Moving to Costa Rica–What is my Exit Plan?

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

Every day more and more people are moving to Costa Rica.  The majority of property buyers will probably never sell their property, at least not in the next couple decades.  They have done their homework and made their choice.  They looked all over Latin America and the Caribbean and picked Costa Rica, for so many obvious reasons.  Yet, you never know, life might throw you a curveball and you end up having to sell your property.  That is why you need an exit plan. I always chuckle when I read the blogs on the internet about how many people come to Costa Rica, don’t like it and decide to go back.  That is just NOT true.  We have sold thousands of properties here and I can truthfully say that a very small percentage of the buyers fall into this category.

Most of the people who are selling are doing so for a variety of other reasons. Unfortunately, many people have been forced to sell their little piece of paradise for financial reasons, as things didn’t go as planned back home.  Also, people have to sell their Costa Rica property for the same reasons they have to sometimes sell any other property or investment:  Health, family, death and divorce.  These things happen everywhere in everyday life.  The majority of my sellers though, are not leaving Costa Rica. They started with a smaller property, such as a condo or townhome, to test the water and see if they liked the Costa Rican experience. Then, after a few years, they have fallen in love with paradise, like the rest of us. They want to spend more time here, quite possibly as a full time resident, and want a larger, or fancier home. Many times, they are now comfortable with the process, and have decided to build their own custom home, so they need to sell their original property first. Of all the real estate sold to foreigners in Costa Rica, most of it is sold right here in Guanacaste.  We have the best infrastructure, the best weather, first world amenities and amazing hospitals and health care.  We also have an International airport 20 minutes away and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

moving to Costa Rica to an oceanview home with a pool

But mainly because we have a community of foreigners so you don’t feel completely alienated when you move here.  I call it Costa Rica Light.  The problem for many people, who buy in other parts of the country, is that they are immediately thrown into a different culture and it can be a severe shock that many can’t handle.  When I see these articles written by people who packed up and went home, I always take the time to find out WHERE they bought.  Almost every single time, the couple bought a property in the middle of the jungle or the rain forest, in a very lonely and desolate area.  Well no wonder they couldn’t handle it and go home.  I wouldn’t have probably made it either. That is why, when you buy in Costa Rica, you need to buy in the right area, and make sure that you have an exit plan, if you do need to sell.

In the last year I have had clients sell their properties for a variety of reasons.  One couple lived here for 10 years, and loved it.  But they wanted to experience another lifestyle, so they sold and move to Spain.  Another couple decided to sail around the world, and chose to sell their property here rather than rent it out.  I have had 3 or 4 couples who suddenly became Grandparents, and decided they wanted to be back at home with the Grand kids spending more time.  Just as there are many reasons for moving to Costa Rica, there are reasons to leave.  But none of these people sold because they didn’t like Costa Rica.  They were just ready for a new and different adventure in life.  That is what it is supposed to about right?  Experiencing as much as possible in the short time we are on this earth. 

But, fortunately for these people, they bought here, in the Papagayo area, so they were able to sell their property when they needed to.  For many others, they are not so lucky.  Let me explain.

I got a call last year from a real estate agent in Florida.  She had a client with some land in Costa Rica and this woman asked if she would find an agent here who could help her sell the property.  The property was not anywhere near this area, but I told the agent I would do my best to locate someone who could assist.  As I inquired around, I found out that there were only 3 agents anywhere near this particular property and no one with an hour.  None of these 3 agents wanted anything to do with trying to sell this property, as it was in a very remote location.  There was no real town nearby and surely no professional real estate companies anywhere close.  I called this woman in Florida to give her the bad news, that there wasn’t anyone who could help her.  She was very distraught. “Can’t you sell it for me”?  She asks. 

I tell her the property is 3 hours from me and there was no way I could help her.  Even the agents nearby were still an hour away from the land and nobody wanted to take it on.  I mean seriously, how could I sell it?  What would I say to one of my buyers?  “Heh, I have this great property in the middle of absolutely no where.  You will love it.  Let’s drive 3 hours and check it out.”  Seriously, that is not going to happen.

I asked her, how you even bought this property, it is so remote.  She went on to tell me how they were staying at this little Bed and Breakfast in the jungle.  They met this guy at a bar who told them he had some property for sale.  When they went and saw it, she told me it was just gorgeous.  One of the prettiest properties and views they had ever seen. So they bought it.

I was blown away. Didn’t you realize that there is nothing around there?  There is no town, no restaurants, and no lifestyle – Just jungle.  Didn’t you think that someday you might live there?  Why would anyone want to live in the middle of nowhere?  And didn’t you think that you might have to sell it someday, and if you did, who would sell it for you?  She told me that NO, they never thought of any of this, they just fell in love with the view and bought it.  These are the type of people you read about on the internet who are moving to Costa Rica and then decide they can’t live here.  It isn’t a problem with Costa Rica.  It is that they never did any research on WHERE to live in Costa Rica.

“How am I going to sell the property” she asks?  You are not going to like what I tell you, I told her.  You are going to have to fly to Costa Rica and rent a car.  Drive to the property and have someone make you a big sign that says FOR SALE BY OWNER with your phone number and email.  You are then going to have to go to every bar within an hour and literally bribe the bartenders into trying to sell your property.  I told her, “You then need to go home and go to church every Sunday and Pray to God that someone as stupid as you comes along and sees the sign”.  Good luck. 

She will never sell that property unfortunately.

Many parts of Costa Rica are like this:  Very remote with no real estate or Ex Pat community of any kind.  Many times the realtors that are there are only part timers, who probably won’t even be in business come next year.

So if you’re thinking about moving to Costa Rica, you need to have an exit plan, too.  You never know what will happen in your life, good or bad.  And you might be in a position where you have to sell your little piece of paradise.  Maybe it’s because of your health or finances, and maybe it’s because you want to move to New Zealand or back to Canada to see the Grand kids.  But either way, you need an exit plan.  When you own property in Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco and the Papagayo area, you have that plan.  This is a real community, with first world amenities.  People WANT to live here.  People WANT to invest here.  People are definitely coming here and moving here – More and more every day.

We are not the middle of the jungle.  And there is a North American Real Estate community here with all the big names like RE/MAX who will always be here.  So whether you’re moving to Costa Rica or selling your property here, you have professional, full-time, ethical realtors, like me, who can assist you with your property and help you get on with your life. 

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