I left off Part 3 right after the purchase of a $550,000 1 ¼ acre lot outside San Jose, Costa Rica. I was on my way, beginning the laughably easy permitting process. Here is a photo of the mountain on which my lot is located, taken from Escazu, where I currently live on the weekends, when I can sometimes take a break from my condo project, The Oaks Tamarindo http://www.theoakstamarindo.com/.
But first, I had to get my architect to prepare the "anteproyecto". This is a preliminary plan that shows planned construction, including everything except actual construction plans. For example, the "footprint" and interior design of each house, driveways, exterior improvements such as retaining walls, detailed land elevations, the condition of the soil for purposes of water drainage, and ability to support construction. All this had been done before buying, but had to be done again.
Things started well. I paid my architect a deposit on his fee. My fiancé and I met with him to go over our houses. We wanted two commercial houses each with a pool and a little over 5,000 square feet of living area, and one house to call our own, which eventually expanded to about 8,000 square feet.
But, the time between meetings, and progress, seemed, how to say it, long. Where was our architect? He was never available. And so it came to pass, that after four months of "no architect", we learned his secret. He was in Tamarindo!
And so off we went, on a tour of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. If things were so busy in Tamarindo that we couldn't get our houses planned, much less built, in the Central Valley, we had to see what was going on!
We started in the north, by the Nicaragua border, and drove the monkey trails down the coastline, looking at real estate. We saw a lot of national forest land, land that was really hard to reach (rent horses), and that most amazing resort, The Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo. On south. Playa del Coco, the oldest beach town in Guanacaste, but....my personal opinion, don't get mad if you bought there, just my opinion, I'm sure it's terrific... an ugly beach. Sugar Beach. Gorgeous. Memo: desperately needs road. Amend that: needs stronger monkeys for monkey trail. Flamingo. Old money. Once and future yacht marina. Views views views. Brasilito. Playa Conchal. Up and coming. Reserve Conchal: high end resort and condos, over $500,000 and rising. Today, over $800,000 and rising. Playa Grande: leatherback turtle nesting grounds, awesome surf, clean white sand. Memo to self: do not build here and kill the turtles.
Tamarindo: our architect's Promised Land. Surf for beginners and experts, beautiful white beach, a brand new cobbled brick road, a new tourist shopping strip alongside the landmark oceanfront Hotel Diria, and a parade of fully loaded dump trucks tearing up the brand new cobbled brick road. Ground zero for the Costa Rica real estate boom. A casino, and nightclubs, of the ski town variety, that had divided the nights of the week among themselves so that every night there is "one place" to be.
Now that I've gotten used to it, as a resident rather than as a visitor, that scene reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day. I see (now only once in a while) the same locals every week, at the same place, with new tourists for their week's vacation, to whom all is fresh and truly amazing. Hot climate, mostly dry. Arizona by the ocean.
Then we circled back north, on the "main road" to the international airport in Liberia, exhausted by the monkey trails. The main road two years ago wasn't much better. To say that the road had potholes would be misleading. To say that the potholes were surrounded by a road would be an overstatement. Drive time: an hour and a half of torture.
Aside: when Costa Ricans elected a new President, Oscar Arias, this road magically was repaved this past winter to become the "Route du Soleil", producing a Seventh Wonder of the World, Costa Rica style: an asphalt highway that is not overcrowded and that is a pleasure to drive. Drive time: a little over 45 minutes. Hopefully, a sign.
We dropped off our rental car, an amazing vehicle that could ascend and descend monkey trails and ford rivers without complaint, and flew back to the central valley. Four months, no architect in sight (we did see him at the bar of the Diria), but the start of an education in Costa Rica real estate, Pacific Coast version.
Oh okay. To the chase. The million dollars? Two years later, March 2007, I sold the central valley lot for $1,600,000, after marketing it for six months. How and why? Later.
I'm new at this blogging thing, witness the two week delay while I've been working on my development and messing around with marketing materials and a web site with my colleagues at Green Seal Realty. (If you're wondering, I'm not in charge of the creative side.) I admire the skilled bloggers here. I'll never catch up with you guys. But maybe I don't need to. I just need you guys to wonder; how can my clients realize success and happiness in Costa Rica real estate? How can I get referral fees for doing almost nothing? How can I earn commissions, not to mention free trips, by coming down to Costa Rica? (Hint: Unless you are hard core, maybe not in September or October. If you are hard core, we need to talk.) Oh, and I'm coming up to Calgary for the Trump Expo. Any Canadians reading this? Come on, someone at least from the Yukon Territory.
Next installment....more of the Pacific Coast. Real estate prices are rising. Beware the Gringo price. The permitting process is on hold, which is not all that atypical.