All about Living in Costa Rica, Buying Real Estate In Costa Rica, San Ramon, and so on ...
1. Where exactly is San Ramon, Costa Rica or Puriscal, or San Isidro or Tamarindo, etc. on a Costa Rica map?
Answer: Hopefully if you're reading this you already know that Costa Rica is in Central America just above Panama, near the equator. San Ramon is about 50 kilometers or 31 miles northwest of San Jose', the capitol and about 40 minutes from the San Jose' International Airport. San Ramon. for example, is less than an hour to the ocean, and about an hour and a half from Arenal Volcano and hot springs. See it on a COSTA RICA MAP here.
2. Can anyone own Costa Rica Real Estate, or do you have to be a citizen?
Answer: Anyone can buy and own Costa Rica property. You do not have to be a citizen nor a legal resident to own real estate in Costa Rica.
3. How hard is it to live in Costa Rica legally? Don't you have to bring a lot of money to qualify?
Answer: Under the current law if you can prove you have $1,000/month of steady income you can apply as a "Pensionado" or retiree and live legally in Costa Rica.
There is also a "Rentista" or Renters category for residency which currently requires proof of income of $1,000 per month for 5 years per household member. Additionally there is an "Inversionista" or Investor category. You can find info on all these on the internet at a site like this one, Costa Rica Residency Info .
Meanwhile, before you are a legal resident you can simply leave the country every 90 days to renew your tourist visa. Many people live in Costa Rica without the benefit of legal residency by leaving every 90 days to Panama or Nicaragua and then returning. You may here that this is not legal but there is no law against it and never has been. If you would like to speak with an immigration attorney about this I can recommend one.
4. Isn't there a problem building my home in an area that has trees, a creek and a stream? I heard that Costa Rica has very strict laws regarding cutting trees and such?
Answer: Yes, there are laws but I have drawn up the lots so as to provide several home sites for each lot without having to infringe upon the spring, quebrada or big trees. Our goal is to keep the ecosystem in tact, preserve the spring and stream and live in harmony with the park-like setting that we have chosen for our home.
5. Is a 4-wheel drive vehicle necessary to reach Rancho Silencio? And other areas of Costa Rica?
Answer: The simple answer is yes. However, as I mentioned elsewhere, during most of the year one can reach Rancho Silencio without a 4wd and it is never difficult. However, during the rainy season when it rains a lot, it is advisable to use a 4wd vehicle whenever you leave a main highway to go up and down hills on rural roads or streets.
That said, the government is currently in the process of paving the road to Rancho Silencio and it is likely that within a year one will not need a 4wd to get there. Be advised that once this road is fully paved, the value of the land at Rancho Silencio will go up significantly, adding to the value of your investment. When I bought it 2 years ago there wasn't even electricity, but now there is.
Costa Rica is known for having lots of muddy or gravel roads so in general it is a good idea to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle there.
6. How much does it cost to live in Costa Rica?
Answer: This is a complex question. The answer boils down to how luxurious of a lifestyle you want to live. There are Americans living on $600/month. And Ticos living on much less than that. Once you own your home so you do not have a rent payment, you can live relatively cheaply. However if you have a pool, run air conditioning full time and have 2 cars, you will likely require considerably more. An automobile is one of the most expensive costs in Costa RIca - they cost a lot to buy and a lot to maintain. It is hard to say the "average" monthly living expenses but I know some couples do live on $1,000 a month - though it's fairly tight - and others live on more than twice that. I think a comfortable figure for a couple is around $2,000/month.
7. I've heard that one has to have someone watch one's property 24 hours a day or some Tico can put up a shack on it and claim it as their own. Is that true?
Answer: Costa Rica has improved these "squatter" laws over the past decade so that now it is much less of a risk than before. Also it depends on the area. In the area where Rancho Silencio is, this is not really a problem because I have a caretaker checking on the property every few day. In some areas you definitely will want to have someone check in on your property at least once a month.
8. How big is San Ramon, Costa Rica?
Answer: San Ramon is somewhere between a medium sized town and a small city. Some sources say about 10,000 people live there and some say 75,000. I think it's somewhere in between. It seems like an average town, no comparison to San Jose', with the "downtown" area being maybe 6 square blocks. It's fairly easy to park (no parking meters!) and has few of the dangers or hassles of San Jose'. It has many markets, a giant vegetable and fruit market on Friday and Saturday, many banks, restaurants and stores, and yet has a small town feel to it.
9. How does one go about buying Costa Rica real estate?
Answer: After deciding to buy you need to hire a Costa Rican attorney and have him put down a deposit and sign a contract to hold the property until he checks the property title for you. If the title is clear and good then you are bound to the contract you signed to go ahead and buy the property, or else forfeit your deposit. Depending on your contract, generally within a week to 30 days you will get clear title, pay the entire amount of the property (usually with a cashiers check or bank transfer) and then you will get the property put into your name or the name of your corporation or LLC.
It is advised to use an attorney that has a good reputation in the real estate industry. You will pay a very small percentage of the cost of the property to your attorney (called a notario in Costa Rica) and various fees and taxes to the government. As I recall I ended up paying about 3-5% in fees and taxes.
10. How safe is it to live in Costa Rica?
Answer: Like most places in the world (including the U.S.) it largely depends on what kind of a neighborhood you live in. If you live in a poor part of San Jose' it is not very safe. If you live in a nice part of San Jose' it is safer. If you live in San Ramon it is quite safe and if you live at a place like Rancho Silencio it is very safe.
Violent crime is almost unheard of outside of the capitol, San Jose', and even there it is lower than most big American cities. Occasionally you hear about pickpockets, and scams that involve distraction in order to steal tourists' luggage at bus stations and so on. If one is careful and keeps an eye on one's things this is unlikely to occur. I have been visiting Costa Rica for 20 years and have never been robbed or hurt in any way. One should always keep an eye on one's valuables, even in the U.S., especially in large cities.If it wasn't safe to live in Costa Rica it would not be one of the biggest international expatriate communities in the world for Americans and Europeans.