Thank you for visiting ‘Tank Tops Flip Flops’

Hola! Welcome to Paradise. My name is Michael Simons - the Owner/Broker of 3 major real estate franchises in the Papagayo Region - RE/MAX Tres Amigos in Playa Hermosa , RE/MAX Prestige Ocean Properties in Playa Panama and RE/MAX Ocean Village in Playas del Coco.

The majority of people interested in buying real estate in Costa Rica tend to have many of the same questions so I took the time to answer them in detail here in a fun and informative way. This site contains a tremendous amount of information for you and allows me to express my views and pass along wisdom gained while living and doing business in the tropics. Hope you can join us. Pura Vida!

I will respond to your questions immediately with an email or personal phone call.

See you here in Paradise!

Is there financing in Costa Rica?

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

Financing in Costa Rica

You will see all kinds of information on the internet about obtaining financing in Costa Rica.  Many websites tell you that they have financing options available through the National or Local banks.  I have been selling real estate in this country for almost a decade, and only a handful of my clients have been able to obtain a loan with a Costa Rican bank. 

Financing in Costa Rica

Its not that you cant get a loan, it’s that most foreigners, after reviewing all the documents and costs, don’t take the loan.  First off, it is very difficult to qualify for a loan if you are not a permanent resident of this country.  The paperwork is mind boggling and the banks do not operate with the efficiency that you are used to in the USA or Canada.  It can take months for an answer which is usually NO anyway.  Second, the fees are very high; usually 3 to 5 % higher than a traditional loan in North America and the closing costs are as much as 3% of the loan, on top of the normal closing costs.

So when most buyers see these numbers, they change their mind and search for an alternate way to purchase their little piece of paradise.  One of the reasons Costa Rica is so stable, in my opinion, is because they don’t lend money.  We all know that the problem with the USA was the banks poor lending practices.  In the history of this country not one single bank has ever failed.  That is an amazing statistic.  It’s because they don’t frivolously lend money, and they almost NEVER lend money to foreigners.  As a client of mine from Tallahassee says, “you gotta pay to play”.

The people who own property in Costa Rica are very financially stable individuals because they usually had to pay cash for their property – one of the reasons we saw no foreclosures and very little slide in our values after the big crash a few years ago.

So how can I buy in Costa Rica, if I don’t have all the cash you ask?

There are a few options and lets explore them here for a moment.  Many of the developers will actually carry in house financing, so if you are buying directly from the developer himself, this could be a good option.  As with any property, it is important to verify the financial stability of the developer and the quality of their product.  This of course is something your real estate agent can advise you about on your trip to Costa Rica as not all developer properties are what they advertise on the internet.  So do your due diligence and always work with a reputable licensed real estate agent and a first class law firm.  Don’t ever buy direct from the developer and don’t use their attorney.

Most private sellers in today’s market are selling because they need the money, and they are open to any reasonable offer.  Probably 50% of the transactions we have done the last few years have involved some sort of seller financing short term.  The mortgage laws in Costa Rica are very strong so both the buyer and seller are protected if a seller agrees to carry a note.  The buyer will close on the property, so they are the legal owners, and the seller will carry a mortgage or a legal trust against the property until the balance is paid off.  We use very secure third parties to handle this transaction, like Stewart Title for instance.  The seller is assured that the buyer can’t sell the property without their loan being paid off and the buyer is assured that when he does pay off the loan, the lien will be removed.  So we have to be creative in writing the offer for the buyers.

Recently I sold a condo for $300,000.  The buyers put down $100k and agreed to pay $100k in 12 months and $100k in 24 months with some small interest.  The seller was happy to accept.

I sold a house a few months ago for $400,000.  The buyer put down 30% of the sale price.  The balance of $280,000 was amortized over 30 years at 6% with a balloon payment in 48 months.  So the buyers pay a small monthly mortgage payment to the seller every month of $1678.74.  In 4 years the seller will pay a balloon payment of $264,920.69 and the loan will be paid in full.  If the buyer chooses to pay the balance off early, there is no prepayment penalty and the seller is always happy to get their money early.  Many of the buyers today have assets, usually a property they are trying to sell in the USA or Canada.  Having these 4 years allows them time to sell this house without having to drastically reduce their selling price and take a loss.  Many people are property rich and cash poor so this is a good option for them, as the time to buy has never been better. 

The cost to register a mortgage in Costa Rica is approximately 1.64% of the total mortgage amount.  So if you are asking the seller to carry a note of $200,000 it will cost you an additional $3,294 on top of your normal closing fees. It is standard for the buyer to pay the mortgage fees.

Most buyers realize that if they wait until they sell their property back home, the deals will be gone here in Costa Rica.  So this allows them to take advantage of the buyers market without taking a huge hit on their existing real estate portfolio back home.  And with the rental market being so strong here in Costa Rica, most people can very easily cover their monthly nut doing vacation rentals through a local property manager.

I have also had many clients tell me that they were more than happy to cash in their 401k or other stock market investments and use that money to pay cash for the property.  With the uncertainty in the market and the fact that most people’s 401k’s are as flat as a Nebraska corn field, using that money to purchase a home or condo in a growing market like Costa Rica just makes more sense.

But one of the easiest ways to purchase your dream property in Costa Rica is by using what’s called a Self Directed IRA.  Many people do not realize that they can convert their current IRA or 401k into an IRA that they themselves control.  It is actually a very simple process and most companies can process it in less than 30 days.  I have had dozens of US citizens buy their house or condo this way in the last 3 or 4 years.  If you would like more information on purchasing property in Costa Rica with your IRA please send me an email and I can put you in touch with some good companies in the USA who can answer all your questions.

Canadians actually have it the best.  Canada did not experience the same recession as their southern neighbors for the simple fact that they have always followed proper lending practices.  You must have a good credit rating, a solid verifiable income and put down a minimum of 30% to even obtain a loan in Canada.  Obviously, the USA should have been following these same rules.  But when you give home loans to Burger King Employees, with no money down, we should have known we were destined to fail.  Due to their diligence, the Canadian market is still quite strong and most home owners have a tremendous amount of equity in their homes.  So most of my buyers from the Great White North, just walk into their local Scotia Bank back home and apply for a simple Equity Line of Credit.  With the current interest rates as low as they are, this makes tremendous sense, so the majority of my Canadian buyers use the value in their personal home, to purchase their second home or future retirement property here in Costa Rica.

FAQ small

Many of my buyers understand that it might be 3 to 5 years until they can actually start spending time in Costa Rica.  But they want to take advantage of the buyers market before all the deals are gone.  So many clients end up purchasing a vacant lot instead of a condo or house.  This of course costs substantially less and they have practically no carrying costs on the lot.  Then in 5 years when they have the cash and are ready to make the leap, they can hire a builder and have him build their dream home exactly as they envisioned.

So you can see there are actually many ways we can work around a tough market and help your dream come true.

We have even negotiated a few trades in the last few years.  One person traded their yacht for a Costa Rican home and we have had condo swaps as well from people in Miami trading their condo for a property here in Costa Rica.  Again, it is about being creative and that is something we are very good at.  But the best advice I can give you, is that these opportunities are not going to last.  We are seeing inventory disappear quickly and I think we only have another year or so and they will be gone.  So don’t wait for your house in Atlanta to sell before making the leap to Costa Rica.

Come down, spend a few days looking around and see if you can find that little piece of paradise.  If you do, let’s sit down, and be creative and see if we can put something together that works for you, that you are comfortable with and a plan that won’t put stress on your financial situation.  In the end, this is a dream you are trying to achieve and the last thing we want is for you to feel pressured.  But at the same time, we don’t want you to miss out on the buying opportunities that this market presents.  So don’t procrastinate too long or all the deals might be gone.

Pura Vida,

Michael Simons


You can make a difference

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Newsletters

newsletter edition no. 7



I have always been a big supporter of charities, even when I lived in the USA. I fed a child in Africa.  I made monthly donations to the ASPCA. I support Smile Train.  I always make donations when my friends run or walk for various events and never miss the chance to stick a bunch of cash in the Salvation Army bucket over the holidays.  Anything to do with the US military and you can count me in.  The list goes on and on.


Since moving here in 2003 I have been very fortunate to meet some incredibly generous individuals, who give a tremendous amount of their time, effort and money to charities all over the world.  But I have also seen all the reports on the News, about charities and scams.  We know that many charities use the majority of the funds for their personal use. Private planes, expensive dinners, operating costs and salaries to executives are just some of the examples of why only a small percentage of your donations actually reach their destination.  Not here in Costa Rica.  The nice thing about the charities here in our area, is they are run by local individuals whose only concern is the end result of the donations.  They don’t take a salary, nor use any of the funds for operating costs.  In Costa Rica YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

I have been asked over and over by people to please send a list of all the current charities that are going on in the Papagayo area.  Below are my personal favorites and as more become available I will let you know.  Please take a few minutes to read this list and hopefully you can find one that you can connect with.  Do us all a favor and MAKE A SMALL DONATION.




Gary Lindquist is a retired US and Canadian citizen who is a Permanent Resident of Costa Rica.  Gary and his lovely Costa Rican wife Cynthia are involved currently in 3 wonderful charities.



The first is the Sardinal Back Pack program.

For the past 3 years[more…] we have been giving backpacks plus school supplies, uniforms and shoes to poor children in Sardinal who cannot afford to buy these things to attend school.  We thank you all for contributing in past years.  I want to share with you that we just received a wonderful piece of news.

A Karate Club from Toronto, Canada has volunteered to bring down 60 backpacks which will include school materials needed and shoes.  That is a wonderful gift.  Now we need to collect donations to buy the uniforms for the kids.  We buy 2 shirts and 2 pants for each child.  That total cost of this year’s project will be approximately $2000.  Please donate any amount of money you can to this project. All donations are gratefully accepted.  Let’s make this the best year we have ever had!You can phone Gary or email him for pickup of your donation see below for the information. You can also leave your donation at the RE/MAX Tres Amigos Real Estate office with Yorleny Quesada.  You can also leave your donation with Pastor Allen Cudahy at Celebration community Church in Playa Hermosa.


If you are a long way away you can use Paypal as well. Go to, write in his email – go to gifts – write in amount you want to give and click send.  You will see his first name – Jon -don’t worry- it’s him – go ahead and click send – He will receive the donations and put them into the Sardinal Backpack Account.

Gary Lindquist: 011 (506) 2672-0023




Gary is also involved in 2 other projects.  Contact him directly to get involved or help out financially: 

Playground Project for Playa Hermosa School. Our committee has had 2 meetings so far. It is looking very good so far.

Sardinal School kitchen expansion – The kids have a dining area serving 40 and the population of the school is 760.  They are in great need of expansion.


The next Charity is the Playa Hermosa Resident’s Association – It is a Non-profit, Volunteer based, organization made up of Playa Hermosa Residents.  We love Playa Hermosa and want to help improve and maintain it. For a very small fee you can join the Association and help to keep our community beautiful. Please visit their website.





One of the more popular charities is actually a committee within the Playa Hermosa Resident’s Association called the


Save the Monkeys Committee – The Playa Hermosa Save the Monkeys Committee (Salve Los Monos de Playa Hermosa) is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the native monkey population in Playa Hermosa. The committee is currently seeking persons who have knowledge of the existing monkey corridors in and around Playa Hermosa. We are also interested in knowing what areas the Monkeys lived in before the loss of portions of their habitat. One of the biggest problems that all countries face, is that as Man Kind continues to expand, we over take much of the animals natural habitat. In Costa Rica, many monkeys are electrocuted when they have to use high voltage wires to cross the roads. The committee was formed to raise money to build Monkey Bridges across the roads in high traffic areas. My good friend Karol Allard and her husband Michael have been huge advocates of this wonderful project. Please take the time to visit their site and please help with a donation or your time.


For Information contact Karol Allard at




There is also a resident’s association for Playas del Coco called Catucoco


Anyone who has ever spent one moment talking to me, looking on my personal Facebook page or even stopping by my house or office knows that Michael Simons LOVES DOGS.  I love Cats too it’s just that my Rottweiler isn’t a big fan of them.  There is a wonderful Charity in the area run by Paul and Alice Johnston.  They spend all of their free time and their own personal money saving stray animals from the streets, and finding them homes.  That is how I ended up with 6 dogs, all starting with the letter M.  Millie, Meka, Milagro, Monita, Melina and Macho.  Unfortunately Maggie and Madison passed away last year.


Their project is called COCO CARE. It was started by performing free spay/neuter clinics and has become the hub for helping our furry friends in need.  I assure you that if you decide to move to Costa Rica, we will inevitably end up at your door dropping off a new friend.





Everywhere you go in the world, you will find a Lions Club and we have one here in Playas del Coco as well.  Lions are an international network of 1.3 million men and woman in 200 countries and geographic areas who work together to answer the needs that challenge communities around the world.  Known for working to end preventable blindness, Lions participate in a vast variety of projects important to their communities.  The projects range from cleaning up local parks to providing supplies to victims of natural disasters.  Beginning in 1917, the association of Lions clubs has provided millions of people with the opportunity to give something back to their communities.


For more information or to make a donation please contact:
Phone: 8941-3570 or 2670-2054


PROYECTO DE LUZ is a non-for profit association dedicated to contribute a service to make a positive change to the lives of children living in Costa Rica. We believe by improving a Childs environment, health and educational conditions it provides them with an important foundation for a brighter future and enables them to reach their full potential, which has an impact on the entire community.


Condo Fish – Organization dedicated to creating artificial fish and sea life habitats affectionately called ‘CondoFish’ This is the first project of its kind to be approved by the Costa Rican government.





Rich Coast Diving is one of the top dive shops here in the Papagayo and they are committed 100% to giving back to their community.  


PROJECT AWARE which is a world wide organization that fights against Shark Finning and ocean debris.


Rich Coast Diving was one of the first Dive Shops worldwide to join in this effort. All of their students receive a PROJECT AWARE certification card after they have completed the course.  The extra $10 that Rich Coast pays for this card goes directly to PROJECT AWARE.  You can purchase T-shirts with shark logos and the profit goes 100% towards shark protection.


Every year Rich Coast Diving joins with world famous artist Carlos Hiller to set up a combination art and community awareness project to send a message to the public to stop shark finning, which is usually done during world ocean day


See our Sea – An initiative to involve local people and tourists in ocean ecosystems conservation. 




Rich Coast Diving also received the green star award.  This is an award given for a dive center that goes “green”


Please take some time to visit these websites, call the people on the ground and see if you can help in your own way. 


A small donation really can MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Thanks


See you down here in Paradise!


Pura Vida,


Michael Simons


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!


Check Out My Full Website at




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