Paradise Found?

“Why has this property been on the market for so damn long?” One of the most frequently fielded questions if you’re a Realtor here in Costa Rica. Generally followed up by, “I mean, two years is quite awhile for something good to be sitting there without selling. What’s wrong with it?”. The real estate agent has not yet had an opportunity to reply. He carefully maneuvers the uphill blind curve that’s in front of him, mentally cursing the fact that he loves standard transmissions and had refused to buy an automatic, despite some strong suggestions to do so. The twisting, semi-civilized road we are bumping and churning along leads to our next property viewing. Number four in what will certainly become a long day. The winding, green hills are treacherous and laden with millions upon millions of vertical, angular coffee plantations and a general smattering of fruit trees. The pure power and pulsating vibration of the lush, wild nature surrounding the jostling vehicle and it’s passengers is enough to jolt a person into an exciting sense of alertness and aliveness. The adventurism in the air has a sweet magnetism to it, and it draws most of us ever closer until we finally come to terms with the fact that we are meant to live this way. To breathe the fresh oxygen. To hike the heights of the imposing mountains. To eat fresh, local, organic foods. To be in the cool, misty mountains enjoying a breezy ocean-view one moment, and soaking in steaming, bubbling, healing, natural volcanic hot springs the next moment. To dare to zipline through the rain in an enchanting cloud forest and then drive a couple of hours to get your Vitamin D fix on while swimming in the salty Pacific. To have loud, disgruntled discussuions with the howler monkeys before sunrise. To live Pura Vida. Not to spend a vast majority of your existence boxed into a dry, uninspiring cubicle like most folks are forced to. Phones ringing off the hook, a seemingly endless stream of bullshit meetings and emails to CC your boss on. TPS reports. Flow charts, power point presentations, punch in, punch out, shiny black shoes, pressed pants, shirt buttoned UP TO HERE, and a creamed corn yellow necktie to choke the rest of the life out of your hopes and dreams. Let’s not even talk about the commute to and from this corporate cage. For many poor souls, it’s two plus hours additionally on either end to accomplish transport to this floursecent lighted yet bleak bunker of employment. We are taught that climbing the ladder demonstrates dedication and that wrangling up the slippery rungs is necessary. Of course, it must be noted that not everyone who is reading this can relate to the horror scene and drudgery that I just splattered across the page. There are others, both more and less fortunte in their circumstances, who have only witnessed that type of scenario in a sitcom or a movie they’ve seen. However, the middle class (the backbone of our oft crooked society) is the largest and most Down to Earth group in the workforce of the world population, so I would wager that every single literate person on the planet knows what I’m talking about.

In theory, these types of monotonous lifestyles are an easy thing to trade in for a simpler, more natural way of living. Those who are retired or are approaching The Great Period of Rest (AKA The Era of Me) already have a leg up (or perhaps two, propped on their comfy recliner)on the folks who are trying to earn a living down here in the tropics. They only need to make a final decision to proceed, determine what specific neighborhood of the wide world they want to chill in, and make preparations to enact the transition. Under the best of conditions, the fortunate few will have a short HIT LIST of tasks: purchase a property in Costa Rica, check off what you want/need to bring (Hoarders Beware: It Will Cost You Big to Continue Your Habit), then sell, donate, and store whatever is left. Perhaps a property up North will need to be sold or rented during this process as well. There is residency to consider and potentially a brand spanking new language to learn. Ah yes, and you must explain the concrete, infallible reasoning of your move to a “Third World Country” to your family & friends. (*Important side note- The term “third” world was created as a sort of political designation, originally. The first world is Capitalist, the second world is Communist, and the third world is comprised of all of those countries which are insane and disconnected enough to choose not to operate under either of these Two Solid Pillars of Example For Societal Functionalism…) At any rate, odds are that only a small handful of people from your immediate social circle will comprehend why in The Nine Hells you would want to leave all that you have behind so you can move far away and into the unknown. Away from all the tempting comforts of home that you enjoy. Away from them. Even less will agree with your choice and there will be a few blowhards who will even attempt to gather evidence and build up a case against you taking this drastic action. You are making each and every one of them question their own lives by taking such a courageous step yourself, are you not? It’s only human nature for some people to try and ruin a good thing for someone else. Sad but true.

“To answer your question, two years is a fairly standard amount of time for a Gringo resale property to be on the market. Gringo properties are sold to other Gringos, for the most part. As such, these Gringos have several stages to work through in order to complete a purchase, close out their old life, and affect a move to a foreign country. Selling to Expats in Costa Rica is a far different experience than when I sold real estate in Buffalo, New York, for example. Folks would contact me and say: “Hey, Frank- I’m looking for a 2 bedroom/ 2 bathroom house with hardwood floors and a fenced in yard. Maybe a small garage or shop for me to putter in. I want to be close to the city, but I don’t want it on my front steps. Been there, done that. Maybe North Buffalo or Kenmore. Whaddya got for me? I don’t want to go over $160,000 all said and done.” These buyers would already have a pre-qualification letter from a bank, or would at least have an appointment to get it done. The buyer pool was vast and diverse. A high percentage of people across all age groups were mortgageable and there were government incentives for certain CITIZENS to help them to own their own home on American Soil. I would punch the specs into my nifty computer and a list of options would pop of for me. I now appreciate the true beauty of an bonafide MLS system. I’d drive around my new customer and show him or her anywhere from three to twenty houses over the course of our search for The Promised Land. When we declare A Winner, I produce a purchase offer. If that offer is accepted, we march through the trials & tribulations on the Trail To Closing together. It’s straightforward. In Costa Rica, the buyer pool for Gringo properties is thin because people are not simply sliding into a new building down the road. They’re creating a new life in a foreign country. Adapting to Latin culture. Convincing friends, relatives, and co-wokers that Costa Rica is right for them, while trying to keep it all in perspective themselves. “John, you don’t speak a lick of Spanish, do you???” Now, John Doe doesn’t need to learn Spanish to move to Kenmore, NY. On The West Side, it might be a benefit to learn to roll your r’s, but not in the Suburbs. If he’s planning a move to a Spanish Speaking Country though, he should be open to transforming himself into Juan Doe and should work slowly towards learning the language. The locals appreciate effort, and will always help you if your sentences are incomplete or you’re suffering from Communication Breakdown. Embracing a virgin culture 100% is a lot for buyer to digest. Plus, Gringo transactions are almost always cash deals. Not just a 3% deposit check (which is refundable in many cases) and then thirty years of mortgage payments. All cash to officially close the transaction. Americans, Canadians, Europeans, etc. are not exactly accustomed to that style of property purchase. It takes time to walk the necessary path which leads to certainty in decision making. Two years is not necessarily a long for a property to be on the market in Costa Rica, and I’ve personally seen amazing properties sit for over three years and then have three offers come in during the very same week. True story. These amazing properties are just waiting for equally amazing people to show up and say, Where Do I Sign?”