I am Deb Klipper and I have been joyfully married to my best friend Rob for 28 years. I am 58, he is 62. I left a job as a Special Educator in San Antonio Texas and he retired from a job as a biomedical researcher. We have two grown daughters and two granddaughters all living in the USA. Here in Costa Rica, we have a wonderful adopted yellow Lab named “Dude” and an adopted Calico cat named “Sarita”.
We vacationed in Costa Rica for 3 weeks during the summer of 2002. With a rental SUV, we traveled over 2000kms. As we sat in our hotel room the night before our departure we were both in tears. We did not want to leave this place where we felt the level of peace and connectivity that we did. The seed was planted.Once back in Texas, we began researching all things Costa Rica, how to obtain residency, how to begin the retirement process for my husband, how much pension he would receive and determine If we could afford to do this, get our home ready to sell and prepare all family and friends of our intention to move to Costa Rica.
All our married life Rob said “When we retire I want to live in a tropical country.” He was born and raised in Panama as a result of his father working as an electrician on the Canal. Rob had fairly good Spanish speaking skills, we both loved the idea of a warm year round climate and Costa Rica possessed the values most aligned to ours.
That being a non-militaristic Democratic government, no civil unrest, socialized medical system, and a cost of living that a retirement income could more readily afford. Additionally, we were both very weary of the “fear and paranoia” that the post 911 terrorism events created in the states. We were unhappy with the involvement of the US in the “war without end” and all the tax dollars supporting it. Costa Rica would become our asylum from the negative climate in the USA.
With house sold, following three garage sales, boxes packed and labeled, shipper and customs broker arranged, residency paperwork translated, stamped and ready for the Migracion officials, we boarded our plane for Costa Rica, having no idea where we would live upon landing. Our leap of faith had begun.
What challenges did you face during the move?
The list of criteria for obtaining residency in Costa Rica is daunting and time consuming. The stress of “ Would we accomplish what is required stateside at the consulate, before our departure?” It was a challenge, but the greater one was leaving family and friends and convincing them we were not insane. Many were skeptical and placing bets we wouldn’t last a year in a foreign country.
Our daughters felt resentful and abandoned. We knew this would pass, but not without my feeling enormous quantities of guilt for years. The day we left Texas, I said goodbye to my dad as he lay in a hospital bed recovering from lung cancer surgery. More guilt!
Can you tell us something about your property?
I am a firm believer in Jiminy Cricket’s sage advice “If your heart is in your dream no request is too extreme.”With a focused intention on our goal of living in Costa Rica, the universe helped us all along the way.
Within two weeks of our arrival, we found a lovely home to rent on a coffee farm for ($400) a month. When the owners were due back from the states two years later, we began searching for our own property to buy. We had very specific criteria in our minds for what we wanted. We would set off on Sunday drives in the area on the map where we had drawn a circle based on our criteria.
We saw a “Se Vende” sign, wrote down the phone number, made the call. We met the owner on the lote, 5000 sq. meters, with ocean view, beaches 15 minutes away, a bit of elevation to capture the ocean breezes and at a true bargain price of ($6.00) per sq.meter, (now the same properties adjacent to our sell for ($30.00) per meter.) All our criteria met! We shook hands on the deal two hours later after having given it lots of thought. Across the road from our property was a ($450) per month rental home, where we would live while our home was under construction. Our architect and builder were professional and high quality. For what was equivalent to ($45,000) we had a 1300 sq. foot cement block home, including all fixtures, appliances, furniture, windows, doors, 16 ft. high mango wood ceilings, ceramic tile throughout and all built to US standards regarding plumbing and electric.
An attorney is essential for insuring the property is legal and without any liens, and can get the paperwork done and title transferred in a timely fashion, in less than one year. A good architect is needed to get all the building permits in a reasonable time frame. A great builder who has reliable workers and is organized with his material lists and allowing the owners to have control of purchasing all materials is essential to keeping costs honest and reasonable. We ended up with a well built home and one we will live in until we die. No more moves for us.
What is the property market like at the moment?
Things are not booming. Development projects have slowed, construction is slow, rental properties are very hot. Many condos are unsold and vacant. N. Americans are not buying second homes for their vacations. More expats are choosing to rent over purchase. Many homes for sell have been on the market for several years. However, despite all of this, prices are not being substantially lowered.
Are you employed or self-employed? What challenges did you face in either finding employment or running your own business?
One very important fact for expats who think they can move here and work, it is not the case. The residency rules do not permit expats to work. They can own a business that hires Costaricans, but the owner cannot work. When a legal resident has lived here for 3 or more years, an application for Permanente resident status can be made. This status does allow one to work.
Are there many other expats in your area?
We live in a small rural community of about 40,000. This population is mostly locals with an expat population of 16. We try to meet monthly for lunch. We also have our own little yahoo group.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
We get along, but do not socialize much. There are many cultural differences, I think they prefer their “own kind” and we like our solitude.
What do you like about life where you are?
Peace and quiet. Awesome sunsets. The slow motion pace of everyday life. The clean fresh air, flora, fauna, climate, ability to wear shorts and flip flops year round. The delicious and inexpensive fresh fruits and vegetables. No need to wear a watch. No schedule or agenda.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Driving in Costa Rica. The locals do not take driving instruction or driving tests. They are horribly unsafe. The roads are not the best. Unreliable internet service. Costa Rica is in no hurry to be super modern. It is a developing country.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Research and do your “Due Diligence”. Be able to adjust your North American lifestyle expectations and attitude. Be adaptable. Have at least ($1000) a month to live on. Rent before you buy. Learn Spanish. Leave your impatience at the border.
What are your plans for the future?
Enjoy our little Bed and Breakfast business. (www.oasisbytheseabandb.com) Make more in-country outings to places we have yet to visit. Continue to improve my Spanish skills. Find an honest, reliable fulltime caretaker for our property.