Tips on Buying a Beach Condo in Costa Rica

January 15, 2017 — 12:13 PM EST

Does owning a beach condo in Costa Rica sound like a luxurious pipe dream? It's actually not so out of reach and could give you regular access to a comfortable, tropical vacation or second home. Or first home, if you decide to retire there (see Retire in Costa Rica with $200,000 of Savings?).

For starters, condos give foreign buyers access to some of the best beach locations at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a house or land in that position. A condo near or on the beach in Costa Rica may range anywhere from as little as $40,000 to as much as $500,000, depending on the area.

Other advantages include the ability to generate rental income when the property isn’t in use, which is a great way to offset ownership costs, assuming your condo isn’t a primary place of residence. Plus, beach condos are typically located footsteps away from restaurants, shopping, and other desirable amenities, so they make superb getaway homes. Contemplating a property purchase in this beautiful and stable Central American nation? Consider these tips before making the jump. (For more, see Does Condo Life Suit You? and What Does It Cost to Retire in Costa Rica?)

Choosing an Agent

It's important to seek out a reputable, certified agent or nationally recognized real estate brand. Click here for the Costa Rica's multiple listing service from the Costa Rica Chamber of Real Estate Brokers. Find an agent who lives and works in the area or community where you’re looking to buy and can advise on local pricing, and local lifestyle and cultural issues. Ensure your agent is endorsed by a professional association. Also, check out the Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors. One of the best ways to get connected with a reputable realtor is to simply ask around the local community. (For more, see How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent.)

Management Fees

Prior to purchasing, it’s important to determine what is and isn’t included in the Homeowners Association (HOA) fee. HOA fees typically cover general maintenance for the building and any common areas and facilities, insurance for the complex and manned security. Obviously, the more perks and manpower required to operate the complex, the higher the cost to its owners. Furthermore, the fewer units in the condo, the higher the fees are likely to be.

Inspection

Whether the condo is brand new or has been lived in, hire a home inspector to ensure all of the unit’s plumbing, electricals and features are of good quality and in reliable working order. This should extend to the main condo construction and shared facilities as well. Beach condos, in particular, require inspection of steel structures for salt damage and flooding. (For more, see 10 Reasons You Shouldn't Skip A Home Inspection.)

Most importantly, buyers should personally visit and inspect the property. No amount of research is as reliable as seeing the condo and its facilities firsthand. Are there any amenities, such as a fitness center or beach club? Compare the quality and cost against other condos in the area, and only invest in what you actually see. If a developer or agent promises swanky new amenities, e.g., a golf course or marina, but they aren’t already there, you shouldn’t factor them into your purchase offer because they may never exist. 

The Bottom Line

Buying real estate abroad can be complicated and comes with varying levels of risk; however, the purchase process in Costa Rica is well-established and relatively transparent so long as you work with professionals. Foreign nationals are permitted to buy and own property, with no special limitations compared to citizens. As with all property transactions, especially foreign ones, due diligence is critical. Look for reputable, certified agents; obtain a property inspection; visit the property personally; ensure your lawyer specializes in real estate and dealing with foreign buyers; do a title search; and clarify all fees associated with managing and purchasing the property upfront. The more informed your investment decision, the less likely your condo dream will descend into a condo nightmare down the road.