Property prices in Costa Rica

Hello everyone,

Finding affordable housing in Costa Rica is number one priority for newcomers. Tell us more about the estate market in your district/city/region.

What are the most desired places to live? What are the most affordable ones? What is the average cost of a rented flat? And what is the average sale price for an appartment or a house? Could you tell us more about local real estate policies/procedures? What about property tax or residency tax in Costa Rica?

What about you? Where do you live now? Is it a place you would recommend?

Thank you in advance for your clarifications.


Don't believe everything you read!!!

Don't purchase anything until you:

a) have visited 'in person' the area you are interested in for more than a quick 'look see'

b) preferably rented there for an extended time period.

Many homes have been for sale for years...

Heredia, Costa Rica
Hola Amigotes,

I have lived in Costa Rica since 1980 and have written several books about living here including one about real estate. I have also been a real estate investor here.

What are the most desired places to live? If you move to Costa Rica you have a choice between the beaches, the Central Valley and the mountains. In fact there are dozens of beautiful places from which to choose which makes a decision difficult. The Central Valley has year-round, spring-like weather, excellent hospitals, good U.S. style shopping, a thriving expat community and almost every indoor and outdoor activity to stay busy and happy.

What are the most affordable ones? Santa Ana, Heredia, Puriscal, Alajuela, Atenas and Grecia are desirable areas in the Central Valley. Property at the beach can be expensive, but it really depends on one's budget. Expensive for some people may be affordable to others.

What is the average cost of a rented flat? You can find a decent apartment from $500 up depending on the area.

And what is the average sale price for an apartment or a house? Depending on the area a home or condo that meets U.S. standards starts at about $100,000.

What about you? Where did you choose to live and why? Is it a place/neighborhood you would recommend? And where do you live now?
I live in San francisco de Heredia which is at the foot of the mountains and north of San José. I love where I live because my home is short distance from good shopping, a weekend  outdoor farmer's market, a commuter train and hospital. There is NO crime where I live and it it is easy to get to the airport.

I lived in San Jose for 10 years and moved to Perez Zeledon about 6 years ago. I've lived a few places around San Isidro and currently rent in the mountainous little barrio called Quebradas.

I've traveled pretty extensively throughout the country. I had to as I've been in tourism for the past 13 years. I am currently in tourism and real estate, as I am an agent with Coldwell Banker in Dominical. I am sure that last statement will cause some to disregard anything I say from here on out, but I'll say it any way.

I wouldn't live anywhere other than Perez. The reason being is that I have the best of both things I love about Costa Rica, the mountains and the beach. I am a half-hour from the trail head of Chirripo, the highest mountain in the country, and a half-hour from my office in Playa Dominical, a great surfer beach.

I much prefer to live up here in the mountains than down there (at the beach). It's just too hot down there. I also love the convenience of living 15 minutes from downtown San Isidro, which is the second largest Costa Rica city outside of the GAM. Nevertheless, San Isidro retains a small town feel. The people and culture here are pure tico...down to earth and very wholesome. There is very little crime here compared to some areas of CR. We even have a mall with a cinema here...we like to call it our "small."

You can rent a nice 2 bedroom apartment or house in San Isidro for $500, or even less, depending on how Americanized you want it. I currently live is a little studio that I love and I am paying $350.

Down at the beach things are considerably more expensive, both for renting, buying and living.

For buying, you can buy a nice 2 to 3 bedroom home, with gorgeous mountain views in Perez for $200,000, or less, again depending on how up to American standards you want and how much land you want.

Down at the beach, you will have a hard time finding anything with ocean view for under $300,000. And let me tell you a secret, ocean view gets old after a while, especially after the oppressive heat starts getting to you.

I probably shouldn't say that since I sell ocean view homes. I cover the mountains and the beach over here and I'm one of the few agents who does both...

Property tax is here what it is everywhere else in Costa Rica, .25 of 1%, so basically nil...

Pura Vida!

First and foremost - I know I’ve said it many, many times, but:


The majority of people who move here return within a few years.  …and again, it is very easy to buy land or a house and is NOT easy to sell.

Next, keep in mind that realtors here are people who simply elect themselves as realtors.  No experience is required.  No license is required.  If you have legal issues with a realtor your recourse against them can take years and even if the law is on your side you may not prevail.  Realtors charge a fee of between 2% and 10%.  There are many, many homeowners that are desperate or somewhat desperate to sell their homes.  Look on-line and buy direct from them.

My personal recommendation would be to find land/home on your own and ALWAYS use a reputable lawyer to transfer title.  Just my opinion.

Also, there are no true home inspectors here.  If they claim to be, there is no requirement for a license, background in construction, electrical experience, etc.  Be very careful in purchasing a home here.  “Buyer beware” would be a huge understatement.

“What are the most desired places to live?”
This is entirely up to individual taste.  I have lived just outside of San Ramon, Alajuela for a little over 7 years.  I like it very much here but that is what “I” like.

At this moment it is 26c/79f degrees in San Ramon.  Forty-five minutes away in Puntarenas, at the beach, it’s 31c/88f degrees and  more humid.  Point being, although it’s a small country, you can drive a short distance and have different weather, different temperatures and different humidities.  What’s important is to find the location that is most desirable for you.

“What are the most affordable ones?” (areas to live)
“Most affordable” may not be an area that you would want to live.  Next year we plan to move to an area near the Nicaraguan border.  For the price of the land I have now, 1.5 acres, I can buy 100 acres there.  However, it is located 1.5 hours from a paved road, 5 hours from a large city, etc.  Point being, again, you have to find what works for you and will fit into your price-point.

If you have the time and money, come down and explore.  Simply get in a car and drive anywhere and everywhere.  If you are retiring, what else do you really have or need to do?  Locate your affordable location.

“Finding affordable housing in Costa Rica…what is the average sale price for an apartment or a house?"
This depends entirely on the area.  To get an idea I would suggest Craigslist CR and just browse different areas.  Most North Americans/Europeans are not going to want to rent a Tico style house.  Tico houses rent for about $300+- per month.  You will get what you pay for.  I would say the average home rental for North Americans/Europeans would be between $800-$1200 per month.

“What about property tax?”
If you own your home, this is one area that you save a lot of money compared to most of North America.  I have an average American style home that I built myself that’s worth about $240,000 on 1.5 acres.  I have a view of mountains, the Gulf of Nicoya and on a clear day the Pacific Ocean. I have a year round creek running through the property and a natural spring for drinking water.  My annual property tax is about $300.  Yes, annual property tax.  You cannot find this kind of view, etc., for the price nor for that tax rate in North America.

Hope this helps.

- Expat Dave

Priscilla :

Hello everyone,

Finding affordable housing in Costa Rica is number one priority for newcomers. Tell us more about the estate market in your district/city/region.

There are lots of places for sale but many signs you see "Land For Sale" are Ticos just playing, hoping someone will offer them more than it's worth. My experience is that if you show interest to a Tico and they give you a price, then you show more interest, they will begin to raise that price. Of course you never know, you might find a good deal but you'll do a lot of leg work and play a lot of games. Unless you live here and have a lot of time on your hands to look at Tico land for sale, I'd stick with buying from gringos.
That said, NO MATTER WHO YOU BUY FROM, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR OWN ATTORNEY CHECK OUT THE TITLE VERY CAREFULLY, check for encumbrances, driveway rights, water rights, electricity availability etc.!

Where we live,  at Rancho Silencio, there is land for sale for around $40-50k an acre depending on the view, privacy etc. Many - like ours - have Gulf of Nicoya views. Down closer to  the highway where a lot of Americans have gathered, the prices are higher and the privacy and quiet are a lot less.

Yet quite a few gringos love living on top of other gringos as long as the "development" is full of fancy rich houses semi-hidden behind a guarded locked gate. Go figure. I wouldn't live in one of those places if you paid me to! I prefer true privacy and quiet and don't want to see my neighbor out my window!

Priscilla :

What are the most desired places to live? What are the most affordable ones?

Most desired is going to be more expensive, less desired is going to be more affordable, just like anywhere else. Of course if you want to live in a hot as hell area with no ocean view, hundreds of miles from any major town, you can find cheap land! Some people can live with that ... so they can find a good deal. Most people who want a nice view, privacy, quiet,  and cooler weather will pay a little more.

Priscilla :

What is the average cost of a rented flat? And what is the average sale price for an appartment or a house? Could you tell us more about local real estate policies/procedures? What about property tax or residency tax in Costa Rica?

I've seen places for rent near San Ramon go for as little as $200/month or as much as $800/month depending on where it is, how new it is, how big it is, who you know, whether it's American style or Tico style, etc.

I'd say the average is around $500-600/month for a 2-3 bedroom house in a nice area. I don't know about apartments or condos. Don't think there are many of either around here.

Property tax is very low in Costa Rica though it's gone up if you have a big gringo style house with a pool etc. But still a lot less than in the USA for a similar house/location.

Priscilla :

What about you? Where do you live now? Is it a place you would recommend?

San Ramon is a great area, close enough to the airport (less than an hour unless there's some major traffic problem), 2 hours or so to hot springs and volcano views at Arenal, cloud forests and rain forests to visit within an hour, the beach within an hour or so, depending on which one... We have a hospital, many doctors, banks, restaurants, anything you need - yet it's nowhere near as insane as San Jose. San Ramon has a small town atmosphere where people know you and talk to you at the stores and people seem to enjoy meeting gringos if said gringos speak some Spanish; and some locals do speak some English.
San Ramon area is lower in price than parts of the Central Valley further towards San Jose and yet has all the same advantages, just fewer gringos, which to me is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I like some gringos but I didn't move here to live in "USA South". I prefer the Tico lifestyle and country lifestyle that we have away from town and away from the gringo areas closer to San Jose. And we do have some gringo neighbors around, just not right out our window!

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