Buying a Home in Costa Rica

Investing in real estate and buying a home in Costa Rica can be a very rewarding experience when following certain guidelines: 

  • Define a cohesive strategy: in talking with your real estate agent, define your needs according to your budget.
  • Develop a basic understanding of Costa Rican real estate law. Your agent and your attorney will help enlighten you on the subject (see tips below).
  • Familiarize yourself with local market conditions: costa rica real estate listings with your agent in order to compare products and prices.
  • Once a property has been identified, contact a reputable real estate attorney.
  • Start and conclude purchase with the help of your agent, the office's broker, and your attorney (see resume at the bottom).

    Your Costa Rica real estate investment is not something you want to leap into blindfolded. There's too much money involved and too many things can go wrong. Here are a few places to look into before you leap.

    Locate a Reliable Attorney

    Ask your real estate agent and/or someone you trust to recommend a law firm or an attorney specialized in Costa Rica real estate law. Your country's embassy or one of your consulates might have some suggestions to offer. The Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce is worth a call.


    Research the Property Information

    Once you have selected a specific property, request your attorney and/or your real estate broker to conduct a title search at the Registro Publico (Public Registry) about the property you want to buy.

    By law all properties must be registered in Registro Publico. Most properties have a title registration number called the "Folio Real." Once you have this number you can search the database. The Registro Publico's Report, called the "Informe Registral," contains information such as the name of the title holder, boundary lines, tax appraisal, liens, mortgages, recorded easements, and other records that could affect the title.

    Costa Rica follows "first in time, first in right" rule. Additions to a property title are prioritized according to the date they were recorded. So make sure your attorney searches your title back to the beginning.


    Write a Transfer Deed

    This is the document that transfers ownership of the property. The transfer is made with the buyer and seller signing the transfer deed (called an "escritura") in the presence of an attorney. The attorney then drafts the transfer deed and registers the sale at the Registro Publico.

    Custom dictates that if the buyer pays in cash, he selects the attorney to draft the transfer deed. If the purchase is financed, then the transfer can be made in various other ways.

    A. If a large percentage of the purchase price is financed by the seller and a mortgage needs to be drafted to guarantee payment, the seller's attorney may draft the transfer deed upon seller's request.

    B. If a property is purchased 50% cash and 50% financed, the buyer's attorney and seller's attorneys can draft the transfer deed and mortgage in a single document. This process is called a co-notariado.

    C. Buyer may have his attorney write the transfer deed and let the seller's attorney draft a separate mortgage instrument. Since the mortgage agreement is being drafted separately, registration fees are higher.


    Costa Rica Real Estate Closing Costs
    How much are the closing costs?
    The general custom is for the buyer and seller to share equally in the closing costs, unless the owner is offering the property in an easy to prove “clean” corporation.
    Closing costs containing the notary fees are based on the real sales price, and now, as declared by the Colegio de Abogados,  1.5%. This fee sometimes is negotiable, depending upon the relationship that your real estate agent or the developer of a condominium project has with that particular attorney.  Further added on is the transfer land tax, legal fees, and miscellaneous fees which are about 2.56% of the declared value of the property.

    Costa Rica Real Estate Taxes

    Take a deep breath.
    Property taxes (Municipal Tax) are only ¼ of 1 % of the declared value. Thus for every $100,000, the property tax is only $250 YEARLY.
    The municipal tax is administered at the municipal level and varies throughout the country. Paid quarterly, the type of property, location and other factors contribute to the calculation of this tax and MUST be  shown to be fully paid immediately prior to transferring title.


    Register The Transfer Deed

    To register your transfer deed you or your attorney must bring to the Registro Publico (Public Registry) the following documents:

    A. Proof of payment of all taxes and registrations fees

    B. Certifications issued by: a) Finance Ministry, confirming that all seller's property taxes were paid; and, b) the local Municipality, stating that buyer and seller areup to date on municipal taxes.

    C. Proof that all prior mortgages, liens and judgments (if any) have been resolved


    Once all fees are paid, make sure that the attorney who drafted the transfer deed registered it in the Property Section of Registro Publico. It should be registered by the Registro Publico 45 to 60 business day after presentation. Check with the notary to make sure the deed has been properly filed.

    Summary:

    These are the basics that a purchaser follows when buying a property in Costa Rica.

    Step 1: Sign an Option to Purchase with Seller.

    Step 2: Deposit 5-10% of the purchase price with Escrow Company,or approved attorney's escrow account, or in some 100% safe cases-directly with the Seller. Please remember that wire transfers from the States typically take 2-5 business days.

    Step 3: Title research performed by an approved Notary Public-Lawyer and/or Title Company attorneys.  In Costa Rica all notaries must be attorneys, and are registered with the Bar Association, ( Colegio de Abogados.)

    Step 4: Closing with final transfer of funds, execution of Transfer Deed, Endorsement of Shares and/or Mortgage Deed.

    Step 5: Register new owner with Public Registry (Registro Nacional). In about 6 weeks, receive official Title and guaranty (if purchased).

Contact us! For more information on Buying a home in Costa Rica or making a real estate investment in Costa Rica, send us an email or call us at +506-2653-0300.