Looking For Real Estate

Housing and Real Estate Investments in Costa Rica
Finding a Temporary Place to Stay

While exploring Costa Rica or looking for an apartment, house or other
type of residence in the San José area, you may choose to stay at one of the
many accommodations listed below.

If staying in downtown San José, I recommend the Dunn Inn (2222-
3232)
. It is run by North Americans and is a very popular gringo hangout.
The service is excellent and you can make some good contacts. At night the
new bar is a happening place.

In the beautiful city of Heredia I recommend the Hotel America
(260-9292)
E-mail: info@hotelamericacr.com, www.hotelamerica.com. The
owners also operate three other quaint and affordable places in the same
area: Hotel Ceos (262-2628), Hotel Heredia (2238-0880) and Hotel
D’Cristina (2237-3036).

There are other accommodations for all tastes and budgets in the
metropolitan area. The price range is from a few hundred dollars at the top
end to less than $20 at the lower end of the scale. I don’t have the space
to list every hotel, motel, pensión, aparthotel and bed-and- breakfast in
the section below. If you want a more extensive list I suggest you purchase
Christopher Baker’s Cost Rica Handbook or any of the guides listed in the
last chapter of this book.

Vacation Rental Homes
Vacation Rental Homes are another possibility for your stay. They are fully
furnished, and have cable TV, Internet, a fully-equipped kitchen, laundry room,
phone and other amenities. To find out more, look on the Internet in places
like www.craigslist,com Costa Rica, the Tico Times and AmCostaRica.com.

Aparthotels
Apartotels function something like a cross between an apartment and a hotel,
but rent for longer periods of time. They include a kitchenette, cooking
facilities. and are fully furnished, down to the hand towels. Aparthotels, are
a good first option because they are completely equipped and have phone
access as well as bilingual management. From there you can comfortably
survey the market. If you are living in Costa Rica only on a seasonal basis,
an aparthotel is probably your best bet. Usually they are less expensive than
hotels with similar amenities, but more expensive than apartments. The Don
Carlos and Los Yoses
are centrally located and have nice accommodations.
Aparthotel Castilla (2222-2113), Aparthotel La Sabana (2220-2422) and
Aparthotel El Sesteo (2296-1805
round out the list.

Bed-and-Breakfasts
Bed-and-Breakfasts, or B&Bs as they are sometimes called, have sprouted up
all over Costa Rica in recent years. Most of these establishments are smaller
and in many cases less expensive than hotels. What sets them apart from other
lodging is their home-like, quaint ambiance. Many have a live-in host or owner
on the premises and some are located downtown. Most B&Bs advertise in
the local English -language newspapers, but there is now a service to help
you find the “right” b-and-b for you. Call or fax the Bed-and-Breakfast
Association at 2228-9200.
To make a reservation, call, 2223-4168.
Some feature vegetarian / vegan food – www.casametta.com.

Homestays
Homestays can be a good option if you would like to check out Tico home
life. They provide a great introduction to the Costa Rican way of life and
the opportunity for you to improve your Spanish. Best of all, you have the
experience of living with a Costa Rican family. Meals may be included
depending on how you negotiate it. You must ask around with your local
contacts in order to find one, although they’re fairly common pretty much
anywhere in the country.
I highly recommend Bell’s Home Hospitality, 2225-4752, Fax: 2224-
5884, E-mail: home-stay@racsa.co.cr.

Apartments
Here are three apartments that cater to foreigners. All are furnished and
located in or near downtown San José and offer kitchens, a telephone,
cable TV. Apartments Scotland (Tel: 2223-0833, Fax: 2257-5317) and
Apartments Sudamer (2221-0247, Fax: 2222-2195).
Rentals
Some people are buyers while others are renters. People from the second
group will be happy to know that housing is affordable and plentiful in Costa
Rica. Renting is the least risky and most flexible. It can, however, be costly
in the long term, and depending on where you want to live, there may not
be much rental product available on the market. Neither do renters have the
chance to see a return on their investment. On the other hand, if you have
limited resources and are not planning on staying in Costa Rica for the long
term, renting is by far the best option.

If you do plan to live in Costa Rica for a long time, in some cases it’s
highly recommended that you rent before you buy depending on your financial
situation. Neighborhoods and cultures reveal their secrets reluctantly, and
six months of renting will teach you things about your new home that a
simple visit would never expose. This is especially true considering that your
move will include a measure of culture shock. If you discover something
you don’t like, you can pull up stakes and try out another region of Costa
Rica. In the event that you decide to move here permanently, you will still
have to consider whether to continue renting, or to buy or build something.

No matter what kind of rental you get, it will either be furnished or
unfurnished.
These are loaded terms, and don’t mean the same thing
as they do in the United States or Canada. For one thing, unfurnished
apartments are completely unfurnished. That means they don’t even
include basic appliances like stoves and refrigerators. Furnished apartments,
meanwhile, are generally decorated very poorly, with knick-knacks, cheap
picture frames, and tacky curtains. The furnishings themselves are usually
hand-me-downs – castoffs from the landlord’s residence. Shockingly, this
is often the case even in pricey properties in the $500 to $1,000 range.

Landlords in Costa Rica typically put the bare minimum of upkeep into
their properties as well, so before you settle on a place, you will probably
view a parade of gloomy concrete boxes with cracked tiles, peeling paint,
ancient kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and faded wooden cabinetry, all
being rented at absurdly high rates. Newer properties, by the way, won’t
necessarily have these same problems, and in all likelihood they rent for the
same rate.

If you’re looking for a house rental, your two basic options are standalone
houses and houses (or townhouses) in gated communities. The
former might be cheaper because your landlord does not have to pay condo
fees. The latter will be safer, since the condo fees usually include 24-hour
security, and your landlord may not ask you to pay them. Be careful since
some apartment buildings lack safe, strong gates or security systems to
protect tenants.

There are quite a few gated communities in the Central Valley and
the surrounding areas, and more are being built every year. That kind of
housing is more difficult to find in rural areas, and in beach areas it’s usually
targeted toward tourists, and therefore quite expensive.

Apartment rentals are most common in city areas, although you can find
them more or less anywhere if you look long enough. Like house rentals,
you can get one with or without 24-hour security. Newer apartments come
with their own parking spaces in a guarded area, which is something to check
on if that’s important to you. Also, when renting ground-floor apartments,
you usually also get any garden space that comes with the building.
Rental prices vary just as in your hometown. With the exception
of downtown San José, rent for houses or apartments is reasonable (half
or less than the cost in the United States). Depending on location and
personal taste, a small house or large apartment usually rents for a few
hundred dollars per month. A luxurious house or apartment will go for
$800 to $1,500 per month or more. Most of these upper-end houses and
apartments have all the amenities of home: large bedrooms, a spectacular
view, pools, gardens with fruit trees, bathrooms with hot water, kitchens,
dining rooms, a laundry room and even maid’s quarters, since help is so
inexpensive in Costa Rica.

In the lower range—from $300 to $700—you can expect to find a
two-to three-bedroom house or apartment in a middle-class neighborhood.
Since most Costa Ricans pay less than $150 monthly for rent, $400 or more
should get you a nice place to live. Most affordable houses and apartments
are unfurnished. However, you can usually buy a complete household of
furniture from someone who is leaving the country. This way you can save
money. Most of the cheaper places will not have hot water. In the shower
there will probably be an electric device that heats the water. If the shower
doesn’t have one of these devices, you can buy one for about $30 and have
it installed for a few dollars.

When looking for a place, remember to check the phone, the shower,
closet space, kitchen cabinets, electrical outlets, light fixtures, the toilet,
faucets and water pressure, locks, general security of the building, windows
and the condition of the stove, refrigerator and furniture, if furnished. Look
at the ceilings for telltale signs of leaks and stains.

Also, check for traffic noise, signs of insects and rodents and what the
neighbors are like. Ask about the proximity of buses and availability of taxis.
Have your lawyer inspect the apartment before moving in and document
its condition to help avoid any potential problems.

As a final note on rental options, there is a rather distinct difference between
rentals for ticos and rentals for foreigners. Tico houses and apartments have
a rather dreary style that includes block construction, small or no windows,
tin roofs, and shabby furnishings. That being the case, tico rentals also come
with a lower price, so if you can handle “going local” for a bit, you’ll get to
both experience some of the culture and save money. Also, if you have pets,
make sure to ask your landlord about them ahead of time.

Here is an example of a rental from an ad in the newspaper. “New “fully
furnished” two bedroom*/one bathroom apartment for rent at $500.00 per
month. The apartment is located near the Real Cariari Mall. It is minutes
away from Heredia’s Ultra Park/Global Park, ten minutes to the airport and
twenty minutes to downtown San Jose or Escazú.
“Apartment features private telephone line, Amnet cable TV / RACSA
Internet cable modem, leather sofas, hot water tank, dishwasher, clothes
washer/dryer, 28” TV with DVD player in living room, 14” TV mounted on
wall in bedroom, bedroom closets, vacuum cleaner, pantry closet, all necessary
kitchen utensils, a gym quality “Life Fitness” Elliptical Cross Trainer** and
secure parking for one car. 24 hour neighborhood guard service is included
in rental price. Utilities (telephone / electricity / water / basic Amnet cable
TV / basic 256kbps RACSA cable modem internet) average $100.00 per
month. No pets. Long term, i.e. one year, rental agreement only. $600.00
security deposit required.”

Below are some more tips a local real estate expert recently wrote about
renting here:

1. Be clear on what you are looking for and what you can pay. Better rental
equals more money.
2. Ask your agent to negotiate the rent down for you. Some landlords will.
3. Try prepaying the rent a few months to get a better rent. Some landlords
like this.
4. Remember that the majority of landlords in Costa Rica never read the
rental law (No. 7527). So, they have no idea about their rights or duties
as property owners or about legal procedures that protect both tenants
and owners. Also they will sometimes violate the rental law, and most
of the time they will get away with it. Many landlords will break the
rental law, if it means saving money.
5. Widen your choices by furnishing it yourself. We have a real shortage
right now of furnished places.
6. Be a good tenant. Costa Rican landlords have become accustomed
to bad renters, slow payers, fussy people who say, ‘please come over
and change my light bulb.’ Make yourself a model renter, the one you
would want to rent to, if you were a landlord. This gives you moral and
economic leverage. It just makes sense.”

Be sure to have anything you sign translated into English before you sign
it. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand based on the landlord’s
word of honor. You should be aware that by law landlords can raise rents
where the contract is in colones a maximum of 15 percent annually. On the
other hand, contracts in dollars may be raised only once every three years.

You can read about the rental law in detail in my book, Christopher
Howard’s Guide to Real Estate in Costa Rica, available at www.amazon.
com. Also, you can read about La Ley General de Arrendamientos Urbanos
y Suburbanos Ley 7527 in Spanish at www.asamblea.go.cr.
Principal points of the rental law:
1. A rental contract can be either verbal or written.
2. No matter what a contract says, a renter who duly fulfills the terms of
a rental agreement, can stay for three years minimum, no matter what.
If the period of the contract is more than three years, the longer term
takes priority.
3. At the end of the term, if the landlord wants the rental property back,
he or she needs to notify the tenant at least three months before the
term expires. Otherwise the term is automatically renewed for another
three years or whatever the original term of the contract states.
4. When property is rented to an individual as a home and in colones, Costa
Rica’s currency, the rent amount increases automatically 15 percent
every year. When the rental price is agreed to in any other currency,
the automatic increase does not apply. Usually rent is stated in colones or
U.S. dollars in Costa Rica, but it can be negotiated using any worldwide
currency. Businesses can negotiate any payment method and/or yearly
adjustments agreeable to both parties.
5. Public services and utilities are to be paid by the tenant except for
property taxes, which are the responsibility of the landlord.
6. If a property is sold or otherwise transferred, it should not affect the
tenant’s rights and the new landlord must respect any existing contract.
7. Any improvements made by a tenant automatically become the property
of the landlord.
8. A tenant cannot change the original, agreed-upon use of a property. For
example, a home cannot be turned into a pet store or a pet store into a bar.
9. Landlords have the right to inspect their property once a month.
10. Tenants have the legal right to pay rent up to seven days after it is due.
11. In negotiating a rental contract, a landlord can request any guarantee
deposit they deem necessary to protect their interests.
12. Tenants can not sublet/lease a property.
Rooms in homes usually rent for about $100 monthly. We know of
several foreigners who live this way to save money.
As I mention later on, before deciding to live in Costa Rica permanently,
it is a good idea to rent a place first or find a real estate agent who can show
you around and guide you through the buying process. As you have just seen,
a variety of rental options and price ranges is available to match almost any
taste or budget. However, for gringos, the prices are generally much higher.

The main advantages to buying and not renting are the appreciation
you gain on your investment and the rent money you save,
You will need a map of the area where you want to live. The Tico Times
is a good place to start looking. La Nación is the most prestigious Spanish language
daily with ads. It has an excellent real estate section on Saturdays.
However, relying solely on classified ads in newspapers is a mistake and
can prove to be misleading. Some places are outright disappointing when
compared to the way they are described in ads.

Other sources for finding an apartment are supermarket bulletin boards
and word of mouth. Tell everyone you know you’re hunting, and ask them
to tell everyone they know, and so on. The Blue Marlin Bar, in the Hotel
Del Rey, McDonald’s in San José, around the Central Park in Heredia and
other gringo hangouts are other places to inquire about rentals.

When hunting for an apartment or house to rent, contact the Association
of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR)
, Tel: (506) 2233-8068 or 2221-2053,
Fax: (506) 2255-0061, www.arcr.net. They will help you look in those areas
that suit your personal needs and help take the headaches out of finding a
place to live.

When reading the ads in the Spanish-language newspapers you should
be familiar with the following words:
Air conditioning………………………………………………aire acondicionado
Apartment……………………………………………………………..Apartamento
Backyard ………………………………………………………………………..Patio
Balcony………………………………………………………………………….Balcón
Bars (window)………………………………………………………………….Verjas
Bathroom………………………………………………………………………… Baño
Beach…………………………………………………………………………….. Playa
Bedroom ………………………………………………………………. Dormitorio
Building ……………………………………………………………………….Edificio
Carpeted ……………………………………………………………….. Alfombrado
Cable TV……………………………………………………….Televisión por cable
Condominium………………………………………………………… Condominio
Contract… …………………………………………………………………. Contrato
Deposit………………………………………………………………………..Depósito
Dining room………………………………………………………………. Comedor
Dryer………………………………………………………………………….Secadora
Elevator…………………………………………………………. Elevador, ascensor
Farm ……………………………………………………………………………….finca
Floor………………………………………………………………El piso, La planta
Furnished…………………………………………………………………Amueblado
For rent…………………………………………………… Se alquila, en alquiler
For sale……………………………………………………………………… Se vende
258 The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica
Garage …………………………………………………………… Cochera, garaje
Garden…………………………………………………………………………. Jardín
Grassy area………………………………………………………………. Zona verde
Ground floor …………………………………………………………. Planta baja
Guard………………………………………………………………………… Guarda
High speed internet……………………………….. Internet de alta velocidad
Hot water …………………………………………………………… Agua caliente
House…………………………………………………………………………….. Casa
Kitchen……………………………………………………………………….. Cocina
Laundry room……………………………………………………. Cuarto de pilas
Living room……………………………………………………………………… Sala
Lower floor…………………………………………………………….. Planta baja
Maid’s quarters………………………………………………..Cuarto de servicio
Parking lot………………………………………………………………….. Parqueo
Patio ………………………………………………………………………………Patio
Peaceful, quiet…………………………………………………………… Tranquilo
Refrigerator………………………………………………… Refrrigeradora refri
Rent ………………………………………………………………………… Alquiler
Rooms……………………………………………………….Habitaciónes, cuartos
Safe……………………………………………………………………………… Seguro
Shower…………………………………………………………………………. Ducha
Stove……………………………………………………………………………. Cocina
Swimming pool……………………………………………………………… Piscina
Telephone…………………………………………………………………….Teléfono
Tub………………………………………………………………………………Bañera
Unfurnished……………………………………………………………. Sin muebles
View……………………………………………………………………………La vista


Related Resources:

Cayman Real Estate & Vacation Rental Properties

Mexico real estate – Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Cancun

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