In Costa Rica, there is a saying: “Pure vida.” Locals use it as an informal greeting, a farewell or as a way to express gratitude or satisfaction — kind of like aloha in Hawaii. It means “pure life,” but it’s also a call — to relax, to enjoy the simple things in life, to bask in the sands of happiness. Pure vida takes on many forms on the tiny 19,700 square-mile Central American isthmus, set between Nicaragua and Panama. The verdant rainforests. The untouched beaches. The exotic wildlife. The familiar comforts of restaurants, movie theaters and shopping.
The current crop of luxury villas in Costa Rica are yet another reminder of the pure vida promise. It’s not just the stunning natural beauty that exists just steps from their front doors; it’s also the country’s warm weather, affordability, political stability and economic growth. There has been a rapid increase of new developers entering the local real estate landscape this year, with a 32% rise in new construction hitting the marketplace, according to Daveed Hollander, managing partner of Vesta Group Dominical and Coldwell Banker Costa Rica. Homes have already begun to crop up around the new marinas in the southern regions of Manuel Antonio and Gofito; while the expansion and new construction of the international airport in Ortina offers new direct flights from Europe, the United States, and Canada.
“In 2016, we have seen a 22% increase in sales over $2 million in select markets throughout Costa Rica,” says Hollander. “Costa Rica’s overall profile grows with its appeal as a luxury destination market, which is mainly focused on eco-friendly practices. Costa Rica is a luxury marketplace where true value can be found within the second home market and primary single family home market. Unlike many other Central American markets, it has built a sold name for itself within respect to a luxury destination.”
Right now through September, tourism slows down as the temperatures cool — but on the plus side, the beaches are less crowded. If aspirational buyers want to experience Costa Rica’s colorful culture, then the best time to visit is January through March “when there are many festivals and outdoor activities to be seen,” says Hollander.
“Costa Rica is a country diverse in culture and nature,” explains Hollander. “Aside from the amazing beaches and city life of Costa Rica, foreigners and nationals have the same equal right when it comes to property law. In turn, this makes owning and buying land in Costa Rica in most cases easier than the U.S. or Canada.”
U.S. retirees are one affluent group that has fallen under Costa Rica’s real estate spell. According to the Boston Globe, there are about 12,000 U.S. citizens in Costa Rica that have residency (a status similar to the Green Card). Many others have tourist visas, leaving the country every 90 days to renew their documents. Hollander says that his studies show the Costa Rica market “has about a 32% of U.S. retirees coming to Costa Rica to live and retire full time.” Canadians are also well-represented, followed by U.S. citizens from Miami, Colorado, California and Wyoming. However, Hollander notes that he has recently seen an uptick in buyers coming from Europe and Central America. Most real estate purchases are all-cash transactions.
Where to Buy
Outside of the beach areas, Hollander says that the highest real estate prices are concentrated in Escazu and Santa Ana, located close to the capital of San Jose. Average prices in these areas range from $3.2 million up to $6 million, depending on size of property and location. Manuel Antonio and Dominical in the southern region, as well as Tamarindo and Playa Hermosa in the northern region can also reach record highs, ranging from $1.9 million to $4.5 million. Manual Antonio and Dominical are among the most attractive and up-and-coming markets for villas right now because of the introduction of the new marina and newly paved roads, notes Hollander. But if a buyer is looking for an even better buy, he or she might want to explore the offerings in the southern region from Jaco to Manuel Antonio to Dominical. New developments, plus the growth of its coastal towns have earned international attention lately.
What to Buy
“Villas in the city or luxury villas located in one of the many amazing beach towns of Costa Rica remain highly sought-after,” says Hollander.
Casa Big Sur — set in Dominical with panoramic views stretching from the Osa Peninsula, Cano Island to the Whales Tale and the rolling mountains and rainforest — is a perfect example. The custom-built Tommy Bahama-style estate blends Caribbean influences and local woodwork with modern architecture on an expansive 4.5-acre lot with a private entrance, electric gate and groundskeeper house, as well as nature trails, a private rancho, seasonal creek, fruit trees, and acres of lush tropical landscaping.
Adds Hollander: “Priced at $2,750,000 U.S. dollars, it really shows the quality and value you can find in Costa Rica today.”
Despite volatility in other global markets, Costa Rica’s luxury market has continued to grow “due to the secure political climate over all in Costa Rica,” says Hollander. Additionally, he notes, “Costa Rica’s luxury market is still quite under valued compared to other tropical climates around the world. This is the time to buy in this emerging market as infrastructures are being upgraded and access and amenities are becoming more accessible.”
His final piece of advice?
“Always work with a certified international realtor in Costa Rica from a firm that you can do background checks on,” he says. “In many ways, Costa Rica is still the wild, wild west. Using the right agent and brokerage will save you a lot of time and energy.”
At least, it’s the easiest path to achieving pure vida.