2018 was the first year that Costa Rica took the top spot in the International Living Global Retirement Index, topping the categories of healthy lifestyle and healthcare while scoring well in the fitting in, governance, entertainment and amenities, and climate categories. People come from all over to get away from the daily drama of other parts of the world. And as one of the most prosperous and politically stable nations in Latin America, Costa Rica is increasingly becoming known as a beacon of dependability, or “a country that has its act together,” according to International Living Magazine.
Recent history indicates a stable and steady economy, currently focused on growing their tech and service industries, and with a popularly elected government bent on promoting green industry and growing ecotourism. For those who have studied the history of Costa Rica, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the country perceives itself as an island, ‘a country without problems, that must stay isolated from the insanity of the world’. It has certainly stood out from its neighbors’ troubled history, priding itself on being one of the continent’s most stable democracies. This distinction has earned Costa Rica the nickname of ‘The Switzerland of Central America.’
Expats in Costa Rica often remark that this is a nation of gentle and welcoming people; the politics are low-key, and people are generally left alone to go about their business. And it is for reasons like this that an increasing number of expats of all ages are coming to Costa Rica every year. Sometimes it takes years of ruminating on the idea of expatriation, and prospective buyers want to see that Costa Rica’s reputation for being a safe, friendly, and clean country is only growing—year after year.
It surely is not a perfect system and neither locals nor expats would claim that it is. Some might even call it expensive when compared to neighboring nations; but compared to living in Canada, the US, or Europe, the monthly cost to live in Costa Rica is far less. A retired couple could live very comfortably on $2,500 a month, or even less—all included. For those who want to escape northern winters to a slower-paced lifestyle that includes good healthcare, a tropical climate that feels great on the skin and is good for the body, and a place where you can exercise outdoors every day, Costa Rica is a dream come true. Here, people can and do live with a sense of adventure and are able to stretch their dollars in a climate that is warm, safe, and welcoming.
Tens of thousands of U.S., Canadian, and increasingly European expats already live in Costa Rica full- or part-time. And millions have traveled here over the years for beach-resort vacations, surfing, fishing, rainforest treks, and more. With many Costa Ricans speaking English, it’s pretty easy for visitors to navigate while learning more Spanish from helpful people in every day scenarios.
The Local Economy
Costa Rica is known for its cutting-edge character and for being a pioneer in the construction of sustainable development, as suggested by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. Costa Rica’s new president si, 38-year-old former journalist Carlos Alvarado, recently announced a plan to make his country the first carbon-neutral nation in the world by 2021, the 200th anniversary of its independence. The tiny Central American country is signaling it wants to beat larger, wealthier countries to environmental glory by using incentives for decarbonization.
Costa Rica is also continuing to forge partnerships with larger economies around the world. In the first semester of 2018, sales of goods abroad totaled US$5.718 billion, registering an increase of 6% with respect to the same period in 2017. The UAE is one such market that is increasingly looking to work together with Costa Rica on mutual interests such as increasing tourism and renewable energy. Costa Rica is already a large importer of UAE aluminium, dates and dried fruits, while the Emirates imports furniture, electronic cables, medical devices and pineapples. Its bananas and coffee will soon be introduced to the UAE market. Costa Rica recently opened its first UAE embassy and since then trade between the two countries has increased by 15 per cent. Costa Rica hopes to attract more medical tourists, especially for cheaper plastic surgery, dental care, eye surgery and rehabilitation in a place where nature sets recovering patients in a healing mental mindset.
Multinational companies like Align Technology are committed to investment in Costa Rica because of the combination of highly specialized local talent, location, and business conditions that enable companies to expand local operations. They view Costa Rica as an economy with optimal conditions for leading companies to invest, add value to their productive processes and strengthen their competitive position in international markets, according to Costa Rica Foreign Trade Minister, Dyalá Jiménez.
Growth in Real Estate
The last 10 months have shown an increase in private construction and growth in the economy. The Central Bank of Costa Rica (BCCR) has recently reported that construction activity had a variation of 13.3% in May, compared to the same month of 2017.
Coincidentally, our office is registering far more new buyers in 2018 than in recent years past. After the 2016 election cycle in the US, Costa Rica was anticipating a huge rise in expats in 2017. We have since learned that no matter the motivation, it takes our clients many months and often years to process the idea and plan for a big investment and bigger move to another country. But we are increasingly convinced that the federal marketing plan of Costa Rica abroad, and our own office’s consistently exceptional service standards and reputation, are bringing more clients to our neck of the woods and into our office in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, in one of the most biologically intensive wildlife corridors in the world, and with one of the most relaxed, friendly and fun international communities in the country.
New listings that are priced to our recommendation and that show well (are clean, well-maintained, and available to show on short notice) are quick to sell, generally staying on the market for an average of 3 months and selling within 5% of the asking price (sometimes more, sometimes less).
With the continued growth of the economy, political stability, and national passion for sustainability of all that makes Costa Rica so popular, we are convinced that heading into the high season towards the end of the year, the real estate market in South Pacific Costa Rica will continue to grow over recent years.