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Buying Property

Costa Rica - Buying Property

Almost all properties in Costa Rica are registered on a central national registry network and allocated a “Folio Real” number. The first step when interested in a property is to run a check for the full details via the Registro Nacional website: http://www.registronacional.go.cr/

The process of purchasing a property in Costa Rica can be summarised in the following steps:

  1. You will make an offer of purchase
  2. Your lawyer will draft a purchase agreement
  3. If the seller accepts you will make a deposit on the property
  4. You will order a survey on the property to check its conditions
  5. You will run a title check
  6. You may optionally purchase title insurance
  7. Your lawyer will close the sale

You can also acquire a property by buying through a corporation, which is a very straightforward procedure. The business must be incorporated by minimum two different people with a Costa Rican Notary Public present. Following that, shares can be transferred to one person if necessary. You will need to register a Board of Directors which should include three or more people – these can be the original incorporators. Once the business has been incorporated the property can be acquired through its name.

The different types of properties available for purchase in Costa Rica are as follows:

  • Fee simple
    The owner of the property has the absolute right to own the property and use it as they wish, within the guidelines of Costa Rican law.
  • Properties in condominium
    The property developer may have imposed restrictions for purchases within a particular development.
  • Concession property
    This normally refers to beachfront properties which are governed by the Maritime Zone Law. There are restrictions imposed upon the purchase of concession properties, such as a maximum period for use of the land (normally 20 years, requires a permit but can be renewed) and a law prohibiting foreigners to be majority owners of a property.
  • Untitled property
    These are properties that have not been recorded at the Public Registry of Properties and therefore the true owner cannot be guaranteed.

Time share properties are also available, but uncommon, in Costa Rica.

As in other countries, there are a range of fees involved in purchasing a property in Costa Rica. The fees you can expect to pay are as follows:

  • Mortgage registration fees
    The Costa Rican government will charge 0.5% of the mortgage value to have it registered.
  • Legal fees
    These will be between 1-2%.
  • Transfer taxes
    These are charged at 1.5%, plus an additional 1% for other stamps at the Public Registry.
  • Escrow fees
    If you choose to use the services of an escrow agent the fees will vary according to the provider.
  • Incorporation fees
    If you decide to purchase a property in the name of a new corporation you will usually pay between $500 - $1000 in corporation fees.
  • Survey fees
    If you employ the services of a surveyor to inspect the property the fees will vary according to the surveying company chosen, as well as the location and size of the property.
  • Other fees may also be applicable.

N.B. Estate agents in Costa Rica can legally charge up to 10% commission, but this is paid by the seller of the property.

It is important to make sure that you work with a highly experienced legal representative and professional notary, so that the process of purchasing property runs smoothly and successfully. You can expect to pay between $25 and $50 per hour for a lawyer in Costa Rica. In order to find a reputable professional we recommend checking the following:

  • Do they offer bilingual services?
  • What hours are they accessible?
  • Can they provide an emergency contact number?
  • What is their specialist field?
  • How much do they charge up front? (This should normally be 50%)

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) can help you to find a reputable lawyer, and they can be contacted as follows:

Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR)
An organisation providing assistance to foreigners living in, moving to or retiring in Costa Rica.
Tel: +506 4052 4052
Email: info@arcr.net

Estate agents in Costa Rica are not required to be licensed therefore you will need to carefully check their background when selecting an agent to work with. It is advisable to ask whether an agent is affiliated with any of the following organisations, or is a certified international property specialist (CIPR):

  • Costa Rican Association of Realtors (CCBR)
  • Costa Rica Guanacaste Association of Realtors (CGAR)
  • National Association of Realtors (NAR)

It is recommended to use an Escrow agent when transferring funds and to purchase a Title Guaranty to protect your investment.

Read more about this country

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