Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about buying real estate in Costa Rica
How do I buy and hold land?Can foreigners own property in Costa Rica? There is no restriction to property ownership by foreigners. Properties are transferred by executing a transfer or conveyance deed (escritura de traspaso) through a notary public. In Costa Rica, all notaries must be attorneys and they are responsible for preparing, supervising the execution and recording of all public registered documents. Property cannot be transferred if the land does not have a registered survey, which must be referenced in the deed of transfer.
The National Registry reviews the deed and then registers the property in the name of the new owner. Transfer taxes and document stamps are approximately 2.5% of the registered purchase price and law sets notary fees at 1.25% of the registered purchase price.
It is recommended that you form a Costa Rican corporation hold title to your property, known locally as a “Sociedad Anonima.” Holding title in the name of a registered corporation provides greater flexibility in estate and tax planning, liability and overall management. We recommend putting your land in a corporation because it allows for much easier transference of the property in case of future sale. An attorney is recommended to form the “Sociedad Anonima” and we can put you in contact with an attorney with land transfer experience to assist in the creation of the corporation or you are free to select your own.
Is title insurance available?Title insurance is available. There are several companies that offer the same type of title insurance that is offered in the United States. Many United States title insurance companies, like Stewart Title or First American, back these companies. The cost is about 1% of the purchase price. We can order title insurance for you at the time of signing an agreement to purchase a lot.
The property is titled in the same, as you would find in the United States. All titled public property can be found on the computerized Costa Rican National Public Registry. The only way a third party can claim rights to a titled property is if they have a registered lien or encumbrance on that property. All properties are being conveyed free and clear of all liens or encumbrances.
Are other insurances, like general liability and property insurance, available?All other forms of insurances are available. Insurance in Costa Rica is handled by a government agency called INS. You can purchase insurance for your home, car, business, life insurance, and most other insurable items through INS. Home insurance is actually less expensive than comparable insurance in the United States. We can direct you to appropriate contacts to acquire any requested insurance.
What about property taxes?Costa Rica has yearly property taxes based on the value of the property but they are usually very low. Typically, 0.1% of the property value.
How do I build an “American” quality home built in Costa Rica?There are many United States based builders and architects that have relocated to Costa Rica that build by United States standards. A United States quality home typically costs $65/sq ft and up depending on materials, finishing details, etc.
All properties will have electricity and water brought to the property boundary, but it is the responsibility of the owner to bring those utilities to the structure on the property.
The properties will have landline telephone or cell phone service and all areas of Costa Rica have satellite (DSS) television.
What are the zoning laws and building codes in Costa Rica?Costa Rica has zoning laws. But typically, San Jose is the only area that has different zones. Most other property is zoned for almost any type of construction. Costa Rica does have fairly stringent building codes, but in some rural areas, these codes are not strictly enforced. There is still a permitting process that is required in Costa Rica.
Our recommended builders are familiar with the building codes and will construct your house to the specifications that you direct and in strict accordance with the building codes.
How do I maintain my house, especially when I am not in Costa Rica?You can typically hire a full-time maid that does all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and childcare for less than $350 per month. You can also hire a groundskeeper that will maintain your property, gardens, and watch your property in your absence for about the same amount of money. We also offer a property management service which will lease and maintain your property for a percentage of the rental income.
What about if I don’t speak good Spanish?It is highly recommended that you learn as much Spanish as quickly as possible. However there are over 20,000 North American residents in Costa Rica. Many Costa Rican's speak English since the number one industry in Costa Rica is tourism. It is generally easier to find English speaking people in the coast areas. There are several very good Spanish schools in Costa Rica that can quickly improve your proficiency in Spanish.
How is the health care system in Costa Rica?Costa Rica has an excellent medical system. Most people have access to universal health care, which means that people do not hesitate to visit the doctor when needed. The system covers everything from dentistry, to maternity care, to open-heart surgery. As a result, Costa Rica's population is very healthy and enjoys a life expectancy comparable to that of North Americans. For those that choose not to wait in long lines or require quick medical attention, private medical care is available as well.
Where can I find more information about Costa Rica?Maps of Costa Rica and general information about Costa Rica can be viewed on-line at many Internet sites. (Reference: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/cs.html http://maptak.com/cr/pn/pn.html )
What is the weather like in Costa Rica
The weather in Costa Rica varies widely depending on the location. San Jose, the Capital of Costa Rica, offers a constant year round temperature of about 80 degrees. The beaches are warmer with high temperatures in the 90's. The mountain areas can reach freezing temperatures. There are two distinct seasons in Costa Rica: a “dry season” and “wet season.” The dry season is usually November through April and the wet season is May through October. There is very little rainfall during dry season and it tends to be hotter and windier. During the wet season, there is usually an afternoon shower, which tends to create cooler temperatures.