Today’s article is a follow-up to our recent list of questions that people ask about Costa Rica when they first get to our office. We took a poll amongst ourselves in the office and came up with this list of frequently asked questions that more serious buyers have for us about real estate in Costa Rica. Most of these questions are asked by buyers at one time or another, so we decided to bring them to you now to kickstart your Costa Rica experience with a fuller picture.
What are the healthcare options in the region?
As a nation that is famous for medical tourism, Costa Rica has numerous healthcare options available to residents and tourists alike. If you are a resident, you are entitled to Costa Rica’s universal healthcare service called Caja, which is the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, or CCSS. This is a service that every resident pays for and it amounts to a small percentage of your net annual income. It is paid monthly and amounts to around US$70-$100 per couple for most expats in our region, including those with pre-existing conditions.
Costa Rica has around 30 Caja hospitals and many more private hospitals. In both public and private categories, Costa Rica has some of the most prominent hospitals in Latin America. There are also more than 1000 Ebais clinics, which is the equivalent of a free walk-in health clinic. Each Ebais has a doctor, nurse and a technical assistant who together work to prevent, diagnose and help cure. The nearest Caja hospitals are in Cortes and Quepos, both of which are within a 1 hours drive from the Costa Ballena (Cortes is about 20 minutes drive from Ojochal).
In terms of private clinics, there are a number of cutting-edge clinics in all facets of healthcare, wellness and beauty all around the country. Uvita has a number of dentists, doctors, pharmacies, beauticians, and healers of all kinds. Ojochal has also just opened its first pharmacy where there is a doctor and pharmacist on-site.
At a private level, an appointment with a doctor is around $50 USD. In the case of a specialist, prices range between $80 and $100. Major surgeries cost about half or a quarter of what is paid in the United States.
How do I go about getting residency?
Residency status in Costa Rica is available to a foreign investor who purchases assets valued at US$200,000 or more. This is called ‘investor status’ residency and it is accessible as most homes in the Costa Ballena would qualify buyers for this category. This residency path takes anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, depending on how organized you are with your paper work and how quickly your lawyer files your application. For most motivated people, it takes a year to acquire this temporary residency status. This temporary status lasts for 3 years and as long as you are living in Costa Rica for the majority of the year, you can apply for permanent residence after that. Residency status offers you the ability to stay in Costa Rica without having to leave the country every 90 days, like on a tourism visa.
The other popular path to residency for expats is offered to retirees who collect a lifetime pension of at least US$1,000 per month. The typical applicant in this category has a government, private sector pension or social security retirement benefits.
Income-based residency applications are a growing category for younger expats moving to Costa Rica. To apply for residency under the ‘Rentista’ category, the applicant must demonstrate that they will receive at least US$2,500 per month of income in a permanent, stable and irrevocable manner for at least 2 years, which is equivalent to US$60,000 over 2 years.
Who lives in the Costa Ballena?
A lot of buyers want to know who else is adventurous enough to move to the tropics, and this region in particular. Most expats in Costa Rica are North American, with a vast majority from the United States. Breaking things down further, the most popular states that expats come from are Texas, California, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. There are also a large number of expats from the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and European countries like the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and Germany. Our Costa Ballena communities are so diverse thanks to this mix of international expats, each bringing their own flavor and skills to the already diverse local population.
What are the options for volunteer work?
If you like volunteering and animals, there are a number of rescue programs for domestic animals and wildlife rehabilitation. There are two domestic animal shelters in the region that do spay and neuter clinics regularly that are fairly popular but can use a lot of assistance with time, money, and spreading information. These programs help to curb the stray population, which has been steadily declining since the programs began.
There are many other volunteer organizations that expats participate in their own areas. These include security committees, road associations, home owner’s associations and libraries. Ojochal has a food bank and thrift store called the Family Support Center that helps the underprivileged in the local community in a number of ways. For those a more ecologically minded, there is the Blug Flag Committee, which ensures that the local communities meet and exceed guidelines of a safe, functional and environmentally conscious village.
And for those who want to mix more with the locals, there are also regular beach and river clean ups that happen in every community. Teaching or tutoring students in English or another language is very helpful and welcome for diversifying the skill sets of locals who are living amidst an international expat population. Teaching can be done either privately or at the elementary school.
How is the internet and television quality?
Internet and digital tv packages are available from CableTica, Claro, Kolbi, Movistar and Tigo. Packages range from about $50-$100 per month for 10-20mbps download speed and North American + Latin American digital tv packages that include traditional North American channels like HBO, ESPN, Comedy Central and more, all depending on the provider. See their individual websites for specific pricing and details.
What are the costs of utilities?
Electricity rates in Costa Rica are on a sliding scales that averages around US$0.20 per kilowatt. This rate is dependent on if you use more than 200 kilowatts per month or less. If you own a small home with a pool, electricity can cost about US$110 per month without the use of A/C. Without a pool and A/C, you can spend as little as US$30 per month. And with a large home or business full of people with a pool pump and A/C running constantly, you could be spending between US$300-400 per month.
Water bills in our region are anywhere between US$10-50 per month for standard home’s usage, depending on the season and if the home has a pool.
What is there to do day-to-day?
Out of our diverse office team, we get up to the following on a regular basis: morning or afternoon hikes around the mountain roads, social meal outings, shopping in local commercial centers like Uvita or San Isidro, playing sports (volleyball, softball), surfing, walking along the beach, entertaining, swimming in pools, and whatever other hobbies we enjoy. There are a number of social groups that meet for a wide variety of reasons and our online community message boards (like on Facebook) are a great resource for finding a like-minded group.
Do I have to be here to write an offer or close a transaction?
An offer to purchase is a very simple document that the agent prepares. An offer can be done by email as long as the buyer prints it, signs it and scans it. The Sale and Purchase Agreement is a more detailed contract that a lawyer prepares and usually needs to be notarized. For closing a transaction, you do need representation in the form of a power of attorney in your lieu. We are happy to offer this service free of charge (although the lawyer will charge a small fee to set this up). We attend all of our closings to ensure that our clients are represented properly when buying or selling real estate in Costa Rica and we often act as Power of Attorney for our clients who cannot be present.
What are the legal fees for closing?
Legal fees amount to approximately 4% of the sales price and it is usually split 50/50. The buyer will have a few more additional costs like purchasing a corporation, which costs between US$800-1000, and the escrow fee.
Who pays the realtor’s commission?
The seller pays the realtor’s commission in Costa Rica.
What is involved in the due diligence process?
Due diligence is what happens after the Sales & Purchase Agreement has been executed. This includes the strongly suggested items of a home inspection and boundary verification. On average and depending on the size of the lot, a surveyor will charge around $450 for boundary verification. The home inspection cost depends on the size of the home and the average price would be around $600 for a 2000 sq.ft home.
Why do people choose to come here to live?
We hear from buyers time and again that they have chosen to move to Costa Rica for their health. They want to get back to their roots as a civilization; to get away from the stressful ways of living in the city; to get away from disease-inducing environments and to get back to nature. The typical expat also enjoys the smaller property taxes, the warm and calm weather (with very few natural disasters), the diversity of wildlife, the beach life, peace, relaxation, and community.
House prices in our region of Costa Rica are significantly lower than other countries for a similar, if not better, quality of ocean view (and life in general!) So, when life “back home” becomes too much of a routine, renew your sense of adventure in our vibrant communities of the Costa Ballena in South Pacific Costa Rica.