House Hunting in … Costa Rica
Virginia McGuire | New York Times | April 17, 2013 | link
This boxy white house in the gated community of Parque Valle del Sol in Santa Ana, a suburb of San José, was completed in 2007. The front door opens into a large foyer tiled in cream-colored marble, with a rectangular pool and fountain built into the floor. The living/dining room, entered at the far end, has sliding glass doors opening onto a covered patio. A swinging door in the dining area leads to the kitchen, which has black granite countertops and cabinets by the Italian company Febal. The family room, the servants’ quarters and a two-car garage are all behind the kitchen.
The foyer also connects to one of two master bedroom suites, which has a door to the patio, as well as a bathroom with cream-colored marble floors, brown marble sinks and a spa tub. The rest of the private living space — with its bamboo floors and ultraviolet-blocking windows — is upstairs. The second master suite has a walk-in closet, a bar and a bathroom, as well as a balcony overlooking the community’s 18-hole golf course. The three additional bedrooms all have en-suite baths.
The back of the house, with a swimming pool and a sun-bathing patio, faces the rolling grassy hills of the golf course.
The Parque Valle del Sol development is about 10 minutes from downtown San José and 15 minutes from the Juan Santamaría International Airport. The nearest shops, restaurants and hotels are five minutes away at Lindora Plaza. The beaches at Playa Herradura are an hour and 15 minutes away.
Demand for luxury homes in the San José area is getting stronger, said John Wieland, the president of Coldwell Banker Costa Rica, adding that a number of multinational corporations had recently opened offices in Costa Rica.
Federico Vega, a commercial manager at Secure Title of Latin America, a title insurance company in San José, said prices were lower in coastal resort areas, which relied heavily on foreign buyers. “These areas are still recoving from the financial crisis that began in 2008,” he said.
New homes in Santa Ana cost $149 to $204 per square foot ($1,600 to $2,200 per square meter). Resales are less expensive, at $111 to $149 per square foot. The house profiled here is priced at $201 per square foot because of the quality of its building materials, according to Jeff Cane of the San José-based Karen Real Estate, the listing agent.
WHO BUYS IN COSTA RICA
Many foreign buyers come from other Latin American countries, especially Colombia, Venezuela and Panama, said Mr. Vega. But he added: “The No. 1 is still the United States. You’re still getting a lot of people wanting to come and settle down here in Costa Rica.”
“Any foreigner can own real estate just as well as a Costa Rican,” Mr. Vega said. In the past, many foreigners chose to set up Costa Rican corporations to be the official owners of their property, but the government recently closed the tax loophole that made this option attractive. Mr. Vega says that individual buyers have always paid a 2.5 percent transfer tax when property changes hands, and that corporate owners will now have to pay the same amount. Aside from the transfer tax, transaction costs include a notary fee of 1.25 percent, and title insurance costing about 1 percent.
“High-end properties are always priced in U.S. dollars,” Mr. Cane said.