SEE OUR BEACH FRONT HOMES FOR SALE IN COSTA RICA: JACO BEACH PLAYA HERMOSA PALMS, PU, CR

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YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE,
 we are reworking this page in conjunction with our new blog, in the meantime....

(We have decided to post all of our future opinions, insights, and rantings into our Blog so that you can respond.  To access, scroll the menu on the left side of the home page, and click on Blog: The Real Costa Rica?)
 

April 18, 2009  Why a FireSales page?

by Jeff Fisher, Owner-Broker CR Beach Investment Real Estate

 

Why?-because you asked for it!   So many clients from Florida and California, Vegas and Phoenix, coming in and asking what are our best discounted properties. We watch the U.S. news stations here, and we know whats going on in the States, but almost never do we get a million dollar property selling for 60% off, as those other places. We will gladly inform you of price drops and new listings once you have registered with any of our registration forms. I personally feel that its better to buy the property of your dreams now, than purchase something with a worse view, or further from the beach later just to save a little more.  This is one of those rare moments, all the experts say, when its prudent to purchase. Don't wait for our market to bottom out, because the Jaco area is better suited than any other in Costa Rica, or the Caribbean, or Latin America to appreciate in value. If I didn't think so, I would move immediately to that other place. I love it here!

Our Fire Sales Listings & Great Deals!

 


 

Lately we have been getting many inquiries into fire sale properties, and asking if there are liquidations, deals, or discounted properties similar to pricing occuring in Florida and California?
The fact is that here in the Jaco Beach Central Pacific area, maybe at most, 2% of REALTORS' LISTINGS are being offered at "firesale" prices or heavily discounted. 

 

Main reasons why there aren't more:

1. Costa Rican banks did NOT loan out much money to foreigners the past 7 years. Our banks are not in the same state as in many other countries, with lots of repossessions.

2. Our condo market consists primarily of purchasers who only have 10-30% invested, with the rest Owner-financed. Thus they can only discount what they have invested!   If the building isn't finished, they might only have equity of 10-20%.

Why buy Now?

The new highway ...the new highway.... the new highway....
Yes it took way too long to start, but it really is being built, and faster than any of us long-time Costa Rican residents every imagined!

Of course this is predicted to bring another housing boom to our area when its completed by the end of 2010. 
The appreciation of the Jaco Beach Central Pacific area real estate market is thus, (dare I say) guaranteed!

 Buy now because when prices come back up, you’ll have instant equity!

 Please check out our "firesale" listings below

for homes, condos, lots, for the Jaco Beach Costa Rica area,
where we do list the original real price.  

Remember that there are few "exclusives" in Costa Rica and no MLS, therefore we can't advertise all our listings! 
April 3, 2009

Wall Street's Henry Kaufman believes that Costa Rica will become a huge market for retirees and he wants in since the world crisis has opened opportunities that have never existed in the last 10 years in Costa Rica, one of the hottest real estate markets in the world, associates say.

April 2, 2009  

“Right or wrong, the belief is we may have seen the worst of the economic side of things,” said William Stone the chief investment strategist of PNC Financial Services Group Inc., which oversees $110 billion in Philadelphia!

March 15th, 2009

Finally good news out of Washington, thanks to Bernanke and some positive numbers from Wall Street!!!

 

 

 

How will Costa Rica weather the Global Economic Turbulence in 2009?      

Tom Rosenberger   February 6, 2009 from Costa Rica Living Board

 The global financial crisis is being felt in Costa Rica, but not as dramatically as in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Costa Rica is one of the major destinations of direct foreign investment (DFI) and is #1 in Central America according to the 2008 report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The chief executive of Costa Rica's central bank, Francisco Gutierrez stated that the country should not experience major economic impact from the global financial crisis that is presently affecting most world markets. Costa Rica has minimum involvement in international securities markets and the state banks maintain substantial reserves and tangible investments.

 The International Monetary Fund (IMF), found that Costa Rica is in a significantly better position to respond to global economic shocks now than in the past, thanks to a marked improvement in public finances, sizable foreign exchange reserves, steps taken toward a more flexible exchange rate process and measures adopted to strengthen the financial system.

 Furthermore, the Costa Rican stock exchange has not experienced any major changes as a result of the turbulence affecting world financial markets. The chief executive of Costa Rica's stock exchange, Jose Brenes, asserted that no major effect has been felt locally because the local exchange concentrates on fixed-yield, debt securities, and not shares of public companies that have been degraded in most global markets.

Filling the USA trade gap in Asia and Regionally

Costa Rican is less dependent on the U.S.A. for exporting its products than in the past. This is because of the increase in sales to Asian, Central American and Caribbean markets. Exports to the U.S.A. went from 47% in 2003 to 35% in 2007, according to data released in August 2008 from the Promoter of Foreign Trade (PROCOMER).

However, the U.S.A. remains the leading destination of Costa Rican exports. Last year, Costa Rica exported a total of $9,343 million in products, 35% to the U.S.A., 21% to Asia, 21% to Central America and the Caribbean, 15% to Europe and the 8% to other destinations.

 With the U.S. economy continuing to show weakness, Costa Rica is increasingly betting on Asia to fill the trade gap. Costa Rican exporters have developed new business partners in China, Japan and India, while Asian companies, in turn, are boosting their exports to Costa Rica. Trade between the regions should keep growing thanks to a combination of factors, including growing demand for other products in various Asian markets, more demand for Asian products here, and an increasing number of bilateral free trade agreements.

 Recent Economic Statistics

 1. Growth: The IMF reported that the output of Costa Rica will grow a little more this year than what the Central Bank had previously forecast. It also added that inflation will be lower than expected. In the recently published World Economic Outlook, the IMF expects growth of the Gross Domestic Product to be 4% this year, more than the 3.3% estimated by the Central Bank. This GDP growth is almost at the level of entire worlds projected growth of 3.9%.

  2. Inflation: The IMF predicts 13% inflation in Costa Rica during 2008. The Costa Rica Central Bank predicted 14.2% inflation this year. During first three quarters of 2008, inflation was 11.83%. In 2009, both the IMF and the Central Bank agree that inflation will be 9%.

 3. Production: According to the Central Bank, production has increased 3% in August as compared to the same month last year. This increase reflects the annual variation of the Monthly Economic Activity Index, which records the goods and services made or provided in Costa Rica. This index indicates that production has slowed down since early 2007 when it increased to almost 8%.

 4. Competitiveness:  According to the 2008 global competitiveness index, published by the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica has improved four positions, from 63rd to 59th. This increase indicates that in Latin America, only Chile (28th), Puerto Rico (41st) and Panama (58th) improved greater than Costa Rica.

  5. Unemployment: The most recent report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) points out that Costa Rica has the lowest rate of unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean.

 Costa Rica has finally approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Recently, Costa Rican lawmakers approved the final law necessary to implement the agreement and it is now scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2009.

 Continues to attract multi-national investors.

Hilton, is building new projects and expanding their presence in Costa Rica, with plans to open 150 new hotels in Latin America during the next five years.

 Sykes, opened its first Costa Rican call center in 1999 with the purchase of Acer Information Services of Heredia. Now the company, which is a group of global businesses delivering business process outsourcing services, plans to add 630 new employees. Currently, SYKES has 2,500 employees, 2,370 of whom work at its facility in the Global Park Free Zone in Heredia. The additional employees will be working at a new $4 million facility in Moravia.

 Intel Corporation, the multi-national company employs hundreds of local engineers as well as other workers needed to maintain their huge facility in Belen, Heredia. Intel is now launching five new computer processors that have been assembled here by Costa Ricans. The new processors, three for servers and two for PCs, operate faster than their predecessors, and will be on the market worldwide in the near future.

 Procter & Gamble announced it has contracted with 100 professionals and is looking forward to hiring 150 more bilingual business experts to fill out the staff of its strategy center that it will open at their offices in the ForumBusinessCenter in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. Proctor & Gamble already has about 1,000 persons working in its Global Business Services center, which manages supply, accounting and finance here for its Latin American operations. The purpose of the center is to come up with ideas to increase the efficiency of the company's operations on the continent. Procter & Gamble's Costa Rican business center represents a $60 million investment, and occupies four 4-story office buildings and it's already the largest of three new Global Business Service centers worldwide (the others are in Europe and Asia). GBS Costa Rica currently employs 650 people and expects to reach 1,200 bilingual, college-educated employees.

 Amazon, the world leader in internet sales, is opening its first Latin American customer service center in Heredia, Costa Rica this year. The online retail giant will employ 300 full-time representatives, and 400 seasonal workers will be hired during the holiday season so the facility can provide efficient phone and e-mail support for its customers. 

Costa Rican tourism is growing, in spite of the global crisis. Tourism is up 10% in the first nine months of the year 2008, and in December arrived their 2,000,000th visitor. for 2008.   Since Costa Rica attracts worldwide interest, to a certain extent it is insulated from economic problems in the real world.

 

 The facts speak for themselves:

Costa Rica is an emerging economy that continues to attract multi-national companies relocating and growing their businesses here as well as international investors that have found it to be an economic safe haven.

Since 1992, I have been fortunate to live and work in Costa Rica. I have adapted to the Tico culture and adopted their language. Additionally, I have encountered many challenging situations here over the last fifteen-years. With over 25 years of business experience, I write about subjects that are interesting to me and of interest to those who seek my advice-Tom Rosenberger - www.CostaRicaHomeBuilder.com - 506-8354-1989  

 

 

Quick thoughts as to why I am still optomistic about Jaco! by Jeff Fisher, Broker-Owner CR Beach Investment Real Estate April 6, 2008 

Hello from my beautiful semi-beachfront bungalow home in Playa Hermosa, just 8 minutes south of Jaco. I just got done posting  in our "Costa Rica in the News" section that the town of Jaco was awarded a Blue Flag. We have one blue flag now and well on our way to having the actual beach receive a blue flag. And we are getting a beachfront boardwalk! For those that have lived here a long time, (15 years for me!) this is almost unbelievable news!  

I am always being asked how the continual negative real estate news from the States is affecting our business here. I always say the truth, maybe things are slower by about 10%-that's all.  Costa Rica is still unknown to many N. Americans and still has a tremendous allure to those that have never been here.  The publicity surrounding the vast quantities of "Baby Boomers" who are active and interested in either retiring full time or half-time to Costa Rica is constant.  Articles about  vacationing in Costa Rica appear daily in my Google alerts about Costa Rica; today I received articles from Modesto California and several blogs describing what an incredible country this is.

But how's the market you ask?  Will there be a glut of condos available that will drive down the price?  The facts are that most of the beachfront condos currently under construction are sold out. Many are currently being "resold" at a profit, anywhere from 10-40%.  The situation in the States is affecting us here, in that many developers here with new condos to sell will have to be more reasonable in setting their pricing!  The "flippers" are accepting less than they had thought they might be able to charge for their investments of only one year ago--but there are still profits to be made.  These are all positive signs for the moment because Jaco condos currently do not have the right to charge the same high prices as their Mexican or Hawaiian counterparts. Not yet!

A few weeks ago an investor from Florida was here that missed out on some tremendous opportunities a few years ago that I had shown him. He could have tripled his investment dollars. Instead he invested in Florida and is now suffering tremendous losses. He showed me his emails that everyday were touting liquidations of condos and homes with discounts from 30 to 50%. 

 How can I compete with that I thought? How do we in the real estate business in Jaco compete with the foreclosure hysteria in the States?

 I have had time to reflect and the answer is Florida is in the United States, and so is San Diego and Padre Island and New York and Las Vegas.    The minority of world travelers, second home purchasers, and international retirees will always seek out a place that is not in the United States. Costa Rica welcomes these visitors, inspite of all its problems, in a way that is rivaled by no other country. The "land of peace" the "Switzerland of the Americas" is indeed the most expensive place to live in Central America, but it is also the safest and closest to the U.S. with the best weather, great lifestyle options and most community support of other Ex-pats.  In a world that is increasingly more unfriendly, more violent, more expensive, I have yet to hear a better option than Costa Rica. More thoughts-

Why is Jaco a great place to invest NOW?:

1. The new highway was started in Jan 2008 and will be partially finished-2009? reducing travel time from the airport to Jaco to under 75 minutes. 

2.  The hard work of the Jaco Chamber of Commerce, (www.cenpac.net) promoting real changes. Very few other international destinations have as strong a local-Gringo positive guiding force. They just sponsored Jaco's First Art Festival.

3.  International travel and eco awards continuing to publicize Costa Rica and Jaco Beach.

4.  Pricing that remains cheaper than other beach vacation and retirement destinations, especially when  you factor in , no taxes on property gains, and best of all, annual property taxes of 1/4 of 1% annual of declared value. ($250 for every 100k).

5.  The "boardwalk" or promenade will garner Jaco the positive international reputation it has been seeking since the town's renovation.  Police and infrastructure changes are improving everyday.

6.  The neighboring oceanview and beachside communities within 25 minutes of Jaco will become very desireable places to live for those that seek a mellower lifestyle.  Golfing and boating fanatics will be overjoyed at the choices offered and other adventure enthusiasts will continue to appreciate their options.

7.  Whereas many major hotels have been announced for the northern region, their land procurers will discover like I did, that the Central Pacific area is the place to be:  a.  better weather here than up north (6-10 degrees cooler).  b. better availability of water for developers and locals alike, see our news section!     c. easier access to and response from the local Municipality       d. continual year-round tropical green  e. the proximity to the nation's largest airport and capital San Jose is a real asset; after all this is a small country!           f.    greater availability of goods and services than any other beach community          g.  LOWER PRICES for almost everything compared to the north!

thats all folks, any comments-put them in the blog! 

Jeff Fisher Owner-Broker CR Beach Investment Real Estate  April 6, 2008

Costa Rica attracts adventure and eco tourists and these well present $600-million dollars of foreign investments in the country. If the ICT declares projects tourism friendly, the developments receive tax exemptions and other benefits. The list of firms involved includes hotels such as Ritz Carlton, Hyatt and Mandarin Oriental. Obviously, these multinational companies invested in plenty of due diligence before deciding to spend millions of dollars in Costa Rica. ICT estimates that the overall investment expected for 2008 will be no less than last year, which brought $800 million dollars from foreign investment.

 
A.M. Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 23, 2006 Vol. 6, No. 124
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Well I think I was either too sarcastic or not sarcastic enough since I received a lot of emails today asking if I was really leaving Costa Rica after 13.5 mostly glorious years. Would you be so kind as to publish another letter from me?
I will admit that I am a real estate Broker (now, Costa Rica Beach Investment Real Estate), 9 years in the business, mostly in San Jose, but the past few years in Tamarindo and Jaco.  I moved from Tamarindo for a number of reasons, but mostly because as a full time resident, life is much easier when the big city essentials are less than 2 hours away and not 6.
 
My analysis of Costa Rican real estate BEACH prices is determined by what has happened to other international beach hotspots, enduring various boom-bust cycles.   What determines fair market value in any situation is to check "comps" (comparables) and in this case, those beach communities that can offer to the North American retiree/adventurer a place to purchase for investment, rental income, or a new way of life.
Without delving into lifestyle issues and comfort zones found for the typical N. American seeker, we must first start with travel time from the United States/Canada.  Obviously, the closest places are the Caribbean, (foreign residents subject to island fever) and Mexico, (personal safety issues and lack of 100% title).  We also have to rule out Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize, though each place has something unique to offer for a week or two, to live or invest in these countries for a long period can be perilous.  Nicaragua has been attracting more super adventurers as of late, but I have little respect for Nicaragua's political smarts (oxymoron?). Panama is probably Costa Rica's stiffest competition, but that's still a secret,  and it's too damn hot.  So that leaves Costa Rica as the nearest, safest, easiest to adapt to foreign country closest to the United States for residents and investors alike.
How high can prices go you ask?  Go to google and type in Cancun or Puerto Vallarto beachfront condos for sale.
Try to compare condos that are not in towers that are 20 stories tall (I would prefer a building limitation of 7 stories here in Jaco!).  With Mexico, remember, no foreigner gets 100% ownership-fee simple title and Punta Cancun Beach front Condos, are being offered between $480,000-$700,000.  Are Costa Rican beachfront condos with title worth the same amount or 30% less than Cancun? One can play these games with google with Hawaii (much more expensive), the Caymans (bet there's more former residents of the Caymans living here than the reverse) ad infinitum.
The point is that Costa Rica now enjoys a very favorable image within the United States, Canada, and Europe as both a place to live and as an investment opportunity. Of course buyers have to use their head- booms come and go, as sometimes markets get saturated with product for a short time, but in a world renowned locale, prices are
usually justified and will continue to rise, maybe not as quickly, but comparable to other places. Just remember, this ecologically renowned little Switzerland of the Americas hasn't yet come close to being as famous as other hotspots.  Invest now because prices will continue to rise,  just don't be stupid, check and compare. Thanks for listening.
Jeff Fisher - Broker-Owner  CR Beach Investment Real Estate,
jeff@crbeach.com  
 
 
 
Friday, July 13, 2007    The Beach Times
Foreign Investment in Local Property Trebles

By Leland Baxter-Neal
 
 

Central Bank Points To First Quarter in Puntarenas and Guanacaste

Foreign investment in Costa Rica’s real estate industry has nearly tripled in the past 12 months, according to Costa Rica’s Central Bank.

By the bank’s estimate, mostly US investors and homebuyers bought at least $192 million worth of property in the first three months of this year, largely in the provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas. That compares to $70 million during the same period in 2006.

The estimate excludes purchases of hotels, tourism businesses and deals worth less than $100,000, and is recognized to be likely short of the real figure.

“Certainly, as the recent Central Bank study shows, an important factor in the increment of foreign investment in the last months has been real estate development and property acquisition by foreigners,” said the Minister of the Presidency, Rodrigo Arias.

“Much of this development is related to the tourism industry, precisely one of the engines of the country’s economy.”

In fact, real estate prices up and down the Pacific coast have risen over the last year, as Guanacaste’s market matures and the Central Pacific looks to be entering its own boom.

Real Estate agents up and down the coast told The Beach Times this week the bank’s figures measure up to what they’re seeing in their areas, where business continues to be good with both price and demand rising.

Development is also becoming more high-end, they concurred, with more sophisticated and environmentally conscious developers and buyers following the path beaten years earlier by The Four Seasons Hotel, on the Papagayo Peninsula.

In the Central Pacific sales are booming, as condominium projects go up rapidly along the coast. Many investors are looking further toward the horizon, however, in expectation of high-end, name-brand projects like those that have drawn so much press further north.

In Guanacaste, the high-volume land purchasing of past years has given way to concentrated development, as much of the valuable beachfront and ocean view property has been bought up and many of the projects that were sold under pre-construction deals are now under way.

“We personally aren’t slow, but I know that the trend has slowed down an awful lot,” said Penelope Lent, of Lent Eckhart Properties, from her office in Flamingo this week.

“The big parcels purchased in 2005 and 2006 are now going vertical,” she said. “There are all kinds of things in the pipeline, but they’re not available at this moment, and might not be available for another year.”

Bob Davey, of Century 21 in Flamingo described business as brisk.
 

© Zoraida Diaz
 
 
GRIEF-STRICKEN: The body of 19-year-old construction worker David Rocha Gonzalez lays on Penca Beach in Guanacaste. The man was struck by lightning during a short-lived but fierce electrical storm on Sunday.
 


“Last year was the biggest sales volume year we’ve had, and our company has grown every year. So far, through June, we are way ahead of the pace of ‘06, and the end of the year looks strong,” Mr Davey said. “And it’s large, sophisticated investors, private and institutional, that we’re working with.

“President Oscar Arias has really kicked into gear to follow up on his promises to improve infrastructure, and that’s really helped turn around the negative publicity we had over the last two years,” Mr Davey added.

According to Les Nunez, of First Realty, in Guanacaste’s Playa Hermosa, land prices have “gone double, to double-and-a-half.”

“Ocean views are $500 per square meter and up, easily,” Mr Nunez said. “There’s been reports in Tamarindo of $1000 per meter.”

Single family homes range from $600,000 to $1.5 million, and are being sold for about double what they got last year, he added, while raw land has, in some cases, “gone triple."

Mr Nunez chalks up the jump in prices to the arrival of major name brand projects in the region, such as the Westin Hotels and Resorts and the Mandarin-Oriental.

Some 20 high-end hotels are currently being planned or built for Guanacaste’s northern coast, which would add hundreds of rooms to the area’s offerings and represent hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.

Mario Solano, an economist with the Central Bank who worked on the property investment estimate, said that, though tourism investment figures for 2007 are not yet available, it nearly tripled between 2005 and 2006. He expects this year’s growth to be “a little more than that,” which is a factor pushing real estate investment.

“We see a relationship between the two. The Hyatt comes out promoting people to come stay at its hotel, and a lot of people are going to be interested in buying property in that area."

That is precisely what has real estate agents in the Central Pacific, particularly around Jacó, excited. Last year, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced they would be building a St Regis Resort with residential elements in the Central Pacific with Costa Rican development firm Genesis.

In addition to 133 luxury hotel rooms, the project includes 49 "condominium-hotel residences,” 42 “whole-ownership condos” and nine estate homes.

In Esterillos, just south of Jacó, two golf courses and attached residential communities – Cabo Caletas and Del Pacífico – are under construction. In Jacó, an estimated 2000 condos are at different stages of development, from un-permitted plans to near-completion.

“What’s happened is the Central Pacific has really now started to move in a forward direction, with growth and bigger name projects with branding,” said Scott Williams, a real estate agent with 2 Costa Rica Realty. “Those things were before exclusively Guanacaste.”
 
 

© Files Beach Times
 
 
STRATEGY ON TRACK: Minister of the Presidency Rodrigo Arias says the government strategy to attract foreign investment that will create jobs is still among President Arias’ priorities.
 


Prices remain lower than in Guanacaste on the average, but have still increased dramatically, sometimes double, over the last year.
 


Tim Kopatich, with Crystal Clear Realty, said that 1800-square-foot homes that his company is selling in Bejuco, south of Esterillos, have gone from $135,000 last year to $275,000 today. In general, however, he says prices in and around Jacó have increased about 35 to 40 percent over the last year.

Jeff Fisher, of CR Beach Investment Real Estate, says prices in Jacó, Herradura and Playa Hermosa are up, and sometimes way up.

“I worry when two-bedroom beachfront condos sell for more than $500,000, because the infrastructure hasn’t caught up with this new pattern of prices,” Mr Fisher said.

“A year ago a two-bedroom beach front condo was $375,000. It was cute that Jacó didn’t have any traffic lights or bike paths and had very few police. Now that prices have risen dramatically, its important that the new mayor and the chamber of commerce work quickly to demonstrate that changes are being made, as minor as putting a traffic light.”

Mr Fisher added that, despite some extremes, the bulk of his condo sales are still around $250,000 to $350,000, and that condo prices in general have risen by about 25 per cent over the last year, while raw beachfront land has risen 40% more.

“They’re asking $1000 to $1400 per square meter, while a year ago they were asking $600 to $1000,” he said.

Most dramatic, however, has been the increase in rent for commercial space along Jacó’s main boulevard, Avenida Pastor Díaz, Mr Fisher said, where the selling price has gone from $300 per square meter to $1000.

Mr Fisher said his buyers “are overwhelmingly buying condos, but a lot of my sales are also gated-community, single-family homes five blocks from the beach for $215,000.

“Ninety per cent of the people are buying for investment purposes or for rental income. Ten per cent are telling me they want to move there,” Mr Fisher said.

Further south, near Manuel Antonio, property values have risen less dramatically, according to 2 Costa Rica Realty’s Williams. He estimates prices have increased about 15 to 20 per cent across the board.

While raw beachfront land is now impossible to come by, 1000 to 1500-square-meter ocean view lots can be found for $250,000 to $350,000, he said.
 
Attention real estate investors in the United States!
Do you feel the foundation of your real estate investments cracking under your
feet because of a sinking market? Are you wondering where to invest
your capital to achieve a high return safely?

Back when you first started investing in real estate, reading
Kiyosaki, Allen, or Trump you were on top up the world. You were
armed with knowledge, excitement, and motivation to buy assets in a
solid real estate market. During the peak of the most recent up-
cycle (2000 – 2005) in the United States it was easy to make money
in all facets of real estate. Now you are beginning to feel the
pain of a declining market in the United States and strategies that
have worked in the past to create profit simply no longer exist.

There are several reasons the US market will continue to falter:
The supply of resale homes is the highest it has ever been, demand
has all but disappeared, and foreclosure rates are also setting
records. Everyone knows that a real estate market is cyclical and
the United States has entered a down cycle. The most concrete
evidence of the start of a down cycle is when lenders pull capital
out of the market. Currently, sub-prime lenders are collapsing,
while prime lenders are tightening their reins in the United
States. Lenders are beginning to require higher credit scores on
lower loan-to-values (LTV). Clearly, this is not good for
borderline house buyers and ultimately the overall market demand.
After all, if there are fewer buyers there is less demand.

The capital that used to be in the real estate market doesn't just
evaporate – in other words it has to go somewhere. Therefore it is
not surprising that the U.S. stock market has been steadily climbing
despite declining growth and the shaky fundamentals of the U.S.
economy. In the first quarter of this year (2007) the GDP in the
U.S. showed the slowest growth in four years. It appears this slow
growth combined with the future affects of globalization doesn't
guarantee success of the stock market either. Keeping in mind that
real estate is still the safest and most profitable investment
vehicle, it is essential to invest your capital in up-cycle markets –
like in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica offers a prosperous future for savvy real estate
investors. Costa Rica has the perfect fundamentals of an up-cycle.
Capital is being invested at a blinding pace, demand is exploding,
and supply is low. This peaceful country has a perfect climate,
solid infrastructure, stunning beauty, low-cost of living, and
affordable real estate. Costa Rica is also just a short flight from
the U.S. and offshore capital is migrating here almost as fast as
foreign retirees. As 77 million baby boomers begin to seek out
retirement areas, they quickly realize that they have been priced
out of popular locales like Florida and Arizona. They are already
seeking out foreign locations in less expensive areas like Central
America. And when it comes to political stability, quality health
care, and climate Costa Rica reigns supreme.

The preeminent benefit for an experienced real estate investor is
that many of the same creative financing techniques you have learned
also work in Costa Rica. Using options, lease-options, owner
financing, land splits and a variety of exit strategies will
increase your leverage and profit potential. Tico sellers are
beginning to better understand and accept creative terms. In fact,
in recent months we have negotiated a lease-option, a 70% owner-
financed sale, and a lease-sublet property.

More traditional financing is also available in Costa Rica however
the market is not as competitive or as abundant as in the North
America. Private mortgages, North American bank mortgages, local
mortgages, and mortgage bonds are available here. With the
expectation of future growth in the Costa Rican real estate market
many new lenders are expanding their products to Costa Rica.
Although interest rates are a bit higher and the loan-to-values
(LTV) are a bit lower, insurance and taxes are much lower than in
the United States.

One of the biggest reasons Costa Rica offers such high profit
potential is the low cost of construction. Building costs can be as
low as $35/sf and for a luxury construction costs are around
$70/sf. Much of the cost also depends on what part of the country
you are looking to build and they seem to be rising daily. All said
a luxury 1500 square foot house with a pool and all of the bells and
whistles will cost around $100,000 to build. The cheap end of
pricing for builders in the US is around $200/sf. Imagine your
development and rehab projects with this low cost of building.

There are many profitable investment strategies in Costa Rica
although development and value-added rehabs are viewed as the most
profitable. You can find wholesale deals on land or Tico homes
(waiting for an upgrade) for very good prices. Couple that with the
low cost of construction and the retail value of your finished
product to foreign retirees and you have a handsome profit. To buy
and hold a premium building lot or a nice American style vacation
home can also yield a very nice return. Many people have doubled
their money on buying building lots and selling them after one year
or so. There is, however, one strategy that I would avoid. With
the Costa Rican landlord/tenancy laws heavily favoring the tenant I
would not recommend a buy-hold-rent strategy.

Costa Rica law encourages foreign investment and ownership of real
property. You can purchase real estate in your name or in the name
of a corporation. Buying and selling property in corporate vehicles
has many benefits. From liability protections to lower transfer
fees corporations can be a great tool. However, there are some
pitfalls when buying property from a corporation. For example, the
corporation transferring the property may have other liabilities
that they are transferring as well. This is one example of why it
is important to retain a good attorney in Costa Rica.

Although ownership rights are similar to what you are used to, the
laws and bureaucracy create a labyrinth of red tape that must be
navigated during a transaction. It is essential to learn as much as
you can before investing in this tropical paradise. Reading Scott
Oliver's book How to Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your
Camisa is a must. The book will lay the foundation of knowledge
that you need to begin your journey investing in Cost Rica. Even
more important is having a trustworthy team of professionals
assisting you on your deals. Having a good team is important to
success in America as well. However, in a foreign country with
different laws, a different language, and a different culture your
team can make or break you.

Good Luck and Happy Investing!
Jeff Hickcox             posted on Costa Rica Living,  July 25th, 2007
 

Monday 20 August 2007    Inside Costa Rica
 

Green-speak in Costa Rica
By JILL SCHENSUL, Northjersey.com

Some things naturally go together: beach vacations and sunburn, airplane seats and neck stiffness, five-star hotels and five-figure bills for a week's stay.

Other things just do not naturally coexist: chewing gum and Singapore, AOL and Time Warner, sustainable tourism and 650-acre seaside resorts.

OK, you knew by those last two I had something specific in mind, didn't you? It's this Steve Case guy -- the co-founder of AOL – and his Revolution LLC. Specifically, the Revolution Places division of this company he started in 2005.

Case has shifted his "welcome!" from those legions of basic e-mail users to a more elite group of travelers looking for pampering in paradise. On Aug. 3, he announced that Revolution Places would be developing an $800 million luxury resort on 650 acres in Cacique, Costa Rica. "Revolution Places is an entirely new approach to destination resort development," said Case, adding it will "develop a new authentic vacation experience that retains the local environment and culture.

"With a full complement of sustainability principles and community involvement, Revolution Places will create high-end developments that provide consumers with treasured and limited for-sale vacation real estate."

Now "sustainability" has become one of those words that, like "ecotourism," is good for business. It's politically correct, cutting edge, enlightened – and now that it's gone mainstream has often been rinsed of meaning.

Yet this isn't a word to be thrown around lightly; its principles and implications are really quite profound. The United Nations' World Tourism Organization considers sustainable tourism one of the most powerful forces for alleviating poverty in undeveloped areas of the world. Among the principles integral to sustainability, the WTO lists: doing no harm to the environment, conserving biodiversity, respecting the local culture and values, promoting intercultural understanding, involving the community in development of tourism projects and distributing benefits fairly and creating a meaningful experience for tourists (see world-tourism.org/sustainable/top/con cepts.html for more). I'm not sure Case has the same principles in mind when he talks about sustainability at Cacique. What he has in mind for his 650 acres seems pretty antithetical to the whole philosophy.

Case strongly believes that brand names are what attract business, and so he's bringing in several high-end hospitality brands to realize his Revolution vision:

- One&Only Resorts, a luxury lodging chain with properties in Dubai and various tropical islands, will develop 120 villas, each on its own lush, green compound designed for privacy and unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. The California architectural firm is designing the resort to be "environmentally sensitive with an emphasis on privacy while evoking a 'sense of place' with the choice of materials showcasing the natural elements of Costa Rica."

-  Miraval: Life in Balance, a pricey and much-lauded destination spa in Arizona (which Case bought a couple of years ago), will create its first outpost in Costa Rica, with 120 luxurious rooms and 60 villas on 50 acres. The design will be "inspired by the local surroundings" and include "a full family experience offering 100 adventurous programs while providing private grounds."

- Exclusive Resorts, another Case-owned company, is the top luxury destination club in the world, its very wealthy members able to take advantage of a portfolio of amazing properties in exotic locations. Exclusive Resorts will custom-design and buy 30 of the 300 private residence properties that will be sold at Cacique.

-  Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf will also try their hand at branding with their first Agassi-Graf Tennis and Fitness Center. And Tom Doak will design the 18-hole golf course.

Other than using a few local rocks for some walls, I don't see a lot of preservation of local culture and tradition here.

There will be sustainable practices as far as conservation is concerned: The resort will be designed to reduce water and energy waste and will purchase its electrical power for the community from renewable sources. Then again, if people paying $3,000 don't want to reuse those bath towels, they will get nice, new ones.

Then there is the matter of involving the community. While it does seem that privacy and seclusion are major elements in the design of the resort, "Revolution Places understands that the success of its developments is contingent on the well-being of the local community and the environment."

So it will be making several "donations" to the community: a million trees; hydro-geological studies of the Panama aquifer and watershed; computer learning centers to four towns; $1 million to encourage and support the development of local non-profit efforts to improve and protect the Costa Rican environment.

"Costa Rica reminds me of Hawaii when I was born there nearly 50 years ago," said Case. "We are aiming to take the things that make authentic Hawaii so special, such as the connections to the local people, restaurants, shops and the spirit of aloha, while bringing together the best brands and applying the best principles and practices of today."

If the connections to the local people etc. are so important, why is Case importing all these international brands? Yes, there will be new jobs, but all the people in charge are foreigners. Not only foreigners, but people who haven't got a good track record for environmentalism: Sol Kerzner, who will be running One&Only, is the man responsible for the African fantasyland of Sun City in South Africa, and, more recently, the mega-resort-cum-theme-park Atlantis, Paradise Island. Philippe Bourguignon, vice chairman of Revolution Places Group and CEO of its development group, was chairman of Club Mediterranee and chairman and CEO of Euro Disney.

Do you want these guys developing your pristine beachfront?

Even if Cacique doesn't turn into some Disney-esque playground for the rich and indulged, what are the odds that putting in hundreds of villas, spas, sports facilities and a golf course, not to mention 300 private estates, can avoid having an impact on the environment? Not to mention the local community? We see the results of such invasions throughout the Caribbean and the world. Understanding between cultures? Authenticity? A better way of life? For Steve and Sol and Philippe, perhaps.

Costa Rica has long been a leader in monitoring tourism growth, but its standards seem to be sagging, according to several longtime conservationists from that country. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, the country's former minister for environment and energy and now director of Conservation International's Mexico and Central America program, told a United Kingdom reporter, "But in my time as environment minister it was always a battle with the tourism ministry. We are sending mixed signals now to the world about our tourism. ...

"We began well: While the rest of Central America was at war, we were developing our national parks. At first, it was only tourists interested in wildlife who came here, but this has changed. ...

"There is simply a basic lack of vision. There are no guidelines, for example, about building higher than trees or in areas where turtles nest.

Everything in tourism should be environmentally certified, but at the moment the scheme in Costa Rica is voluntary. On these issues we always say that we are the champions of the second league, but we just can't get into the premier league."

These destinations need first-league defenses fast. Because the Revolution has begun.
 
 

 

  Brian Smith responds to our favorite online thread, July 31,2008 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CostaRicaLiving/ 

Although I agree to a number of things, I must take a moment to clarify the area where my expertise and knowledge are strongest, the Central Pacific.

1. Virtually dead RE market, prices dropping?.
Not here! We've seen price stabilization in the last six months, but no real price drops except on those properties that were clearly overpriced in the first place.

Our office is busier than same time last year. Other RE agents here tell me they have picked up the pace in the past several months as well. Probably 50% of our prospects are folks retiring in 5-7 years and interest is VERY strong in beach area properties. This percentage seems to grow every month. Even with a bad U.S.
economy, prices there for beach properties are astronomical! Mr. & Mrs. Average North American can afford something nice on or near the beach here that they can't get there...

2.) Stewart Title says "business is dying"?
Perhaps that has more to do with the fact that international title insurance companies pay off so seldom on problematic titles. They won't issue it on anything that might be a problem and who would pay 1% for title insurance when the company does decide to issue it to them with virtually no chance to pay off on it?

3.) Prices are quite high, selling prices FAR below asking?. This is true in the Central Valley and Guanacaste in many cases. I can't believe the asking prices (especially new condos) in the Valley. For something similar here, the price is the same. The only difference is that it has ocean view and you can walk to the beach. This makes a 40%+ price difference in most places around the world, so
the Valley places are overpriced. Guanacaste is discovering that poor infrastructure and low water tables can't be hidden forever, that sooner or later the market takes note....

Here in the Central Pacific, selling prices are remarkably close to asking prices. In the past week our office has seen a $220K beach house go for $215K, a $195K new condo go for $192K and a Los Suenos home go for about 6% less than asking price. This trend of which you speak is not found here.

The only exceptions we're finding are those few "emergency" sales that are prompted not by the CR market, but rather for the U.S. market, particularly Florida and California. Investors losing their shirts in those markets are sometimes forced to sell off appreciating assets here to cover losses there....

4.) Inventories quite high?. In the Central Valley, yes, this is true. I know of several nice condo projects that were completed 3 or 4 years ago with something like 20% sold. Many of these Costa Rican builders believe that the waves of ex-pats are coming, so they keep building them. Common sense says to wait until 90% of these unsold condos are bought before building more.

Here in the Central Pacific, we get tons of requests for preconstruction sales. Folks want to lock in today's price. My own personal opinion is that more condos are not needed here. What is needed is single family homes in gated communities. There are few here and probably 40%+ of our prospects are looking for this sort
of property....

5.) Interest Rates Rising?. This is quite true. Is there anywhere in the world right now where they are not?

6.) Virtually impossible for prices not to drop, up to 40% corrections.     In the Central Valley and Guanacaste, I think this is absolutely true. Here in the Central Pacific where a pure beach front 2 BR luxury condo can be bought for as low as $200K-$275K, I simply can't see a 40% drop! Did I mention that these condos come fully turnkey furnished and include all closing costs? I don't
believe that these condos will be worth just $150K in the near future.....

I have such confidence in the market here that I'm making an offer on a property next week. I feel that there is still some room to grow and that a rebound of the U.S. market will only feed this one. Sure, I'll ask the title insurance company if they'd issue a policy on this property. If they say no, I'll be real careful in my research. If they say yes, it will just give me more confidence in my purchase....

I'd be more than happy to show anyone the types of properties, comparables, selling prices, the market and more here in this area....

B. L. Smith

 

South of the Border,

The Market's Still Hot

Americans Find Second-Home Boom Endures; Wildlife in the Neighborhood    By JUNE FLETCHER         December 14, 2007; Page W12

The housing slump has sent many Americans shopping south of the

border.   Existing-home prices in the U.S. dropped 4.5% in the third quarter from a year ago, according to S&P/Case-Shiller. But they are still climbing in much of Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

Buyers are being enticed by the kind of double-digit

appreciation that has all but disappeared in the States. In

addition, a growing number of new developments are targeting

Americans looking for good deals and a lower cost of living.

Since 2003, annual home-price appreciation has been running at

20% in the Dominican Republic, and could reach 50% in the near future, according to Boomerang Unlimited, a Napa, Calif., real-estate investment advisory firm. In San Pedro, Belize, the average price of a 2,200-square-foot home was $697,500 in September, up 18.6% from a year ago, according to a study by Coldwell Banker; the price of a similar property in San Jose, Costa Rica, was up 20.7%, to $389,900, the study said.

Prices remain low compared with those in the U.S., particularly for waterfront properties. Because Americans generally buy and sell properties throughout the region in dollars, not the local currency, home prices don't fluctuate with the various exchange rates, as is the case in Europe. What's more, the dollar generally buys much more house in these countries than it does in the U.S., because labor and land are less expensive.

 

LIKE FLORIDA IN THE '50s

Still, the rapid appreciation is drawing growing numbers of bargain hunters, making good deals scarcer and causing some customers to look beyond the usual vacation hot spots. In the Dominican Republic,

Century 21 broker Dean Brown says that 80% of his buyers this year have been Americans, compared with half last year. Softec, a real-estate consulting firm, says in the past three years, investments in vacation homes in Mexico, primarily by buyers from the U.S. and Canada, have shot up by 60%.

 Americans' appetite for investment opportunities is helping to spur a building boom in some areas. In Panama, 170 residential-building projects are under way, mostly marketed to Americans, and 100 more are in the pipeline, according to Panama Legal, a law firm based in Panama City.

 

Among them, a 1,500-acre resort and marina by Naples, Fla.-based developer Todd Gates. The project, on Isla del Rey, one of the Pearl Islands near Panama City, is slated to open in 2009 and will have condos, villas and singlefamily homes ranging from $275,000 to $1.4 million. "It's like Florida was in the '50s," Mr. Gates says.

Some buyers are buying sight unseen. Shams Deitrick, a Walnut Creek, Calif., financial adviser, recently bought a furnished, two-bedroom "ocean view villa" for $375,000 in Canto del Mar, a new 35-unit development in the southern Costa Rica town of Dominica; the project has already sold out. "All I saw was the Web site, which showed a sloth 30 feet from the unit, and monkeys everywhere," Mr.Deitrick says.

He snapped up the home on the advice of a gym buddy, who said his own Costa Rican properties have quadrupled in value over the past four years. Although Mr. Deitrick isn't looking forward to the daylong flight to Dominica when he visits for the first time in February, he says he's glad he bought the property: "It just doesn't make sense to buy in the U.S. right now."

 

BARGAINS, WITH TRADE-OFFS

Preston Thompson, a retired Clearwater, Fla., hospital administrator, hopes to make some money in the Dominican Republic as a "serial renovator," moving into homes, fixing them up, and selling them. In

July, he bought a 2,100-square-foot house for $265,000 on the beach in Cabarete, quickly added $50,000 worth of improvements, and put it back on the market for $489,000. If the property sells, he and his wife plan to repeat the process.

Getting the house ready to sell hasn't been as easy as he anticipated, however. Subcontractors were hard to find -- only one firm in Cabarete (population about 15,000) could do granite countertops, for example

-- and the quality of their workmanship was "hit or miss," Mr. Thompson says. Worse, neither he nor his wife speaks Spanish, which made communicating with the workers difficult. He's also concerned that

Americans may be turned off by local health-care facilities, which he says are very modest. For all of its current popularity, he says, the Dominican Republic is essentially still a developing country. "You have to put up with inconveniences," he says.

Earlier this year, Geoff Folsom, a Thousand Oaks, Calif., businessman, bought a 4,500-square-foot oceanfront penthouse, with its own private swimming pool, in Trump's Ocean Resort in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, a 30-minute drive from San Diego, Calif. He paid $3 million for the property, about half the cost of similar resort units he looked at in the States.

 

 

Property taxes and maintenance costs are lower than in the U.S., too.

There are trade-offs, he says. The mostly undeveloped area outside the development's gates has few restaurants and hotels, and Mr. Thompson is concerned about recent news reports of armed robberies on nearby roads. Still, he anticipates that, as the area develops, appreciation rates will exceed anything he could get in the U.S. "You get so much better value south of the border," he says.

There are additional downsides to buying in this part of the world. The weather can be violent and unpredictable: Last month Hurricane Noel slammed the Caribbean, causing floods and mudslides, and

leaving 147 dead. And insurance to protect against natural disasters, including earthquakes, may be impossible to obtain.

In addition, many foreign real-estate brokers are unlicensed and don't necessarily adhere to the business standards that Americans expect. Some, for example, encourage sellers to raise their asking price after

American buyers have made a full-priced offer, even if no other bidders are involved. Plus, not every place is a boom town. Seasoned real-estate brokers say that to be successful, developments need at least some amenities and should be within an hour's drive of an international

airport.

Cuxlin Ha, an 80-unit riverfront retirement community in Punta Gorda, Belize, near the Guatemalan border, is about 300 miles from the closest international airport, although a small "air taxi" airport is eight miles away. On the development's Web site, house hunters are warned that "this is not an area that promotes exciting night life and wild times (unless you're a jaguar or a howler monkey)." Buyers apparently have taken the hint: Although a three-bedroom, fully-furnished 1,350-square-foot home sells

for only $100,000, only two buyers have stepped up since the project opened two years ago. "People want a more touristy area," says Bob Prehall, the Roseburg, Ore., broker who's selling the project.  But if a place does draw tourists, Americans are willing to travel long distances to buy there. Shaun de Jesus, a San Francisco derivatives sales manager, bought a three-bedroom condo in Punta del Este, Uruguay, three years ago for $120,000, then got a distress-sale deal on a two-bedroom condo in the same town for $90,000 six months later. On the southeast coast of Uruguay, about 90 miles east of Montevideo, the beach town -- which has its own international airport -- has a year-round population of 7,300 that swells with vacationers in the hot months of December and January.

Since he bought the properties, Mr. de Jesus received an offer of $150,000 on the first unit, and $170,000 on the second.

 

 

But he's not selling. Even though he gets down to visit only two times a year, he says he is pleased with the units' low maintenance costs and the high rents they pull in when he's not around. In fact, he's now looking for another good deal. "If something comes up, I'll jump on it," he says.

 

URL for this article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119758837723028177.html

 


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When and why it appears

BeachSustainability, as a model for development, establishes the need to satisfy the requirements of today's society without making it impossible for future generations to satisfy their own. Basically, this means that the development of a country cannot be achieved by the unrestrained exploitation of its resources (natural, cultural, social, etc.) to the point of extinguishing or destroying them, seeking to fulfill the needs of the present population (food, housing, health, work, etc.), without recognizing that these resources are the only platform, or potential asset, that the future generations of this country will have to meet their own needs.

For tourism, sustainability is not only a response to the demand factors of the industry, it is an indispensable condition to be able to compete successfully and, even more important, to be able to survive over the long run. The ever-deteriorating


The classification criteria utilized by this program is worthy of exportation. Our commitment to the future generations demands the implementation of this initiative.

 
Mauricio Ventura Aragón, President of The National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR)

 
world ecological and social crisiss have had a significant impact on human consciousness and, therefore, have also seriously impacted the accelerated growth rate that environmental tourism experienced in the past decade, to the point that it has meant a significant change in the habits and expectations of the world's tourists. Unfortunately, in the last decade we paid most of our attention to the ecological aspects, but very little to the implications of the impact that tourism has on the quality of life and on the sociological heritage of the communities that are directly affected by this industry. It is time to change the tourism tide to a more integral one, namely, a sustainable tourism.

 

As we look at these changes in the expectations of the tourists, we notice how each day they are demanding a more active, more interactive tourism, with greater respect for the socio-cultural and ecological interests of the local communities, with higher standards of service, and with the ability to protect and regenerate the natural environment as well as to learn about local customs. Of course, all of this must include a high level of enjoyment of their hard earned vacations.

At present, we are confronted with a new set of rules for the demand/offer factors in the industry, where it is clear that the unwarranted alteration or destruction of resources (natural, social, cultural, etc.) which constitute our attractions and tourist products, will inevitably mean the destruction of tourism as an economic activity. Likewise, it is not only the tourists, but also the potential investors, who are selecting with great care the companies or projects in the tourism field in which to invest their funds, seeking out those that act in harmony with the social and ecological interests of sustainable tourism. If we add to these two factors the fact that tourism is a demand driven industry, we can easily understand why these changes are having a transcendental repercussion on the tourism product that is being offered. This is why we can clearly state that "Tourism in the XXI'st Century in Costa Rica will be sustainable or it simply wont be!"


The process of Certification for Sustainable Tourism constitutes an excellent alternative in the field of tourism development, not only taking into account aspects of the tourism infrastructure, but also considering social, cultural and patrimonial aspects of community.

 
Licda. Ana C. Arias Quirós, Anthropolgy and Sociology, School of the University of Costa Rica

 

In summary, we define sustainable tourism as the balanced interaction of three basic factors within the tourism industry: 1- Proper stewardship of our natural and cultural resources; 2- Improvement of the quality of life of the local communities; and 3- Economic success, that can contribute to other programs of national development.

 

It is also a source of concern that sustainable tourism is a concept which is only beginning to be developed, and that it does not yet have a solid reference base or measurable parameters that are appropriately established and universally accepted. This has permitted a significant number of companies to take advantage of the growth of sustainable tourism in an irresponsible manner and thus incur in what we call "Greenwashing", or a commercialization of a tourism experience that does not comply with the reality of the experience provided to the tourist when he/she reaches the destination. The immediate effect of this unethical behavior is to generate a great deal of mistrust on the part of the consumers about the products being offered, with very serious consequences for the whole industry.

For Costa Rica, a country that has emerged as a leader in sustainable tourism and has very successfully projected itself in this field, the above problem is of strategic importance to its future. It is precisely to contribute to find an integral and global solution to this problem that we propose the immediate implementation of the Certification for Sustainable Tourism program, known by its initials "CST".

This program is an institutional initiative inserted within the National Strategy for the Development of Sustainable Tourism, and is part of the government's national and regional programs which seek to move the model of development of our country closer to parameters of sustainability.

The main objective of the CST is precisely to turn the concept of sustainability into something real, practical and necessary in the context of the country's tourist competitiveness, with the aim of improving the way in which the natural and social resources are utilized, to motivate the active participation of the local communities, and to support the competitiveness of the business sector.


I


 

Friday, September 07, 2007     The Beach Times

US Housing Crisis Not Affecting Costa Rica

By Leland Baxter-Neal

 

 

The crisis in the US housing and financial markets, already spreading to Germany and Japan, is not expected to have a serious impact in Costa Rica, experts said this week.

Despite concerns with a record number of Americans set to lose their homes to foreclosure and house prices getting lower all the time, the general consensus is those buying in Costa Rica are not likely be greatly affected.
“I am under the impression that the foreign investor that comes to invest here in Costa Rica is precisely that type of investor that already has enough buying power, and has already resolved his housing situation and has come here to have a beach home, or a home in the mountains,” Finance Minister Guillermo Zúñiga told The Beach Times in a phone interview Wednesday.

“That is not the investor that would be affected by this situation.”

Should the current woes compound as far as to “affect the dynamism of the North American economy, and the real economy,” Mr Zuñiga said, “this could have an impact on the demand for our products, and that would have an effect.”

The problem, say economists, began with what are known as sub-prime loans — loans given to people who have poor credit. Many of those loans are adjustable rate, meaning the lender can change the interest rate. As those rates have climbed in recent years, many borrowers have been unable to meet payments, defaulted, and left the banks holding property, rather than money.

The business of repackaging debt to be traded in financial markets has meant the problem has had a wider effect, and the lack of payments has caused a shortage of money in the system, leading to a “credit crunch” and making it hard for some to get loans.

However, Mr Zúñiga says there are no signs that Costa Rica is, or will be hurt by these problems.
“I would not expect changes in what is happening in our country,” he said. “The foundation of our economy is solid, and the financial situation is very solid.”

In the first three months of 2007, mostly American foreign investors and homebuyers bought at least $192 million worth of property, largely in the provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas, according to Costa Rica’s Central Bank. That is nearly triple the $70 million registered in the same period in 2006.

Mario Solano, a Central Bank economist that worked on the estimate and tracks foreign investment in Costa Rica, said this week that the bank had not yet studied whether the crisis was affecting the country, but said, “Costa Rica could be affected, but not in the short term.”
The US Embassy also said it had no information on the possible effects in Costa Rica.

“I think the state of the US housing market will have an affect on others, but it has not been felt yet in Costa Rica,” said Ana Saboría, CEO of the Guanacaste tourism development, Reserva Conchal. “I don’t think it will be as radical an affect as in the United States. I don’t think it will reach the point where it is a pricing issue.

“It will probably mean that people will have to go for quality in their buildings, to make sure they can make a difference. If, as a developer, you don’t start with a base, with a large base and a good product, then you might have trouble,” she added.

Cynthia Durán, president of the Costa Rican Global Association of Realtors, said: “Right now, it is difficult to measure how it is affecting Costa Rica, because we are in the low season, and we know that, with the lower tourism that comes in during these months, sales fall.”

“We have been analyzing this a lot, and we have to give it a few months so that we can compare this low season to last year,” she said. Long-time Guanacaste realtor Les Nunez, said he recently asked an audience if anybody had been affected by the crisis. Nobody said they had.

“The scuttlebutt amongst us area realtors is if its going to effect us we haven’t really seen it yet. Is it going to trickle down? I imagine to some degree,” Mr Nunez said.

“If the thing sneezes we catch cold. But if their market gets decimated, maybe five or ten out of a hundred won’t be able to come down here and do what they want to do.”

Jeff Fisher, of CR Beach Investment Real Estate in Jacó, said he believed those buyers that are now unable to get financing in the U.S., to come buy property in Costa Rica,  would be balanced out by the new buyers.

“The other half will look at Costa Rica as an exciting alternative. They’ve lost optimism about financial gains in the United States and know Costa Rica is booming,” he said.

Mr Fisher wasn’t the only one to say the current situation could possibly bring benefits to Costa Rica. Finance Minister Zúñiga said that if the US Federal Reserve cuts interest rates to help out the market, that could result in lower rates in Costa Rica.

Antonio Echeverría, a Loan Officer with Banco Improsa, and who formerly ran his own Mortgage Broker service, said he believed the slumping market in the United States is already driving US lenders to Costa Rica.

“The housing market in the United States has fallen and financial companies are coming here. It’s not a prediction, it’s a fact,” he said.

Other effects could be that in the Costa Rican economy, interest rates are falling and becoming more and more attractive.

“Banks are offering very low interest rates due to the high volume of real estate and construction in the country. With the arrival of gringo companies, it will be even more competitive,” he said.
With downward pressure on interest rates, and the arrival of more lenders, could Costa Rica eventually tread on the same unstable ground that is sending the US into problems now?
“Because Costa Rica is rising now doesn’t mean it will be that way forever,” Mr Echeverría said. “They have to be very careful not to fall in the trap of basing on adjustable rates. Those are favorable for the banks, but only as long as the debtor can meet the debt.”

 



Buying Costa Rica Land From The Telephone Boiler Rooms      by Scott Oliver                      

Sept 1, 2007

http://www.welovecostarica.com

Thousands of people who have bought land from the dozen or so companies that send out millions of emails per week and then have someone in a boiler room in Florida or California beat you to death on the telephone to "close" the sale are now waking up to reality and realizing that their land is not at all easy to sell...

As far as we know, it's not illegal for a high-pressure salesperson in the USA - many of whom have never even set foot in Costa Rica - to sell you land in Costa Rica using this method, but it's just not a smart thing for you to do, especially buying land in a foreign country without seeing it first and doing your homework.

We've been writing about Americans selling land in Costa Rica by this high-pressure method for about five years now and even though there are about 20 different projects that we can think of with thousands and thousands of acres of land and, from what we are being told, during this time there have been less than 20 homes built in all of the projects combined.

One problem that people did not expect, having listened to their salesman tell them that they could buy the land, split it into two and sell off one lot to pay for their new home - Yeah right! Is that most people who have wanted to sell their land have been unable to do so.

Buying Costa Rica Land Is Easy - Selling May Not Be.

Why can't they sell? Because there is no open market for this kind of land...

Who are you going to sell it to? If you are really lucky, the company that sold it to you 'may' buy it back from you and resell it but why would they want to buy it from you to resell your land to one of their customers with a tiny mark up when they can sell their own land with a stratospheric mark up and huge commissions to that same person?

Nobody else in the open market wants it... It's an artificial closed market where the price action is determined by the marketing people.

The reason this land increases in price is NOT because of supply and demand, it's not because people are banging on their doors to buy it, contrary to what they may insinuate and what their email marketing campaigns show - this is not prime ocean view land - the only reason their land prices increase is because they increase them. Simple.

Buy Now Before The Price Goes Up!

You see it's always useful for a salesperson to have a 'sense of urgency' so if they have a regular price increase, it makes it appear that this land is in demand and, the salesperson can genuinely say that: 'You'd better get on board now because prices are going higher at the end of the week" before he pockets his double the industry standard 10% sales commission...

And please remember when the next Costa Rica land salesman calls that the #1 focus for these companies is to sell you land for a much higher price than they paid for it so that they can make money.... They don't give a damn whether you can build your dream home on that land or not.

Some of them claim that they will help you build your homes but since we have seen less than 20 built in the last five years, this promise does not sound promising.

From a recent WeLoveCostaRica.com Discussion Forum thread:

"When he first went there, some dude called Flores said they would build his home for $90 per square foot and that construction price would be rock solid for two years when he planned to build his home which was one of the main reason he bought a land there. Then only five months later (not two years) they tell him the construction costs would not be $90 per square foot but $130 and he is real mad because for his house plan which is just about 2,500 square feet that's and extra US$100 grand he has to find and they lied about the roads which they said would be brick pavers but are now going to be asphalt and he don't believe them much about anything anymore."

Are these boiler room salespeople lying to you too?

Martin Gill mentioned that; "... we do get guys asking us to re-sell their lots..." and..."The big problem is that these developers sell this as an investment and people think that they can flip their lots and make money, but they forget that there are 2,000 lots just like the one that they have." And "unless you have an awesome ocean view the homes will be hard to sell."

If They Don't Build It For You, Who Will?

And if they don't build your home for you, who will? Because if you are thinking of building a single family home anywhere in Costa Rica from a distance, may we politely suggest that you rethink that idea...

We get emails every week from people saying they bought lots in one of the 'Sold-Me-Hard Projects' and could we recommend a Realtor to help them sell their land. Unfortunately, my response always goes something along the lines of: "Sorry we have already asked our recommended Realtors to see if any of them would be interesting in helping you out but there is not one single Realtor that I know of in Costa Rica who is remotely interested in selling your 'Sold-Me-Hard Projects' lot and would be surprised if you find one..."

These land promoters make it difficult for their potential buyers to visit the land they are trying to sell them - unless they have already paid a big deposit BEFORE they have seen it (??) - so how difficult do you think it is for an outside Realtor to gain access?

Depending on the overall market conditions, land can be a very illiquid investment, meaning it can be difficult to sell in a timely fashion but when your Realtor can't even visit it, it's impossible to sell.

If you are planning on buying land in Costa Rica and wish to invest your money where it has the highest probability to make you money with the lowest possible risk, I would suggest that the next time you hear from one of these boiler rooms, you tell them that you are not interested and hang-up.

Instead, find yourself an experienced, trained Costa Rica real estate sales professional that will sell you the land you want and, when the times comes, he or she will also be happy and proud to help sell your land for you...

Written by Scott Oliver, author of How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa and Costa Rica's Guide To Making Money Offshore. © 2007-2008 WeLoveCostaRica.com All Rights Reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.

 


 

S4 | CENTRAL PACIFIC SPECIAL SECTION | THE TICO TIMES – August 24, 2007

Condominium Boom Turns Upwardly Mobile

 

By Peter Krupa

Tico Times Staff

They say these days that the construction crane is China’s national bird. But by all appearances, that exotic species is migratory, and at the moment it is making a stop in the central Pacific beach town of Jacó.

 

Just glancing out her office window in the center of town, Catherine Fitton, one of the owners of Jacó Beach Premier Realty , said she could count six of the gangly beasts, lifting and swiveling and dropping to build the hottest thing going at the moment: high-rise condominium towers.

 

Of course, in Jacó anything more than eight stories counts as a high-rise, Fitton said. But more than a dozen of the projects are either preparing to build or already under construction.

 

“Everything really took off within the last two years,” Fitton said. “(We) went from very little inventory to condos in the thousands.” It’s a phenomenon that’s rearing its head from Playa Herradura, just north of Jacó, all the way to Quepos, 60 kilometers to the south. Condo developments are booming.

They’re big.

And they’re selling.

 

“When people ask whether Jacó can sustain all these high-rises, the truth of the matter is they are at least 70% sold out,” said Jeff Fisher,  the owner of C.R. Beach Investment Real Estate,  www.crbeach.com).

 

Take Diamante del Sol, for example, a beachfront development undertaken by DayStar Properties.  The project, which will have five condominium towers between eight and 10 stories with a total of more than 100 units, is almost 60% sold out already, even though the first two towers won’t be completed until next year. Condos here are selling for between

$450,000 and $1 million, and Fitton said some pre-buyers have already resold their yet-to-be-built condominiums.

 

At least 17 high-rise condo projects are either completed, under construction or in the planning stages in and around Jacó. The Sonesta Jacó Resort project , for one, is only just beginning the foundations on the first phase of what will be a $70 million, six-building, 13-story development. Yet it has already sold 140 of the 196 first-phase condos, priced between $215,000 and $1.2 million. That phase should be completed in late 2008, said project manager Joshua Ten

Brink, and the second phase is set to begin early next year.

 

Several real estate agents said the boom owes itself mostly to middle-aged, uppermiddle- class buyers from the United States and Canada who have discovered Costa Rica and are buying vacation and investment

condos here.

 

“I feel like we’re getting to the point where the masses are starting to become interestedand know about Costa Rica,” said David Karr, an agent with Century 21 Jacó Beach  “It seems like in the past it was a hidden secret and more of a niche.”

 

Although a few large projects can be found outside Jacó – for example, the planned 12-story twin condominium towers on Playa Hermosa, five kilometers to the south, that will be Diamond Beach Resort if the developers manage to secure permits (TT, Feb. 23) – most of the high-rise developmentis concentrated in the former sleepy surfer village.

 

The boom has some people in Jacó concerned about the town’s infrastructure.

“I think that we should be concerned,” Fitton said. “The … local government and the central government need to be workinghand in hand with the development so we don’t see an overbuilding.”

 

Fisher noted that area developers have high confidence that the Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce and the new mayor of the canton of Garabito, Marvin Elizondo, will work together well to address the problems that are sure to crop up as the town gets more crowded.

 

He said that within the next 10 years he expects the area to look like Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a tourist destination known for its beaches and luxury hotels. Fitton agreed, saying she thinks Jacó will soon be considered a “very nice small city, rather than the surfer village of the past.”

 

Other Developments

High-rises may be sprouting like weeds in Jacó, but the wide-open surrounding area calls for a different kind of living arrangement. Projects involving villas, townhouses and even whole family homes in gated communities have sprung up all along the central Pacific coast.

 

One big one – with permits in place and earthmovers warming up – is the St. Regis Resort, which will be a 250-acre complex with 49 condos, 42 villas and nine estate homes. Announced in 2006, the project was supposed to be opened by 2008, but that date has been pushed back to the first quarter of 2009. A spokeswoman at Grupo Genesis the group financing the project, said construction would start in September.

 

Another big project along that coast is C.  Caletas in Esterillos , a 15-minute drive south of Jacó. The golf course development will feature a combination of four-story condos and course-side homes.

Managing partner Aaron Dowd said the entire project, once built, will have more than 1,000 condo units and cost investors about $400 million. C Caletas has yet to get the final signoff from the National Technical Secretariat of the Environment Ministry (SETENA), and Dowd said it continues to negotiate with five-star hotel groups, “looking for a luxury brand to add to the product.”  Still, Dowd said he expects to break ground on the first phase of the project next year. It will take 10 years to complete.

 

Many other projects too numerous to mention are under way in the area to bring medium- and small-scale condo and gated community developments to the area between Jacó and Quepos.

 

C.R. Beach Investment Real Estate’s Fisher said for foreigners coming to live in Costa Rica (as opposed to just investing), he often recommends they buy into the individual homes going up in gated communities in the area._

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Which is better, Panama or Costa Rica?    panamasol.com    May 25, 2008

We spent last week at the tourism fair in San Jose Costa Rica and I wanted to share with my readers some of my observations. Many of you have noticed that I regularly post articles about Costa Rica on my blog. Some have even commented that I must be working for the tourism board of Costa Rica as it appears that I am putting down Panama by making comparisons between the two countries. The fact is that Costa Rica has some very positive aspects that we should emulate and learn from along with some negative aspects we should try and avoid. I believe it is important for Panamanians and foreigners alike to fully understand what sets them apart in order for the country to make the most in what each has. To say that one country is better than the other needs to be understood in what context. I read in the international press where Panama is the next Costa Rica or where the IPAT says Panama will surpass Costa Rica in tourism and I am extremely skeptical of these kinds of proclamations. I hope that the following analysis and observations might help us to understand these differences and better equip us to take advantage of our strengths.

Lets start with Costa Rica.
One thing we should all agree on is the fact that Costa Rica has been attracting eco tourism for a much longer time than has Panama. While Panama was dealing with Noriega, Costa Rica was attracting foreigners to retire and those foreigners built the tourism infrastructure over the last 20 years or so that has made Costa Rica the attraction that it is today.

Here are some facts I gleaned from my meeting with the ICT (Costa Rican tourism board.) in San Jose. Costa Rica has over 2000 hotels with about 40,000 total hotels rooms. The average hotel size is less than 20 rooms. 85% of the hotels are owned by foreigners and 85% are located outside the city. The focus of 99% of these hotel operations is eco tourism. Last year Costa Rica had about 1.7 million visitors.

What strikes me most is the contrast between these hotel statistics and those of Panama. According to this article I posted last year, Panama is expected to have 24,000 hotel rooms by 2010 with the addition of 7,000 that are currently underway. The majority of these hotels are being built in the city. Go here to see a post about their size and location. The beach areas west of the city are certainly attracting a volume of foreign tourists, but this type of tourism is more in line with the beach areas of Cancun Mexico than the small eco resorts of Costa Rica. When hotels are built in cities they are clearly for business related activities and not eco tourism.

Why there is no eco tourism in Panama
The fact is there are very few eco tourism hotels in Panama and there are several good reasons for that. All one has to do is to drive across the border from Panama into Costa Rica and it becomes readily apparent. As we drove across the border last week my wife, a Panamanian, exclaimed that it looks so different just as soon as you make the crossing? Costa Ricans notice a difference too as they come into Panama. For us it is the abundance of vegetation in Costa Rica and the stark reality of open cattle pastures in Panama.

Panama has long ago sacrificed its accessible rain forests and jungles for cattle farms and agriculture. It is not that the Costa Ricans are by nature more ecologically minded than Panamanians. The fact of geography is one of the reasons they have had little deforestation. Within a 15 minute drive as you cross the border into Costa Rica, you notice that the terrain turns from flatlands to mountains. The Talamarca mountain range which runs 30 kilometers back from the Pacific all through Panama, becomes much closer as soon as you enter Costa Rica. Mountains are more difficult to clear for cattle and with the lack of good roads to remove the timber, it is the main reason Costa Rica has so much more forest and Jungle. Certainly the laws Costa Rica enacted and enforced protecting the environment in the earlier part of the 20th century have helped to protect the land from ranching after road building began in earnest there, but the geography and lack of good roads early in its history has played a major part in protecting its environment.

By contrast,the next time you take a plane from Panama City to David, look below and notice from the mountain tops to the Pacific and you will see that the land has been stripped of all its timber. Even in the higher elevations you see the distinct criss crossing of dirt roads and cattle trails along the mountain ridges. These roads were used by the settlers in the beginning of the 20th century to clear the land of jungle and make way for the cattle ranches that now fill the landscape. The only areas where you see any forest, other than the national forest preserves, is on the undeveloped Caribbean coast where there are no roads to access the forests. There is little tourism development there either for the same reasons.

By contrast, the mountains along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica meet the sea bringing their forests and the abundant nature with them. You hear the sound of howler monkeys as you drive along the road that in most places meets the ocean. This type of geography also produces the beautiful crescent shaped beaches of white sand that are in abundance all along the coast. It is in these mountainous coves where you find the great numbers of small eco hotels catering to the tourists seeking the eco adventure advertised in every brochure and media outlet on Costa Rica.

Along the coastal areas of Chiriqui the sand is dark and the beaches stretch for hundreds of meters between low and high tide as the slope of the land is very shallow. The numerous rivers bring a great deal of silt as they travel through the cattle pastures and rice fields. Even some of the islands close to the shore have been turned into cattle ranching. Only in the national forest of the Chiriqui highlands will you find the pristine jungles that once flourished across the whole province. And, other than on the Caribbean, only on the numerous small islands in the Gulf of Chiriqui will you find the white sand beaches and jungles that are similar to those of our neighbor to the west. What areas of natural beauty we have left in the province are incredibly beautiful, but they are not nearly in abundance as in Costa Rica.

The Panama advantage
Yes there is no doubt that the advantages of the Costa Rican environment is strikingly different from that of Panama, but there is the other side of the coin that needs to be addressed. Panama has some significant advantages over her neighbor to the west. We have a number of foreigners who live in Costa Rican who cross the border and stay in our resort in Chiriqui. They are amazed at how civilized Panama appears to be over the country they chose to live in. The roads are much better and they can buy just about anything here at much lower prices. From the moment they cross the border into Panama they are not thinking about how we have cut down all the forests. They are thinking about how great our four lane highway is and how nice to see shopping centers and hospitals along the road way. They wonder why they have such very high duties on their goods and vehicles in Costa Rica while we have very little. They are amazed that our home prices here are less than half that of their country. Crime is a growing concern in Costa Rica as they have become a victim of their great success at attracting foreigners to vacation and live on their shores and mountains. Another great advantage they see in Panama is the corporate and tax structure. Many of them cross the border to open bank accounts and form Panamanian corporations to protect their assets in Costa Rica.

In conclusion
So the facts are that Panama can never really compete with Costa Rican as an ecological tourism destination. Panama has the advantage of a well documented and incredible history of transformation from a 1500’s backwater to the center of the universe in transits for goods and services in the 21st century. It is in her unique combination of modernization, infrastructure, history and culture that make Panama a major attraction as a place to live and live well rather than just to visit. Panama cannot afford to spend millions in marketing to be something she will never become, but she can and should focus on her strengths and attract people to her shores to live here rather than just pass through along with the containers in the canal and money through her many banks.

There are many foreigners who long to live among the forests and monkeys and are willing to share that world with the many visitors that come to gawk at the incredible world of nature. If you can afford to pay for it and are willing to sacrifice some of the many comforts of the first world, then Costa Rica may be the right place for you. If on the other hand you want access to all that natural beauty on a few hours away, but still want to live where goods and services are reasonably priced and in abundance, then Panama may be the right choice.

 

UPDATE: By CR Beach Broker-Owner Jeff Fisher:

It's now August 20th, 2007 and Hurricane Dean is close to wreaking havoc  again in  Mexico's resort area of Cancun. Again I am thankful that the Jaco area of Costa Rica receives very little of nature's wrath. Last week we had our first tsunami warning, thanks to the 8.0 Peruvian quake, but this was more a preparation drill by the CR Emergency Services  than the real thing. Less than 2 hours later, the warning was rescinded.

  A little internet research comforted me to know that the last tsunami to hit Costa Rica was in 1854, and it was in the southern region of Costa Rica. Remember, the hills are only seconds away!

 We are often asked what type of natural disasters Costa Rica is most vulnerable to, and the answer for the Jaco area is: some minor earthquakes, occasional minor flooding,(not as severe as tonight's news about floods in many U.S. cities),  but thankfully NO HURRICANES.  The major complaints of most foreigners that live here range from the occasional power outages (how romantic?) and weak cell phone signals (how frustrating!) to the typical rage against government bureacracy and ineptness.  Most complaints have to do with the newest restaurants' prices  for shrimp cocktails!

Real Estate Market Update: Soon we will start the third year of the "boom" for the Jaco Beach area and finally prices are stabilizing after shooting up dramatically.  As friends of mine from Florida and California tell me, the beachfront is still a deal, even at $135 sq.ft. This is difficult for long time residents like myself that remember when..., but I know and experts agree that the Costa Rica real estate market still has many years left before there is a major correction.  There are plans for at least 5 more towers in Jaco, some over 20 stories (they didn't listen to my 7 story limit!), so yes, Jaco's future looks more like Puerto Vallarta everyday.  This can be great for "smart"  real estate investors, and developers, and fun seekers!  Don't like crowds? Live 10 minutes away and it feels like a whole new world, with forests, and mountain breezes!

 What about Baby Boomer retirees? Well personally I would love for some developers to call me and look at those properties that would be perfect for developing Costa Rica's-beachfront-active-Baby Boomer communities."  There is a need for more homes in this area in well designed gated communities at all price points. They can either be beachfront, or close to the beach, or with large lots with fantastic ocean views, but the key words are community. Not just, here- enjoy your community pool and barbecue area, but all kinds of activities; physical, mental, cultural. A community center on the premises with all kinds of classes- spanish, dance, yoga, cooking; wine tastings, sushi gatherings, backgammon, and outdoor areas; for horseshoes, croquet, lawn bowling, putting green, volleyball, etc., etc.   You get the idea, active Baby Boomer activities, who will eagerly come to Costa Rica for six to twelve months at a time, not just six weeks.  After 14 years, I still love living here; call me and let me know what you think.    Jeff.  (Happily living 200 feet from the always beautiful, occasionally dangerous waves of Hermosa, 8 minutes south of Jaco). *I also did guess right about Nicaragua...  Thanks, Jeff@crbeach.com

 

 

Title Check by Brian Smith

Someone did point out to me that some attorneys do a "title" check in the
on-line registry for about $100 and that is totally correct. You could even do
it yourself, however it is not accurate 100% of the time and can even be
manipulated (note the earlier CRL posting where someone was offering a service
to check the on-line registry EVERY SINGLE DAY)....

The type of service I was referring to for "up to $1000" is extremely detailed
and would include an attorney performing a physical title check of ownership and
caveats in the repository in each province, a check of mortgages or liens, a
check for building or other restrictions, a thorough and legally liable review
of the contract and more. That also includes a physical visit to the site (up to
1 hour away or more), communicating with the owners, physically checking the
presence of utilities, a check of local property values, a check on the ability
to build, consultations or recommendations, a full written report and more. And
there is always more.....

When I think of this service, I think about what I would want done to confirm a
good purchase if I could not be here in person to do it myself. I'm just a
careful guy and want to do everything possible to insure no problems.I don't
really view this as a "money maker". After the attorney fees are paid, there is
not a great deal left over for the agency for all that work and
responsibility.....

Buyer's agents generally charge much more than this for about the same work.....

 



 

 

 

RE: Current state of real estate market...


 

"the fact that the st moritz project, a very chi chi development near los suenos has shut down (for now) must say something."

I believe Mr. Lee is referring to the St. Regis development. Trying to sell 1 BR studio apartments with NO kitchen for $800K+ SHOULD lead to a shut down and it did here. I simply cannot see how that could possibly be an indicator of the current and near-future market place....

How about the newly announced high end project across the bay from Los Suenos that just started sales about 6 weeks ago? We heard they are moving well....

"in jaco, there is a glut of unsold beach codos, but the cranes (our new national bird) continue to pour more concrete"

I just spent an hour researching the numbers and found that less than 15% of all the currently existing and reasonably priced brand new condos are unsold. Naturally it is the way overpriced projects that are having difficulty selling more than 10% or 15% of their units. Also, presales have been excellent for reasonably priced condos as well. I believe that 15% unsold doesn't qualify as a
"glut" as a glut by any standard. Go to the Daystar office or Vista CR and get an update for yourself. They are the big boys in town some 10 beachfront projects.

What remains unsold are generally the grotesquely overpriced ones....

The proof is in the pudding:
Costa L condos (252 condos) have sold 20+ units in the month of July, about 30 remain available....

Ac sold four units this month, only three left....

Monte R, only one unit left....

Jaco  Viage, only one 2 BR unit left.....

Vista M, sold out (38 units)

Palo B., just four units out of 38 remaining....

Ba Az, sold out (38 units)

Ba E, sold out (38 units)

Tr. Res, just three units remaining....

Dia. el Sol, sold out (72 units)

Presales are also doing well for at least 6 other projects currently under construction.....

Finally, if folks believe that these condos won't get sold or there is no market for them, think again. A lot of condos have come on line in the last twelve months. I defy you to come to Jaco, the single most popular beach in all of Central America, after Dec. 10 and try to rent one. Chances are you'll be staying in a hostel....

I think that to get a true understanding of the market, one must pound the pavement every day, look, listen and get the facts. Developers talking about slow sales in what is traditionally one of the slowest months for real estate sales doesn't surprise me a bit. Let's try this experiment again in mid-January 2009. That will be the true test....Respectfully, Brian L. Smith

Punta Leona


Punta Leona, Costa Rica               

 

Ah, Punta Leona, the crown jewel of the central Pacific!  Imagine yourself surrounded by 750 acres of lush, tropical Costa Rican rainforest, then walk another step and suddenly you're there, directly facing the white sandy beaches of your dreams.  There is almost nothing as beautiful as Punta Leona, and yet only ninety minutes away from San Jose, and 15 minutes from the most bustling beach town in all of Costa Rica.  This is why we made Punta Leona our number one neighborhood to find your perfect retirement home.  You too will be swept away by the natural beauty found here and the convenience of everything located nearby:

  • Only 5 minutes away from the Los Suenos Marina and Golf Resort  featuring 7 exciting restaurants
  • Only 5 minutes away from the new Herradura shopping center featuring Costa Rica's most modern grocery
  • Many nearby famous tourist attractions
  • 10 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Jaco

At the resort Punta Leona, there are constantly changing daily activities and programs. The activities schedule will include some of the following offerings depending upon when you visit. More activities are offered during the high season and on weekends than during weekdays.
  • Aerobics 
  • Water aerobics
  • Dance lessons
  • Guided nature walks 
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis ping pong
  • Mini golf
  • Special children's activities
  • Dance at the disco

Punta Leona has one of the most important private reserves in Costa Rica's Pacific Zone, principally because of its geographic location and conservation plan. This refuge was created 27 years ago and consists of 300 hectares (750 acres) of primary and secondary forest. The reserve is of great importance from a biological standpoint because it is one of the few remaining forests in the transitional life zone between the DryForest of the Northwest and the Rainforest of the Southwest.

During the last two decades, Punta Leona's reserve has functioned primarily as a center for research on mammals and birds. Specifically, the conservation program introduced for scarlet macaws has received national attention.

Punta Leona is regarded as an excellent place for bird watching with over 330 migratory and resident bird species , including the brilliant Scarlet Macaw, Marbled Wood-Quail, Three-wattled Bellbird, Toucans, Trogons, Manakins, Flycatchers, and Hummingbirds. The reserve is also home to white faced monkeys, spider monkeys, sloths, white-nosed coati mundi, tyras, raccoons, iguanas and a large number of butterflies.

The reserve has 3 easily accessible, well marked trails. They are of varying difficulty and also wide enough to facilitate bird watching. There are two hummingbirds feeding stations and several feeders that attract birds and mammals.

Punta Leona is also a convenient departure point to many other tourist attractions. There are day trips available to ManuelAntonioNational Park (2 hours) and CararaNational Park (15 minutes) and much more.

FACT SHEET

Opening
1975

Area
350 hectare

Address
600 meters west of Aguja’s Bridge, Quebrada Ganado, Garabito, and Puntarenas.

Acknowledgements
-Bandera Azul Ecológica (Ecological Blue Flag) for the surrounding beaches of the complex: Limoncito, Mantas and BlancaBeaches and also for the community of Punta Leona.
-Certificate for sustainable tourism (CST)

Press Releases

  1. Blanca Beach in Punta Leona is the first and only beach in the country to receive the category 4 stars in the program “Bandera Azul Ecológica”.
  2. Punta Leona continues its efforts to protect the Red Macaw whose habitat is the Central Pacific.
  3. Punta Leona awards the winning children of a painting competition organized by the MEP (Ministry of Education) and Punta Leona.

 Bandera Azul Ecológica

What is it?  It is and initiative for local organizational committees, communities, and educational centers along the beach coasts to foment development together with the protection of natural resources, to search for better sanitary hygiene, and to improve Costa Rican public health.


Facilities       

  • Three pools
  • Mini market
  • Souvenir shop
  • Boutique
  • Discotheque (limited hours during the low season)
  • Lighted tennis court
  • Volleyball court
  • Basketball court
  • Children's play area
  • Amphitheater
  • Conference center                                                                    

 Services    

  • Tourist information desk for booking day tours to nearby sightseeing attractions
  • In-house shuttle transportation
  • Car rental (pick up and drop off at resort)
  • Physician at resort
  • Mail
  • 24-hr. telephone, foreign currency exchange and reception services
  • Photo development - one day service
  • Internet Conextion, ASDL- High Speed. (BusinessCenter).

By: Jeff Fisher

*Note: Jeff sez..."I think this is the greatest place to live in COSTA RICA!"


Costa Rica - The Destination of Choice for Affordable Second Homes


Each day, more Americans are attracted to nearby Costa Rica as a place to build second homes. Low property and labor costs and the natural beauty of the country are a few reasons Americans are are attracted to Costa Rica.

Sabanilla, San Jose, Costa Rica  March 28, 2007 --

 Many Americans seeking a second home are turning to Costa Rica. Known for tropical animals and exotic landscapes, Costa Rica beach properties are an ideal setting for a second home. A trip to Costa Rica requires only a two-hour plane ride from the Southern tip of the United States, allowing investors to visit and inspect their second homes regularly.

In addition to the country's natural beauty, Costa Rica property and development costs are remarkably lower than in the United States, and return on investments are higher. Last year, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book ranked Costa Rica as one of five countries that stands "head and shoulders above all other nations worldwide in terms of the potential their real estate markets present property investors."

A piece of Costa Rica property currently costs approximately 70% less than equivalent property in America. Once developed, a Costa Rican piece of property can triple its value in as little as 5 years. To encourage development and investment, the Costa Rican government has reduced the slowing effects of "red tape" necessary to purchase or develop land.

Miguel Tapia, finance director of the Costa Rican Construction Chamber says."Beach tourism development has brought along with it a series of additional developments, such as construction of banks, commercial centers, storage rooms and other services. The construction industry has been struggling to find enough labor to keep up with growth."

The cost of living in Costa Rica is another incentive for second-home buyers. A monthly income of $2,000 allows individuals to live very comfortably in Costa Rica, and tax consequences for owning property are minimal. Costa Rican quality of life is comparable to that in America, and the country offers most technology and medical advances Americans access in their daily lives.

Compared to neighboring countries Panama, Honduras and Nicaragua, Costa Rica has proven a better country for building a second home. Because of this, Costa Rica has become a desired market for potential landowners who desire a second home in an exotic locale.

 The February 23, 2007, issue of "The Tico Times" states that "with the country experiencing a continuing real estate boom, emerging condo projects such as the one in the western San Jose suburb of Escazu' are a common sight." If property value continues to increase at its current pace, experts predict building a second home in Costa Rica may be unattainable for middle-class America within a decade.

 


BUILDING GREEN and Costa Rica Real Estate


Daily Real Estate News  |  June 20, 2007 Developers, Managers See Green Building Perks
The real estate industry — most notably the commercial side — is slowly but surely embracing sustainable business practices and green technologies, according to an analysis of the industry by Progressive Investor, monthly newsletter that’s focused on sustainable investments.

"The benefits will make green ubiquitous over the next two years," says George Caraghiaur, vice president for energy services at Simon Property Group, owner of 300 shopping malls.

Developers are using green construction in their projects, real estate consumers and tenants are showing a preference for sustainable buildings, and it’s becoming more affordable to make earth-friendly choices, the newsletter says. What’s driving the trend? Progressive Investor identified these factors:

  • Energy prices are rising. Developers and building owners are feeling the crunch of high energy and water costs, which, according to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), constitute 28 percent of operating costs for downtown office properties, and 30.4 percent for suburban properties. They see the quick payback and cost savings energy efficiency and other green building upgrades offer.
  • Construction costs are coming down. Building green no longer costs more. Turner Construction's 2005 Green Building Market Barometer shows it costs a just 0.8 percent more for basic LEED certification, easily recouped through lower operating costs.
  • Tenants are demanding it. Increasingly, clients and tenants show a preference for green buildings, which have been proven to increase productivity, retain employees and lower absenteeism. The combination of reduced operating costs and more satisfied occupants translates into 3.5% higher occupancy rates, 3% higher rents, and a 7.5% increase in building value, says the McGraw-Hill 2006 SmartMarket Report.
  • Green gets visibility. Corporations with sustainable business policies are building highly visible green headquarters including Bank of America, Toyota, Goldman Sachs, Hearst, IBM, JPMorgan Chase and Herman Miller. The Freedom Tower, which replaces the World Trade Center, will be LEED-certified.
  • States are requiring it. Green building is increasingly being mandated. Nine states and 40+ municipalities have passed legislation mandating LEED-certified buildings. Six percent of commercial developments are LEED-certified, and it’s projected to jump to 10 percent of the market by 2010.


REITS Fill Demand for Green Investments

Because there are more green buildings, there also are more choices for investors who want to put there money into an environmentally friendly funds. Some 41 percent of the 300 U.S. real estate investment trusts (REITs) are actively pursuing energy efficiency and green building upgrades and another 27 percent plan to do so.

For now, U.S. investors can gain exposure to the sector through the Forward Progressive Real Estate Fund (FFREX), the first SRI REIT mutual fund, and through about two dozen individual securities, including Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG) , Weingarten Realty Investors (NYSE:WRI) , Prologis (NYSE:PLD) and SL Green Realty (NYSE:SLG) .

Outside the U.S., leaders include Investa Property Group (IPG.AX), Australia's largest owner of prime grade office space, Lend Lease (LLC.AX), Land Securities (LAND.L), British Land (BLND.L) and SEGRO (SGRO.L), in the UK.

Progressive firms are increasingly focused on urban infill buildings rather than suburban greenfields and incorporating advanced energy efficiency measures, as well as recycled building materials, gray water systems, rainwater capture and green roofs, the report says.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Costa Rica  Real Estate

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, then you may also be thinking about investing in Real Estate here. The Costa Rica Tourism Board reports that 1 in 3 second time visitors to Costa Rica are interested in buying real estate, which shows what a great impression the country is making upon vacationers!

Many of our clients come into the office and say something such as -I have been coming to Costa Rica for years and watched the prices rising. I wish I had bought years ago, and I am not waiting any longer, or I will never be able to afford anything…

Foreigners who have vacationed here have found that the country is safe, amazingly beautiful, and not so far from home. In fact, from the east coast of the U.S., it is much closer to Costa Rica than to Hawaii. Costa Ricans are blessed with a stable democracy, no hurricanes, no revolutions, and a very happy populace, unlike many other countries in Central America. This set of traits, combined with its small size, low cost of living, and ideal climate make it one of the very best places on earth to retire, start a new life, or just invest in real estate.

With so many people wanting to move to Costa Rica, of course the real estate prices are rising and continue to rise. Forty million baby boomers are set to retire, and many are looking for a better retirement situation than they can afford in the U.S. and Costa Rica is on the top of the list.

Most people who are thinking about moving to Costa Rica are considering one of the many popular beach towns – places with a good variety of restaurants and other services, phone lines and internet service, etc. Unlike in the U.S., it is still possible to buy a beautiful ocean view lot or one close enough to the beach to walk, for an affordable price. Plus, you can expect your land to have monkeys, parrots, iguanas, and other beautiful jungle features. Many areas have waterfalls and a local airport with flights to the capital city of San Jose. While the weather is hot, it is not nearly as hot as places in the U.S. such as Arizona or Florida. If you are interested in surfing, then you have found the right country.

 

Costa Rica Weather Report
We're approaching the heart of the Green Season and the mid-morning rainshowers are now regular enough to set your watch.  However, don't be afraid!  There's still plenty of sunshine to get your sun tanning time, yet the greenery of the rainforest at its most lush and vibrant.  Hurry down to take advantage of Green Season rates while they last!
 
Here are some links to Costa Rica weather reports:
http://www.wunderground.com/global/CS.html


Would You Buy Real Estate from A Tourist? then, PANAMA VS COSTA RICA


Again, and again I hear stories about people making mistakes when purchasing property in Costa Rica. I really feel it is my responsibility to share the following with my readers.

As you probably know by now Costa Rica has become very popular over the last last couple of years. From all indications interest in the country is not going to wane for some time to come. Recently one economist told me the local boom could last for up to ten years more.

Therefore, it is not surprising that investors are pouring into the country to purchase all kinds of homes and land. Unfortunately, in many cases they are not using their common sense.

Scores of would-be entrepreneurs have set up shop here. Most have eye-catching web sites proclaiming their expertise and real estate offices. The problem is that some of these people are little more that modern day "carpetbaggers" with no credibility trying to cash in on the real estate gold rush. They are here to get what they can take and ride happily off into the sunset.

A large number of these JCL’s or Johnny Come Latelies are not even legal Costa Rica residents but tourists. Would you buy real estate in your home town from a tourist? Of course not! Only a fool would do it. A realtor friend of ours had the immigration department run a check to see what the status was of foreigners selling real estate in a certain beach area of Costa Rica. The results were frightening. Many of the realtors in the area turned out to be tourists living here illegally. Furthermore, the Costa Rican government prohibits anyone from working here who is not a resident.

So when looking for real estate in Costa Rica you should only deal with time-tested real estate agencies and people who are legal residents of the country. Do your homework, ask a lot of questions and don't leave your “brain on the plane.”

posted by Christopher Howard @ Monday, February 27, 2006

 

The author is a consultant for National Geographic, a columnist for Central America Weekly newspaper, Costa Rica Outdoors magazine and the ARCR bimonthly magazine, El Residente. He also write the perennial best-selling travel/retirement/overseas investment guide book,

 

Costa Rica Draws Locals into its Magic ---

Costa Rica could be called Savannah South.

Rexanna Lester --- Savannah (Georgia) Morning News --- August 19, 2007

The list is long of Savannahians who love to surf the Pacific coast and
watch the birds and turtles in this Central American wonderland. And that
doesn't count the locals who wander inland to see cloud forests, volcanoes
and plants with leaves the size of umbrellas.

Nature is big and loud in Costa Rica.

It's the rainy season in Nasaro on the Pacific coast, where surf schools
practice no matter how beautiful or ragged the waves. My goal was to use a
friend's board to play around in the water. I belly-flopped onto a board and
tried to stay on for fun.

An instructor nearby couldn't stand it. He came over, grabbed the board,
told me to slide back, put my hands by my ribs and pushed me along with the
first wave. It was an amazing feeling to ride the wave all the way to shore.

I called it a successful day.

A canoeing trip and a search for the Olive Ridley turtles coming ashore were
canceled because the rain had caused raging rivers.

That didn't keep us from hiking through water above the derriere line to a
good restaurant and bar and to see a waterfall.

The next day was finally dry enough for the tourists to hit the wires. The
popular tree-canopy tours are zip-line swings on steel cables above the
trees from one mountainside platform to another.

The instructions seem clear. The guides strap you into a harness, and you
hold on to the handle bars above you until you have to grab the cable you
are swinging on to slow down before you hit the concrete piling at the next
platform.

Seems easy enough, except I lost my grip and was hanging spider-like from
the cable attached to my harness a hundred feet above Mother Earth. The guy
who had the strength to slow me down with a safety line muttered something
about not wanting me to die and radioed one of his co-workers to come
zipping down the line.

"I'm going to ride the next line with you," he said.

Sounded good to me because I kept thinking of all the things I didn't finish
before I left for this little adventure.

He strapped us together in a cozy little arrangement, and away we went. I
wasn't the only more mature rider who got to appreciate the strength of the
local guys. However, the 11-year-old did fine on his own.

Enough of the coast. I rented a four-wheel drive, junior-sized vehicle and
headed to higher ground. I arrived in the Arenal Lake/Volcano area just in
time to be overwhelmed by the enormity and beauty before the sky turned
dark.

Knowing I was close to the expensive resorts (therefore, good volcano
views), I started looking for a cheaper alternative. It started pouring down
rain, and I turned into the Arenal Lodge - hopeful.

It had a guarded gate. Uh oh, I thought, it will be too expensive. But I was
tired and decided to check it out anyway. "Checking it out" involved what
seemed like an endless small road winding forever up a mountain. There is a
sign at the top that reads: "You've finally made it." I decided whatever it
cost, I was going to stay one night.

When the guy at the desk said I could get a room for $99, I had him repeat
it to make sure he hadn't said $199. Then I asked if he had anything
cheaper, with a view of the volcano, of course. When he said he had one for
$85, I booked for two nights.

Unloading the car in the rain, I just wanted to fall into bed. OK, it was
only 7:30 p.m., but the day in coastal Costa Rica starts with the howler
monkeys at 4:30 a.m. and the omnipresent coastal construction at 6 a.m.

I sat on my bed and looked out the huge picture window toward the volcano.
Within seconds, red boulders spewed from the top and drizzled down the
slope. I was mesmerized.

The next morning, a herd of wild pigs ran through the field in front of my
room. Giant blue macaws sat on a tree near the restaurant window that
overlooks a park-like garden and the volcano. Caretakers put bananas on the
tree, and a parade of birds in vivid, electric colors snacked. One bird fed
another.

If this is not heaven, then it can't be much further up the hill.

 The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica.

Panama vs Costa Rica
Posted by: "christopher howard" crbooks@racsa.co.cr
³This is in response to Don Winner¹s Goodbye Costa Rica, hello Panama²

Costa Rica Versus Panama
By Christophere Howard
Lately there have been a lot of stories in the press about Panama comparing
it to Costa Rica and describing the boom that's taking place there. No doubt
about it, Panama does have a lot to offer retirees and some investors,
however the country does have its drawbacks. You will find most of the
publications and websites which hype the Panama boom are trying to sell real
estate there. or have other hidden agendas.
Out side of cosmopolitan Panama city the country is desolate, Most of
the country's modern infrastructure is located in and around Panama City.
Retirement publications extol the virtues of Boquete in the northern part of
the country. What they fail to mention is that the place is down right
boring and has becoming expensive. One has to go to the city of David for
entertainment and to shop for important items. On the other hand, you will
never be bored in Costa Rica's Valley since you don't have to far for good
entertainment.
When it comes to weather Costa Rica can't be beat. The country's Central
Valley has one of the best climates in the world. In Costa Rica you have the
choice of the beach climate, the spring-like Central Valley or the
alpine-like cooler climate of the mountains which surround the central
Valley. In contrast, Panama only has a couple of small areas where the
climate is spring-like and tolerable. Panama City is hot and muggy most of
the year. If you don't have air conditioning you will fry. Monthly power
bills can be high from running your air conditioner virtually 24-hours a
day.
Granted Panama can be more affordable and has better perks for retirees.
However, no price is really to high for living and having the quality of
life that exists in Costa Rica. The country's natural beauty far exceeds
that of its neighbor to the south.
Everyone raves about Panama's great shopping. Miami is only a couple of
hours away by air from Costa Rica and Panama. Everyone I know, who can
afford it, goes to Miami to do their shopping instead of Panama. The
selection is 100 times better. The last time I went to Panama I was not
impressed with the stores.
Politics? Costa Rica has been the most stable country in Latin America.
The country's army was abolished in over 50 years ago. The president even
won the Nobel Peace prize in 1987. The same cannot be said about Panama.
Although the country presently has a democratic government, tumultuous
politics and military dictatorships have been the norm in Panama for almost
100 years. The U.S. even had to invade in 1989 to oust the last dictator.
The current president, Martín Erast Torrijos is the son of Omar Torrijos,
who was Panama's dictator from 1968 to 1981.
The U.S. ambassador recently pointed out that the justice system has
some weaknesses which permit the powerful and rich to enjoy impunity.
Beneath Panama's new image there is some dirty laundry. To find out
about the real Panama read www.noriegaville.com. This informative website
has a focus on corruption, politics, investing in Panama, the Canal, human
rights and the media in Panama. It is the only news site about Panama in
English that takes a critical look at the country and its affairs instead of
trying to sell something.

 Re: Panama and Costa Rica

Posted by: "drew1dc" andrew4cr@gmail.com   Wed Dec 13, 2006 5:46 pm (PST)

So true regarding Panama and Costa Rica! I looked at many countries
before deciding on Costa Rica, and for the reasons Mr. Howard
describes, and others, I wouldn't choose any other country over Costa
Rica!

Andrew
San Ramon, CR
Boomers in Costa
Relocation/retirement/investment tours of Costa Rica
"The only tour by and for baby boomers!"
 

Posted by: "Jadzaluk@aol.com"  

Well, that's fine but it is Mr Howard's job to promote Costa Rica.
Not that he is wrong, its just that he does have a dog in that fight.
Jackie 

Re: Panama and Costa Rica

Posted by: "ajhaig" ajhaig@sonic.net   ajhaig

Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:05 pm (PST)

Chris, I would propose there are two Panama news sites that reveal
truths-see Eric Jackson's online 2xmonthly newspaper, The Panama News,
http://www.thepanamanews.com. (BTW, Norieagaville has been frozen
for quite awhile).
Arlie

--- In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, christopher howard
<crbooks@...> wrote:

>>>>>Beneath Panama's new image there is some dirty laundry. To find
>out about the real Panama read www.noriegaville.com. This
informative >website has a focus on corruption, politics, investing in
Panama, the >Canal, human rights and the media in Panama. It is the
only news site >about Panama in English that takes a critical look at
the country and >its affairs instead of trying to sell something.
>
 Re: Panama and Costa Rica

Posted by: "David Lovelady" dll41745@yahoo.com   dll41745

Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:44 pm (PST)

--- In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, christopher howard
<crbooks@...> wrote:

> Costa Rica Versus Panama
>

There is another subtle difference which is difficult to quantify.
Read CRL and Americans-in-Panama both, every day for a week, and I predict you will detect a difference in the two expat communities. On CRL, there are clearly people who genuinely like Costa Rica and want their time here to contribute positively to it. I see very little of the analogous phenomenon on Americans-in-Panama. There it is more about how to live in Panamá with the minimum amount of contact with Panamanians.
 Now I am aware that both CRL and Americans-in-Panama
represent only small percentages of the expats living in the
respective countries, and I am sure there are many wonderful people living the expat life in Panamá. Nevertheless, it is hard to shake the perception that the CR expat community is just a nicer bunch of folks.
 
AND THE FINAL WORDS:

Re: Panama and Costa Rica

Posted by: "Kerry Dressler" kdressl@racsa.co.cr   kerdres

Thu Dec 14, 2006 3:07 pm (PST)

I just came back last night from a week in Panama. YES, I saved about $1.50 on a tank of
gas in Panama. But most other things were comparable in price. When I spoke to my
Panamanian friends about Electric and Phone costs in Costa Rica they were jealous because
theirs are higher. They have more and cheaper electrical devices, but how many
TV's can anyone watch? In Cerro Punta and Volcan, which are really the breadbasket of
Panama, I could not believe the few vegetables and poor quality of them that I found.
They don't have weekly ferias, and most good quality fruits and vegetables are shipped to
Panama City. I went to 5 supermarkets in Volcan, and 3 vegetable sellers, and only found
a small portion of what I have come to expect in vegetables here in CR. And in such poor
condition that I ended up without tomatoes and lettuce. I couldn't even find cauliflower,
broccoli and leeks. Things were much better there 25 years ago!

I would agree that compared to Escazu, prices are lower in most all of Panama except
Boquete which has become the playground of a lot of Hollywood stars. But compared to
where I live in Paraiso, housing is really on a par with Panama.

There may be less problems with thievery in Panama, though... having had my house broken
into twice in Panama, I wouldn't say it was that much better... You simply need to protect
yourself as with anywhere in the world these days.

I was amazed to see the changes in Panama City. They have constructed or have in
construction over 120 skyscrapers over 40 floors high. 17 are over 50 floors and several
will be over 100 stories tall. A large number of these are being constructed on Punta
Pacifica which was a landfill when i lived in Panama 25 years ago.

Panama is geologically active, also. I remember living on the top (5th ) floor of a
building in Enstein Circle during a quake that was centered in the Darien, and waking up
as I was literally tossed out of my bed, and I'm no light weight. Looking thru my
windows I saw buildings swaying in the quake.. which was much much stronger than any I've
felt here. I can't imagine living in one of those high risers build on a landfill and I
wouldn't have faith in their having "earthquake resistent" buildings like in California.

I have friends in both countries... but to me, the Ticos win hands down. I have never
seen such open friendliness as here. Perhaps it is because I don't live in the city, but
for whatever reason, I am consistenly amazed by them. My daughter and granddaughter have
come down and are renting here, also. While I was in Panama, her Tico neighbors got
together and brought over a christmas tree and decorations knowing that she didn't have a
car to go find one. They shared the lights and decorations that they had and helped her
set up the tree and decorate it,. They have all made them feel welcome and have set up a
date to make tamales and gingerbread cookies. In the 15 years I lived in Panama, I never
saw a neighborhood pull together to make virtual strangers feel welcome as I have here.
We love both countries, but we live in Costa Rica.

Kerry

RECENT ARTICLE ON NICARAGUA:

 

Pollution in Nicaragua Lake


The lack of a health policy and a law of Waters are among the causes of pollution in lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca, the third biggest of Latin America, local experts reported.

The main sources of pollution are in the coast that skirts the city of Granada, 31 miles south of Managua, according to the local press.

Large bacteria concentrations, due to the spillage of sewer waters draining in the lake were detected in that strip along the banks of that tourist resort and colonial city.

The research showed an increase in the PH level of water as a result of the indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals in neighboring areas.

Another factor of pollution is the waste that brings the river Tipitapa from the Managua Lake which has been totally infected for the last 50 years.

The specialist´s complaints also concern the National Assembly that keeps paralyzed the discussion of the Law of Waters since a year ago. The legislation would facilitate taking formal measures against the deterioration of the country´s water resources.

 


Water Law Worries Beach Investors


Water Law Worries Beach Investors

By Eric Sabo
Nica Times Staff |
esabo@ticotimes.net

MANAGUA – The government of Nicaragua could soon own a lot more beachfront property.

The new Water Law under debate in the National Assembly will, if passed in its current form, slash the amount of coastline that is allowed to be held privately, prompting concerns by developers who fear that reclaiming beaches for wider public use might also scare off foreign investment.

“This raises a lot of red flags for investors,” said Sergio Corrales, a lawyer for García & Bodán, the Managua firm that is representing the Nicaraguan Association of Investors and Developers in their attempt to forestall the new regulation.

The proposed Water Law, which essentially is a repackaging of a controversial former bill known as the Coastal Law, calls for the classification of the first 200 meters of beachfront from the high-tide line for public use. The current cut-off point for private ownership is 30 meters.

The adjustment of nearly 170 meters, equivalent to the height of the Washington Monument, is meant to ensure better access to popular stretches of coastline that are increasingly hard to reach because of private development. But Corrales and others warn that fewer jobs and less money will come to Nicaragua if owners have little control over their property.

The potential new law harks back to the land troubles of the 1980s, when the revolutionary Sandinista government confiscated thousands of properties as part of its agrarian reform policy to help poor farmers.

Corrales said that those who already own beachfront property will not be affected by the new Water Law, which could be ratified as early as next week (see legal column).

“This law isn't retroactive,” Corrales said. “Since confiscations are prohibited, there shouldn't be any problems.”

Yet the lawyer fears that some local politicians along the coast may feel compelled to stake claims to lucrative beach plots.

“What we don't want to see is mayors going in and trying to take the land,” said Corrales, who is proposing an amendment to make sure that the new law clearly protects property owners.

Confusing Regulations

Development along the coast is currently regulated by a tangle of legislation that is responsible for protecting the environment and ensuring public access to all beaches. But the regulations have been confusing and not well enforced over the years.

Several developers have come under criticism for buying up property around hard-to-reach beaches and gating off their land, effectively cutting off beach access to the public. Though it is illegal to fence off beaches, it is not illegal to fence off private property adjacent to the beach, and landowners are not required to provide public access through their property.

Mario Salinas, the new executive director of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute, said that developers need to do a better job of keeping the beaches open to everyone.

“There has to be access at different points along the coast so it's not closed to the public,” Salinas said at a recent meeting with foreign investors. Still, he agreed with many in the crowd that an attempt to push private owners 200 meters off the waterfront is going too far.

“This isn't a law that came out of the tourism industry,” Salinas said. He added that his agency is doing “everything possible” to restrict state ownership to the first 30 meters.

There are several other provisions in the new Water Law that trouble investors, including increased red tape for getting permits to use water or build new wells. The law could also prevent cutting trees and building 200 meters around lakes and rivers, potentially affecting several developments that are already in the works.

But it's the law's regulation of beachfront property that is causing the most concern.

Big Impact

The wide swath of Pacific coastline has been Nicaragua's biggest magnet for foreign investment, with hundreds of hotels and gated communities sprouting up from San Juan del Sur to Chinandega. According to projections by consulting firm Calvet & Associates, the booming San Juan del Sur area is expected to draw in $495 million of outside investment over the next five years.

“This is the biggest area for development right now,” said Turalu Brady Murdock, a founding member of the Nicaraguan Association of Investors and Developers.

She called the effort to keep coastal property rights one of the group's biggest priorities.

The Water Law has been fought on various fronts, with consumer groups mainly squaring off with legislators to keep private companies from owning greater rights to the water supply. How the 200-meter beach-front proposal made its way into the new law is a mystery, Corrales said.

“We don't know who wrote it,” he said.

The National Assembly first tried to streamline the coastal-development legislation several years ago with a proposed Coastal Law, which – on the brink of its ratification – was scrapped and sent back to the legislative drawing board at the end of 2005, after concerns were raised by the tourism industry (NT Nov. 11; Dec. 23, 2005).

The Coastal Law has since been put on the back burner and is no longer discussed by the legislature, though its controversial elements have now been repackaged in the Water Law.

Having already been approved in first vote last year, Corrales says it will be difficult but not impossible to convince the National Assembly to change the controversial provision during the line-item second vote.

However, Corrales added, he and others are making sure that the law is clear about not reclaiming beach property that thousands of investors have purchased. And he expects lawmakers to agree.

“Most of them own beachfront property,” Corrales said.


Why Residents Invest Offshore


Arranging your financial affairs to you best advantage is similar to a game of chess.

But unlike chess, the rules concerning your finances are constantly changing and becoming more complicated. When you invest 'onshore' you have absolutely no financial privacy and woefully inadequate asset protection against creditors or predators.

When you work with qualified experts offshore, like the Queen in a game of chess, you will enjoy the power, privacy, protection and the freedom to move as far as you wish in any direction.

You've read about the "litigation explosion" in the US... Modern legal precedents encourage frivolous lawsuits that often result in outrageous settlements.

When there's a possibility that you might lose everything you've worked for because of some 'frivolous' lawsuit, does it matter whether we call them 'creditors' or 'predators' or who is 'right' or 'wrong?'

By having assets out of your home country, you can achieve substantial asset protection from illegitimate creditors and predators. You can make your wealth invisible to others!

The offshore investment community in Costa Rica is growing rapidly. It is happening because there is considerably less bureaucratic burden and unnecessary legal expense. In other words, it is efficient. Business will always flow to the most efficient environment and money will always go where it’s treated best.

Costa Rica has everything that a sophisticated, international investor needs in an offshore financial center.

It’s a beautiful, stable and peaceful country with good privacy laws, hard working, qualified professionals who will ensure that your assets are protected properly and, zero taxes in Costa Rica for those international investors who make their profits outside the country.

Companies like Intel and Proctor & Gamble have made huge investments here and the professional services firms are now moving their operations out of San Jose towards Escazu and Santa Ana where you will find KPMG, Bristol Myers, Western Union, Unisys and Cisco Systems.

You must however find legal and tax professionals that are qualified to help you invest offshore safely, privately and profitably.

Please also remember that not all nationalities are able to legally invest offshore 'tax-free' and if you are an American citizen or a 'Resident Alien' - you really do need qualified expert assistance to help you legally avoid as many taxes as possible.

Written by Scott Oliver, author of

How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa   and... 

http://www.welovecostarica.com