The Costa Rica Real Estate Jungle (part 1)

Some people will tell you that buying property in Costa Rica is a great idea, you can’t go wrong, it’s easy. These people are called REAL ESTATE SALESMEN. There are people who have successfully bought property in Costa Rica, these people are called FORTUNATE. If you really want to buy something in this country, I am probably not going to stop you, and that’s not my intention. I just hope I can provide a little information and maybe save a few people from financial and legal nightmares.

I’ll start out easy. Beware anything near the ocean. You can not build within 50 meters of the high tide line in ANY CASE WHATSOEVER. If you buy something already built, it can be torn down by the ‘authorities’ and you are S. O. L.

Land along the coastline within 200 meters of the high water line can not be owned, except in rare cases where the title was there before the law was implemented in 1975. In order to do anything on such land, you must be granted a concession by the municipality. There are some rules:

1.At least fifty percent of the development capital must be Costa Rican (LZMT Art. 31).
2.Foreign investors must have resided in Costa Rica for at least five years (LZMT Art. 47).
3.No one can have more than one concession (LZMT Art. 57).

The bottom line is that you really should avoid anything within 200 meters of the beach. I know a guy who bought a house near the beach with the assurance he’d be granted a concession to develop the property into a hotel. The concession was never granted and he is in limbo.

The biggest problems I have seen are those involving raw land, or property with acreage. The basic problem is the incredibly poor way Costa Rica has been dealing with keeping track of who owns what. The property registry and the surveying office have not coordinated well, to put it mildly. The result is that the amount of registered property is 140% of the actual land mass of Costa Rica! Amazing. So you can buy some nice registered property, but that doesn’t mean that somebody else doesn’t think he owns some nice registered property that just happens to overlap yours, according to official land surveys. The government is in the process of TRYING to straighten out this mess, but if they proceed at the pace they build highways, I will be very cold in my grave before anything happens.

Title insurance is virtually worthless, even if it is issued by a US company. Yet another friend bought some nice property that he thought was all his. The title company did their thing, checked the registry, and everything seemed hunky dory. Then came the time he wanted to take possession of the property, and all hell broke looks. Several neighbors claimed they owned parts of the property, and had assorted documents (who knows what) saying that they owned parts of his land. He called the title company and they shrugged. We checked the registry and it was all okay, we can’t help it if people are making claims against you. That’s YOUR problem. It is now 4 years later, and he still can’t take possession, as the resolution is languishing in the Costa Rican judicial system.

This brings us to a very important point: If you have to go to court to resolve anything, you have already lost. Oh, you may win the case after a long, expensive and exasperating court battle, but didn’t you come here to relax? Do not count on the courts moving at a reasonable pace or making reasonable decisions. Suing somebody won’t do you any good in most cases.

To Be Continued

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  1. CK Dexter Haven says:

    I suppose one really should be wary of buying property in a country that doesn't even have street addresses. To this day, that still blows my mind.

    [Dr. Blammo's parents should get a lock so that the child doesn't have easy access to the family computer.]

  2. Dr. Blammo says:

    Mas O menos
    Obviously, you are an idiot that head a bad experience.
    I'll blame it on " No chillunz B leff behine"

    • Now, who died and made you God? What is the point of calling someone names just because they are trying to provide useful information to others? And, what in the world does your lame attempt at humor based on W's failed educational model have to do with anything happening to adults in Costa Rica? The facts are that what the writer has written is all true, and it does not mean that the writer himself has experienced anything of the kind.

    • NoCalRefugee says:

      Dr. Blammo,

      Thank you for your comment. You forgot to add what real estate company you work for, or do you just work out of your home? By the way, the second person past tense of the verb 'to have' is 'had.,' not 'head.' But maybe English is not your first language.

    • NoCalRefugee says:

      Dr. Blammo,

      Thank you for your comment. You forgot to add what real estate company you work for, or do you just work out of your home? By the way, the second person past tense of the verb 'to have' is 'had.,' not 'head.' But maybe English is not your first language.

  3. mauricio corleto says:

    Hi, i been in several countries, and i believe costa rica is the worst when it some one is trying to make any kind of business, bureaucracy and judicial system are so stupid that you can go nuts…..the only people real happy in costa rica are ticos..they are so naive that they believe or are brain washed that they just like swiss…a little bit of advice before you buy or hire any body sit down and reconsider cause you are heading to a bottomless hole and you will end up loosing a lot of money thanks… for your time….chao…and PURA VIDA…….