Costa Rica is well known for having a very foreigner-friendly attitude when it comes to attracting both individual property investors and large corporations to the country. Further, with the aid of a proper attorney most of the process of buying property and relocating to Costa Rica is fairly simple and straight forward. Nevertheless, it is important to have a very good idea of what you are getting into before you move down and invest all of your money there. Costa Rica can be very close to many people’s idea of paradise, but it can also be very disappointing if you go to the country with unrealistic expectations or wrong impressions.
Costa Rica is well known internationally for its aggressive environmentalism and has won numerous international awards and distinctions for this, but it also has a direct bearing on the residents, including newcomers. For example, in general you cannot own land within fifty meters (roughly 164 feet) of the high tide mark on or near the beach. Further, any sort of land development or building requires an environmental impact evaluation and permission from the Costa Rican National Environmental Office (SETENA). Although this is usually not too difficult to obtain, it does limit what you can and can not do on your property and adds additional expenses to your attempt to buy and develop land in Costa Rica.
While Costa Rica has specifically developed its laws and regulations in such a way to encourage foreign expatriates and to make it easy for them to invest in the country, the laws remain very different from what most North Americans are accustomed to. For example, did you know that in Costa Rica if you leave your property vacant and squatters take up residence in it, after three years the squatters gain legal title to the property? Not only are the laws very different to what most North Americans are used to, but they are also all in Spanish, so if you lack the language you are at a decided disadvantage.
More often than not, when a foreign investor begins thinking about Costa Rica, they think of a nice house on the beach or a plush inland hacienda, but more often than not this idea is a much romanticized vision of what this actually entails. People considering investing in real estate in Costa Rica, especially if they intend to personally live in it, should experience how living in the area really is before sinking too much money into it. For example, it is true that the beaches may be lovely during the dry season, but remember that half the year is the rainy season. The inland hacienda may be incredibly beautiful, but you can not be very squeamish about very intimidating insects, snakes, and crocodiles.
Most of the advertising and glorification of living in Costa Rica is quite justified, but realistically it simply is not for everyone. The country has a lot to offer its residents, both positive and negative, so it only makes sense to experience living there before investing your worldly savings into the place.