNE (National Electrical Services), CFIA (Costa Rican Architect and Engineer Association), the Health Department, and the local municipality where you plan to build.
Obtaining a building permit is absolutely necessary. Often after a permit is approved, the municipal authorities fail to visit the building site to check the home's progress against the approved plans. However, skirting the law is not recommended and can have very serious consequences. If you plan a major change to your construction, return to the Construction Permit Reception Office for a second approval.
To obtain a building permit, you will need the following:
Four copies of the construction plans.
Four copies of the property cadastre plan (plano catastrado).
Two copies of the property deeds (escritura).
One copy of the consulting contract created with your head architect or engineer (contrato de consultoria).
Approval from the water department (AyA) Showing availability of water.
One copy of your electrical design plan approved by SNE.
Note: Condominium, commercial construction or urbanization projects require additional permits.
Municipal Building Permits
The municipality where your building lot is located is responsible for following the building process. You will receive ongoing visits by municipal authorities reviewing your site’s progress. They will certify that all construction is proceeding to code, and may check that your team is building according to your building permits.
To ensure a smooth building process, visit your site as often as possible, talk to your construction foreman, and consult with your architect. If you have any questions or concerns, just ask.
How Long Will it Take?
Property Research & First Draft: 6 1/2 weeks
Construction Plans: 6 1/2 weeks
Building Permits: 9 weeks
Construction: 33 weeks
Total: 55 weeks
Note: These are rough estimates, and no two building processes will be the same. Each estimate is based on averages, and will be subject to season, a bit of luck and your building team’s efficiency.
Costa Rican building costs vary depending on building site, construction materials and the type of project. For example, a two-story home in a rural neighborhood with expensive finishes will cost more than a single-story, concrete-block home in an easily-accessed city.
The good news is that even a beautiful home built with first-rate materials can be affordable in Costa Rica. Labor is inexpensive, building lots are more affordable than their counterparts abroad, and building material costs are roughly equivalent to those in the United States.
In most cases, new construction runs $40-$100 per square foot ($430-$1,076 per square meter). Very simple construction starts around $30 per square foot ($315 per square meter), while luxury homes can climb to more than $200 per square foot ($2,152 per square meter).
Imagine waking up in a custom-built home, designed to suit your specific needs. Scents of the sea or the mountains waft in the breeze outside. An unbelievably blue sky stretches out for miles before you. Fresh, Costa Rican coffee percolates on the stove. A home like this could be yours for less than $100,000, built on your lot. Are you ready?