You might have read some information about Costa Rica on the internet that may have attracted your attention and tweaked your senses to want to explore the possibility of living here. Such as:
“Costa Rica is the happiest and most sustainable country on Earth”
According to the World Economic Forum in their Happy Planet Index, which measures health, longevity, happiness and sustainability, Costa Rica is #1. The indexes formula takes into account the well-being and longevity of populations, measures how equally both are distributed, and then measures the results against each country’s ecological footprint. Using this calculation, the Costa Ricans were found to live longer and happier lives at a lower cost to the environment.
“There is no military and it’s one of the safest countries in the world”
Costa Rica has not had a military since 1948 and the country dedicates more of its resources to education and healthcare instead of maintaining an armed military force. Because there is no army, the country cannot meddle in affairs of other armed nations and therefore has no enemies or threat of terrorism.
“The sun shines almost every day, and there are spring-like temperatures year round”
Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees north of the equator and the sun does shine almost every day of the year. In Costa Rica’s Central Valley, where the capital of San Jose is located, the temperatures average in the mid-70s year-round, and it rarely gets colder than the high 60’s, and the highest temperatures are normally in the 80’s. This mild climate (one of the best in the world), in the middle of the tropics, is possible because of the altitude. The Central Valley is located at around 3,000 feet and the ideal temperatures at this altitude is why the far majority of the Costa Ricans, as well as foreigners, live in this area.
“You can rent or build a nice house on a beautiful piece of land for an incredibly low price.”
If you visit Costa Rica and like what you find and decide to stay for a while, you’ll need to find a place to live, because hotel living is expensive. Unless you’ve got family or friends with extra space, you’ll need to rent or purchase housing here. The house hunt can get confusing if you don’t understand the differences between the types of housing here and back home. Once you’ve had a chance to live here for a while and experience firsthand how things really are, then and only then will you be able to navigate the local housing market and select the best place for you to live.
Because Costa Rica is located so close to the equator there is intense ultraviolet radiation that causes the exterior surfaces of homes and buildings to deteriorate prematurely. Homes in Costa Rica that are for sale or rent are not built to the same standards of quality that most foreigners are accustomed to. Subsequently, water leaks occur in gaps between the thin metal roof laminates that are common here. Even in expensive housing, there’s usually no insulating or waterproofing materials installed in walls or under the roof. Without a waterproofing layer installed between the exterior and the interior walls and ceilings, the infiltration of moisture ends up inside walls and ceilings and this cause’s damage to building materials and produces mold and mildew. This excessive humidity can aggravate allergies and asthma, so if you are affected by health issues like these, be sure to look for housing in an area that is less humid or has air conditioning.
As foreigners acquire local knowledge, some decide to stay in Costa Rica long term and explore the idea of building their own house. However, to obtain the quality standards that they’re accustomed to can be challenging, especially in rural areas. The home building process begins with locating a piece of land that is suitable for your needs and lifestyle and then finding someone to build a house for you unless you’re a jack of all trades and think you can build it yourself. This will be difficult even for someone who has construction experience because the culture and language are much different than in other countries. Additionally, imported building materials that most Europeans and North Americans are accustomed to are expensive here and most of the local tradesmen do not understand the proprietary installation methods.
In Costa Rica, the costs to build a home will depend on some of the following factors:
- Site access and location which influence transportation and storage costs for building materials as well as housing for laborers
- Topography and soil conditions on the building site which influence the design for the foundation and the possible need for retaining walls
- Local labor costs and the experience of the tradesmen that are available where the property is located
- The architectural style of the dwelling and the type of building materials specified for installation
Construction problems here that cause delays and end up costing more money are not predictable problems anyone from another country could have anticipated based on knowledge acquired elsewhere. However, if you utilize a well-prepared construction contract with detailed building specifications and find an experienced builder that you trust, you will be able to complete your new home without a lot of unpleasant surprises and cost increases.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica since 1993 and from his travels throughout the country building housing and inspecting construction, he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about living and doing business here.
If you have questions and would like to contact Tom, click here.