Everything You Need to Know About Buying Property in Costa Rica

Suppose you want to travel to Costa Rica because you love eco-tourism, beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and outdoor activities. In that case, you will leave the country thinking of buying a house in Costa Rica. All these aspects and its affordable cost of living make it an attractive option for those looking to buy a property. This blog pretends to guide purchasing a property in Costa Rica. Here, you can find advice regarding how to get the right property, the right attorney, the guide to buying, and other essential tips that will help you.

So, if you want to buy land or a house in Costa Rica, read this blog.

What Attracts to Buying Land in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica’s magnetic appeal lies in its awe-inspiring natural beauty, including lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife; all this you can get in your vacation home or maybe a retirement beach house.

There are many types of properties for home or land, and many buyers from the US, Europe, Canada, and Italy always rent a property and then buy.

The country is celebrated for its commitment to environmental conservation, making it a magnet for eco-tourism; typically, with this tourism, people fall in love with Costa Rica, buy a second home to live in, or invest in property as a business.

Having all these tourists and visitors to Costa Rica makes Costa Rican citizens sell their property for an opportunity of business because they know the foreign like investment property and live in Costa Rica.

Can a Foreigner Buy Property in Costa Rica?

As a foreigner, you can move to Costa Rica and buy a property; you only need your valid passport or acquire the property through a corporation. The critical question is whether the property purchase has been conducted correctly.

What are the critical aspects?
1. That the seller is the valid owner
2. That the property is registered
3. Compliance with laundering laws in Costa Rica.
4. The land has not been considered public property (concession property).
5. the property’s location is accurate and in good condition.
6. It is not a rental property (it may delay your move).
7. check the prices of properties in the property market.
8. Purchase with a notary public that guarantees and reviews the property rights.

This blog will treat these aspects, where you can find all the answers to your questions.

Researching the Right Costa Rican Property

As a first piece of advice, it is essential to research the location and zoning of the property. Some areas may restrict development or building, while others may be prone to natural hazards such as landslides or flooding. So, consulting with a local real estate agent and a reasonable attorney is essential to ensure that the property is titled correctly and that all necessary legal paperwork is in order.

When it comes to buying real estate in Costa Rica, research is critical. The market in Costa Rica can be complex and ever-changing, and it’s essential to understand the current conditions before making a purchase. Here are a few key factors to consider when researching the Costa Rica real estate market.

Location, Location, Location.

The adage holds regarding real estate, and it’s essential in Costa Rica. Different areas of the country offer different lifestyles, climates, and views. For example, the Central Valley provides a more temperate climate, while the coast offers beautiful beaches and a more tropical environment. It’s important to consider what lifestyle you want and research the different areas that provide that.

Price: Property Market

Costa Rica offers various property prices, depending on whether it is an oceanfront property, a clean lot, or a house in the Capital. Having a clear budget and research properties that fit within that budget is essential. Remember that prices in Costa Rica tend to be higher in more developed areas and closer to the coast, especially beachfront. At the same time, they can be more affordable in rural or mountainous regions. Remember to keep in mind that usually, the sale price is negotiable.

Availability of Utilities and Services.

This is an essential factor to consider in the purchase process in Costa Rica. Some areas may need access to certain utilities or services, such as electricity, water, or internet. It’s essential to find out what services are available in the area where you’re interested, especially if you are considering buying a mountain or beachfront property type, as it can affect the value of the property and your ability to use it.

It’s also important to consider the legal aspects, like money laundering laws in Costa Rica. You can always hire a reputable lawyer to help you with the legal process. This will give you an idea of the current property laws and regulations and help you avoid potential legal issues.

Costa Rica Real Estate Agent

Working with a local real estate agent can be a valuable asset. Here are a few reasons why working with a professional familiar with the Costa Rican market is beneficial.

Expertise and knowledge of the market.

A local broker has a wealth of knowledge about the Costa Rican real estate market and is well-versed in the current conditions and trends. They can provide valuable insight into the different areas of the country, including the pros and cons of each location, and help you find the right piece of land for your needs. They can also provide information on local zoning laws, building regulations, and other important factors impacting your purchase.

Access to a wide range of properties. Local realtors can access many properties not listed on public websites or in other publications. They can also provide information on upcoming listings and pre-market properties, giving you an edge over other buyers.

Negotiating skills. Buying real estate can be complex, and navigating the negotiations on your own can be challenging. A local real estate agent has the experience and knowledge to negotiate the best deal for you, considering your current market conditions and specific needs.

Usually, the real estate agent’s fees oscillate between 5% – 10%, depending on your negotiation with them.

How is the Buying Process?

Here, you will find the main steps of buying and owning the property. These steps are based on the most common elements of Costa Rican law.

The Main Financing Options for Property Purchase

Once you have found the right property among all the properties for sale, you can negotiate the financing terms if needed.

Mortgages: Like in other countries, mortgages are a popular financing option for buying land in Costa Rica. If you are a foreigner, banks in Costa Rica usually don’t offer mortgages for purchasing property, so a private finance source must do this. However, if you are lucky and a Costa Rican Bank is willing to give you a loan, it’s important to note that the mortgage process can be more complex and time-consuming than in other countries. It’s also important to remember that the interest rates in Costa Rica are typically higher than in other countries.

Trusts: Another popular financing option in Costa Rica is buying property through a trust. This is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds the property on behalf of the buyer. Beliefs can be helpful for those who want to buy property in Costa Rica but need help to obtain a mortgage or for those who want to keep their ownership of the property private.

Cash payments: Some buyers choose to pay for their property in cash. This can be a good option for those who have readily available funds and want to avoid the complexity and costs of obtaining a mortgage or setting up a trust.

Financing through a developer or builder:

Seller Financing: Some developers and builders in Costa Rica offer financing options for their properties. This can be a good option for those looking to buy a new property still under construction. It’s important to note that financing through a developer or builder can come with certain restrictions or conditions, so it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions before signing any agreements.

It’s essential to consider the various financing options and choose the best option.

Legal Considerations When Buying a Property in Costa Rica

You can always look for a real estate attorney who can guide you on the legal aspects of buying property in Costa Rica, such as property taxes and registration. They can also assist you with the legal process and ensure all necessary paperwork is in order. This is a crucial aspect since, depending on the attorney’s skills and expertise, just avoiding one of the main aspects of reviewing the property status can make the difference between getting involved in a legal fight and living in peace in Costa Rica.

Who must conduct the due diligence? The buyer’s attorney must make this important task because this will guarantee that you will have a professional in law who can stand for your rights during the process.

The Due Diligence

It is an essential step and involves investigating and evaluating a property before purchasing, ensuring it meets the buyer’s needs and expectations, and identifying potential issues or risks.

One of the most critical aspects of due diligence is checking the property’s title and legal documentation. This includes reviewing the property’s title to ensure that it is free and clear of any liens or encumbrances and that the seller has the legal right to sell the property. It also includes reviewing building permits, zoning regulations, and other legal documents to ensure the property complies with local laws and regulations.

The due diligence process shall include the following steps:

  • Reviewing the property’s title and legal documentation,
  • Check the owner’s background. This is very important because sometimes, the person who seems to be the owner is not the person who is selling the property to you. This means you should be 100% sure of how the person shown in the public registry as the owner acquired the property. Do not forget to ask your attorney to double-check the seller’s identity.
  • Inspecting the property for any physical or structural issues.
  • Evaluating the property’s zoning and building regulations and researching the surrounding area to determine if it meets the buyer’s needs.

Due diligence is also crucial for identifying any potential risks or issues. This can include researching the property’s history, checking for natural hazards, or evaluating the local market conditions. This step can help the buyer determine whether the property is a good investment.

The Zoning Certificate:

A zoning certificate is an important document that provides information about the property’s allowed uses and regulations. This certificate, also known as a “Certificado de Uso de Suelo” in Spanish, is issued by the local government (Municipalidad) and confirms that the property complies with the local zoning laws.

The zoning certificate is essential because it provides information about the property’s allowed uses, such as whether it can be used for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes. It also includes information about the property’s building regulations, such as how many stories the building can be, how much of the property can be built on, and whether there are any restrictions on the use of the property.

The zoning certificate is also essential because it helps ensure the property complies with local laws and regulations. This is particularly important in Costa Rica, where zoning laws can vary greatly between municipalities. Reviewing the zoning certificate, the buyer can ensure that the property is suitable for their intended use and complies with local laws.

In addition, the zoning certificate can also be helpful if the buyer decides to make any changes to the property. For example, if the buyer wants to build an addition or make any other changes to the property, they must ensure that these changes comply with the zoning laws. The zoning certificate can help the buyer understand what changes are allowed and are not.

Property Titles: Registry System in Costa Rica

It’s crucial to ensure that the property is appropriately titled and that the seller is the rightful owner (. A property search should be conducted to verify that the property is free of any liens or encumbrances and that there are no outstanding debts or taxes. It is essential to achieve a historical study since there are many stories of terror where the buyer is involved in a legal dispute since problems in the title are not shown at the first review of the attorney in the property.

Property Taxes

Another important legal consideration to owning property in Costa Rica is taxes. Property taxes in Costa Rica are relatively low compared to other countries; they must be paid annually, like the luxury home tax. It’s essential to consult with a local tax advisor or attorney to understand the tax implications of buying property in Costa Rica.


Specific permits may be required depending on the location and intended use of the property. This aspect becomes crucial when buying; for example, if the property is located in a protected area like land within the maritime zone is considered public land, you may need to obtain special permits from the government. It’s essential to do the proper property search and verify all the critical aspects we share with you to ensure that all necessary permits are obtained before purchasing. ¡It is not just want to buy a home in Costa Rica; you’re buying a dream!

Purchase and Sale Agreement

Once the property review has passed the abovementioned steps, you can draft the option agreement. This is an essential document as it allows the buyer to secure the property for a certain period while they complete their due diligence and arrange to finance. This agreement gives the buyer the exclusive right to purchase the property at a specified price and within a specific timeframe, usually 30 to 90 days.

The option agreement also protects the buyer if the seller decides to sell the property to someone else during the option period. It also allows the buyer to cancel the option and get their deposit back if any issues are found during the due diligence process. Additionally, it serves as a legal document that can be used in court to enforce the purchase agreement.

It is important to note that the option agreement could be written in any language and notarized by a Costa Rican Notary Public; it can even be pointed out at the property title to leverage its value for legal purposes.

The Deposit in an Option/Sale Agreement

Depending on the real estate transaction, the seller and buyer could agree on an early deposit when you negotiate an option agreement. A warranty is an essential part of the option agreement; this document allows the buyer to secure the property for a certain period while they complete their due diligence and arrange to finance the purchase. No percentage is established by law, but it usually is about 5% of the purchase price.

The deposit serves several vital functions in the option agreement. Firstly, it shows the seller that the buyer is serious about purchasing the property and is willing to put money on the line to secure the option. This can be important, especially in a competitive market, where the seller may receive offers from multiple buyers.

Secondly, the deposit also serves as security for the buyer. If the seller decides to sell the property to someone else during the option period, the deposit will typically be returned to the buyer. This protects the buyer if the seller changes their mind about the sale.

Thirdly, the deposit can compensate the seller if the buyer returns from the sale. In this case, the seller or a third person typically retains the deposit as compensation for expenses incurred during the option period.

Finally, the deposit also serves as a way to lock in the purchase price for the buyer. The option agreement typically specifies the purchase price that the buyer will pay for the property. By paying the deposit, the buyer agrees to purchase the property at that price if they decide to proceed with the sale.

The Importance of a Surveyor

When buying a significant property or empty land, hiring a surveyor to complete a property survey is essential. A survey is a detailed map that shows the boundaries, measurements, and other important information about the property, and it is a necessary step in buying property.

The surveyor’s role is to physically mark the boundaries of the property, taking into account the legal description of the property as it appears in the Public Registry. A surveyor will also verify if there are any encroachments or disputes in the boundaries of the property, which is crucial to ensure that the property is free and clear of any liens or encumbrances.

A survey is essential because it helps ensure the property complies with local laws and regulations. For example, a surveyor will verify if the property complies with the local zoning laws and if any building restrictions might affect the property’s use. This is particularly important in Costa Rica, where zoning laws can vary greatly between municipalities.

A surveyor can also provide important information about the property’s topography, such as the slope, drainage, and soil type, which can be critical for assessing the property’s suitability for specific uses and the cost of future construction.

Ways of Transferring Costa Rica Property

Basically, from the process of buying, there are two main ways:

Buying a corporation: This is a widespread way to transfer property by acquiring the shares of a corporation that owns a property. This type of transaction demands a lot of analysis.

Transferring the property before a notary public: First, you may take under consideration that in Costa Rica, to be a Notary Public, you need to be an attorney, so when you want to transfer the property to your own or a corporation, the notary public will need to conduct the due diligence, usually on the basics aspects, so, please talk to an attorney of your confidence to go beyond the simple analysis that a Notary Public will do. Once the due diligence is concluded, the notary public shall prepare a public deed that the seller and buyer must sign in the books of records, called “protocol.”

Transferring the title In summary, there are several legal considerations, such as taxes, public services, and permits. It’s essential to ensure that the property is appropriately titled, that taxes are paid and that the property meets the necessary permits for the area and intended use. It’s also essential to consult a local lawyer well-versed in the laws and regulations of real estate transactions in Costa Rica. Also, remember that since you will invest, you may apply as a legal resident of Costa Rica; for more information, please click here

Buying Costa Rica property could be a very complex process that usually shall be conducted by the buyer and a group of professionals that will guarantee a positive outcome of this experience. Once all the transaction is done, you can search in the National Registry for the property in your name or your company’s name in Costa Rica; the online system in Costa Rica is very trustworthy for this public consultation.

If you have any questions regarding any other aspect or want to amply more on one of the topics of this blog,

You can write us at info@aglegal, and we will invite you to come to Costa Rica for a coffee and explain how the process works.