The Pros & Cons of Buying Property in Costa Rica: Condos, Townhomes, Single-Family Homes, Land, Businesses & More!
Photos by Reiner Alpizar
If you’re considering buying property in Costa Rica, then you’ve come to the right place.
I’m Rebecca Clower, the owner of Blue Water Properties, and I’ve bought (and sold) a lot of property here – both professionally and personally. In fact, not only do I broker every deal that comes through our doors, but I’ve also purchased my own properties and have built more than a dozen times here in Costa Rica.
So, it’s safe to say that I’m well versed in the pros and cons, the benefits and downsides, the advantages and disadvantages of buying, selling, and investing locally. Here’s my take on the current panorama for buying property in Costa Rica:
First Things First: That Question (aka “What type of property should I buy?”)
One of the first things we usually hear at Blue Water Group is the question, “What type of property should I buy?”
If I’m being honest – and, as you may know, I’m always honest – that’s a really tough question. But, maybe not for the reasons you think. The thing is, there is no one answer – and there is no right or wrong answer, either.
If pressed, I’d say that it all depends on your level of comfort: Why are you considering buying property in Costa Rica? Do you plan to live here or are you making an investment? How comfortable are you,managing your property from abroad? What is your risk tolerance? Etc. etc. – these are all really important questions, when evaluating the right type of property for you.
If I were to loosely sketch a map between the right buyer and the right type of property, I’d say that if you’re looking for low stress, you’re probably looking for a condo or home that’s in a rental pool. If you’re here for relocation or in it for the long haul, you may be looking at a single-family home. And, while most people don’t want to go into the whole building process, many do. And if that’s you, then you can look toward lots and land parcels.
I’m one of those people, too, by the way. On a personal note, I’ve built about 15 times over the last 15 years, so it’s safe to say that this type of investment is something I love. (I also understand why not everyone wants to go through the building process.) All this to say, I’d need to know more about you, in order to help identify what type of property would suit your needs. And I’m always happy to have that discussion, whenever you’re ready.
Now that we have that question out of the way (sort of), let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of buying property in Costa Rica:
Buying Property in Costa Rica: Rental Pool Condos and Homes
It’s pretty common for property management companies in Costa Rica to manage a pool of homes or condos within a single community. This is what we refer to as a “rental pool.”
Pros: One of the greatest benefits to working within your community’s rental pool is that your property management company will likely have carved out a good market niche for property rentals. They know your community and they are well versed in not only marketing your property, but also in caring for it while you’re away.
Cons: There’s no major downside to this type of arrangement, if it’s appealing to you (except that it’s predicated on your willingness to rent your property). Your home will still be marketed exclusively. You will still be treated like an individual. You’ll just also have the benefits of working within a group of rentals.
Condo & HOA Fees
If you are purchasing a condo, townhome, or single-family home in a planned community, there will be homeowners fees, also known as HOA or strata fees. Those fees will vary, for several reasons:
- Community Size: There’s a big difference (literally) between a 2-acre condo community and a palatial resort, such as the 2,300-acre Reserva Conchal. As a general rule, the larger the community, the higher the maintenance costs.
- Community Amenities: You’ll get a community pool, front gate, and road maintenance at every tier level. From there, and as your HOA fees rise, you’ll enjoy add-ons including multi-million-dollar beach clubs, 18-hole golf courses, miles of walking/hiking trails, tennis courts, and more.
- Community Size & Age: In larger and more densely populated communities (like multi-level condo buildings), more units share the costs of community maintenance; this usually translates to lower per-unit HOA fees. Older buildings and communities often also have lower strata fees.
In other words, how much you pay is largely a function of how and where you live.
Pros: The benefits of homeowner fees in Costa Rica are very much based on what you get for what you pay. And this is very much a you-get-what-you-pay-for kind of thing. (And if it isn’t a good get for what you’d pay, we’ll tell you. We’re honest to a fault.)
Cons: The downside is that you’re paying for what you get. And, in many of Costa Rica’s upscale and resort communities, there are many amenities. If you don’t plan to enjoy them all, then you’ll be paying for something you don’t appreciate.
So, what can you expect in the way of HOA fees, when buying property in Costa Rica? The answer is highly variable, as discussed above, but here is a brief overview:
For Condos and Townhomes:
- Low HOA Fees ($200-$300/month): In this range, you’ll usually get a community pool, front gate service, and road maintenance.
- Mid-Tier HOA Fees ($400-$600/month): For this monthly fee, you’ll receive full grounds maintenance for a 2-bedroom condo, plus community amenities like a resort pool.
- Upscale HOA Fees ($700–$1,000+/month): In this range, you’ve either purchased a large condo (3 to 5 bedrooms) or you’re in one of Guanacaste’s most upscale communities, where you’ll find saltwater pools, beach clubs, tennis courts, a possible golf course, and more.
For Single-Family Homes:
Upon first blush, it may be surprising to hear that single-family homes pay lower HOA fees than do condos and townhomes caught. But, the reason is clear: if you own a single-family home, you are responsible for your own grounds maintenance and related costs.
This brings your strata fees down significantly, usually in the range of $100 to $350 per month, depending on the community. You’ll still have access to community amenities, which can range from a community pool and front gate, to all the bells and whistles resort living has to offer.
If a condo, townhome, or single-family home doesn’t quite suit your needs, you may be looking to purchase a lot or land parcel. (You’re in good company!)
Pros: One of the greatest things about purchasing land is the very low overhead. Additionally, your purchase doesn’t require any immediate action, at least not usually: you can build in a year, or two, or three – whenever you’re ready.
Cons: The greatest downside to buying property in Costa Rica – and by that, we mean undeveloped land – Is that, eventually, you’ll have to develop it. And, that will require permits, and builders, and architects, and engineers… Many people consider this a con, which is why I stated above that so many buyers aren’t interested in making the jump into a lot/land purchase.
But, take it from someone who’s been there, done that – 15 times, no less! There are incredible architects and builders and other professionals here who can help you through the process of designing and building your dream property. Because, if you have the right people helping you (and I know the right people!), it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
So, if you’re thinking about doing it, know that there are resources. Know that I am one of them and that I’d be happy to discuss my own, personal experience in building, too!
Here’s one of the best-kept secrets about buying property in Costa Rica: we lack commercial properties, which, in large part, makes commercial property a really hot commodity.
Pros: High demand and low supply are their own pro: When you have commercial property, you’re in demand. Business owners are often looking for property to lease. Families are always looking for apartments or rental properties. So, commercial property can be a high-grossing investment that provides consistent income, every month.
Cons: Learning to do business in Costa Rica is its own learning curve. If you want to know more about entrepreneurship in Costa Rica, straight from the entrepreneur’s mouth, then check out our Dream Catcher’s Costa Rica series on YouTube!
Some of our buyers talk about purchasing farms, be it a coffee plantation, a teak farm, or a specialized farm.
Pros: Farms of any sort represent a solid area for investment, with low overhead and the opportunity to make a change or cultivate, whenever you’re ready. You can even buy a development parcel and subdivide the land.
Cons: There are many opportunities but the downside is cost: You need to have someone looking in on your land, on a regular basis, to ensure that you don’t have any squatters or other issues underway. Bottom line: You’ll need to employ a caretaker – and that’s something that many people don’t talk about (but that you really need to think about, when investing in Costa Rica).
Considering Buying Property in Costa Rica?
If you’d like to chat about buying property, life in Costa Rica, business ownership, or have any other question – yes, even “what type of property should I buy in Costa Rica?” – then I’d love to hear from you!
I’m Rebecca Clower, the owner of Blue Water Properties. I moved to Costa Rica over 15 years ago and, since then, I’ve done my share of property buying and selling, as well as business owning and investment. So go ahead, pick my brain.
I’m happy to answer any questions and address any concerns. I promise not to sugar-coat the truth or tell you what you want to hear: I’ll be honest, always. I’ll share my personal experience and advise you in any way I can.
So please, get in touch via email or give me a call (1-866-670-0258) or Whatsapp (+506-8705-1850). I look forward to getting to know you!