Archive for October, 2012

The Band Plays On (How I came to Costa Rica Part 1)

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Newsletters

Newsletter edition no. 11

I laugh when people find out I used to be in a Rock n Roll Band.  They always ask me the same thing, “Were you any good?”  Obviously not, rocket scientist, or I wouldn’t be selling real estate inCosta   Rica.  LOL Last I heard, Van Halen made $60 Million last year on their reunion tour.  If my old band got back together, there would 24 people at the show.  Our wives or girlfriends would be there along with a couple losers that had nothing else to do on a Friday night.  But it is true, I was the lead singer of a heavy metal rock band in 1982 and we failed miserably.  It was a lot of fun for a couple years, and was the start of my traveling addiction that ended by landing me down here in paradise.

When I was young, I wanted to be a rock star for the obvious reasons:  Fame, fortune and women.  As I got older though, I realized that what really attracted me to the music business were two things.  First, I love traveling.  The thought of being on a bus, in a different city every night, and living out of a suitcase was pure heaven.  Second, I loved the attention.  That was why I was the lead singer and not the drummer.  EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!!! (By the way I wouldn’t exactly call it singing, it was more like screaming at the top of my lungs, flipping my hair around, while jumping up and down in leather pants).  Getting into sales, I was able to fulfill both of those desires.  I spent the next 17 years traveling from state to state, selling my electronics, and I always had the stage.[more…]

Actually, the first sales job I had, before I started my own electronics business, was selling pots and pans, door to door.  I was living in LA with my guitar player, and we were absolutely broke.  We were Rock Stars, and we had an album, but we couldn’t rub two nickels together.  It was the Starving Rock Star part I didn’t like.  We were living in a studio apartment, in the dark, because we couldn’t afford to pay the electricity.  We had no car, and lived on Peanut Butter and Jelly with warm tap water, because the refrigerator obviously didn’t work.  We had to ration our cigarettes (yes I smoked back then) and I think we had about $200 TOTAL in the cookie jar.  Times were tough.  But we surely weren’t going back to Colorado, not after the arrogant way we blew out of there.  See ya later!!!  We are going to be famous!!  Adios Amigos!

We were all alone without any family or friends, and I was working in a warehouse on an assembly line, with a bunch of illegal aliens, screwing nuts on a bolt.  It pisses me off when I hear about people today, who just sit at home, collecting an unemployment check because they are TOO COOL to do a minimum wage job.  I have always said I would work at McDonalds before I would collect a free check.  When I hear our President tell me I am a “HAVE” and “I DIDN’T EARN IT”, it makes me vomit, because nothing has ever been handed to me in my life.  I’ve busted my ass for every single penny (We definitely need CHANGE next week, we can only pray to God).

At lunch I would go to the phone booth and pump dimes into it, calling numbers from the Help Wanted section, looking for a better job.  One day, there was this ad.  ROCK AND ROLL ATMOSPHERE, LONG HAIR OK.  If I would have known they were going to load me in a van, and send me out into the streets to peddle Ovenware and Skillets, I probably wouldn’t have answered, but I did.  When you have hair half way to your elbows, you are limited on your opportunities, so I was happy to take anything I could get.  Besides, I figured it had to be better than the sweatshop and I was totally broke.

I took a bus an hour and a half, to get to the office, and it was full of these clean cut, preppy Southern California Polo shirt wearing mamma’s boys except for one other Rock n Roller, Jeff.  So they teamed us up together figuring we probably wouldn’t last half a day. Well, we had a blast.  After a day of Hustlin’, my first real lunch in months, and filling up the car with gas, we took home $32 each. I have never felt so wealthy in my entire life! I could have walked on water like Jesus Christ himself.  I HAVE THIRTY TWO BUCKS BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!  YAHOOOOOO!!!!  I mean don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have any visions of buying a Ferrari or anything but when you have spent the last few months of your life counting quarters to buy your meals, there is nothing better in the world than Hard Cold Cash in your pocket.  I bummed a ride home, so I wouldn’t have to take the bus, and made a pit stop before I arrived back to the apartment.

I stopped at Pizza Hut and bought the biggest Pan Pie money could buy, with every single imaginable topping except mushrooms (I hate Shrooms), a carton of Marlboros and a 12 pack of Budweiser beers.  Bottles baby, price was no object.  You should have seen the look on my guitarist’s face when I kicked in the door.  He was sitting in the dark, looking at the clock, counting the minutes to his next cigarette, as they were on a strict time restraint.  Prisoners on Death Row in Solitary Confinement are happier.  “Daddy’s Home!!!!!!”  I declared.  We proceeded to drink every bottle, sucking the suds from the bottom, and ate each last piece of cheese stuck to the cardboard box, while chain smoking like there was no tomorrow.  I knew right then, I was going to be ok.  I ended up breaking the all time sales records my very first week and the start of a lifelong sales career began.

I have always marched to my own beat. As a matter of fact, there is a full blown marching band playing in my head at all times.  There is also an opera, a rock concert, a football game and a debate class all at the same time.  There can be as many as 4 or 5 conversations going on in my brain at any given moment.  I mean, there are all kinds of stuff happening in there.  Be very careful if you decide to enter.  It can be life altering. This is probably why I am very happy when I am alone.  I never get bored.  I just sit back and enjoy whichever show is going on at that particular moment.  It’s also probably why I am not married at 47 years old, because listening is just not one of my fortes.  “I’m sorry honey did you say something?”

I never went the traditional route, which is how I ended up in Costa Rica. I got into scuba diving in my 20’s because I wanted to hand feed sharks (Living on the edge baby: definitely for another Newsletter so stay tuned) and it took me to some of the most fantastic places.  I even bought a condo in Aruba and I would go every year to dive.  So I always knew I would live somewhere tropical, I just had to figure out where.  The problem with islands, like Aruba, Bahamas, Caymans, Ambergris Caye Belize and Roatan is that you run out of things to do very quickly.  I mean, come on, you can drive around the sucker in half a day.  Usually by the second week in Aruba I was bored out of my mind.  I had been to the Natural Pools and the Lighthouse, drank beer at Carlos and Charlie’s and Senor Frogs and lost my ass in the casino.  You can only lie on a white sand beach cooking like an egg for so long man.  For me, living on an island is like being locked in a closet, I would go absolutely bonkers.

My search for paradise began in 1998.  One of my good clients was an incredibly wealthy man; he has more money than I could ever hope to have.  I was having lunch with him one day and I asked him a very simple question.  If you had a couple hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket, what would you do with it?  “Go to Costa Rica and buy property Mike,” was his response.  Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking to hear.  I was hoping for the next stock tip like YAHOO, and to be honest with you, I didn’t even know where Costa Rica was.  He might as well said, go to Bali.  All I knew was that it was somewhere south of Texas, but if you gave me a blank map I couldn’t have put my finger on it for all the tea in China.  I said thanks, and went about my day.  A few months later another client of mine invited me to a party on his yacht in Ft. Lauderdale.  Now if you have never been to a yacht party, let me bring you up to speed.

The boat doesn’t even leave the harbor; it stays parked at the dock.  There are hundreds of people partying, while dozens of Hooter’s Girls run around in bikinis, serving you cocktails.  It’s not a bad gig.  The owner of the boat had more money than God, and I was lucky enough to get a couple minutes with him to bend his ear.  I asked him the same question I asked my other client.  “I just got back from Costa Rica.  I bought a condo”  he said. Another person told me the same thing a few months back I replied to him.  “I bet he was stinking rich wasn’t he?  You see this boat Mike?  It is worth $10 Million. I made all my money buying and selling real estate in Hawaii and Cabo and I am telling you – Costa Rica is the next big thing.  All the same people who developed Hawaii are buying property there.  Sell everything you have, grab all your money and go!”

Well, I am not the smartest guy on the planet, but you don’t have to tell me something 3 times.  When I was young a very wealthy man gave me a good piece of advice.  He said, “Listen to people who have what you want”.  Well this guy’s yacht looked pretty good so I paid attention.  Right then and there I knew that I was going to be moving to Costa Rica, the question was HOW?  By the way, I live here now, so if this is something that appeals to you, LISTEN TO ME. 

I started telling everyone, “I am going to Costa Rica”  I used to yell at my employees when they were useless sacks of manure and tell them, one day you will come to work and the doors will be locked and a sign will be on the window.  MOVED TO COSTA RICA.  I still didn’t know where it was, but darn it, I was moving there.  You see, there was not a lot of info on the internet about Costa Rica in 1998.  It wasn’t like today, where you Google it and Tah Dah; pages and pages.  So I had to really work to do my research. I started going

to travel agencies and getting whatever brochures I could, and I also went to the library and read the travel books (remember actually going to a library?).  I started asking everyone if they knew anything about this little country they call the Switzerland of Central America.  And you know what I found out?  Everyone I met that had ever come here always said the same things.  They loved it:  The people were awesome:  The country was gorgeous: It was the best vacation of their life: I know a guy who went down there and never came back, he loves it, and they would tell me:  I can’t wait to go back.

Not a single person had one bad thing to say about it.  Having been to places like Mexico, where there are thousands of horror stories, this impressed me the most.  But I still didn’t know where the heck I was going to go or how I would find my piece of paradise.

One morning,  I was eating my breakfast, reading a USA Today.  I always went to the back page and read the classifieds.  I loved the Business Opportunity Section.  It always amazed me where and how people made their money.  There was the usual BS that day; Make $1000 a day, part time, and never leave your house Blah Blah Blah.  Or, Buy Vending Machines.  Never work.  Just pick up the money.  I laughed at that one as it reminded me of when I owned my retail store in San Antonio Texas.  These guys would come in, and leave big display boxes of candy, open.  No lock.  And they operated on the honor system hoping you would leave the money in the card board box for whatever it was you ate.  Have you seen these guys?  Anyway, I used to tell them, don’t do it.  No one will pay.  This is a car stereo company.  Not a church.  All my employees were long haired, tattooed, bikers.

Sure enough, they’d come back a week later.  The box was empty, the candy was gone and not a dime in the till.  They would leave all pissed off.  I told you so, and I would wave at them as they peeled out of my parking lot.  And then, sure enough, a month later, some other doorknob would come back and do the same thing all over again.  Heard of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum?  These guys were Tweedle Dumber.  There is a moron born every minute.  Idiots.

Anyway, here I was eating my Captain Crunch reading the newspaper and guess what I saw?  I just about choked to death I screamed so loud, as the milk shot out my nose.  OWN A PIECE OF PARADISE IN COSTA RICA.  I have never dialed a number so fast. This man answered, he was inNew Jerseyor somewhere, and they were doing a development down here.  He mailed me a big manila folder with a bunch of maps, pictures and info, and overnight, I was an expert on Costa Rica.  I was blown away at what a phenomenal country this little place seemed to be.  Great health care; High literacy rate: Low crime: Foreigners can own property etc.  All the stuff you can find now in 15 seconds on the internet, and I was determined to go.  I had to check it out for myself.

You know how it is, when you start focusing in on something, you all of a sudden start seeing it all the time.  It seemed everywhere I went there were articles or TV shows on Costa Rica.  The Sunday Travel Section; in-flight magazines on airlines: Discovery Channel.  I used to use it in my sales pitch with clients.  “Heh, you want it or not man, I gotta go.  Take it or leave it but stop wasting my time.  As soon as I am sold out, I am off to Costa Rica. ” I had a briefcase full of paperwork, and I was a walking encyclopedia of info, but I still procrastinated.

Until one day in June when I was in Indianapolis Indiana.  I was there for a convention, and I was staying at a Marriott hotel.  Every one of them has a Champions Sports Bar, and I was there, arguing with the bartender.  I was trying to get them to put ONE of the TVs on the Stanley Cup NHL Finals.  But you see, Indiana is basketball country, and they don’t take lightly to changing the channel, especially to hockey.  So I was forced to watch the NBA finals and Michael Jordan wins his 42nd title.  Anyone that has met me knows I hate Basketball.  I would rather eat glass than watch the NBA, BORING, but this was a battle I was not going to win.  As I turned to leave the bar, I saw them – four of the most beautiful women in the world standing in the corner.

Since I was single, I am obligated by law, to go up and feed them my line of crap.  You ladies are HOT, what’s your scoop?  I asked.  “We just got back fromCosta Rica.  We had the best time of our liiiiiiiiives!  We LOVED IT!!!!!!”   I looked at my buddy and told him, that’s it I’m OUTTA HERE – I am going to Costa Rica!  So the reality is, two billionaires couldn’t get me to go, but 4 smokin’ hot college girls did.  Fact.

Two weeks later I was on a plane to San Jose Costa Rica, with my buddy Travis, determined to find some property. There was no airport in Liberia then, and I had no idea where I was going to stay, but I didn’t care.  Pura Vida was calling my name, and I was going to answer.  I remember looking at my friend and telling him, as the plane took off from Miami, this is it.  I am going to find my piece of paradise and buy it.  I am then going to put a plan together to move to Costa Rica and I am never going to come back.  I have never felt so at ease in my life, as I just knew in my heart it was the right decision.  I still had a long way to go, and I will cover that in Part 2, so don’t go on vacation, check back in a couple weeks.

I sat back to enjoy the flight, the concert playing between my ears.  If you ever feel like I am not paying attention to you, don’t take it personal.  You are not being ignored.  I am just listening to the band and the music in my head.  It’s my reunion tour.  

LIFE IS NOT ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF, IT IS ABOUT CREATING YOURSELF.

Pura Vida

Michael Simons

PS – Please take a moment and say a prayer for everyone who is riding out Hurricane Sandy.  In times like these we all see what really matters in life.  Let’s hope for a speedy recovery to our Northern neighbors.  God Bless.

Link to Frequently Asked Questions about Costa Rica

 

If you have had a great experience with my office and Costa Rica, I want to hear about it. Please send us a video of yourself telling us WHY and I will post it to my website for everyone to see. Or send me an email and I will put it in my Testimonials. I appreciate your business and that you have decided to read this Newsletter more than I could ever tell you. THANK YOU. Please take a little more time and check out the entire site. We have added a lot of information lately that I am sure you will find helpful. Also, please forward this to any friends you think might be interested in learning more about Costa Rica. Is there a story behind Tank Tops and Flip Flops you ask? Of course, but you have to stay tuned for another Newsletter. I hope all is well. Stay healthy. God Bless you and your families. Stop procrastinating and hurry back!

  

Link To See All Prior Newsletters

Escape Hatch – Costa Rica here we come!

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Buying and Selling Property in Costa Rica, Investing in Costa Rica

Here is an excerpt taken with permission from the highly regarded High-Tech Strategist Newsletter written by Fred Hickey who recently purchased a home in Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Fred Hickey has produced the High-Tech Strategist Newsletter for over 25 years and is a highly respected investment analyst and forward thinker.

“Escape Hatch

As you can gather, I am very concerned about this country’s direction [United States] – and have been for years. The near-total collapse in the financial system in 2008 was a scary moment indeed, and I’m not sure the risks have lessened much. The “weapons of mass destruction”(derivatives) remain in place. This country cannot continue down the path of spending massively more than it receives in revenues. Yet the huge increases in entitlement spending (which are placating the unemployed masses), cannot be continued forever. Necessary cutbacks in entitlements could be messy. For now, we have no breadlines or shanty-towns (as in the 1930s) because the government takes care of everyone – through its deficit spending. The end result of the money printing experiment may lead to inflation and a worsening in the inequality gap between the rich (who benefit from asset inflation) and everyone else. I worry that our bootstrapping culture is no longer the same as it once was and our people may react badly in difficult times.  Almost 41% of all children in the U.S. are born to unwed mothers (all races).  For blacks, the rate is a staggering72.5%. Over the past several months, some of the best performing stocks have been gun makers such as Smith & Wesson.  Not a happy thought. While I remain hopeful that we can right ourselves, as we’ve done before, there are growing risks.

Many smart and well off people are making plans to escape, [MORE…]if need be. Liberty Media chairman John Malone told The Wall Street Journal (in 2010): “Well, my wife, who is very concerned about these things, moved all her personal cash to Australia and Canada. She wants to have a place to go if things blow up here.  Canada has a lot more fiscal and bank responsibility than most places in the world and lots of natural resources.  We have a retreat that’s right on the Quebec border.  We own 18 miles on the border, so we can cross. Anytime we want to we can get away.”

I’m happy in New Hampshire (except in the long winters).  I’m not hoarding stores of food, guns and ammo. Given the choice, I’d rather flee than fight. For some years now, I’ve been researching potential winter escapes – with a secondary goal of establishing an “escape hatch.” This year’s bout with double pneumonia accelerated the search.  Canada was ruled out (too cold in winter). Locations such as New Zealand and Australia were too far away from friends and family.  We looked hard at Florida, but it’s still in the U.S. and not warm enough in December-February for Kathy. Many Caribbean islands don’t have enough resources or have drug and violence problems.  Finally, a couple of years ago we narrowed our search down to Costa Rica, and specifically a region in Costa Rica named Guanacaste.

The weather there is incredible, especially during the “dry season” November-April, when it almost never rains. The climate is “tropical dry forest.” During this period (overlaps with the period we need to get out of New Hampshire) every day is the same: high temps around 90 degrees, lows at night in the 70s. There’s no humidity because of the lack of rain, Very comfortable. In the May-Oct. period (green season) it’s nice during the day, highs in the mid-80s, but it typically rains by late afternoon (like in Florida). It is humid, but still very pleasant. It’s considered to be the finest weather in the world.

Guanacaste is the most sparsely populated area of Costa Rica. It is mostly farmland. You can drink the water right out of the tap. In the mid-2000s a U.S.-led real estate boom erupted on the Costa Rican Pacific beach areas. As the U.S. real estate boom turned to bust, so did this area. There are now incredible bargains to be had. We purchased a house on a cliff 300 feet above sea level with spectacular views in the beach community of Playa Hermosa. We paid 45% below the original list price (first listed in Sept 2010) and 20% below the latest offer from a “motivated seller” (an American businessman).  Property taxes are very low.  U.S. citizens have the same property rights as native Costa Ricans.  The government encourages expats.  The country has the highest number of U.S. citizens per capita outside of the U.S.  There’s also a huge Canadian presence. The wonderful Grant’s Interest Rate Observer has in recent months been doing a series of articles on real estate bargain areas around the U.S. In my opinion, real estate in Costa Rica is an even a better opportunity.

The people are extremely friendly. Costa Rican’s are the happiest people in the world (Gallup survey). The literacy rate is 96%, (higher than in the U.S.). The family structure is very important there.  The vast majority of the people are Catholic.  The government is a stable democracy.  There is no army – it was eliminated 63 years ago. Costa Rica is called “The Switzerland of the Americas.”  The unemployment rate is 6% and it was lower (4%) before the global slowdown.  In addition to pineapples, bananas and coffee, one of the top exports is technology products.  Intel has a huge factory in Costa Rica. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Proctor & Gamble also have large operations there (in a different part of the country).  Inflation runs around 5%. There is virtually no violent crime in the area, just petty stuff.

A brand new modern airport terminal opened less than a year ago, twelve miles away from our home. It is about a 20 minute drive on all paved roads for us, door-to-door.  Most major U.S. airlines (including American, United, Delta, US Air, Frontier and Jet Blue to name a few) fly in there, with three hour direct flights from Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte and Houston.  JetBlue just recently started direct flights out of New York.  We paid under $500 round trip for the 5-hour direct flight from NY.  It is easy access to and from the US for us.  A brand new hospital is complete just outside the airport.  At our home we have high-speed wireless internet access.  The cable TV service has about 20 channels in English, all the major Miami channels (ABC, NBC, CBS), as well as FOX, CNN, ESPN and even CNBC (OK, so Costa Rica’s not perfect).  There are several supermarkets nearby, carrying a wide variety of American products. The ‘culture shock’ is limited here.

 To get a sense of the properties available, the following YouTube video of the very house we purchased is below.  This was filmed by the seller’s realtor. This house has spectacular “million dollar views” of the Pacific Ocean, but I paid much less than that for it.  The house is in a gated community.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR6PaFi29-U

The history of the house is that it rents well.  We are retaining the excellent management company that’s been managing it for the last three years.  There is a ‘flagship’ Four Seasons resort nearby, as well as a Westin and Hilton for anyone that wants to come down to investigate.  If anyone wants to rent a house, (including the one we just purchased) the management company has a stable of about 50beautiful homes to choose from. It’s much less expensive than the resorts and renting would give you a sense of living in Costa Rica.  Just send us an email request and we’ll send the link to the management company. We also have an excellent multi-lingual (Spanish, English, Italian) real estate broker, Lucrecia Cordero, with RE/MAX that we can heartily recommend. I’ve been offered referral fees, but will not accept them. We also have real estate attorneys we can recommend.  Just send us a request.

Warmest regards,

 

Fred & Kathy Hickey
High-Tech Strategist”
October 2012
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