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An Expat Guide on How to Buy Property

So you've pulled up stakes, and you have packed your wagon and are headed to the tropics, as in Costa Rica?  You've had every family member question your judgement and promise to visit.  You are ready to

So you’ve pulled up stakes, and you have packed your wagon and are headed to the tropics, as in Costa Rica?  You’ve had every family member question your judgement and promise to visit.  You are ready to buy your dream home in Paradise.


With the help of a qualified lawyer, your dream will become a reality:


  1. There is no multi listing service in Costa Rica. This means you will not be able to know with any confidence what this property sold for in the past or even what the price is of property nearby.  Every piece of land is so unique it is almost impossible to compare them anyway.

  2. There is not a realtors’ association, just about anyone you meet will tell you they can help you buy property and know everything you need to know.

  3. There are no standardized contracts for the purchase of property. No fill in the blank offer and places to initial counter offers.

  4. It is just about impossible to do all the above by yourself without an attorney because everything in Costa Rica including buying a car requires an attorney.

The closing costs will include notary fees. There will be escrow fees on top of this.


The good news is that if you keep these helpful hints in mind, the process will be easier:


      1.  Do your research on the area you are interested. This is a new place and a new country. Join local Facebook groups specific to that area not just the centralized expat groups.  Look at properties on the vacation rental sites to learn more about the rental markets if you are looking to rent your property.  Make a list of the five most essential things you need in this new home. Set your limit on the purchase price you are willing to invest.

       2.  Talk to real estate companies who are with the larger affiliated agencies you would recognize in your hometown. They will also be your first best friend in this new land and can help you learn the ropes about property in the area of interest to you.  They will be the boots on the ground working with the sellers’ agent to make sure all the documents required for closing are obtained timely.  It is important to understand  in Costa Rica there isn’t really an exclusive agency relationship and any agent can sell any property.  With this said, try not to go around the agent to buy directly from the seller or company.  It is best to have an intermediary between you and the seller. Agents find out that buyers’ agent shop, so they may not take you seriously.

       3.  Prepare for a large down payment. Unlike your prior home purchase, this is not a $500.00 or $1000.00 down payment to hold the property. Prepare for at least ten percent of the purchase price as a down payment when the contract is signed. This money will be put in escrow for closing.

      4.  Once you agree on a price with the seller do not sign anything until a Purchase Agreement is prepared by your attorney.  After finding your dream property, contact your attorney with all the information about the property including:

  • Purchase price
  • Seller Name
  • Location
  •  Corporate identification number
  • Your list of what you want in the purchase contract. Terms, what you want included in the price, and any other additional items.


        5.  Step 4 is the part of the process that can take a few days to two weeks depending on the terms and negotiation.  Don’t worry. This is part of the Pura Vida experience. These contracts are not boilerplate contracts. Each contract is handcrafted specific to your purchase.

       6.  You have now arrived at the due diligence portion of the purchase experience.  This is like a deep dive by the attorney and their team to ensure that you know everything about this property.  As an example: does the property have services (water/electric/septic), are there any restrictions of use, is the land suitable for dwellings or use, are the taxes up to date, has the owner complied with all the government requirements, are there liens or other issues with the property. This isn’t just a title search that you may be used to at home. This is a complete search into your dream property.


The good news is that you are rounding third and in the home stretch.  You are at the Escrow process where the Escrow company will review to make sure every box is checked, so you can close on your property. You will receive a list of the itemized closing costs, attorney fees, notary fees, taxes etc. This is the stage where you will be scratching your head about the notary fee. In Costa Rica, a notary is an attorney who has this as a specialty practice. This duty is more entailed and thus why the fee is substantially higher than getting your car title notarized back home.


Closing day has come and it is a relief. Thank all of those who have helped you navigate the way to your new life in this beautiful paradise called Costa Rica.  Kick back with a glass of wine or drink of choice and be thankful to call this place your new home.




She shares her time between Samara and Kentucky. She is a former nurse turned attorney, actress, writer and entrepreneur. Her greatest role is that of Bebe to her two Grands. While in Costa Rica she loves quadding with her husband and friends while exploring the country.

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