Costa Rica is a destination for people wanting to spend their retirement on a permanent vacation in the tropics. Though the country has plenty of homes and condos for sale to help fulfill that dream, you may find there are no properties available that perfectly suit your needs. Don’t fret! You can always build a house in Costa Rica. Building a home means that you can decide its style and create an atmosphere that will make you comfortable, which you may not be able to find in a pre-built home. What's more, it's more than likely that you'll be spending only a fraction of the cost of new construction in your home country.
You might be thinking that constructing a home in Costa Rica is risky, what with your lack of knowledge of Spanish and local building materials and techniques. In addition, there were some stories online of homes not getting completed by spurious contractors. It might have been true in the past, but the economic crash in 2009 led to these fly-by-night builders losing their business and disappearing.
Of course, the legitimate contractors remained. They weathered the economic storm and grew stronger from experience. They are survivors and are now enjoying the fruits of their sacrifices.
Building vs. renting or buying
While homes are abundant for rent and for sale in the country, you may not find one that fits your specific needs for storage space, choice of materials, airflow, and natural light. In this case it may better to build your own home if you want to move to Costa Rica.
Finding the most suitable lot
What's vital in this step is to search for an honest real estate agent and to hire a good lawyer. You need both because you are not from the country, and a lot of money is involved when you're talking real estate. You need an honest person who will have your interests in mind and guide you in finding the right home building lot in the perfect location.
What you should look for in a potential property
An honest and experienced real estate agent should understand what the client needs and do their utmost to find the best piece of real estate that will meet the client's requirements. Here are the essential things to consider.
- Water - Check if an ASADA or AyA supplies the water in the area. These are public water associations/companies in the country. The water may come from a concession, which has legal access to a nearby spring. If it is a concession, it should be mentioned correctly in the property title. Likewise, it should state how many homes the concession can supply.
- Electricity - The primary source of electric power in the country is the government-owned ICE, and in Guanacaste it is Coopeguanacaste. If you are seriously considering a property, ensure that the electrical wires pass pretty close to the property. It can be time-consuming and costly if the area is new and needs an extension of electrical service. While solar power can be practical because Costa Rica has abundant sunshine, it requires a big initial investment.
- Internet - Needless to say, you'll need internet service. Most urban areas have wired, cable internet, even fiber optic. But if the property you're considering is a long way from the main road or located in a rural area, access to the internet may be through satellite or cell phone tower. Ensure that you check what type of access is available in the area and what service works best.
- Road service - It's essential to ascertain a legal right to access the property, especially if there are other properties located between the main road and the one you plan to buy.
- Property limits - Ensure the boundaries of the property are explicitly detailed on the stamped plan. Moreover, the property plan should be registered with the governing municipality. You should know if there are protected areas, rivers, and setbacks from roads. To ensure that the details are correct, you should hire an engineer/surveyor, and then have him make any needed corrections.
- Zoned use - It is vital to ensure that the property you want to buy is in the residential zone. Checking with the municipality will eliminate guesswork. If you're purchasing a coastal property, ensure that the 200-meter setback is observed.
- Clear title - This is the most important detail to check. To avoid problems later, ensure that the property owner paid all taxes and there are no liens or disputes that can derail the purchase.
Cost of building a home
You might think that you've hit the jackpot when you see a post claiming that building a house in Costa Rica will cost you $80 per square foot. But that's not true. When you factor in all the essential materials and equipment for the construction, the average would be about $125 to $150 per square foot.
The first thing you should do is find an excellent builder. Ask for referrals and talk with previous clients. If possible, visit some of the builder’s completed homes to gauge their work and get a feel for their craftsmanship.
You must request a firm, solid proposal from the contractor with an itemized list of all the materials and the prices. Builders have a contract that is based on performance and completion, so the payment is staggered. Typically you give the builder an initial amount of 10 percent of the total cost so they can pay the architect, finalize the house's blueprints, and secure the necessary permits to start the construction work. After that, you make progressive payments in percentages when they complete a specific phase of the project, such as laying the foundation, etc.
It is important to ensure that you are delighted with the design of the house before construction begins. Any changes you want to make once the construction begins will cost more money. Therefore, visit the property with the architect and the builder before they break ground. Ensure that the house plan maximizes natural light and the direction of the windows allow for good circulation. You should also visit the construction site at each phase of the work to see if the builder follows the plan and orders suitable materials. Finally, be sure to go with the builder when purchasing the fixtures and other finishing touches.
And the most important thing for you to do is to stay within your budget.
When you want to build a home in Costa Rica, the most important thing is to have the right information and hire the most suitable contractors to make your dream home in a beautiful country a reality.