You’ve heard the great reviews from people who have visited Costa Rica. You’ve seen the gorgeous photos posted on Facebook from your friends. You may have already taken a vacation there. And now you want to know more about buying property in one of the world’s most beautiful places.
But, how do you figure out if buying property in Costa Rica is right for you? That’s a question you alone can answer. Certainly, a wide variety of opinions abound on either side of the question. But, first, consider your reason for wanting to purchase property in a place like Costa Rica.
- Are you ready to retire and find the place to spend that season of your life?
- Do you want to raise your kids in a place that offers things your present location does not?
- Are you looking for an investment property in a location with loads of potential?
- Do you want to find the perfect place for a second home?
- Are you looking to move to a destination that offers a slower pace of life, more simplicity and greater peace?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then definitely consider Costa Rica as an option.
My family and I have owned property in Costa Rica for almost 15 years. We have traveled there an untold number of times. Our property investment group is sizeable, so I know firsthand many who have also invested in the country. I also know others outside our investor group who have decided to own property for a variety of reasons. I have read the many articles, blogs and stories available online citing the advantages and disadvantages of owning property in Costa Rica. I have heard the success stories, as well as the stories of how things didn’t work out. I have met and worked with scores of realtors, attorneys, builders, developers and property managers so I know how the industry operates.
Given this, all things considered, I’ve boiled my thoughts down into six reasons why I believe Costa Rica is, and will continue to be, an excellent place to own property.
Realtors always say location is king in deciding where to buy a house. You’ve heard them say it…location, location, location. For this reason alone, it’s no accident that Costa Rica has become one of Latin America’s most popular retirement and second home locales. Costa Rica is strategically located smack dab between the wealthy continents of North America and South America. And flight time from Europe is manageable.
Costa Rica sits in its strategic location, acting as a bridge between North America and South America, as well as access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Its proximity to the US allows for goods to be exported to the US in a reasonable time. Further, the country has become a strategic asset for the near-shoring of IT and other back-office outsourcing, especially given similar time zones with the US.
The economy has experienced, and continues to experience, steady growth with ever-increasing foreign investment. Tourism is a driving economic force and its continued expansion bodes well for those looking to invest in the country.
Below is a chart that shows the number of international tourism arrivals to Costa Rica from 1988 to 2014, showing an ever-increasing number of arrivals year over year. And, 2015 appears to be another banner year.
Stable government and economy
Costa Rica has a long-established democracy and is politically stable. Costa Rica abolished its army in 1950 and, ever since, has kept its spot on the list of the most stable democracies in the world. Since 1950, the government has redirected military funding instead to the police force, education, environmental protection and cultural preservation. Because the country has no army to support, it is able to provide money for universal medical care and subsidized educational programs. The well-run national healthcare system means that the country’s people are strong and healthy – and some of the most literate on the planet.
In addition to being healthy and smart, Costa Ricans are some of the most hospitable, nature-loving and peace-oriented people on earth. They love their country and are welcoming to tourists, investors and expats who love it too. Since Costa Rica has been welcoming retirees and other expats for more than 30 years, many locals speak English. The smaller coastal towns tend to have very integrated communities where locals, long-term tourists, and residents are friends. It’s also fairly common for families to be multicultural with one local Costa Rican parent and one foreign parent.
Not long after you arrive in Costa Rica, you’ll likely hear at least one Tico (that’s what Costa Ricans call themselves) calling out a greeting. “Pura Vida,” he’ll say, which means “life is good.” Indeed, that’s likely to be true for many residents: Costa Rica frequently ranks at the top of lists of the happiest countries on earth.
Due to my property investment activity, I have worked with scores of Costa Ricans from all walks of life – from attorneys to gardeners, from cooks to municipal authorities, from bankers to grocers. I have been impressed with the Costa Rican people and how they are eager to assist, how happy they are to support ventures. The vast majority are likeable, trustworthy, down-to-earth, family-oriented, happy and energetic people.
Abundant natural resources
Costa Rica is easily one of the most magical and beautiful countries on Earth. Costa Rica is literally covered in natural wonders. It has epic volcanoes with spewing lava that create natural hot springs. It has tall mountains you can climb and see the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It has hundreds of miles of shoreline – sand colors varying from black to pink to gold to white. It has dolphins and whales to watch on and off shore. The sea varies from enormous waves for exciting surfing to calm and still for snorkeling and diving. The land is covered in jungles, old growth trees, swaying palms and beautiful flowers. Rushing rivers and waterfalls flow through mangrove forests or reveal themselves deep in the jungle.
Animals take refuge in the lush landscape. The Osa Peninsula is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Howler monkeys live in the trees in your backyard. Sloths cross the road causing traffic jams. Toucans and scarlet macaws fly overhead.
High quality of life
The quality of life in Costa Rica can be exceptional. Quality of life is driven by many things, including the cleanliness of the environment, the ability for social connections, staying active, the availability of healthy food, medical care, personal safety and other factors. Below are comments on a few of these factors.
Costa Rica is one of the most valued environmental destinations, leading the world in eco-tourism. Approximately 25% of the country has protected forests and reserves. There are more than 100 different protected areas to visit.
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranked Costa Rica the world’s “5th Greenest Country” in 2012. In an attempt to go entirely carbon neutral by 2021, the country has initiated an immense reforestation program to help offset emissions.
Costa Rica is flush with natural resources and generates 78% of its own renewable energy by hydroelectric means, and an additional 18% by geothermal or wind power. The government has voted against actions that could damage its lands, such as oil drilling and open-pit mining, though both would reap financial rewards.
Despite its small size, Costa Rica has high levels of biological diversity with some 12,000 species of plants, 1,239 species of butterflies, 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals. Costa Rica has an ambitious conservation program, perhaps one of the most developed among tropical rainforest countries, that protects more than 10 percent of the country. One protected strip of forest runs uninterrupted for 40 miles through nine ecological zones from sea level to 12,500 feet. In 1995, the government presented a plan to protect 18 percent of the country in national parks and another 13 percent in privately owned preserves. Areas targeted for protection are those with high biodiversity. The government funds the project by issuing landowners forest protection certificates which will annually pay landowners about $50 for every forest hectare (2.5 acres), with the agreement that the forest will be protected. Around two-thirds of Costa Rica’s remaining rainforests are protected.
In 2015, Costa Rica’s state-run electricity company announced that the country had gone 75 days using only renewable resources for electricity. Costa Ricans are the first in the world to power their country for so long without the use of fossil fuels, and the record-breaking achievement was quickly picked up by news agencies all over the world. Costa Rican residents have certainly benefited from this clean energy, with electricity prices set to tumble between 7% and 15% in 2015. The abundance of natural resources, combined with Costa Rica’s strong commitment to environmentalism, spurred policymakers to set a goal for carbon neutrality by 2021. If Costa Rica meets the target, it will likely become the first carbon-neutral country in the world.
Staying active and eating healthy
Eating less processed foods and more local fruits and vegetables and being outside with nature every day are all changes that take place for most people who move to Costa Rica. Many report losing weight because they have become much more physically active.
And, it’s easy to stay active in Costa Rica. While there is a distinct wet and dry season in most of the country, temperatures on both coasts average between the high 70s and low 80s year round. Even in the rainy season, there is typically some sunshine every day. Such a consistent environment makes it easy to be out and about year round. With unlimited hiking trails, white water rafting, excellent swells for surfers, rivers for kayaking, and standup paddle boarding, Costa Rica is an adventure lover’s dream. High adrenaline activities are popular including zip lining and bungee jumping. In Costa Rica, even a simple walk on your nearby beach can become an adventure.
The average life expectancy in Costa Rica is 79 years – one of the highest in the world. The country has an up-to-date medical system with hospitals, clinics and complete medical services in all major cities and many towns. Costa Rica is considered to have one of the best low-cost medical care systems in the world. Dental care and cosmetic surgery is affordable and Costa Rica’s plastic surgeons are considered among the world’s best.
Costa Rican citizens receive free healthcare and residents can pay a low fee to join the national healthcare program. Private healthcare plans are incredibly affordable. Even the out-of-pocket medical costs for those with no coverage is staggeringly low compared to the U.S.
Americans who obtain residency status can enroll in Costa Rica’s public health-care system where they pay a small monthly stipend based on income. This enables access to more than 30 hospitals and 250 clinics. International Living, a magazine and website devoted to living abroad, estimates that health care in Costa Rica is about a third to a fifth of its cost in the US.
Because the country’s healthcare is top-of-the-line and inexpensive, it has brought a new kind of tourism to the country: medical tourism. Hospitals in the capital of San Jose offer world-class care. Procedures including dental work, surgeries, and more are available at a fraction of the cost of the U.S. and are extremely high quality.
The crime rate in Costa Rica is low compared to more developed countries, except petty theft. According to the United Nations Seventh Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the combined total of all Index crimes in Costa Rica to be 1208, per 100,000 inhabitants. This compares with 1,529 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 4,184 for USA (country with high crime rate).
Costa Rica’s homicide rates, for example, are lower than anywhere else in Central America, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and considerably lower than those in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While such violent crime is rare, the vast majority of crimes against tourists in Costa Rica are petty thefts from parked cars, belongings left on the beach, luggage bins in buses and theft from hotel rooms while the occupants are out.
During my almost 15 years of traveling to Costa Rica, I have never had any issues with any type of crime. Although I know some who have. So, like you would when abroad anywhere in the world, use common sense to avoid attracting criminals.
What may truly set Costa Rica apart from the rest of Central America is its dedication to the words “pura vida”. Pura vida is more than a phrase, it is a way of life. When locals say “pura vida”, it is a reminder to themselves and the rest of the world to relax, let things go, and be grateful for what you have.
I have seen first-hand over the years how the government continues to improve the country. Some of our properties were purchased when the roads were dirt. They are now paved. Other properties were purchased when electricity was far from the property borders. Now, electricity is available at the street. One property purchased had a high-elevation mountain. Now, several cellular companies are interested in placing towers on the mountain, as they compete for an ever-increasing subscriber base.
Over the years, my investor group has continued to see expanding commercial and residential building, new hospitals, improved schools, new supermarkets, a stream of companies coming in and building new factories, business outsourcing centers and other enterprises.
While Costa Rica is not the place for everyone to buy property, I believe Costa Rica has been, is and will continue to be an exceptional option.
So, is buying property in Costa Rica right for you?
Despite the country’s many advantages, at the end of the day, the proper answer to this question is: it depends on the degree of intelligence, business sense and due diligence you use when buying. No matter whether you purchase property at home or in a place like Costa Rica, buying property the right way includes approaching things with a certain level of street smarts, working with people you know you can trust, learning lots about the area you’re buying in, thorough due diligence on the specific property you’re interested in, sharp negotiating skills and large doses of common sense.
So, perhaps the real question is…are you ready to purchase property a better way in Costa Rica? To that end, I formed MyPlace Costa Rica to offer a way to buy property in Costa Rica that’s easier and safer, with a Trusted Team buy your side. To learn more about purchasing property using the MyPlace approach, click here.