Should you Buy a Property right away or Rent for a while first?

By Hernan A. Carazo ( )


Like most things in life, there are no clear cut Yes or No answers… It depends on many factors since every individual and his life situation are different from others and it also depends on your current knowledge and experience with Costa Rica, your capacity to be honest with yourself and your ultimate life goals.

For example, let´s say that you are a couple who are retiring, and you have always wanted to own a home at the beach, but you lived in an area like California where a home at the beach was prohibitively expensive, so you lived inland.  When you vacationed in the past you usually chose a destination by the beach and you loved it each time, so now that you are ready to retire and live in Costa Rica, you believe it is the perfect time to buy a home at the beach which is much more affordable to do so here in Costa Rica.  So, you are ready to jump right in and purchase that dream home or would you be wiser to wait? 

It depends on various factors so please take a sheet of paper and look at your overall situation, vacationing at the beach and living full time at the beach are not the same thing and for some the transition from one to the other may be perfectly smooth but for others it may be quite a rude awakening as it does not always result in the Endless Summer fantasy you dreamt about for years.  If you have previously lived full time at the beach then you know that you must take the good with the bad and weighing both the Pros and Cons, you can then decide if full time beach living is for you.  However, if you have never lived in a beachfront situation then possibly the wisest course to take is to rent for a year and see what the full-time beach life with all its Pros and Cons is really like.  Also, each beach community has a different flavor and living there will let you experience it and decide if it is what you are looking for because while living full-time at the beach may be perfect for you it may not be perfect for you in that specific beach location. Also, you may decide that beachfront is not right for you, but something set back a little with possibly more altitude to catch those lovely winds coming from the ocean is exactly the perfect compromise.  You can catch the beautiful sunsets as you gaze from your beautiful home toward the sea but save yourself from several maintenance issues (the constant attack of salt-water spray can be unforgivingly harsh on many of your home surfaces and vehicles) and have generally cooler temperatures due to a higher altitude and prevailing winds so that you end up needing nothing more than a good ceiling fan to be comfortable temperature wise.

Now let us say that you have decided that while you love the beach, you would prefer to live inland, then you must decide what appeals more to you.  Do you want to live away from the cities and big towns in a small community or just be away from it all and sharing only with nature?  Or are you someone that enjoys the hustle and bustle of living near the city with all the entertainment and art and culture it has to offer?  Are you still young enough that a constant nightlife scene is very appealing?  It is these and many more factors that you must consider including your monthly budget.  Living in or near the city center is usually significantly more expensive than if you are living in a small town 30 minutes to an hour away.  Living in a gated community is significantly more secure and specially if you spend weeks or months away from your residence but again it is generally more expensive to do so, however, you not only get more security but also the use of common areas like pools, gyms and paths to walk, run or pedal.  Also, if you are someone who looks forward to having a large garden with your own fruits and vegetables then you must consider that you will need a minimum land area in order to do so and the lots or lots with homes in gated communities are usually not large enough for more than an herb garden with one or two small trees.

Over the last 26 years I have been fortunate to live in just about every residential environment and area of Costa Rica.  I have both rented and owned and I have rented homes from $300 a month to as high as $2500 per month.  I have done city living, rural living and beachfront living and have also built and developed homes and residential communities both inland and beachfront.  I have learned from each experience and my tastes have also changed over the years from being a single guy in his late 30´s wanting to live luxuriously and to have a great time to a person in his 60´s wanting to be in a quieter and more rural environment (but still within 60 minutes or less from all amenities and services offered by the big city) and wanting to build a home with lots of space to grow my own food and be off-grid capable should the need arise.  I still enjoy the beach a lot, but I only need to drive an hour on well paved roads to get my quota of beach life when I feel the need and it is not much further to go and retreat deep into the mountains and tropical or cloud forests.  That is the beauty of Costa Rica, there is so much to see and experience and yet the distances are such that you can experience an early breakfast on the Caribbean side and watch the sun come up and enjoy an early dinner on the Pacific Coast while you enjoy another spectacular Costa Rican sunset!


So, going back to the initial question of renting or buying, just examine your experience, needs, wants, budget and your ultimate goals and make sure you are ready to take a step that will involve a significant outlay of your hard-earned cash.  Do your homework and have the help of a good bi-lingual attorney so that you can be happy in Costa Rica.  PURA VIDA LIVING AWAITS!